Clover Lee-Steere has created a modern accessories label that ticks all the right boxes when it comes to event jewellery and everyday essentials, and while her flair for accessorising may seem at odds with her country upbringing, it seems the two worlds were always intertwined...
“If I wasn’t galloping horseback or rounding up sheep on my motorbike, I had my foot pedalling a sewing machine… From the age of 12, I would print a list of op shops for my mum to take me and I would buy bags and bags of vintage silk dresses, denim, jackets and accessories and would spend hours cutting, sewing and restructuring each piece.”
After a stint working with the design team at Scanlan Theodore in Melbourne, Clover returned to Perth in 2011 and let her namesake label naturally flourish, all while welcoming two daughters and juggling the demands of business and babies on a daily basis. With a lot of multitasking, the job gets done with her priorities firmly swayed in the motherhood direction. “Fashion evolves so fast, as do children growing up, so it’s a really difficult time in my life to manage the duo equally. Sometimes when I’m eagerly focussed on typing a work email or putting up an Instagram post, my 2-year-old daughter snatches my phone out of my hand, and says ‘mum, give me a hug’ and I know I’ll want that hug for life!”
We caught up with Clover to get more insight into her world of motherhood, business and family, and suddenly feel an urge to up our accessories game in a big way…
Tell us about your love of accessories and where it came from?
From the age of six, My granddad would take me to racing carnivals as his date to watch our horses race, and he would always take me shopping for handbags so I looked the racing part. When there were no race days to dress up for I would take matters into my own hands and raid my Mum’s wardrobe, she was a model back in the day so she had pieces from every fad, fashion and era – for better or worse! For me, accessorising is special – it finishes off any outfit and really personalises your mood and individuality. When I launched Clover, I wanted people to feel chic without having to blow the budget.
What inspired you to start your own accessories label?
From the age of 12, I would print a list of op shops for my mum to take me and I would go to town buying up bags and bags of vintage silk dresses, denim, jackets and would spend hours cutting, sewing and restructuring each piece. Years later while studying fashion and business and also working with the design team at Scanlan Theodore, I couldn’t help but return to my old ways; sewing floral reversible visors and vintage-inspired headpieces in my spare time. That’s when I knew that accessories were something I wanted to have fun with all day, every day. I moved back to Perth in 2011 and let CLOVER evolve.
What three pieces of jewellery should we all own this spring/summer?
Around my neck, I live in my CLOVER initial necklace with the pendant letters of my two daughters, and on my wrist, I wear my Cartier watch my husband bought me for my 27th birthday and my Lucy Folk anchovy cuff with the CLOVER Giselle and Pebble Bracelet.
How do you approach creating your collections?
I mood board a theme and it generally evolves from there, we add new styles weekly to the online store to encourage customers to view the site on a regular basis rather than updating a full collection in one hit. Accessories are obviously trans-seasonal which enables us to keep our stronger selling products online for a longer period of time.
What challenges have you faced building your brand?
We all know fashion is very fickle and very competitive. I tend to wear blinkers and focus on what I love, rather than what will sell, which doesn’t always work in my favour, but it does make me happy.
Best business advice you have received?
Creating a package that’s exciting to open and creates a story with the piece inside, from matching stationary to a personal handwritten note from the brand. This soothes the heart and often leads to customer retention, which is the ultimate brand strategy.
How has social media impacted your label?
It’s actually crazy how heavily reliant Instagram is as a sales tool and who would have thought it would last this long. It’s definitely been great for my label, but in general life it’s the biggest sucker of time. I do look forward to the holidays with no mobile reception.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own label?
I’ve always been a little pessimistic, I like the idea of starting small, getting it right and then evolving at a pace you can grow with…
How did your work life change when you became a mother?
With both my babies I worked right up until I drove myself to hospital. I went into natural labour with Florence five weeks early, so it was definitely a shock to the system. No time for maternity leave or even packing my hospital bag. From the day Florence landed in my hands I realised ‘work/life’ survives on multitasking. It’s amazing what you can achieve with a list and a couple of kids on your hips. I’ve now mastered one-handed typing. I’ve also learned to prioritise my workload so I don’t get too overwhelmed by the build up. However, my biggest weakness has been delegating tasks, I tend to take on too much as I like to ensure quality from start to finish.
What has motherhood taught you so far?
Resilience, patience and to embrace every moment, whether it’s a tantrum in the supermarket or a morning cuddle in bed.
Where did you grow up? How many siblings did you have? What was it like?
I grew up on our family farm ‘Hawthornden’ in Toodyay, just over an hour drive from Perth. I’m number six of seven kids (three sisters and three brothers). People would often ask me if my mum drove a bus! We always travelled in convoy. Mum took the girls, Dad took the boys, pretty sure it was for their sanity. Growing up, we didn’t need to hang at friends’ houses, we were one ‘wild party’ as a family and still are today. My mother is the definition of a superwoman. We are all so incredibly close and nothing beats a good ol’ banter with a WhatsApp family loop.
What are some vivid memories of your childhood?
