PHOTOGRAPHY BY NIKOLE RAMSAY
Barwon Heads-based designers Viva Partos and Eliza Pike form the duo behind Partos + Pike, a fashion brand for women that like to wear colourful and relaxed basics...
Partos’s father was a painter and her mother was a dressmaker and fashion historian. “I have always been surrounded by art and fashion,” she says. Pike’s background is in travel. “In a small town like Barwon Heads, Eliza is not easy to miss, being 6ft tall and super fun and friendly. It was easy to see why I gravitated towards her. When she approached me to start this venture I was super chuffed that she thought of me! We have made a great team,” says Partos. A business and seven children between them – Viva has four and Eliza has three — the women have developed a loyal following for their colourful prints and the effortless ease of their designs. They’re stylish, busy mothers designing for real women who just like themselves, still love fashion but also need their wardrobe to be functional and comfortable. “We dress women who like to be unique and individual. Woman that are aware of their own sense of style and don’t feel they need to follow commercial fashion trends,” explains Partos. We loved catching with the duo (and their beautiful children) at Partos’s stunning home…
Can you tell us about your background and how you came to launch Partos & Pike?
Viva: After school I completed a degree in commercial photography at RMIT, and went on to work in the advertising field, mainly shooting fashion and portraiture. After meeting Jeremy (future husband) we decided to head overseas and travel, we explored South and Central America for six months before settling in the UK for a year. Soon after we returned home to Melbourne I lost my beautiful Dad and my perspective on my career changed a lot. Jeremy and I decided to start and family, and I fell in love with being a mum. Fast forward to meeting Eliza! When she approached me to start this venture I was super chuffed that she thought of me! We have made a great team.
Eliza: My background is in travel and after all of my kids started school I started daydreaming about what I might like to do. I knew I wanted to start a label creating women’s clothing and I liked the idea of doing it with someone, so I asked Viva. Viva is one of those really cool people with great style and she is fun (yep, total package), but at the time I didn’t realise her background in photography and arts. I went to meet her one morning to talk through my ideas and what I was hoping to do and left her to think about it. Then one day I woke up to a text message that just said “lets do it”. I was SO happy and then all of a sudden completely nervous, but a good nervous.
What kind of work do you need to get done in a day?
Viva: My days are always jam packed, Partos + Pike workdays can be at one of our kitchen tables, working through colour palette combo’s, playing around with print ideas, posting orders and keeping on top of admin. On the home front, the domestic side is never ending! If the sun is shining and the river looks beautiful, I’m there!
Eliza: If my day is a home day with the kids then it’s all about school lunches, after school sport and play dates. If it’s a Partos + Pike day then it is coffee, planning, sampling, print design, contacting suppliers and often a quick trip to Melbourne inside school hours. I also work three to four days a week in a shop here in Barwon Heads. My days can be crazy!.
What kind of woman do you imagine wearing Partos + Pike?
Eliza: Based on our sales we sell to women aged between 18-55. A confident woman who appreciates quality but wants comfort and easy to mix and match pieces. We have found that women are really loving the fact that we are Australian made. Our clothing is made in Melbourne by a manufacturer that is accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia. We do our best to support little local businesses like ours and I feel that our customers love that.
How do you juggle work with motherhood?
Viva: Having designated workdays are really important. I get the computer out when the kids are asleep, working while answering and attending to their needs is not productive. I’m still learning to find the right balance.
Eliza: We have learnt over the last couple of seasons that it’s really important for us to have a Partos + Pike office day where we can sit and chat through things uninterrupted. That way when it’s a day with our children, it’s all about them. It’s also important for us to have time when we are just friends catching up and hanging out not talking about work things. We try to save that for our office days. In the past we have had to make decisions while standing on the oval at school waiting to pick up the kids, it’s not always that glamorous!
Do you ever feel guilty for working?
Viva: Only when it’s meant to be a non-work day and I should be enjoying my time with the kids.
Eliza: I don’t know that I feel guilty as I think that it’s important for the kids to see me achieve things that are not just about them and more about me as a person, but in saying that I often get sad when I miss presentations at school assembly or sports days. Sometimes I find myself saying “just a minute” a few too many times. The kids often tell me that my minutes are the longest minutes in history.
What has been the most challenging stage trying to balance work and family?
Viva: I think I’m in it now. My children’s needs are different from when they were little. They are going through big important changes at the moment and they all have very different emotional, developmental and social needs. It’s incredibly challenging dividing my time between the four of them. Not to mention trying to fit in the time that Partos +Pike deserves. Sometimes it can be quite overwhelming. But like all goals if you push yourself, and venture out of that comfort zone it feels good to know you can do it!
Eliza: I think there are challenges at all times with getting the balance right, but for me it’s the challenge of time. Time to sit with each of the kids individually to talk about what is going on in their lives, whether it be school or their friendships. Time to spend with my husband even if it’s just eating dinner on the couch and watching TV together, time with my friends, time to see my family…
Where was the last place you travelled to?
Viva: We took the kids on a camping holiday for whole of January. We travelled north to a place called Moonee Beach just North of Coffs Harbour, and then down to the south coast of NSW, to Bournda Nation Park, near Merimbula. It was one of the best family holidays we have ever had. Camping has an amazing way of simplifying how we can live and magnifying life’s most basic needs; family, friends food and fun!
Eliza: Our last family holiday was 10 days in Byron Bay – we love it there! We have been quite a few times now, so the minute we arrive we go straight into relaxation mode. We have a swim, grab a burger from the Top Shop and wander the shops checking out Ahoy and the infamous market. I always find it weird to go on a beach holiday when we live at the beach, but when you find a place you love it’s so worth it. Viva and I are about to head to New York with two other friends. No husbands and no kids, we are just a little bit excited!
What’s the secret to running a successful fashion line?
Eliza: I don’t know if there are any secrets, but I do think that one of the things that has really helped us is having a pop-up shop over summer. You meet so many different people and getting that feedback about sizing and fit is so invaluable. We also don’t follow trends, we do what we love and so far it’s working. People love to see what prints we have created and we always get people wishing that they had purchased something and asking us to bring that style back. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes when you are dealing with experts in their field (whether it is graphic designers or digital printers or wholesale fabric suppliers) they all have their own terminology for different things and so many times I’ve had to say “I’m sorry I don’t understand what you mean”. The only way to learn is to ask questions.
Eliza Pike and Viva Partos.
What do you love about working together?
Viva: Although our aesthetics are different, we are both on the same page when it come to Partos + Pike. Our vision for the brand and the direction it should head in are the same. We both gravitate to similar fabrics and styles. Eliza always offers an insightful edge, she has a unique and talented eye for seeing the big picture.
Eliza: There is something very special about working with a friend and naturally finding that balance so that you just know when someone has reached their limit of tiredness, patience or inspiration and the other person picks up the slack (and the coffee). I love that we can both look at a fabric and instantly see its potential. I love that even if Viva doesn’t truly get my vision, she lets me run with it and present it to see if we can make it come to life.
What does happiness mean to you?
Viva: It might seem simple, but happiness is when life is working the way it should. When I’m feeling balanced with in all aspects of life. An example of that is when the kids are laughing, dinner is cooking on the stove, I’ve had a productive workday and Jeremy is on his way home from work and tomorrow is Saturday! Bliss.
Eliza: Happiness for me is that moment when the sun is shining, the kids are happy playing outside, the coffee is good and your friends are coming for lunch/dinner. That or a day at the beach with friends – there is nothing quite like sandy toes and salty skin.
L-R: Banjo, Viva, Roma, Hero and Iggy.
L-R: Joe, Eliza, Edie and Maggie.