“Nothing was as scary as my children not having a mother” – How a Cancer Diagnosis Sparked This Mother’s Creative Career
I don't like to be defined by any single part of my life experience. Whether it's being a mum, losing my mum, being a career person, being a cancer patient, being a creative person; it's all just me and part of my story…
Piece By Piece Home designer Elizabeth Pilkington has quite a story. While she now operates her design studio out of her Bowral home, the mother of two left behind a very different life in corporate communications in Sydney. The move was inspired by her impending motherhood journey, but the transition into design was brought about by something far more sinister: a breast cancer diagnosis. Her daughters were four and five at the time. "I stopped worked altogether for a full year", Elizabeth recalls. "Everything became about survival and undergoing numerous surgeries and treatments, including chemotherapy. As I started to emerge from the shock, horror and invasive catalogue of medical intervention that was required, I found absolute solace in textiles."
With Elizabeth's own mother having passed away from the same cancer when Elizabeth was just 21, the experience was terrifying. But that fear gave her a new perspective. "Any fear about possible failure in a creative endeavour disappeared", she explains. "Nothing was as scary as my children not having a mother. So, in a sense, having a life-threatening diagnosis did spur me on to focus my time and energy on what I loved to do, rather than what I thought I should be doing."
Tell us about your childhood…<p>I moved around a lot as child as my Dad was a school principal. I was born in Orange in the Central West of NSW, but lived in Windsor NSW, Palm Island QLD on a remote Aboriginal community, and also the Blue Mountains. I went to boarding school from age 14 in Bathurst, NSW. As my locality growing up was so varied, I have many stark and contrasting memories; from collecting shells on an empty tropical island beach and flying on a light plane to violin lessons in Townsville, to going for bushwalks in the Blue Mountains and attending B&S Balls in the country. I am one of four kids, so the only real constant has been always having plenty of company around as I grew up.</p>
What prompted your move to Bowral? Was it a difficult decision?<p>We moved to Bowral about 12 years ago to start our family. I was heavily pregnant and living in Cremorne Point in Sydney, and working in Martin Place in a corporate communications role. I didn't see how my current work life would fit with my view of the type of mother I wanted to be, so my husband and I started looking for homes in the Southern Highlands. We turned up one weekend, viewed a beautiful, quaint cottage in Bowral, and ended up buying it on the spot at auction 20 minutes later. Bowral has been a wonderful place to be as a family, but I still love to visit Sydney regularly and travel is an essential ingredient for my happiness.</p><p>We have recently sold our lovely home and are now preparing to build a home in the heart of historic Berrima, in the Southern Highlands, NSW. The 14 month design process has been exciting and exhausting, we now have approved plans from Council and will be commencing the build in the next couple of months. The plans include a separate studio for my Piece By Piece Home business. </p>
You gave birth to your first daughter shortly after moving. Being in a new place without your support network at such a vulnerable time - what was that like?<p>I recall having a routine blood test shortly before the birth of my first baby, and the nurse asking me if I was moving to Bowral to have my baby because I have family and friends here. When I told her I knew no one here, she looked a little stunned and then casually, but firmly said, "Be sure to look after yourself and reach out if you need help." At the time I was thinking her reaction was odd, but after becoming a mother I realised exactly what she was alluding to! Luckily for me I joined a local mother's group early on and met some wonderful people who I am still friends with today.</p><p>My mother had died of breast cancer when I was 21, so I found the early days of mothering were also laced with grief for my own mother. She had already been dead for about 8 years when my first baby arrived, but I missed her more than ever. When I became a mother myself I truly understood how much my mother had loved me. </p>
You were working in corporate communications in Sydney. What inspired the career change? Did motherhood make you reassess your priorities?<p>I had thrown myself into my career during my twenties and lived and worked in London and Sydney. I have always been ambitious on the career front, but I have always wanted to be a mother too. When I got pregnant in my late twenties I knew I wanted to give my full focus to my family, for the short-term, and so decided not to try and juggle both my career and motherhood. I loved being at home with my babies, but I also missed the buzz and brainpower required at work.</p><p>I started doing some Strategic Communications consulting work when my two girls were aged three and four. Then suffered a huge blow; I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36. I stopped worked altogether for a full year. Everything became about survival and undergoing numerous surgeries and treatments, including chemotherapy. As I started to emerge from the shock, horror and invasive catalogue of medical intervention that was required, I found absolute solace in textiles. </p><p>I started designing one-of-a-kind textile creations and held a launch event one year later where I sold out of my pieces. Originally I was creating eclectic style quilts and cushions mainly, but I have since ventured into one-off fashion pieces too, like clutches.</p>
Have you always been creative?<p>I have always loved to find things, collect things and make things! I didn't ever anticipate having a career that necessarily aligned with these interests, hence studying Arts/Law for a year straight out of school. I then switched to a Communications degree and that suited me much better as I got to exercise creative thinking for businesses. After my breast cancer diagnosis it felt so good to fully succumb to the creative calling. Any fear about possible failure in a creative endeavour disappeared – nothing was as scary as my children not having a mother. So, in a sense, having a life-threatening diagnosis did spur me on to focus my time and energy on what I loved to do, rather than what I thought I should be doing.</p><p>I don't like to be defined by any single part of my life experience, whether it's being a mum, losing my mum, being a career person, being a cancer patient, being a creative person; it's all just me and part of my story.</p>
You were diagnosed with breast cancer when your girls were still in primary school. What was your initial reaction?<p>The breast cancer diagnosis was terrifying. My daughters were four and five years old at the time. My experience, based on my mother's breast cancer diagnosis, was that you die from breast cancer. Initially I just couldn't see how I would survive this and the thought of leaving my two daughters motherless was almost too much to comprehend. Following lots of aggressive surgeries and treatments and discovering an incredible psychologist, I found my way.</p><p>Part of my recovery was definitely losing myself in the touch and visual appeal of textiles.</p>
