mother + joey
beStella meets founders Peta Purcell and Rowena Campbell of mother + joey who discovered a hole in the market existed for a contemporary take on ‘twinning’. So as entrepreneurs do, they created something tasteful and classic for mums and their bubs which would appeal to an audience beyond the ‘matchy matchy’ community, that didn’t already exist.
About the founders of mother + joey
Peta Purcell and Rowena Campbell were two friends who met as neighbours in the country village of Morpeth located in the Hunter Valley.
Combining the skills in dressmaking, a love for textiles and a desire for clothes which were classic, stylish and made to last, we decided to make what we couldn’t find for ourselves and own children. Our label ‘mother + joey’ was created as the first 100% Australian-based brand dedicated to creating matching outfits.
Peta is a marketing specialist with three girls, Polly aged 4, Stella aged 2 and Vivienne 6 months old. Rowena is a Registered Nurse and has a boy, Callum aged 3 and a girl, Audrey aged 1.
You partnered with each other to create mother + joey, tell us more:
When you find someone who you have so much in common with as a mum with young children, you just gravitate towards them. We found even though we haven’t been life-long friends, we shared so many similar interests and our taste in style was almost completely parallel.
Our houses were literally three doors apart, so it was easy to start working together. We would knock and run, dropping things to each other for feedback to try on, or be up late messaging each other once the children are in bed or between feeds of the babies.
The partnership works well because we both have different strengths. Peta can sew and has a marketing background, and Rowena’s eye for style and design is key, plus her mum has experience as a professional seamstress.
Between us we have all bases covered and to be honest, we just have so much fun together as friends doing this. It doesn’t feel like work at all.
When was the moment you truly knew there was a need to start mother + joey?
When we realised the hole in the market existed for a contemporary take on ‘twinning’! It was clear that if we could create something tasteful and classic, it would appeal to an audience beyond the ‘matchy matchy’ community. What we wanted to wear and dress our children in didn’t exist, so as entrepreneurs do, we made them ourselves.
Mums and sons is a big area of design for us, as we know the lack of fashion available to mothers to be able to dress up with their boys. To us, this is a huge opportunity to be the leaders in.
Standing up to the world of ‘fast fashion’, where big fish are pushing prices down so low in order to make items as cheap as possible, is the core of our purpose. When production is outsourced overseas for the benefit of profit margins and in countries where working conditions are so poor it’s heartbreaking.
We decided to be the change we wanted to see at the forefront of turning the demand for this around and making people think about what they are supporting when they purchase clothes.
How has mother + joey been received by your customers?
We knew it would strike a chord with a particular niche, however the reaction overall has been fantastic. In the beginning we would wear our own creations down the street and people would stop and ask where it came from.
The twinning effect had a big impact as it was done subtly and with taste. For example, you can match the same fabric as your son or daughter but in different styles, your outfit might have the same collar shape or buttons, but be in different fabrics – or both of you can wear exactly the same outfit. It’s about tying clothes together with a common thread.
I think our friends and family are still in shock we’ve been able to do this while working our real jobs and raising our children, who are all under the age of 5! Lots of late nights, early mornings and joint babysitters!
The feedback has been very encouraging after the launch of our first collection. We aren’t just trying to make clothes to sell, we are creating a brand, which is both visually beautiful but with value and purpose to be different from the rest. A lot of time and effort has been spent working with the right people in the industry to bring it to life.
What is the importance of having your brand 100 per cent Australian based?
It is EVERYTHING we stand for. We would rather stay small and nimble and keep our production within a two-hour radius of our design workshop than take it overseas as most labels do. We know we are a minority when it comes to the ‘made in Australia’ club and are extremely proud we have found a way to make it work so it’s still affordable for our customers.
The term ‘joey’ in our brand is a nod to Aussie babies, both boys and girls, and we decided to use it as part of our label to make it clear we are proudly Australian.
What are some of the benefits and challenges you have come across as a start-up business?
The challenges include the lack of budget and lack of sleep! It took us 10 months from having the conceptual idea to trading at our first market, which isn’t that long when you consider how much we have managed to achieve while juggling our other responsibilities.
As a start-up (and this is a first time for both of us) the learning curve has been steep, but we think the lack of judgement on ourselves and the belief in our brand and concept keeps motivating us. We haven’t extended ourselves too far and test everything in small batches so we can tweak before producing in larger quantities.
Our advice is ‘scale and grow’ based on the things that worked, but appreciate the things that don’t as that exercise has just saved you from making a big mistake time and money wise.
It’s insane the amount of time needed to set something up from scratch, and you need to be ready for the hours required and dedication to make it a reality. Without passion for the idea and total commitment, you won’t be able to find the stamina required to pull it together.
Tell us more about the mother + joey products you have on offer.
Our clothing is designed from hand-selected fabrics including soft linens and fine cottons. Colours are natural and earthy, inspired by our surroundings and reflect the true Australian landscape. This includes our bespoke native floral trim, which features in our garments, and is our signature trademark to remind our audience of our heritage.
Our pieces are made to last by engaging professional pattern makers and tailors with the highest level of skill, so our clothes are handed down over generations. The leather we use is sourced locally and pieces are handcrafted by only the best in the business in our hometown.
Our women’s garments designed to adapt with each stage of motherhood from pregnancy, breastfeeding and beyond, while children and babies can play and grow in clothing which is versatile yet stylish. We have decided to include boys clothing, as mums with sons seem to go without.
Having a family photo shoot or special occasion like a wedding or christening draws interest and the idea for everyone to look coordinated, and our outfits are perfect for this. Imagine a mummy expecting her second child at a baby shower matching her first born. Grandparents love our designs as gifts.
What has been the impact for business [good and challenging] of being located in the Hunter Valley?
We think it’s far more a strength than a challenge being located in regional Australia. Being removed from the capital hubs gives us room to breathe and be creative. The Hunter is an amazing place for start-ups, as it has all you need like a big city, without the intensity and cost.
Being so close to Sydney means we can still work with our suppliers and manage production quite easily. Plus we have found the professional specialists we need such as a talented photographer, web and graphic designers right under our nose to pull the business together.
It proves you can live anywhere and still make it happen, especially in the online world of doing business and sourcing.
What are the future aspirations for mother + joey?
We aim to keep good company with our fellow Australian brands who have stayed true to their roots and show the spirit of the Australian entrepreneur on the world stage. We want to take our label to the international market and demonstrate what proud ordinary Australians can do with a bit of passion and persistence.
Our major line of distribution will be our website www.motherandjoey.com.au (launching soon) so we can reach out to the domestic and international market while managing our stock here in the Hunter Valley.
We also have a handful of stockists (in Morpeth, the Blue Mountains and hopefully soon Bowral and Bendigo) who are representing us well.
In 2017 we are partnering with Thoroughbred Events Australia as their first ‘fashion on the field’ label with a focus on children’s wear. They represent fashion at horse events such as racing, show jumping and polo, which are big with families. We can’t wait to become involved with their events.
For any budding designers out there willing to take the leap of faith into business, what advice based on your experiences do you have for them?
There are some things you just have to do properly – when it comes to your branding, engage a professional photographer for example and invest in a reliable website. Don’t skimp on the building blocks.
Be resourceful – use what you have around you to get started. For example all of the props for our styling are from our house and children’s bedrooms. We use our local village and own houses as a backdrop for our photo shoots. It then becomes a part of who you are and your authenticity.
Stay true to yourself, do things the way you prefer as this will often become your point of difference.
But just be brave and give it a go. You won’t regret it.
Contributor – Kendyl Hopley
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