The Foong sisters are spreading the message: sustainability and style are compatible.
The three sisters – Angela, Rowena and Juliana – have established themselves in Newcastle and far beyond over the last 17 years with their sophisticated fashion label, High Tea With Mrs Woo.
Late last year they made a new investment in Newcastle, purchasing a property at 84 Fern Street, Islington.
The 84 Fern Street lot was bought by Rowena Foong and her partner artist Brett McMahon, Angela Foong and her architect partner Matt Travis of Shac, and Juliana Foong and her artist-jeweller partner Ben Gallagher.
They have long operated their retail store from Darby Street in Cooks Hill, and create their clothing range from a workshop on Chin Chen Street in Islington.
The Fern Street building is split, with Brett McMahon’s working art studio in half the complex.
The other half of the building is a strategic investment in the future of Newcastle’s creative community. “Instead of renting it out for creatives, we’re calling it an ‘airbnb’ for creatives,” Angela Foong says. “It’s a lovely clean blank space to rent daily to come and do something fantastic. We put it out there, and priced it out there, so someone can take a risk.”
So far, the experiment is working. The space has been used for weaving workshops, art parties, gatherings, playgroups, resin workshops, terrarium and succulent workshops and pop-up jewellery shows.
The zoning allows a food truck on the premises, which is an excellent drawcard for people who want to use the space and be able to offer guests a food option.
The Fernery, as it is known, is already booked out for weekends for the rest of 2018, including a lingerie show and furniture exhibition.
“Over 17 years in business, and as part of the creative community, a thing we’ve heard often is: to start out you don’t need a retail place,” Angela Foong says.
“This is a way people can do it on a small, short-term basis. And not be locked into a rental contract.”
For the first time, the Foong sisters are using the facility as venue for part of one of their own events, Slow Wearing Well 2018.
“We’re pretty keen on starting this conversation,” Angela Foong says. “We think fashion has connotations of fast and furious. We wanted to come up with a way of talking about clothing and wearing and our purchasing decisions, and how it impacts on the world and ourselves.”
Slowing Wearing Well 2018 is a weekend of events to highlight the diversity in sustainable cloth and cloethes, wares and wearables, on offer in Newcastle.
There are three major events:
- Launch event, Friday, August 17, 6 to 8pm, at Newcastle Art Gallery, featuring the five businesses who have crafted the weekend. They are High Tea with Mrs Woo, Pappa Sven, Studio Melt, Hide & Seeker and Yardsale Trading Co. Cost: $20
- Newcastle Style Crawl, Saturday, August 18, from 10am to 3pm, visiting High Tea with Mrs Woo’s store on Darby Street, then lunch at Cafe Momo, and an afternoon visit to Studio Melt in the Newcastle Mall. Cost: Crawl is free, lunch is $27.50
- Islington Style Crawl, Sunday, August 19, from 10am to 3pm, visiting Hide & Seeker and Yardsale Trading Co, both on Maitland Road, then a visit to The Fernery for “wardrobe edits” with local arts figures Lottie Consalvo and Meryl Ryan. Baked Uprising will host lunch at The Fernery. Cost: Crawl is free; with lunch is $16.50, with wardrobe edit and lunch $27.50.
The wardrobe edit events will see the two women show a large part of their clothing wardrobe, then with the help of Angela Foong, discussing how they will edit it.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do myself,” Angela Foong says.
“We will talk about how they go about making the decisions on what to purchase, in good quality and design. Hopefully at end we all have a better idea of what we can do when we go home.”
Tickets can be booked through stickytickets.com.au