By the time you finish this story on Auguste founder Ebony Eagle, you'll want to move to Byron Bay, own a couple of horses and dress exclusively in Auguste. At least, I did. She's the type of woman who spreads positive energy and this energy trickles down to the clothes she designs. Ebony has created a fashion brand for women and children that's driven by sustainability and giving back...
Her most recent charitable imitative was the Auguste ‘Hero’ campaign, which focused on raising awareness around the dangers of bullying. The brand designed a range of Hero slogan tees as a call to action and donated 100% of the sales to the National Centre Against Bullying and the Cybersmile Foundation to continue their work preventing abuse and giving support to sufferers. They raised more than $85,000 for their partner charities. On top of that, she’s the mother to two beautiful girls – Coco and Frankie – and doesn’t shy away from talking about the challenges of raising young women while simultaneously running a company.
Here, we talk to the ever-inspiring entrepreneur about moving back to Australia after spending time living abroad in Bali, how COVID-19 has impacted her business and the positive changes she’s making and why motherhood is the best thing that ever happened to her.
Go to augustethelabel.com Images: Carly Brown
Take us back to your childhood. What was it like and what are some of your most vivid memories?
There are so many magical memories, particularly of summers spent at our beach house in Rosebud, Victoria – days that seemed to go on forever in a world that felt so big spent with my brothers and sisters, aunties, grandparents. Lots of sand, sun and banana Paddle Pops on the beach. We still own this beach house and boat shed and I now take my children there to do the exact same thing. It’s so unbelievably nostalgic for all of us. It’s the most at ease any of us ever feel.
My childhood also wasn’t without adversity, but children are incredibly resilient and you learn to deal with the situation you are in as best you can. These things shape who you are. I’m from a big family of four children and we moved around a fair bit so, affectionately, home was always where the chaos was!
What was your career path like prior to starting Auguste?
I’ve worked since the day I turned 13, starting with an after school job at the fruit shop, into weekend jobs at cafes and then when I finished school at 17 I was a nanny for a travelling family and spent two years hopping all over Europe… This was where the fire in my belly grew for travelling and I believe it’s where my perspective on more of an entrepreneurial career took shape. When I landed back in Australia at 19 I waitressed for a few years until I got poached for a styling/production job at a studio in Richmond. This is where I learned all about shoot productions, etc, and it was whilst working here that I decided to take the leap and start my own fashion brand at 22. I managed to secure a small loan to start my business while I was working full-time and then resigned to waitress again by night and work on my label by day. I had that brand ‘ebonyeve’ for ten years before I started Auguste five years ago.
Was it always a dream to have your own label, or did that come about organically?
Well, my Grandma taught me to sew when I was eight-years-old and I continued sewing my whole life. I’ve always been a massive vintage and op shop trawler and I’m creative, so the whole design part came quite naturally. The business part I learned on the job!
Did you have your girls prior to starting Auguste, and if so, what was that transition like?
I had Coco when I was 28 and then Frankie when I’d just turned 30 so at that time I was still running my previous label ‘ebonyeve’, so yes I had a business. I never stop working and throughout pregnancy and when the girls were young this didn’t change… I was living in Bali at the time that the girls were young though, so I just worked wearing a few less items of clothing! Work-life balance will be my lesson in this life – it’s something I’m still trying to master.
What's been the biggest challenge of motherhood? And the biggest blessing?
The thing I find most challenging is the work-life balance juggle and the fact that I have missed out on so many precious moments due to my work commitments. The biggest blessing in all of it! The whole apple, even the seeds.
You've lived in Melbourne, Byron, Bali and Sydney. Do you feel that you're settled now that you've moved back to Byron, or do you crave change? What were some of the challenges and joys of living overseas?
Yes, I’ve moved around a lot in my life. Auguste HQ has always been based in Byron so moving home to here made sense for us and we always wanted to bring our children up here. I’m very settled now. I’ve travelled enough for ten lives! Honestly, we didn’t find living overseas challenging, we adore different cultures and the perspective that they give you. We are so grateful that our girls started their life like that. All four of us loved living abroad right up until the very end but you just know in your core when it’s time to come home.
Is there something about Byron that called you back? Has moving to Byron influenced your designs or your process?
Auguste HQ has always been based in Byron so coming back here was the natural decision. Growing up here as a teen I was super eager to get out and experience the world but after I had my children, I definitely felt a strong pull to bring them up here, but more so to the hinterland where we now call home. I just love being in nature, surrounded by my children and as many animals as I can fit in! My designs have always naturally thrown together bohemian and vintage inspiration so I suppose, yes, growing up here could have been the beginning of that attraction.
What are your time management tips? You must have your hands full with kids and a business!
