We are always on the scout for gorgeous new childrenswear brands to feature on The Grace Tales and love nothing more than discovering ones that are the brainchild of mothers who see a gap in the market, take a risk, work hard and, with some serious juggling and multitasking along the way, achieve their dream. Case in point is Rachel Ussher of He and Her and we are thrilled to launch our first ‘At My Desk’ feature with the Melbourne-based designer. ‘At My Desk’ will feature stylish, dynamic mothers who are pursuing interesting careers. Ussher studied Arts at COFA in Paddington before working with a series of Australian labels including Fleur Wood and One Teaspoon and launched the label almost two years ago after her first child, Florin Heart, was born.
When pregnant and shopping around for baby clothes, Ussher noticed a lack of neutral classic garments available on the market at a reasonable price point. And so she set about launching He and Her. Ussher focuses on producing stylish yet practical unisex pieces such as leggings, tees, onesies in simple prints and plain cotton. It seems that in no time at all Ussher has found herself operating an impressive childrenswear label with stockists in Australia, Singapore and the US.
The designer says despite the rapid road to success shes still mastering the juggling act of building a business and being a mother. I definitely havent mastered the balance, but I feel like Im getting better at it. Ive absolutely had those times where Im trying to finish off one more thing, or pack one more order, or reply to one more email while my almost two year old toddler is clinging to your leg winging and it just all feels too hard. But it’s great to just take a moment when its all feeling a little too crazy and pull everything back into perspective. The emails can wait and orders can go out a day later if need be. As long as Florin is loved and feels protected and valued, then I feel like Ive done ok that day.
Tell us a little bit about yourself what did you study and what lead you to launching He and Her?
Im Rachel. Notoriously casual. 99% of the time you will find me in jeans, a plain tee and a pair of old Converse. I have messy hair that I cant tame. Mum to Florin and wife to Dean. Originally from Sydney, I studied Fine Arts at COFA in Paddington and loved every second of it. Straight out of university I got a job as a swatch girl at a fabric wholesaler. I distinctly remember the day that a designer walked in to look at the fabric range, and I decided there and then that I wanted that job too. So I traded in the swatches to build up my experience under different Australian labels. I gleaned as much knowledge off each different business model as I could because I knew I would eventually start my own label one day. Then when I was six months pregnant and had landed in the job Id been working five years to get, my husband and I decided to pack up and move to Melbourne. Crazy right?!
It was a weird transition from being a working woman to being a lady in waiting (for Florin). So being me, and not being able to sit still for too long I started planning and dreaming and putting a few wheels into motion for He and Her. While researching new clothes for Florin, I also saw a small gap in the market for cool basics and printed clothes that werent too kiddy. My aesthetic is very neutral. I find it hard to stray too far from black, white or grey, so I guess that was just naturally the aesthetic I planned to dress Florin in. That was the basis of the range in the beginning.
From there I added in exclusive prints, and pulled it into a range that acted somewhat like a wardrobe staple. I have this grey marle tee that is my absolute favourite. Ive had it for about seven years now, and I reckon Ill still be wearing it when Im 80 (it may have a few more holes in it by then) but thats what I wanted to create for Flo with He and Her. A range of kids clothes that wont go out of fashion and can be pulled out for each kid you have and still feel like its in fashion.
How would you describe the He and Her aesthetic?
It’s very simple. Im not into tricky or over designed. The colours are always neutral and seasonal so that they wont go out of fashion. All the styles I offer are also unisex. I put a lot of effort into sourcing quality fabric and making sure the finishing is of a high standard. Its actually a huge privilege that people would want to dress their precious children in He and Her garments, so I work really hard to make sure it stands up to quality tests.
What does a typical day at work involve?
He and Her is designed in Melbourne but produced off-shore so most of my day is spent on the computer, when Im not designing or out treasure hunting for inspiration. As well as designing each range, I coordinate all the production and sales so there is a lot of back and forth by email, Skype and pattern maker and supplier visits. Florin has just recently started in daycare a few days a week which has made a huge difference to my productivity. I found that I wasnt able to keep up with it all at the rate the brand was growing while looking after Florin full time. Shes such a social kid and loves daycare so its a win for both of us.
