Becoming a mother opens up your life in ways you can never possibly imagine. Take the moment Sarah Stanistreet met Rachael Mahe. The two Sydney-based women met through their mothers’ group and instantly clicked (don’t you just love those friendships?). “We both felt there weren’t many options out there for pieces which were fashion-forward yet easy to style and wear for our little girls and so the idea of launching our boutique label Chloé and Amélie was born,” reflects Stanistreet who spent seven years working for an Australia womenswear line. Armed with a passion for style and design, they spotted a niche for “party to park wear” and named the brand after their toddler daughters...
The new collection features flouncy bows on billowy dresses, polka dot 50’s inspired cotton playsuits and charming vintage-inspired digital prints in lovely linen and lightweight cotton. They’re the kind of clothes that standout for being as charming as they are fashion-forward. “It didn’t take long for me to realise the joy that came from dressing my daughter up in a beautiful outfit,” says Mahe. Indeed, as a mother, there’s nothing more fun than dressing your kids in cute attire (even if they only stay clean for a few minutes…sigh). And there’s also nothing more rewarding than building a business from scratch, while also raising a family. “The decision to launch this label while we had little ones was partly due to our desire to be more in control of our work. We wanted to be our own bosses and work our own hours and we also just said to each other ‘let’s go for it!’ and work hard to create something we love,” says Mahe. We caught up with the design duo to find out more about their childrenswear brand, what keeps them inspired and how they approach the juggle. Go to www.chloeandamelie.com
What has motherhood taught you?
Motherhood has taught us the overwhelming and most beautiful feeling of unconditional love. It has enabled us to re-see the beauty in life through their little encouraging and fascinating eyes. It has taught us patience and built us to be stronger women for our little people.
Talk us through your career path and how you came to launch Chloé and Amélie?
Sarah: Ever since I was a little girl, fashion and style was something I was very into. My favourite piece to wear was a gorgeous white lace couture flower girl dress that apparently my mother could not take off me to wash. In high school, I studied textiles and design. For my HSC, I chose to create a children’s felt 3D story playbook. I’ve always loved children and wanted my own from a very young age. After finishing high school I studied fashion business at FBI Fashion College, and then went on to work for a very successful fashion label for seven years before having my daughter Chloé. I met Rachael in my mothers’ group and our families instantly clicked. We both felt there weren’t many options out there for pieces which were fashion-forward yet easy to style and wear for our little girls, and so the idea of launching our boutique label Chloé and Amélie was born. Rachael: I have more of a business background and most recently worked in human resources for one of the top-tier law firms in Australia. I did, however, get a taste of being part of creating a business from the ground up after working for a startup in San Francisco a few years ago. I knew it was going to take a lot of hard work but hey, I already had one ‘start-up’ project (my daughter Amélie!) so why not start another one. I didn’t know a lot about babies/children before having Amélie, so it was a steep learning curve peppered with challenges and joys. It didn’t take long for me to realise the joy that came from dressing her up in a beautiful outfit.
How did motherhood change your career/were you more or less ambitious after you became mothers?
We have always been very ambitious women who love a challenge. Motherhood has changed our perspective on what’s important – happiness, precious time spent with our children and doing our best to be good role models for them. We probably are now more ambitious, in a sense, to achieve those things wherever possible. The decision to launch this label while we had little ones was partly due to our desire to be more in control of our work. We wanted to be our own bosses and work our own hours and we also just said to each other ‘let’s go for it!’ and work hard to create something we love.
How would you describe your brand Chloé and Amélie?
Chloé and Amélie’s signature, unique style mixes old world charm with a feminine fun twist. Our designs are a little more fashion-forward and appeal to those who seek style. Our easy-wearing pieces bring a sense of occasion every day to the little Chloé and Amélie girl’s wardrobe. On a practical level, we consider three things when designing:
- Dress up/dress down – We saw a niche for ‘party to park wear’. Our pieces are designed to be dressed up for an occasion such as a wedding, a grandma’s birthday or anytime your little girl can wear something a little nicer. Yet for us, pieces must also pass the playground test so they can continue to get wear out of an outfit. Little girls should still be able to run, jump, play and be comfortable.
- Mix and match – Our colour palettes and prints are designed to go back with each other enabling you to create many unique and fun little looks.