Oh god, finish emails in your evening bath? Between the kids, the horses, the business and my embarrassing attempt of a social life, there is very little time to stop and try to time manage anything, so I pretty much fail constantly, no tips here.
How do you describe the Auguste aesthetic?
Classic, bohemian, feminine, timeless.
Who is your ultimate Auguste muse?
That’s a tricky one. Stylistically, the ever influential Jane Birkin has always been a huge creative inspiration and a measuring stick for my designs. Would Jane wear it? Yes? Good, let’s do it. Her sense of fashion was just so easy-going and feminine, it’s everything we make Auguste to be. I’ve also always felt inspired by Brigitte Bardot and her femininity, she just made it so approachable. My main inspiration though is Jane Goodall. Her connection to nature, work with animals and bravery in her field, particularly as a young woman, has given me so much courage to create, stay true to myself and use my platform to give back to the planet.
Auguste is such an ethical label, from your fabrics and factories to your ongoing charitable initiatives. Is that something that's always been important to you?
Absolutely, I always wanted to get to a point in business where I was able to give back. To have a platform and a voice is a gift and one that I believe should be used wisely and for greater good.
Do you think the fashion industry is becoming more conscious, or is that something that concerns you?
Absolutely and largely that’s being driven by consumer demand, which is just awesome. It won’t all happen at once, but the fact that more and more consumers are seeking out eco-friendly fashion alternatives means that more brands will follow suit. They’re starting to realise that if you’re not thinking about your impact on the planet, you’re not being competitive, or responsible really, and that’s the only real future for fashion.
You regularly design capsule collections in aid of a charitable cause. Tell us about your latest 'Hero' campaign…
As a mum and as a member of the global community, I wanted to unite people in recognising the dangers of bullying and how important it is to use your position to stand up for others. We designed a range of Hero slogan tees as a call to action and donated 100% of the sales to the National Centre Against Bullying and the Cybersmile Foundation to continue their work preventing abuse and giving support to sufferers. I’m incredibly proud that our message of solidarity was shared by thousands around the world and we raised more than $85,000 for our partner charities.
Why is charity work so important to you?
It’s just part of who I am and what I’ve always believed in, but when I had children it became a larger priority in my life. If we’re not working to leave the planet a better place for our little ones, then what are we doing? How can you see what’s happening in the world and not respond? I’ve worked hard and now I’m fortunate enough to have this platform, so I use it. To me, that’s just good sense, simple as that!
Little Auguste is your line for children. What was the inspiration behind that?
My daughters were my inspiration here. I created little Auguste when my girls were little and loved spinning around in full skirts, it was made for princesses – and even though those two princesses now will only wear ripped denim shorts and Auguste tees I’m so happy that there are so many other little angels out there still spinning in our creations.
What's your parenting philosophy?
Shower them with so much love and kindness that they don’t realise you often forget to do storytime. Also, I believe in teaching my girls independence – if they are able to do it themselves then they do. Also, have fun with them and keep phones down.
What are your beauty musts?
Rosehip oil, always.
One of your most popular charity campaigns was your 'future woman' tee range. What sort of example do you want to set for your daughters?
The ‘future women’ tees were part of our charity campaign raising money for UN Women and promoting female empowerment, and as a mother of two daughters, this meant so much to me. A big lesson I hope my daughters learn from me is to not be passive. Make opportunities, don’t wait for them. Offer to help, don’t wait for someone else to. Use what’s at your fingertips, and then reach for more.
How has COVID-19 changed the way you think about your business?
COVID brought a lot of perspective for me. It showed us all that everything can literally stop overnight, so for me, it was a reminder to make sure that what I was doing was right for me personally and was to the standard that I wanted. We are doing a lot of work on our ethics and sustainability and really our whole brand identity. It’s a time to contract and refocus on not necessarily being big but being great… and I am LOVING that.
What changes will you make/have you made going forward?
We made the decision around the beginning of COVID to exit from wholesale entirely and focus on our own vertical channels, making Auguste exclusive to our online store augustethelabel.com and our Brisbane and Byron Bay boutiques. The exit was a huge decision for me, however, I know it was the right one. Being a purely vertical business means we can retract and refocus. There were many factors in this decision however the most important was the ability to continue on our journey to being a more ethical and sustainable business, because that is what it is, a journey – it is not about any one decision, it’s every decision you make. Being a vertical business means we have the flexibility to make the decisions we feel are right.
What advice do you have to other fashion businesses during this period?
Every business and situation is different, so that’s hard, but I’d say to use this time to re-evaluate what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what could be done differently in the future. I think we’ll see a lot of brands coming out with exciting changes in the coming months (I hope!).