Many a genius business idea has been born out of frustration. A deep need for a product or service that simply doesn't yet exist in the ether.
For Lauren Lewis – founder of The Holiday Co. – this couldn’t have been closer to the truth. After a melanoma diagnosis at the age of 18, but with a desire to continue enjoying the sun in style, she sought to create a collection of products that would not only be beautiful and made of natural, breathable fabrics, but would also be sun safe.
However, it wasn’t until later in life – following a particularly creative spark during Easter Hat Parade – that she decided to follow her passion. The result is The Holiday Co. – a remarkable collection that is inspired by the carefree nature of the Australian lifestyle, with versatile pieces that are designed to be layered together to help protect the skin, without compromising style.
We spoke to Lauren about the brand, how she maintains sun safety today, and how she’s making it all work with business and babies.
You were diagnosed with melanoma at the age of 18. Can you talk us through this diagnosis and your subsequent treatment?
Initially, it all started because I had a funny-looking mole on my left shoulder – although I had very long hair so I never actually noticed it. I went to my GP who advised to come back in a month to see if anything had changed with it but my mum knew better and got me into a local dermatologist the same day. At that appointment, Dr Ho, was very quick to say that I would need to go to the Melanoma unit ASAP.
Being 18 I was still oblivious to what was happening and really wasn’t concerned – unlike my mum. But at my next appointment with Dr Thompson, a biopsy was done on the spot. It was just a few days later that my mum got the call that it was melanoma and I would need further surgery. Thankfully they managed to take a clear margin with surgery, which was a relief – but I now have a large scar that is a constant reminder. I was definitely lucky not to need any further treatment other than six-monthly checks. But to this day, I have kept up every single appointment as early detection is key.
How is your health today?
These days I do my best to stay as fit and healthy as I can. I eat well most of the time, exercise regularly and of course, keep my skin covered up from the sun as much as possible.
How has this experience impacted your life on a day-to-day basis today as a mother of two?
While it’s not something I dwell on – my experience with skin cancer at such a young age has definitely made me more conscious as a mum to make sure that I’m not only taking care of my own skin, but that of my children as well. I’m definitely one of those mums who is unwavering in her dedication to slip, slop, slap! I am also super cautious if I’m not well, and make sure I always get checked for everything. My philosophy is that it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Now please talk us through the launch of The Holiday Co - what inspired the launch? (We think we might have a hunch…!)
As long as I can remember, I’ve always loved fashion – and even now, one of my favourite ways to spend my downtime is to browse brands that I love and put together what I consider to be my dream holiday wardrobe by ‘adding to cart’.
But coupled with my interest in fashion has always been this underlying stress about covering up in summer. I’ve always had incredibly pale skin and so was conscious of covering up whenever I was in the sun. But obviously this just became even more of a priority after my skin cancer diagnosis! The Holiday Co. really came about because of my frustration with not being able to cover up and still feel fashionable and comfortable. I used to wrap towels around myself when I was at the beach but when I’m roaming about with the kids, this was not only annoying – but hot and impractical. I knew that I could do better and I was sick of constantly feeling panicked about getting burnt so I decided to design my own cover-ups after realising there was a gap in the market.
Making sun-safe items that are actually gorgeous must have been no small feat. Has this been a change in terms of design and production?
It’s been a learning curve, for sure. Every piece obviously had to stay true to my original goal to create stylish, comfortable cover-ups – so that meant getting creative about things like sleeves. Every design also had to have its own personality – I didn’t want a whole collection of baggy dresses – as I don’t want women to feel frumpy, I want them to feel sexy, even when they’re covering up!
Where did you start in launching the brand?
The idea for The Holiday Co. has been burning away in my mind for years and I actually started working on the collection a couple of years ago. But after getting the collection finalised, I put the launch of the brand on hold as at the time, I was so busy juggling three other businesses and two young kids. I didn’t want to miss this precious time while my kids were so young and one day, I stumbled across a quote from Oprah that read – “you can have it all, just not all at once”. It really resonated with me and I realised that it just wasn’t the right time to launch.
But then, over Easter this year, I felt a renewed surge of creativity after working on my daughter Bowie’s Easter hat. She’s super creative, too, and we had so much fun chatting together about what we could create and how it would all come together. The simple act of tapping back into my creativity left me feeling super inspired and I knew that it was finally time to bring my vision and The Holiday Co. to life.
Talk us through some of the designs.