Tell us about Piece By Piece Home...<p>Every single Piece By Piece Home creation or artwork is an original, one-off. The commitment to one-of-a-kind designs allows me to be more nimble, adaptable and eclectic in my choice of colour, texture and materials. It may be a slower process, but it means every single piece is considered, super special….and there will never be another one the same.</p><p>All fashion and home decor pieces are designed by me and stitched by local dressmakers. I source vintage and modern textiles and embellishments from all over the globe. I have been luckily enough to travel to Paris, New York, Hong Kong and the West Coast of the USA to source textiles and embellishments to utilise in my designs. </p>
Every piece you make is unique. Is that borne out of an interest in sustainability?<p>Sustainability does matter to me and I am proud to give vintage fabrics and embellishments a new life. Every piece being a one-off is also driven by other factors, such as the pure joy of the creative process, so if I create one design and then mass produce it, the creative process is much more limited. I also just love the notion that if you have a Piece By Piece Home design you know it's bespoke and no one else in the whole wide world will ever have the same creation as you.</p>
Where do you draw your inspiration from?<p>Art galleries always fuel me, as does travel. Seeing how colour combinations are used by other creatives always fascinates and inspires me. I love vintage auctions and flea markets. All these places get the creative heart beating fast!</p>
What does your work/life balance look like now? Is it tricky managing your own business from home?<p>Work life balance is tricky! I have my small Piece By Piece Home business, I also consult with a local marketing agency, <em><a href="https://www.bantergroup.com.au/" target="_blank">Banter Group</a></em>, and of course I still want to be present for my two girls as much as possible. My husband, who I have been with since I was 17 (not part of my life plan to marry my first boyfriend, but he was too good to pass up!) is very hands on. He does travel for his work quite a lot though, so when he is away, I do feel the work/life juggle more challenging. I try to just be as organised as possible and take things day by day, just doing my best. Ultimately I feel lucky to be here and to be living such a full life. </p>
You recently went on a sourcing trip to the US which was cut short by the coronavirus outbreak. Can you tell us about that?<p>Yes! My family and I were living in Portland, Oregon. We went there for my husband's work, he is part of an Australian Ag Tech business. I was having an absolute ball sourcing incredible textiles and vintage jewellery and hanging out with my Aunt who has lived in Portland for over 20 years. Then COVID-19 hit. The kid's school had started warning people about coronavirus, but we didn't realise how bad things were about to get. When the NBA called off all games we knew things must be serious! My husband and I made the call to leave early in the COVID-19 outbreak and ended up changing our flights and leaving 3 days later. We had to cut our time there a month short, but Australia definitely felt like the best place to be during a global pandemic.</p><p>We went from being in down-town Portland in the Peal District to a remote family farm in Southern NSW where we self-isolated for 5 weeks. </p>
What was your life in isolation like? Has it made a big difference to your day to day?<p>Every day as the pandemic situation worsened, particularly in the USA, we felt so grateful to be safe at home in Australia. Having lush green paddocks around us was also good for the soul, being cooped up in an apartment in Portland would have been pretty suffocating in comparison. I was able to continue my design work for Piece By Piece Home and my consulting work, so that was really positive. My husband and I both felt lucky to have employment at a time when so many people were losing their jobs. The home schooling side of things was definitely challenging; trying to work and support our girls in their learning was tough. I also didn't like how much time they were all of a sudden in front of screens. Every day, rain, hail or shine we would all go for a walk together as a family and I think that helped keep us all sane!</p>
What's next for Piece By Piece Home?<p>I have started to release some new one-off designs and they are being snapped up via Instagram. I am so grateful to the people who support my business and feel such pride when they tell me they love my designs! I am continuing to design fashion and home decor pieces, but I have also added one-off jewellery into my range, including charms. I have some beautiful pieces that I am adding to my website and shipping to customers in Australia and abroad. My new studio being built in Berrima is also a really significant step for me and my business. I can't wait to style the interior, fill it with one-off pieces and welcome my clients!</p>
What's on your list of loves at the moment?<p>Beauty is everywhere, so it's hard to name just 10 on a list of loves!</p><ul><li><a href="https://www.nathalie-lete.com/home" target="_blank"><em>Nathalie Lete</em></a>, a French artist who is whimsical and magical. </li><li><em><a href="https://www.romancewasborn.com/" target="_blank">Romance Was Born</a></em> fashion designs full of unique accents and unashamed confidence.</li><li><em><a href="https://www.instagram.com/vanessastockard/?hl=en" target="_blank">Vanessa Stockard</a></em>, an Australian artist who expresses herself through her art and has a lot of important messages to share.</li><li>Walks in the Southern Highlands with my family, surrounded by Autumn colour.</li><li>The texture of vintage velvets, so lush!</li><li>Fresh flowers every day, I need to have things that are colourful and alive nearby. </li><li>Seeing restaurants and bars reopen, I can't wait to eat at Eschalot and Josh's Cafe in Berrima.</li><li>Normal People, the Stan series. The book was good……but the TV series is great. </li><li><em><a href="https://www.gucci.com/au/en_au/st/capsule/gucci-bloom?&utm_source=google_au&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=coty_bloom&utm_term=gucci%20bloom&utm_content=sRmbS3i5g_dc|pcrid|254320342453|pkw|gucci%20bloom|pmt|e|slid||product||pgrid|45779407180|ptaid|kwd-307212674359|" target="_blank">Gucci Bloom</a></em> perfume, I bought at at the airport on my trip with a friend to New York 1.5 years ago, so it reminds me of freedom and fun. </li><li>Vintage costume jewellery, so opulent and eye-catching, yet so affordable. </li></ul><p>I'll stop there, but I could go on…</p>
Sophie Harris-Taylor captures something we often try so hard to hide: our vulnerability. As mothers, we're supposed to be strong and powerful, yet what is often overlooked is that our transition into becoming a mother is the most vulnerable period of our lives...
