Matchmaking heaven

Outsource the elements you can’t do or aren’t passionate about – spend your time and energy in your genius zone.

Peta Purcell

When and why did you found mother + joey?

From little things: Peta Purcell and Rowena Campbell at their Morpeth studio. Picture: Caitlin Schokker

From little things: Peta Purcell and Rowena Campbell at their Morpeth studio. Picture: Caitlin Schokker

The decision to start our fashion label was back in March last year, when my neighbour Rowena and I had a rather longer than usual chat over our back fence. I was expecting my third child, and declared to Rowena, “I really need to do something with my hands once this baby arrives as a bit of an outlet. I think I’ll start sewing something?!” She said to me, “you know what we could create? Matching outfits for us and the kids!” So, we did. We founded mother + joey initially from a desire for a style of clothing we couldn’t find for ourselves (as kids seem to have all of the nice stuff).

 What convinced you that there was demand for “matchy matchy” fashion?

Twinning is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure does make an impact! It’s a huge trend overseas right now, and we knew if we could do it well and tastefully here in Australia – the sky would be the limit.

 What were the biggest hurdles to starting?

Getting things done with five kids aged five and under between us. The ironic thing is, we started this business with our children in mind, to show them what they can do with determination. However, we have to do most of our work around their schedules, late nights, early starts before school drop off and hold weekend meetings with family support. Another challenge is that we are not from a fashion background, yet we decided to give this a go, and we encourage people to do the same if there is something you really want to do outside of your comfort zone. We have drawn upon our professional and social skills needed to start-up a business while still working part-time.

 You committed to ensuring your product was made within a 2-hour radius of your homes. Why was this important to you?

The whole idea started from our workshop in Morpeth, so for us it’s still the design hub where everything is created initially and tested. We keep our stock here and fill our orders from it. Once things took off though, we knew we couldn’t keep the making garments ourselves. It began with finding the production team of professional tailors, pattern designers and graders in a central location in Sydney. In addition to these specialists, we engaged a local wood worker and leather artisan in our area to help us create our accessories. For us, meeting with our team on a regular basis is the key, they are all at our finger tips which makes the process so much easier than off shore.

 What sort of pressures did it place on your business?

The obvious was trying to make it still viable with the cost of producing in Australia compared to offshore. It was very hard to find these sorts of services in the beginning as they are few and far between, but we did in the end after much patience, perseverance and encouragement.

 What makes your products unique?

We want our designs to stay in wardrobes for generations. Each generation can show unique style with our fashion whilst still identifying you as a family. Our native floral binding is our signature feature of every piece we make. It was drawn by a local botanical artist, for us to keep our Australian ties visual.

 What ranges have you released so far?

Our debut summer collection back in December 2016, consisted of classic shirt and blouse designs in cotton and linen for mothers and children. For Autumn and Winter 2017, we designed a more timeless look with peter pan collars and button up dresses with matching rompers, long sleeve shirts and relaxed pants for the family.

You sell online and in select retail stores. What is your biggest market?

Definitely the mothers with young children. We can see the love and pride parents have when dressing alike with their joeys (baby Australians). We have also catered for mums with sons, a market which often misses out.

 What aspirations do you have for your label?

We always planned to start local and take our designs to the word stage. This is still our big picture for this year, and creating partnerships with international trade is next on the horizon.

 If you could turn back time, what would you do differently?

Outsource the elements you can’t do or aren’t passionate about – spend your time and energy in your genius zone.

 What has been the biggest lesson so far you have learnt in business?

Everything takes time to do it properly. We have seen the return on our investment into creating a visual brand as well as a product to be proud of. It certainly didn’t happen overnight, more like nine months of planning, testing and organising the business essentials, before we had a product to launch.

 What’s is on your radar now?

We are very excited to announce a collaboration with fellow Australian designer, Kate Swinson. Together, we are creating a new line of clothing, using our tailoring skills, but in the fabric created and already loved internationally by this fellow brand, Native Swinson. The project is called ‘mother native’ as a nod to both labels, with a focus on contemporary Australian designs.