The first thing you notice when you walk into the heavenly Sydney home of Christina Sachs Phillips is the vibrant House Of Hackney wallpaper in the powder room to the left (and the Jo Malone London hand and body wash and lotion – always a chic addition to any bathroom). Her home is filled with fabulous prints and colour and it’s no surprise to hear that her mother was an interior designer – you can tell she’s inherited an eye for interiors...
“My mother worked fulltime as an art gallery owner and interior designer in New York City while raising my brother, sister, and I in Connecticut,” says the co-founder of new neoprene bag line Cub + Scout and mother to 16-month-old Olivia (she’s also 18 weeks pregnant with another girl!). “She taught me through her own actions that women can wear a million hats and still be successful as a career woman, mother, wife and friend,” she says. Sachs was born in New York City and raised in Connecticut. She’d always dreamed of moving to Australia and so after she finished college, she moved to Sydney. Within a month of moving, she’d met her now husband and father of her children. “I still can’t surf but I couldn’t be happier to call Sydney my home,” she says, laughing.
Prior to launching Cub + Scout, Sachs worked in luxury fashion PR and marketing. “So much of my life revolved around my job and the people I worked with. I remember making the decision not to return to fashion during my maternity leave and I felt very lost – like I didn’t know exactly who I was anymore. I knew that I wanted to keep working, but I didn’t want to give up those precious moments of watching Livi grow up,” she reflects.
She launched Cub + Scout with one of her close friends, Pip Reed, after they noticed a gap in the market for a carryall bag that paired aesthetic style with functional design (look inside and you’ll find a range of different sized pockets – ideal for mothers who need to find things quickly). “We were in the same boat – experiencing motherhood for the first time together and still desiring the ability to work and push ourselves. As mums, we both have the same priorities – our minis, but we are also both career women, and we want to see our business succeed, which we know takes time, a bit of sweat, and a lot of work! It’s just a new balancing act for us both,” she says.
When it comes to self-care, Sachs can’t go past curling up on her velvet sofa to watch a good TV series or a pampering bath with a luxurious Jo Malone London bath oil (or shower oil if she’s in a hurry). “I have never been a huge makeup person – my husband always laughs when I am dusting my cheekbones with blush as if I know what I’m doing – the truth is I have no idea. Since becoming a mother, I have tried to take better care of my skin. I love how good I smell after using bath or shower oil – it’s a little treat and makes me feel pampered, which is something all mums should feel!”
We spent the morning with Sachs Phillips to talk interiors, setting up a business, motherhood and more.
Photography: Grace Alyssa Kyo | Hair and makeup: Sarina Zoe
Where did you grow up and what are some vivid memories of your childhood?
My greatest memories from my childhood would be our family vacations. My parents believe that travel is one of the greatest forms of education and I was fortunate enough to begin travelling from a young age with my family. Just thinking about our family going through the airport makes me laugh. My mother used to say, “we put the fun in dysfunctional”. I think my favourite memories would be from our spring skiing trips in Courchevel, France and our summer trips to my mother’s family home in Bermuda – a house full of family traditions, endless activities, scooters to the beach, and hours of waterskiing and tubing. Those trips are memories that will last us all forever! I can’t wait to share travelling and these special places with my girls.
What brought you to Australia and do you ever miss America?
I had this crazy desire to move to Australia during my senior year at Vanderbilt University. I wanted to take a year off after college before returning to the concrete jungle of New York City. I had this dream of becoming a surfer chick and travelling the land down under… two weeks after moving to Sydney I landed my dream job wholesaling 17 luxury, international fashion brands and two weeks after that I met the love of my life.
Living away from home has always had its challenges, but it really intensifies when you start a family of your own. I hate missing out on family milestones and I wish they could all witness Olivia – how she changes and her wild personality. I am fortunate enough to have been able to travel home each year once or twice and I don’t know what we would do without our daily Facetime! It makes my family seem just a little bit closer.
What has motherhood taught you?
Somehow motherhood has taught me to be and stay calm. It constantly throws curve balls and unknowns, but if you can stay relaxed, everything is more manageable.
What do you remember about those early days after you became a mother?
It’s so funny how you so quickly forget those beginning days – the lack of sleep, the wild hormones, and all of the crazy things your body goes through (and there are lots!) because there is nothing like that feeling when you become a mother and you experience that immense, overwhelming, intoxicating love and joy. It’s the greatest high in the world.
Olivia has always been a great sleeper, but we also had a night nurse for the first few weeks to help us navigate this new world. I found that time to be invaluable as I had so many questions and she provided me with the confidence I needed to go and make decisions on my own.
What inspired the launch of your new brand Cub + Scout?
Cub + Scout was dreamt up one day when Pip was pregnant and Olivia was just a newborn. There was no baby bag on the market that was fashionable and functional, and we quickly recognised a gap in the market. Before you have a kid you think your designer tote will be just perfect, the reality is a different story and it’s certainly not as glamorous as all the “insta-famous” mothers make it look! Pip took the opportunity before her son was born to research manufacturers, start designing samples, and brainstormed branding ideas with her husband, who is a graphic designer (an added bonus for any startup!). Before long, Pip was in her garage sending out orders while taking care of her newborn. It was too much for one person, especially a new mother. With a background in fashion and sales, Pip approached me to see if I would be interested in becoming business partners. I had ideas on how to grow the business, where we wanted it to get to, and a plan on how we would get there, which is essential for any startup and especially important when you have little ones to prioritise. We are lucky being good friends with similar entrepreneurial goals. Pip and I share the workload and working with another mother makes it so much easier as we both understand each other’s needs.