"I think we're often afraid to show our vulnerabilities," agrees London-based Harris-Taylor. "Perhaps we think by showing this side people are going to judge and only see weakness. Where actually I think there's something incredibly powerful and strong about being openly vulnerable. I'm in awe of the people I photograph, its often about striking the balance between confidence and vulnerability. I've found my work to be a very therapeutic experience, it took me a while to open up myself, but by doing this it has allowed my subjects to open up and engage in an honest conversation."
You’ve said: “I think most importantly that looks don’t define who you are, and in the end don’t really matter.” Why do some of us take so long to come to this realisation? And tell me your thoughts on beauty and how it led you to create Epidermis?<p>I think when we're younger we get so caught up on our looks, perhaps before we know where we're headed in life, it can seem like the be-all and end-all. And sometimes it comes from a place where you just want to fit in. And perhaps it just comes from life experience that you start to realise other things matter more.<br> <br>It sounds cliché but beauty is of course so subjective yet in the mainstream media we are often not exposed to this kind of diversity. Epidermis for me was a way of showcasing beautiful women in skins less often seen. Most of my personal projects seem to come from my own life experiences and throughout there is always some element of my own vulnerability – I began to reflect on my own past and feelings towards my skin, I'd suffered from severe acne. Back then, there were no idols, role models and people to look up to who had anything but flawless skin. Which obviously meant I struggled with my own self-image. We've come a long way since then, what with body positivity and generally people speaking out about beauty standards and promoting diversity. However, I still felt that there was a lack in representing skin in an honest and open way. </p>
Your work captures a character’s vulnerabilities – why do you think we sometimes hide our vulnerabilities and what have you learnt about being vulnerable through your work?<p>I think we're often afraid to show our vulnerabilities. Perhaps we think by showing this side people are going to judge and only see weakness. Where actually I think there's something incredibly powerful and strong about being openly vulnerable. I'm in awe of the people I photograph, its often about striking the balance between confidence and vulnerability. I've found my work to be a very therapeutic experience, it took me a while to open up myself, but by doing this it has allowed my subjects to open up and engage in an honest conversation.</p>
For your series Sisters, you photographed and interviewed over 70 sets of sisters, of all ages and backgrounds – and have said that it was a way of reflecting on the difficulties of her own relationship with her sister. Can you describe this relationship?<p>At the time I created the work, there wasn't much of a relationship there if I'm honest, we'd not really been able to see past our teenage years and sisterly disputes. Since then we've started to rebuild our relationship as adults. I think I tried to understand a bit more about the complexities of sisterhood and the journeys of this kind of lifelong relationship.</p>
You’ve described mastitis as more painful than childbirth – tell us about your experience with breastfeeding?<p>Yes looking back I really did! It was very much a love/hate relationship. In some ways I was lucky, my son latched on quickly in the hospital and fed well. But getting mastitis early on meant it became very difficult and painful to feed him at times. I seemed to always be overproducing which led to the ducts becoming completely blocked and then getting infected. The pain combined with sleep deprivation was pretty exhausting. My son used the breast as a comfort a lot so for months I felt like he was completely attached to me, but never that full. I started mixed feeding after about 4 or 5 months.. this helped him sleep through the night. Once he started weening there wasn't much milk left and in one breast my supply had pretty much dried up all together. As soon as I stopped, I missed it.</p>
How would you describe the intimacy or closeness of breastfeeding and how did it make you feel?<p>It's pretty magical. I loved the intimacy, the comfort it gave him which in turn it gave me.</p>
There’s sometimes a longing for personal space, as mothers feel they have a baby constantly attached to them. Did you ever feel this?<p>Absolutely I felt constantly clinged too. Being pulled and tugged whilst covered in milk really did make me long for personal space. Then again, I felt this huge guilt, because I'd met so many mums that couldn't for various reasons breastfeed and there I was complaining about it.</p>
You’ve always had a complicated relationship with your body. Can you tell me about this relationship – and how did breastfeeding change the way you felt about your body?<p>Having had an eating disorder since my early teens, it's been an ongoing battle really. I don't know if breastfeeding really changed the way I felt towards by body but certainly postpartum I was desperate to get back to my old body. And having never had large breasts before, this made me feel pretty uncomfortable, physically and mentally, and it was weirdly unfamiliar.</p>
You felt lost after you gave birth – can you take us back to this period of your life and how you felt?<p>I did, I think because you've got this new identity suddenly as a 'new mum' and your life as what you knew it has completely changed overnight. But you know deep down, you're still you and your identity hasn't really changed at all. Don't get me wrong, I actually loved becoming a mum, but I found the day to day, the monotony of it all at the very beginning pretty boring. My friends were working, and I felt in some ways a bit bored and not that stimulated. When I started to make work again felt like I got a bit more of myself back.</p>
What were some of the most vivid memories you have of shooting MILK?<p>Zenon my son, was there for most of my shoots. This was in some ways really fun and a real bonding experiences between me and the Mum. But looking back a complete nightmare. Logistically. At the beginning when I started shooting, he couldn't even sit up by himself so he'd often be just out of shot, lying on the bed next to the other Mum feeding. Then towards the end, he was running all over the place, pretty much destroying the house..</p>
What messages do you hope women will take away from MILK?<p>It'd be nice for other women, to feel they can relate to the images and experiences of the other mums a bit more, than the typical nursing Madonna-like images we are used to seeing. For a lot of people and not just men, they find it kind of gross. Even though we've all seen a cow being milked, I guess women's breasts have become so sexualised, that actually what they are originally for has almost been forgotten. I think the more we talk about these things and make them more publicly seen, the less taboo they become. At least, that's the hope.</p>
I have a cousin who was born three days after me, so we grew up as twin sisters and this I consider such a gift.