I genuinely love every piece in the collection – but a few of my faves are the Bowie Mini Ruffle Dress, the Freddie Swim Set and the Luna Front Button Dress.
Bowie is one of those pieces that you can literally just throw on during summer with a pair of sandals and head out the door. She has these great billowy sleeves – which are both cool and sun-safe – and a flirty frilly hem which makes her feel really fresh.
Freddie is my fun take on your old school rashie! Traditional rashies can be so boring – and not at all sexy – so I wanted to give them a reboot. I love that the top can be worn with the zip at the back or front, depending on your personal style, and that the high-waisted bottoms are super comfy.
And Luna, well, she’s probably one of the pieces I wear most often – just because she’s so versatile. As she’s full-length with long sleeves, it takes the stress out of being in the sun but because she’s this lovely 100% cotton, she’s also super light to wear. I’ll throw on Luna over my swimmers if we’re going to the beach, or wear her to a barbecue with a wide-brimmed hat and some sandals and feel effortlessly stylish.
You’re also passionate about making pieces we can easily run around in. Have your children played a role in this desire?
Absolutely! Gone are the days of me running around after them trying to hold a big heavy towel around me. The reality of having young kids is that you are on the go – constantly! So I definitely designed the collection with my own lifestyle in mind. Short of being in activewear 24/7, I know I can throw on any one of The Holiday Co. pieces and be good to go.
You’re also the creative director of BOWERBIRD Interiors. Why did you decide to add one more thing to your plate!?
I’m someone who just jumps into things – so I knew I had a great idea and I had to see it come to life! It’s definitely busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How are you managing the juggle of these two big roles and your children?
I just take things day to day. I’m lucky to have a great team around me – both at BOWERBIRD and with The Holiday Co. – so I do my best to delegate as much as possible and ensure that I’m not piling too much on my plate. I’m really lucky though, having the flexibility of my own businesses means that I can be available for my kids and do things like the school drop off.
Who do you rely upon to keep the wheels turning in business and family?
My amazing husband, my extremely supportive parents and my mother-in-law! They all play such a huge role in keeping the wheels turning. I am so lucky that I get to do this with my husband – and I feel we are the ultimate team as he has the business brains whilst I get to do what I love and stick in the creative lane. Without my husband, none of this would be possible and I’m grateful every day as he is everything I’m not, and vice versa.
We are also so fortunate to have such amazing support with our kids from our parents, they have the kids when needed and have a very special bond with them. There have been many times where I’ve taken a moment just to appreciate that we simply couldn’t do what we do without them. It really does take a team.
Do you get mother’s guilt? If so, how do you cope with it?
Haha yes allll the time like most mothers, it’s just a normal part of motherhood. I cope by reminding myself that ALL kids need is love and happiness and also a happy mum.
Do you have doubts when running your own business? If so, how did you overcome these to launch such a gorgeous collection?
I think it’s only natural to have doubts along the way. Before I launched, there was definitely an element of the unknown as I had no idea how the brand would be received, but feedback so far has been really positive so that helps to keep me focused.
As women, we’re so often celebrated for all we ‘do’ (be it business, bake sales, whatever!). What’s something you’re not doing?
I really don’t dwell on the things I’m not doing – after all, there are probably a million things I’m not doing, but I know I’m doing the things that feel right for me and my family. I used to beat myself up – thinking I wasn’t doing enough, but that just leads to stress and detracts from the things I am actually doing. The key things I try to do is make sure I don’t overthink or over-complicate. Simplifying life for me keeps me calm and happy.
How is your health today? How do you look after yourself? What does self-care look like for you?
My health is good, I try my best to look after myself, although I am not married to anything and just do what feels good to me at the time. I train most days – whether at home, the gym or at a Pilates class. Self-care is mostly a cup of tea, time with my best friends or just a roam around the shops. Oh and holidays… this is the ultimate form of self-care for me.
How else do you protect yourself from the sun, and what lessons do you teach your children about this?
I never leave the house without sunscreen and I’ve always got a hat on hand! It’s something that’s just become second nature to me and so with my kids, I’m sure it’s become as ingrained in them as it has in me to be sun-safe. They know it’s important to always wear sunscreen and stay in the shade, so it’s something that’s just a part of our life.
What are your dreams for The Holiday Co?
Ultimately my goal is that women feel good when wearing the brand – that they feel protected from the sun and that they feel sexy! Hopefully too, women will love the first collection so much that I can continue to have the opportunity to design and create beautiful clothes for them.