Cub + Scout has certainly come with its fair share of trials and tribulations to begin, which quickly put us to the test. The products needed upgrading and improvements and we wanted to elevate the brand. In today’s world, branding is everything, especially with an audience with a super short attention. We tested a lot of samples until we got it just right and in return, we have received an amazing response from our customers. We are constantly fine-tuning, planning, creating and thinking ahead. I think in today’s world, it is critical to stay relevant and competitive. We are always exploring on social media and trying to meet the needs of our customers. Cub + Scout has big plans for 2018 and we can’t wait to watch it grow.
What kind of work ethic/qualities did your parents instil in you?
Both of my parents worked fulltime while we were growing up and neither of them in 9-5 jobs. My dad was often away for a week at a time and my mother was always meeting the demands of her client’s schedules. I think through them I learned that nothing in life will be handed to you and you have to prove yourself to everyone and anyone if you want to succeed.
SHOP: Jo Malone London English Pear & Freesia Body & Hand Lotion, $80; Jo Malone London English Pear & Freesia Body & Hand Wash, $58; Jo Malone London Lime Basil & Mandarin Home Candle, $88. Wallpaper from House Of Hackney
How long have you lived in your current home and how would you describe the style of your interiors?
We moved into our house two weeks before my daughter was born – there is nothing quite like moving at nine months pregnant (just ask my husband!), but it was amazing to move into our family home and shortly after bring home our daughter to start this chapter as a little team.
I would describe our interiors as classic American with inspiration and touches from our travels. It was so important to me to create a home in Australia that represented who I am and where I came from. I worked with my close friend Melissa Marshall in Sydney picking out fabrics and creating room plans. She totally understood my aesthetic and my slight obsession with blue. I then went home to the States to work with my mother where we custom made all of our furniture; found unique antiques which we recovered in modern fabrics; and sourced some pieces from some of my favourite interior shops. It was definitely an all-consuming experience, but I love walking through our house and remembering the process. I remember seeing our dining room chairs at this crazy man’s antique store (they were then covered in a horrible vintage brown zig-zag fabric) and my mother and husband thought I was crazy to pick such obscenely-tall, king-like chairs but I knew they would be winners for dinner parties! Who doesn’t like to feel like a King or Queen every now and then?
Do you have a favorite room?
That’s a tough one, but I would have to say my bedroom. There is a sense of calm that always relaxes me. I also custom designed two chairs with my mum and there is nowhere I would rather sit. There is a sense of fun with the zebra print and the fringe which was inspired by our trip to Italy – every lounge at our hotel had fringe and I loved it! They are big enough for my husband to sit in comfortably but I just like to sneak off and curl up on them with a magazine and unwind. Sometimes my daughter even sits in them while I get dressed and it always gives me a glimpse of when I used to sit in my mom’s room while she would get ready for a dinner party and I would help pick out her outfit and shoes. It’s a special memory.
What makes you feel stressed?
Before having Olivia, I would easily become overwhelmed with my work life because I am a type A who tends to push myself that one step too far. However, early on when I had Liv and my mum hadn’t come out from the States yet I had a really traumatic 24 hours in hospital when Olivia wouldn’t feed. I was extremely stressed, exhausted, and completely overwhelmed by the experience and it was very clear that Liv was reacting to it. I remember telling myself: “You’ve got this, it’s only you who can make this work, no more being crazy!” I really believe it was a turning point in my life where I realised when I am calm, everything around me is calm.
How do you juggle motherhood with work?
Being a mum and having a new business is undeniably 24/7. It can definitely be hard to find time for myself, but organisation and planning is key to it all. Both Pip and I work every day and it’s all about being present in whatever we are doing. When I am with Olivia, I try not to be scrolling on Instagram but focus on her and our time together. When she is napping, I have to take advantage of those three hours and get as much work done as possible. Olivia also just started pre-school which gives me two full days to focus solely on Cub + Scout, well at least until baby two arrives!
What are your time management tips and how do you get everything done?
Lists! I have always been a list person. I love the feeling of crossing things off – the sense of accomplishment. And baby brain is real – so my to-do list has never been so important! I also think having Olivia on a strict routine from week one has been my saviour. My days operate because I know where I have to be and when based around her routine. There is very little downtime in our life, but having her routine guides the day so I can get the most accomplished. I also think Olivia has thrived being on a routine – she knows her day almost as well as me. I love the consistency in that.
How would you describe your personal style? What fashion items do you love to wear?
Having worked in fashion my whole life, I am always trying new things and I love finding new brands. At the moment, I am a bit addicted to everything Lucy Folk is doing – it’s fun and just makes me feel like I am on holiday. As it’s summer now, I am living in white, linens, and loving my summer dresses.
How do you approach self-care?
Like most things in my life – it’s kind of work hard, play hard… I have a real weakness for a good cheese board and a few glasses of rose (okay and Aperol Spritz!). To enjoy life’s greatest pleasures, I usually balance it out with high-intensity workouts – I love F45 and my first stop when I am in the States is always SoulCycle. At the moment, being 18 weeks pregnant, I don’t quite have the energy for that level of fitness and I don’t mind taking these nine months to take a break from the pressures for intense fitness, green juices, and salads – I’m really enjoying my Vegemite toast and banana smoothies.