"We grew up with our grandparents spending half of the year in the mountains and when I think I back I always smile," Margherita Cardelli reminisces about her childhood in Italy. She'd make pasta with her great grandmother, ride horses, ski in the mountains – to say it was idyllic is an understatement.
I love working with my husband...<p>We have completely different responsibilities, but we share everything each morning before taking any decisions. Lots of people ask us how we can work together. We actually love it and consider it a miracle.</p>
I always wanted to be a mother...<p>I never thought not to have children. It's the best gift one can receive and I feel very grateful I got to be a mother. It teaches me so many things and it always makes me think of when I was little and how I took certain decisions while I was growing up.</p>
We travel a lot for work and making this work with a baby is difficult...<p>I always feel I need to do more to make both my child and my husband happy and making this work with all the job responsibilities is not an easy thing. We don't have our families in Rome, so we needed to have a nanny. My mother comes often and helps us a lot. The main reason why I work this much is the future of our baby and I would never consider slowing it down. Also working makes me feel empowered and satisfied.</p>
Since COVID-19 hit, the future is still uncertain but we strongly believe it will be for the better...<p>We started from 0 and we are not afraid. We firmly believe in what we do and nothing will stop us.</p>
The best part of motherhood is...<p>Knowing that I am doing good and the smiles of Aida Atena. I can't even describe what I feel. I am so grateful to have her and make her grow in our family.</p>
I love a clean look with lots of styling such as vintage jewelry and hair accessories...<p>I definitely love a masculine look but never forget to stay feminine. So I use a lot of vintage silk shirts and feminine slingbacks.</p>
Giuliva was born out of a common idea I had with Gerardo about repurposing menswear into womenswear and the tailoring skills on a feminine look...<p>I love the sleekness and the power a masculine outfit gives to a woman's body. And again never fail to make it feminine.</p>
We only buy children's clothing made of natural products...<p>She's a mini-me and we look for baby clothing that resemblance what we wear. <a href="https://shop.misha-and-puff.com/" target="_blank">Misha and Puff</a> is definitely my favorite.</p>
Live your children free to choose their life always supporting them if needed...<p>Make them open their eyes and teach kindness and respect for anything.</p>
Right now, I am loving...<p>The Peter Diamandis book <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Peter-H.-Diamandis/e/B006392BR2%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share" target="_blank"><em>Abundance,</em></a> trying to master it and benefiting from the optimistic point of view it gives you. I am rediscovering the pleasure of cooking and water color painting. I am enjoying the pleasure of slowing down re-reading classics listening to classic Italian music, my favorite Lucio Dalla. Dancing the days away with Aida Atena and our dog Ottone in our living room.</p>
Imagine taking your one-year-old daughter for a walk in the pram and having garbage thrown at you because of the colour of your skin.
Or being attacked as a teenager because of the colour of your skin. Or feeling like you must contribute and participate contently in a society where your life is not valued, respected or recognised and remain unconfrontational about it, because of the colour of your skin. This is the experience of racism. And it's something many of our readers – myself included – have so much to learn about. To make changes and fully understand white privilege, we need to listen more. We need to educate ourselves. And as Simone Bevan points out here, the fact that black culture is something we profit from and are entertained by daily, but Black death and the value of Black life is suddenly a new thing, is not good enough. "It literally took a video of George Floyd being choked to death.
You have mentioned flaws in well intentioned allyship. Can you discuss this further?<p>Many Black and POC people are cautiously optimistic that the uproar of Black Lives Matter in recent weeks could be the beginning of monumental change. However, watching this change happen in real-time can also feel really gruelling and triggering for people who experience racism their whole lives. At times it feels saturated, messy and trendy. Non-Black voices are taking up important space and instead of using their platforms to amplify Black voices and drive practical change, I feel like they're diluting the cause.</p><p> I think it's really important to anchor this conversation in a recent, real example. 'The Show Must Be Paused' campaign on June 2ndwas founded by Black women <a href="https://twitter.com/jamilacthomas?lang=en" target="_blank">Jamila Thomas</a> and Brianna Agyemang aimed to hold the music industry accountable in how they drive the rhetoric for Black Lives Matter. Organisations like Apple and MTV got onboard and the campaign was aimed to drive people to a designated website filled with charities, petitions and over 91 resources where people could go to become better educated on racism. It was quickly dubbed 'Blackout Tuesday' with brands and individuals jumping on this trend to show solidarity to the Black community. This is where it becomes problematic: firstly, hundreds of thousands of people used #BlackLivesMatter saturating a hashtag that was once filled with amazing resources and important conversation led by Black voices with black squares. Secondly, no matter how well-intentioned, it is act of performative activism. Posting a black square then logging off just reinforces the issues of non-Black silence when it comes to racism and further silencing Black voices as the originators of this campaign were almost entirely removed from the conversation as it snowballed. It quickly became so saturated that people were just blindly posting black squares without looking into the origins of what it was intended for in the first place: driving people to useful resources. People followed suit of a trend without taking the time to research and understand what it was and it happens so often on social media.</p><p> Currently (21st June 2020) on Instagram the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag has 21.7m posts. Whilst the #BlackoutTuesday hashtag has 24.7m posts. Bearing in mind Black Lives Matter was founded in 2003 and #BlackoutTuesday was intended for just one day this month. This solidifies the issues with performative acts when it comes to marginalised groups. You aren't driving momentum; you're crowding an important space.</p>
Can you tell us about your heritage? And what did your parents teach you about racism growing up?<p>I'm third generation Black British. My mum's side is Jamaican and my dad's side is Dominican. I have always been incredibly proud to be Black and never struggled with my identity despite growing up in predominantly white communities. Like many countries with histories that thrive from systematic oppression, in the UK I learnt nothing about Black history at school. My dad got me a history tutor and I was taught about the slave trade and racism, but I was also taught about amazing leaders, creatives, inventors and celebratory figures within my history. My dad was adamant about not propagating an oppressive narrative. We acknowledged our history, but revelled in the joy of our vibrant, beautiful culture. Both my parents taught me to love myself and be proud of who I am, and I always have.</p>
In your own words, describe how racism feels…<p>Racism feels like you must contribute and participate contently in a society where your life is not valued, respected or recognised and remain unconfrontational about it.</p>