- Longevity – Our designs are looser fitting silhouettes so that you get as much use out of each piece as your little one grows. Our dresses are often worn as tops once they become too short and some of our pieces, for example, overalls and playsuits with adjustable straps that can be tied to any length.
Our inspiration comes from many different places: a trip to the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney seeing the beautiful array of blooms; a visit to our grandmother’s place (she’ll often pull out vintage dolls which are dressed in gorgeous handmade dresses for her great-grandchildren to play with; antique stores and of course watching the Paris runway shows.
Talk us through the process behind each range – how long does it take you to put a collection together?
The process takes up to seven months from design to delivery. Design is the first step and once the designs are complete, the fabric and trims are then sourced while our pattern maker works on the silhouettes. The designs are then sent to the manufacturer. Once we have samples, fits and tweaks are made and then production goes into place. Once the delivery is received, the fun part begins of photographing each style.
What’s the secret to a successful business partnership?
Being supportive, working cohesively, being open and trusting, having complementary skills and being motivated and optimistic together to drive the business forward.
How do you structure your working week?
Being fulltime mothers our working week is structured to slot into our children’s schedules which means we work during sleep periods (early morning, midday and after hours). Early mornings usually entail responding to emails, midday usually entails design/production/web tasks and evenings usually entail the fun stuff of marketing and social media. We have one (after hours) weekly business meeting with a long agenda.
“ We have always been very ambitious women who love a challenge. Motherhood has changed our perspective on what’s important - happiness, precious time spent with our children and doing our best to be good role models for them ”
What’s your approach to health and wellbeing?
We are both very conscious of putting time aside for our health and wellbeing to clear our minds. Sarah is one to take 30 minutes out each day to go for a very fast paced run to get those endorphins running and get the creative juices flowing. Rachael loves to take time out to go to the yoga studio.
Talk us through the new range...
Our ‘Dollhouse Days’ spring/summer 17 collection was inspired by a visit to my grandmother’s house and going through her magnificent collection of vintage dolls, all of them dressed in the most divine handmade outfits. It reminded us of the gorgeous old world pieces that our mothers used to dress us in as little girls. She also has this incredible antique dollhouse with gorgeous floral wallpaper, which perfectly clashed with another floral printed tablecloth, that also perfectly clashed with the vintage dolls handmade outfits. It gave us the idea to design stories that perfectly clash with each other such as the polka dots and dollhouse window print, creating a quirky, fashion-forward and feminine look. Our colour palette consists of soft tones that enable everything to be mixed and matched to create unique and fun looks.
What are your top three time management tips?
We’ve always been good with time management, and even more so now we are mothers. It’s all about creating schedules, routines and being efficient with all tasks.
What advice would you give other mothers looking to launch their own business?
It is a huge challenge, takes a lot of time and energy but is very rewarding. Our advice is to pursue what you are passionate about. Do it with someone great. Don’t give up. Have fun with it and enjoy the process.
What’s your strategy for using social media to grow your business?
How would we do business without social media?! It’s such a great platform. The ability to instantly share our product with such a large and relevant audience is so powerful. Being a small business, it offers endless opportunities in terms of reach and getting our brand out there. There are so many gorgeous and supportive bloggers out there that help promote our business and we are forever grateful. Gone were the days where you wait for someone to walk past your shop. Instead, we can go out into the universe and reach people around the world. It is incredible! We also find social media allows us the opportunity to get to know our customers. How old their children are, how the garments fit on their child, whether our sizing fits true to size etc. We love nothing more than seeing our gorgeous little customers in our garments.
What are your favourite pieces in the range?
Sarah: My absolute go-to piece for little miss Chloé in this range is the ‘Over the Hill Dress’ in the Dollhouse print. It suits every occasion, is comfortable for the park, the perfect party dress, can be layered in winter and worn on its own in summer. When I dress Chloé in it, she twirls around with a big smile on her face and says “look at my twirly beautiful dress mummy” – it absolutely melts my heart. Rachael: It really is hard to pick just one or two, as every piece gets a solid work-out depending on the day’s activities and the weather. Amélie’s ‘Came Out To Play Jacket’ in the Tile print is quite literally either on her, in my handbag or in the wash as it’s such a good easy wearing, throw-on jacket if we are out somewhere and the temperature cools down. While travelling recently, the ‘Far Away Short – Peachy Perfect‘ and ‘The World Top – Spot‘ were high on rotation and I can see each fun piece continuing to be favourites well into summer.