I start my day with a coffee (or two), turn on my favourite tunes and get into the zone. I try to nail all my emails, communication and order packing for the first half of the day so I can do creative or vision bringing things for the rest of the afternoon. Im a bit of a collector and love vintage shopping, so if I have the time on a workday Ill also hit up a few vintage stores in search of inspiration, or the perfect colour swatch. Because Im a one-man band at the moment, I find it good to always be looking for inspiration so that I have something up my sleeve when I need it. The seasons turn around so quickly and by the time Ive sampled it, shot it, sold it, produced it and shipped it, the next range needs to be on the shelf already. So in those times when Ive not really had a chance to breathe or have creative space, Ive always got an archive or pool of resources to draw upon so that I can keep the ball rolling and get the next range designed.
How do you juggle running a business with motherhood?
Good question! Being a mum is easily the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, I am completely infatuated by Florin. But at the same time, I also really love the process of creating and wanted to stay true to myself by continuing to do that. I understood when I started He and Her that it would require the juggle and potentially trading in me time in for work time. But Im so passionate about He and Her and 100% believe in it.
I have learnt not to play off work and life against each other, but rather to enjoy the journey of it all. My family will always come first, thats a given, but weve chosen to think about work in such a way that it isnt coming against life as a cost. My husband has a big job as well so weve always lived big lives, but we just try to make it fun for Florin along the way. And because of that shes turned out to be a really social, easygoing kid. She loves people and calls our grown up friends my friends.
What are your time management tips?
Im a serious list person. At any given time you will find my desk covered with multiple TO DO lists. I find that my brain starts to feel too ‘messy’ if I dont have it written down. Once you write it down, you dont have to use any more mental power to keep trying to remember all the things you need to get done. And I know this goes against every bone in a creative persons body, but Im also big into spreadsheets. Such a nerd, right? When I was working in womenswear, as well as designing, Id often have to follow the production of the range, so I learnt real quick that spread sheets are actually your best friend and the most effective way of ensuring you have all your based covered. Apart from that, in a more general sense I try to really prioritise what I need to achieve each day. I used to be the person that ran around trying to get everything done. But at the end of the day that makes for a cranky Florin, which makes for a cranky me. So I try to pinpoint exactly what needs to be done and what can wait for another day.
Which other local designers are you inspired by at the moment?
Ive always loved bassike. I love the simplicity and the colour palette they come out with each season. Im completely T-shirt obsessed so they are definitely top of my list. I also love love Mania Mania (jewellery is my second weakness and I love every single thing they do). I have a huge collection of their stuff. Its so unique and delicious!
Can you list five resources across any media that you look to for inspiration?
1. Galleries and different exhibitions are a huge source of inspiration for me.
2. Music. My husband is a songwriter so there is constantly music playing in our house. I find it inspires a mood or vibe in me, which gets me in a creative headspace.
3. The Collective Renegade I love that magazine. Its full of encouraging tales of inspiring people who have stepped out and given it a try. Any time Im feeling a little fragile, or taken a bit of a hit with work I flick through its pages and give myself a little pep talk.
4. Instagram and social media. Love it or hate it, theres always something interesting to see and that can often spark a little thought that turns into a bigger idea.
5. Kidswear bloggers and other labels. I try to keep a little bit of distance from the trends in kidswear because I like He and Her to be unique and not look like everything else thats on the market, but I do keep my eye on what the trends and other brands are doing just to see whats happening and what I can do to compliment them.
What are you looking forward to?
Apart from a good holiday at the end of the year, Ive set some big goals for He and Her in 2015. I genuinely feel so excited about tackling them head on and seeing where it can go. I think the kidswear market is such an ever changing and fun market to be involved in and Im pumped that I get to be in the mix of it all.
Words: Georgia Macmillan Photographer: Nikole Ramsay
For more information, go to www.heandherthelabel.com
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