When you moved to Australia six years ago, what were your impressions of the country?<p>When I moved to Australia, I thought of my grandparents who left the Caribbean to move to the UK. My husband and I both had new jobs and I couldn't help but think my Grandad especially would have been so proud that his family made it all the way to Australia (he passed away when I was teenager). Overall, I enjoy the lifestyle and like most Brits I love living in a coastal city and being close to the ocean. In Australia I have experienced more 'casual racism' often shrugged off as banter. I remember a security guard in an office building saying 'I didn't expect a voice like that to come out of a girl that looks like you!', I also recall a manager in a company meeting jokingly asking me if I knew how to speak Aboriginal, when working on a brief that needed marketing material translated into Indigenous languages.</p>
Can you tell us about what happened when you took your daughter for a walk in the park recently?<p>I was taking my daughter for a walk as she was going through a phase where she'd only sleep in her pram. I was walking along and a van slowed down next to me, three men in the van started throwing rubbish at me and making monkey sounds. It was one of the most degrading things I had ever experienced and was incredibly damaging for me as it was my daughter's first experience of racism at one year old. I felt like I had failed her by not being able to keep her safe. Following that, I didn't leave the house for days because I was so scared of something happening to my little girl. I'm getting over it now, but those situations have a way manifesting into trauma. I often think white people can't comprehend situations where you're scared to do things like walk to Coles, especially in a seemingly pleasant suburb, but racism has a way of revealing itself in the most ordinary places.</p>
Going back, you were physically attacked in your teenage years when you walked back from the corner shop after buying sweets – what happened?<p>I was 14 years old and it was a group of older girls I knew from the area. They had made racist comments to me in the past and they followed me and waited outside the shop I went into. I asked the staff for help and if they could call my dad or the police, but they refused. I had no choice but to go outside and face them. They dragged me to the car park and began punching and kicking me and shouting that they had a knife and were going to kill me. No one intercepted, they just scurried past with their heads down. I was a tough kid and I wasn't going to back down despite being outnumbered, so I began to fight them off. I remember knowing as long as I could stay on my feet, I'd be OK. Looking back, it's sad that I had the ability to think so logically in such a violent situation because of experience. I fought hard enough to make the entire group back off and retreat and I ran home. The police did not do anything as they didn't believe it was that bad as I managed to get away with just cuts and bruises, which I now realise was racially motivated. I remember one officer even describing me as 'street smart' which now as an adult I recognise is a Black stereotype.</p>
As a new mother, do you see yourself reflected in the 'mummy' communities online?<p>From a personal standpoint, I tend to avoid the online mum community as whole to be honest, but I am across who they are because of the industry I work in. Even following Black mums becomes exhausting because I observe their audience and other known mums treating them as a token symbol in the influencer community. They are constant representations of being Black which doesn't always account for their experience of being a mother all encompassing. It's like they only exist for white audiences to be in closer proximity of Blackness within the comfort of their own bubble. They also get inundated with the most audacious comments and questions from tone deaf people and constantly have to defend themselves. I just don't have the energy for it. We're Black mothers, but we're also normal people who love cooking, reading, sports, reality TV and online shopping. It is a reminder that just in being Black you have no choice but to be an activist.</p>
How has your life changed since becoming a mother? What's been the greatest challenge, and the greatest joy?<p>My daughter has really anchored me and given me purpose and meaning that I never knew was possible. It sounds cliché, but she is the love of my life. She is the greatest joy and brings me so much happiness – I feel like my purpose in life is to be her mum. I love it all – even the tantrums in Target over Lego! She's playful, inquisitive and headstrong like me. She's such a mama's girl; always stuck to my side and following me round. The biggest challenge for me is hoping that my ability to parent is stronger than how horrible the world can be. If she grows up and she doesn't feel proud of who she is I'd feel like I have failed her.</p>
How can we talk to our children about what being anti-racist means?<p>The best way to be anti-racist is to lead by example: call out racist friends and family members, continue to do the work even when the dust settles, use your platform to amplify Black voices, and practically contribute to change. Look at your own friendship circle and the friends that your children have. Your child should grow up around kids with different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. You can have as many diverse books and Black dolls as you like, but if real life doesn't reflect their toy shelf it's tokenism. Teach them to see colour, explain what racism is in a clear digestible way, and why they should be against it and what to do if they see racism unfold. Celebrate Blackness and inclusivity in your household, learn about the history of racism but celebrate and appreciate the culture too. Racism should not be exempt from conversations because we fear our kids are too young, there are studies that reveal children observe racial biases from as young as two years old. One of my earliest memories was my dad talking to my then 12-year-old older brother about how to conduct yourself as a Black man in public: don't have your hands in your pocket, don't hang around for no reason, if the police stop you be overly compliant, even if you know they're in the wrong. If these are the types of conversations Black people have to have with their kids, it's a conversation no household should be exempt from.</p>
To diversify our feeds, can you share your favourite people to follow on Instagram?<p>At the moment I really enjoy following <a href="https://www.instagram.com/theconsciouskid/?hl=en" target="_blank">@theconciouskid</a> on Instagram. The platform is probably the most comprehensive guide on anti-racism and inclusivity specifically aimed at teaching our kids. They have just worked with Instagram to create a great resource on how to raise actively anti-racist children. I also just started reading The Book You Wish Your Parents Read. I was interested in the way they discussed themes of emotional baggage and how to not pass that on to your own children. With my lived experiences I am cautious about how my own energy and emotions impact my daughter.</p>
Trusty linen blouses from Worn Store, cosy knit pants from St. Agni, cashmere jumpers, bassike cotton jersey pants…
Ella McCabe Barton is listing her maternity wear staples (and we're taking note). The mother-to-be grew up in England and moved to Australia three years ago. She met her partner and that was that – Australia is now home. After deciding that she didn't want to just holiday in Byron Bay – she wanted to call it her home – she tapped into the creative community and landed a job at Tigmi Trading (one of our favourite home goods brands). Here, we catch up on everything from how she's navigating pregnancy to her love of swimwear brand Hakea Swim (worn throughout this story).