If I wasn’t galloping horseback or rounding up sheep on my motorbike, I had my foot pedalling a sewing machine. At the age of 10, I spent some time on our remote station called Belele (My daughter’s middle name) in Meekatharra, where we had to drive hours to get a litre of milk. School was done over a two-way radio. I remember it was compulsory to radio call with our teacher at 8:30 am. We would often wag the arvos and help muster sheep or learn about natural bush remedies by some of the Aboriginal elders. We also did a lot of road-trips along the coastline of WA, Gnaraloo Station, Coral Bay and Exmouth. The water there is magic and I’m pretty sure my parents had to avoid places that involved a plane, taking seven kids under 15 on a flight sounds like a total nightmare.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Energetic, ambitious, family-girl.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Stay encouraged. My dad always made me jump back on the horse when I fell off.
How would you describe your personal style?
Eclectic yet sometimes minimalist but always well accessorised. It’s very much decided on the day and the diary! I’m on my feet a lot of the day so comfort is also key. Perth is a very relaxed coastal vibe, so I tend to roll with it and love to frock up when I can.
What items do you wear time and again…
I’m always well accessorised and can’t survive a day without my watch. I wear a lot of neutral linen, silk bright prints and denim. I love a bit of Isabel Marant, Ganni, Zimmermann, Lucy Folk and supporting my talented Aussie friends and their labels Realisation, SIR and Fella.
So far, what has been the most challenging part of motherhood and how have you overcome any challenges?
I put a lot of pressure on myself at finding the right balance. To me, a mother is the greatest gift in life. I feel so lucky waking up to two precious girls every morning & can’t wait to hopefully have a couple more jump into bed with me. I also love my work, which is sometimes neglected as I always put my family first and don’t ever want to miss out on a milestone.
Fashion evolves so fast, as do children growing up, so it’s a really difficult time in my life to manage the duo equally. Sometimes when I’m eagerly focussed on typing a work email or putting up an Instagram post, my two-year-old daughter snatches my phone out of my hand, and says ‘mum, give me a hug’ and I know I’ll want that hug for life!
How have you/did you handle any sleep deprivation/getting up in the night?
We’ve just got back from visiting my husband’s family in Italy so with a combination of jetlag and sleep deprivation, I’m currently feeling like a zombie with truckloads of work to catch up on. Velvet (five-month-old) is still waking up 2-4 times a night, I know once the solids kick in she will sleep longer stints, but I have actually enjoyed it as those one-on-one moments become rare. I have actually found the lack of sleep much easier second round. Fortunately, Florence (2-year- old) sleeps 12 hours straight, unless her Dogga is missing. She’s obsessed with an old IKEA sausage dog she made me buy from a garage sale we were walking past. I’ve wasted so much time to track down a backup replica with no luck, it’s that old IKEA have actually stopped producing it.
What’s your approach to health and wellbeing – do you eat well/exercise?
We are a pretty healthy household, although my husband is Italian so there’s a lot of pasta on the menu and I do love my red. Dinner time is very special for us, as both my husband and I live pretty hectic lives running our own businesses, we try to ensure we put away our phones and laptops, sit down at the table and chat about our days.
We live 500 meters from Swanbourne beach, so I do a lot of beach walks with the girls while my husband surfs, and I also schedule in a Pilates and aerobics class every week to clear the head and appreciate a little bit of ‘me’ time. Having some structured routine has helped us a lot. We also head to our family farm for the weekends for some horse riding and olive picking, the kids adore it and it’s a great time for us to clock off.
Talk us through your routine...
Generally at 6.30am Velvie is up for a feed, then Flo at 7ish. We all jump in bed and have about 15 minutes of cuddle time – it’s the best start to the day.
We have breakfast, I flick on the Today show (so I can get a little gist on what’s happening in the REAL world), Benny heads to work, while I hit up my local coffee shop for my daily caffeine fix and have a quick play in the park with the girls.
Around 9 am, I’m in the studio, delegating and planning the day with my assistant and one long list. We built a separate studio semi-attached to our house when I fell pregnant so I could balance my time between kids and work more freely. Then it’s the repetitive drill of dinner, bath and plenty of reading. Velvie falls to sleep instantly whereas Florence will request me to sing a good five different nursery rhymes on repeat until she’s sick of hearing my terrible voice. REPEAT…
How do you juggle work and children?
I’m pretty organised but in a pretty relaxed manner. I don’t often have a minute to spare in the day, but I thrive on that. I have Florence in daycare two days a week and my mum and mother in law are incredible support when I need to spend more time in the studio. I work when the girls sleep and often spend a couple of hours in the evening working. Sometimes, I’ll take Flo into the studio and she will quite happily draw for an hour or two or watch online orders be packaged.
Where are your top 3 places to go in Perth with your children?
- Head south to Yallingup beach, it has the most beautiful and protected crystal blue lagoon for kids to swim.
- Take the ferry to Rottnest – amazing bays for snorkelling and bike-riding.
- Cottesloe Beach – small waves, playground and great grass areas for a picnic.
Beauty products you can’t live without?
RATIONALE Immulogist Serum and Super Antioxidant Serum, Le Labo Bergamote 22 Perfume, Eve Lom cleanser.