What are some great pregnancy resources you can share?<p>Self-care and making time each day to connect in, in whatever capacity that may be. I have had a daily yoga practice since the age of 18 and it has been the greatest gift and resource in my life. Having the time to connect in daily and be an observer to this wonderful life unfolding feels very important. My practice has evolved considerably over the years and now is less focused on the physical and more so on meditation and breath.</p><p> There are many wonderful support networks and resources available and at the beginning I found myself listening to many podcasts and talking to other women about their experiences. However, as my pregnancy develops, the inclination to go inward feels more and more important. I feel incredibly privileged to be a woman transitioning through this rite of passage into motherhood and trust that if I nurture from the inside – mother nature will allow things to unfold just as it should.</p>
How has your pregnancy been so far?<p>So far, the pregnancy has been a wonderful experience. The pure joy of coming to realise that you have created a new life and that your body is creating space to nurture is quite incredible. I have definitely allowed myself to surrender to whatever it needs – mostly sleep! I did get a little nausea which started around week 7/8 and dissipated around week 12 and since then I have been feeling great. </p>
How did you feel when you first felt your baby kick?<p>The most surreal and amazing experience! It took me by surprise. I had just sat down to have my tea one morning (at about 18 weeks) and all of a sudden there were 2-3 large thumps in my lower abdomen. I giggled to myself and then found myself talking to my belly. It was a couple of weeks until my partner felt it moving and when he finally did, it was incredibly special.</p>
Any food cravings?<p>The first trimester I was off a lot of foods and definitely craving more carbohydrates, however I haven't really strayed too far off my normal diet. I did, the other day, get a very strong craving for liquorice!</p>
What beauty products have you used throughout your pregnancy?<p>I have always kept a fairly simple beauty regime and I haven't changed anything during this pregnancy. I use <a href="https://www.dermaviduals.com.au/" target="_blank">Dermaviduals</a> on my face and I enjoy regular facials at <a href="https://www.aestheticabyronbay.com/" target="_blank">Aesthetica</a>, here in Byron Bay – it always leaves by skin feeling nourished, especially in winter! I truly believe that beauty starts from within and that what you put in will also transpire on the outside. I always start my day with a hot lemon drink and supplements where needed.</p>
What self-care rituals do you have in your life?<p>Self-care for me comes in many forms. In addition to my daily yoga practice, it is important for me to be in nature daily. Whether it is a walk, a swim or a surf, taking time to connect makes such a difference to how I feel.</p>
Has your approach to diet and exercise changed since you fell pregnant?<p>I have definitely slowed down. Exercise is still part of daily life, but I have modified my practice and I am continually tuning into what my body needs. When it comes to diet, I find myself often walking around our local markets or grocery stores to just buy what I feel like eating that day.</p>
Tell me about your work with Hakea Swim?<p>Casey has become a dear friend over the years and I absolutely love working with her and <a href="https://hakeaswim.com/" target="_blank">Hakea</a>. Her swimwear feels amazing (especially in the surf) and her creative input behind the brand makes it even more special. They are timeless pieces that wear incredibly well and fit all shapes and sizes. We are all big fans in my family!</p>
If you could write some words to your unborn child, what would you write?<p>You are surrounded in love, having come from infinite love, you are one of the many individual expressions of that infinite love, you are simply love in action journeying back to infinite love.</p>
How have you approached maternity dressing – what brands do you gravitate to?<p>To be honest, it took a little while for a bump to make an appearance and I managed to get away with wearing most of my clothes for quite some time. Now it has become trickier, but I do have some key pieces that are getting a lot of wear. We are very lucky to have some great brands on our doorstep here in Byron Bay! I have a few trusty linen blouses from <a href="https://wornstore.com.au/" target="_blank">Worn Store</a>, cosy knit pants from<a href="https://www.st-agni.com/" target="_blank"> St. Agni </a>– these layered with a cashmere jumper seem to be my staples these days. Oh, and also the cotton jersey pants from Bassike.</p>
How would you describe life in Byron Bay?<p>It really is a wonderful life here. Having moved from London three years ago, transitioning from a busy life working in the interiors industry to this… well, it doesn't compare. Here, it is possible to experience the right work and life balance that is hard to find in most parts of the world. In addition, we are surrounded by the most incredible nature and by a wonderful creative community. I have made many beautiful friends who are like an extended family and almost make up for my family who I miss dearly back in the UK.</p>
Tell us about your career path and where you are now in your career?<p>Having grown up in London and the South coast of England, I have always had a keen eye for design. I studied at London College of Fashion and at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, specialising in textile design. Having completed my degree, I started working in the interiors industry as an interior stylist and continued to do so, working on numerous editorial and commercial projects until I moved to Australia. After sometime here in Australia, I decided that I didn't want Byron Bay to just be another holiday, and I started to put some feelers out for creative opportunities when I met Danielle, the founder of <a href="https://tigmitrading.com/" target="_blank">Tigmi Trading</a>. I have now worked alongside her for more than two years, as creative producer, trade manager and product developer.</p>
What’s your favourite way to start the day?<p>I like to start my day practicing yoga or, in the summer, with a swim in the ocean.</p>
Last book you read?<p>I have a whole stack of books that I am currently dipping in and out of in the lead up to childbirth. These include '<a href="https://www.booktopia.com.au/the-first-forty-days-heng-ou/book/9781617691836.html" target="_blank">The first forty days</a>', '<a href="https://www.booktopia.com.au/ina-may-s-guide-to-childbirth-ina-may-gaskin/book/9780553381153.html" target="_blank">Ina May gaskin's guide to Childbirth</a>', '<a href="https://www.booktopia.com.au/birthing-from-within-pam-england/book/9780965987301.html" target="_blank">Birthing from within'</a>, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Yoga-Sadhana-Mothers-Sharmila-Desai/dp/1906756309" target="_blank">'Yoga sadhana for mothers</a>'… All are wonderful reads!</p>
Last Podcast your listened to?<p>Oh, it has been a while since the last time I 'plugged in'! I used to listen to podcasts weekly while enjoying an infrared sauna session at <a href="https://www.nimbusco.com.au/" target="_blank">Nimbus and Co</a>, here in Byron Bay. My most listened to subscription is <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/204933/awake-in-the-world-by-michael-stone/" target="_blank">'Awake in the world' by Michael Stone,</a> a wonderful meditation teacher who passed a few years ago. His workshops were all record and each time I listen to him, his message seems to come at the perfect time.</p>
The Grace Tales is a global lifestyle platform for mothers searching for style, substance, and solidarity. Driven by creating content, community and connection, we celebrate the paradox of modern motherhood; the struggle and the beauty, the joy and the relentlessness.
When London-based Laura Roso Vidrequin - a senior buyer at Harvey Nichols and mother to baby boy Albert – became a mother for the first time, she noticed that while there were changes in the adult market, the circular economy for children's garments remained largely the same...
She also noticed that second-hand clothes had been deemed as "dirty" for a long time. "Consumers are used to associating second-hand with thrift shops, that are not always taken care of and are often full of old, discarded items that have not been cleaned or organized," she says. It inspired her to launch Kids Oclock, a fashion resale platform where you'll find the best of pre-loved for your babies and toddlers (sizes go from newborn to three years old) and where you can sell, rent, or buy clothes. Because as Laura recently posted on her Instagram account @kids_oclock, there is no planet B.
Let’s start at the beginning – talk us through your career as a buyer and what are some of your favourite moments working for companies such as Net-A-Porter and Moda Operandi?<p>Let's start at the beginning –talk us through your career as a buyer and what are some of your favourite moments working for companies such as Net-A-Porter and Moda Operandi?<br> <br>Born in Paris and raised there, until I moved to NY for my first real job – which was on the other side of buying, I was a wholesale assistant for a French-owned NY-based showroom representing Joseph and Balmain at CDNetwork.<br> <br>To this day, I continue praising the importance of understanding sales before buying. I have joined then many different retail spaces, Moda Operandi, Ralph Lauren/Club Monaco, and more recently Net-a-Porter. I have learnt so much in each of these companies, thanks to the incredible bosses and women I was working with. <br> <br>Moda Operandi was known and built, at the time, 2013, on the trunkshow business mode. When I joined, Lauren Santo Domingo had decided to add the boutique or buy now wear now to the platform. We were a very small team dedicated to source, and purchase collection for that purpose. <br> <br>I am very thankful for all I learnt during my time there, we were a small team, very hands-on. Lauren Santo Domingo was always involved in all decisions which, for us, was an amazing way to learn. <br> <br>To this day, the original modettes are still my closest friends, is it because we all worked so closely and late together? Or is it because we were taught in the same school? Not sure. However, I know they are the most hardworking girls, with the best taste one could have. <br> <br>One of my favorite moments at <a href="https://www.modaoperandi.com/" target="_blank">Moda Operandi,</a> came from we were tasked with building a shop for the 2013 Met Gala, 'Punk: Chaos to Couture'. We had to source all sorts of punk-inspired products from all over the world; mostly from non-fashion vendors. This experience made me feel like a true buyer; we were sourcing unconventional products and displaying them in a way that made them desirable to the fashion community, as opposed to going into a showroom and picking pieces displayed right in front of us. <br> <br>Net-a-Porter on the other hand was already very established when I joined, the impression of building or creating something was a little bit more complicated to achieve. However, the team and Elizabeth (buying director) were amazing at trusting their juniors and let us lead our respected categories. I have learnt so much about communication, trades, and processes. Both experiences are absolutely perfect together, and to me, helped creating the yin and yang of a buyer. </p>
What changes have you seen over the last few years in the circular economy around children’s garments?<p>I don't believe there have been any changes regarding children's garments. I have seen strong brands promoting seasonless garments, or "organic" production. I don't think it is enough. I don't claim to be an expert on sustainability, I am just a buyer with 10 years experience and a mom living in a city where I am exposed to a lot of cool brands. And I think they should lead and give the example. They should be more proactive. </p><p> <br>I have seen many companies use greenwashing, organic, sustainable as a way to position themselves at the center of the environmental conversations within the fashion industry and think that we have to be cautious in the way we use those terms. A marketing tool should not be used by a brand/a retail unless it is an actual adjective of their mission.</p>
How will this pandemic change the fashion industry?<p>I think the fashion industry has already changed since the beginning of this pandemic. The way everyone is having to speak on the issue is great because it will be environmentally impactful and force everyone to take a look at their own habits and practices. <br> <br>The industry doesn't need six collections a year, and the impact that the preconceived need to fly out every buyer, model, and hair or makeup artist to every show in all major cities this many times a year does not help anything, whatsoever. I am in for creativity, conception, imagination, but not at any cost.<br> <br><a href="https://maisoncleo.com/" target="_blank">MaisonCléo</a> is mastering the local creativity. I hope the biggest player will begin to move towards more local resources, using talent around the shoot locations rather than flying in a huge team like we've seen before. <br> <br>It has to start somewhere, brands need to show the responsible way, but consumers should too. Refuse to purchase when there is a lack of transparency in the production chain, or focus their spending on something more sustainable. </p>
Why is there the belief that secondhand clothes, especially in the kids’ category, are dirty?<p>Second-hand has been deemed as "dirty" for a long time. Consumers are used to associating second-hand with thrift shops, that are not always taken care of and are often full of old, discarded items that have not been cleaned or organized. It doesn't have to be dirty, it is actually a mine of gold. There is also a distinction to be made between vintage and pre-loved/ second hand. Vintage falls into silhouettes from the past, items from previous decades. Pre-loved doesn't have to be vintage, while vintage is, by nature, pre-loved. <br> <br>Kids Oclock has been created on the basis that kids' clothes should be worn more than once, but also, built on a trustful community of mums, which, I hope will help eradicate the stigma.</p>
What are some tips for women wanting to make changes to become more sustainable?<p>I am not an expert, but I believe every tiny change can make a difference. When you go grocery shopping, bring your own bags, drink filter tap water if you need to, buy local as much as possible. In London, there are now a lot of local shops that deliver such as <a href="http://farmshop.london/" target="_blank">Farm Shop</a> for your proteins and <a href="https://www.oddbox.co.uk/" target="_blank">Oddbox</a> for your veggies. In regards to living towards a more sustainable closet, few rules. Don't be a keeper, (donate, refresh or sell) what you do not wear. I use<a href="https://www.vestiairecollective.com/" target="_blank"> Vestiaire Collective</a> a lot, whether as a seller, or as a buyer. It is simply a habit to get used to. Take care of your pieces, they will last longer.</p><p>I have three main tips for women who want to become more sustainable:</p><ol><li>Don't be a keeper – get rid of and donate the clothes that you or your children aren't wearing of or have grown out of</li><li>Only buy what you really need and think harder about buying the things that you really want, and be okay with the clothing movement – accepting that fast-fashion has detrimental effects on the industry and our environment</li><li>Start investing in pieces that are slightly more expensive, but made ethically.</li></ol>
What are your thoughts on fast fashion stores such as Zara and H&M?<p>Zara proves to be strong in terms of their imagery and online marketing of their products, but it's a shame that their inspiration derives from many small designers trying to build their brand and create recognition just to create excitement around new trends that are affordable and able to be produced what seems like almost immediately. They are absorbing small designer's creativity without recognizing how impactful it is on their businesses, and I believe they should be more transparent about the realities of production in emerging countries and should be creative when it comes to making real-life changes.</p>
Tell us about your Mums O’Clock category?<p>Mums O'Clock was created as a platform to showcase the women that are the foundation of our community. We post a handful of mothers per month, where they are able to show their lifestyle, with each question asked by us being tailored to their individuality. The goal being to feature their creative input, their lives as mothers, and come up with productive conversation. </p>
What’s life in London like right now?<p>We got extremely lucky during the pandemic as our neighbourhood feels like a village. We have a farmer market every weekend –with strong COVID health and safety guidance – our favourite local food shop remained open, and Hyde Park was open for us to go for a walk. The weather was stunning throughout the whole quarantine so we enjoyed the outdoors as much as possible, which never happens in London. </p>
What has been the most challenging stage of motherhood for you?<p>I think it was the transition from Albie being a newborn to being a baby, around 4 to 8 months. You are no longer a very young mum, so expected to have it together, and I didn't. I realise now I was quite tough with myself, wanting to have it all, a sleepy, yet dynamic baby. I wanted to have my 'me time' back, but would not miss a second of my day without him. I was completely torn all day long between being myself and looking at the situation, which taught me one thing. A baby will not want a perfect mum, but a happy one. I had to teach that concept to my husband too, Mr. Perfectionist, and to make him learn spontaneity and flexibility are keys in parenthood. He is now much more comfortable with the concept, but we had a tough year of learning. Each family gives birth and goes through the first year their own way, but I wish I had been given more warning.</p>
What are some practical tips you can share around time management?<p>I am an early riser, so I do get a lot done in the morning, which is a huge part of mumentreprenurship. I also have baby-proofed the house. 18 months is a challenging age for a baby to be around when launching a business at home. But I really am trusting we should give their responsibility as early as possible, granted there is no danger in the house. So I let Albert play and explore, I put some of his toys out for him to access and he usually can last an hour during the day.</p>
What has kept you sane during this pandemic and what lessons do you hope we will learn from it?<p>I now am sure I can live with my husband and baby, just the three of us, without anyone losing it completely ha. So many good lessons, first of all, I didn't realise I was living a memory until it became one, so will teach me to cherish more the present and the instant. Then I think a big part of this pandemic has been to learn how to let go, not be on top of them, myself nor the schedule… we were happy just going with the flow, but going with it is an art or a sport, and it has to be taught.</p><p>The last thing I learned, which was a big wake up call, is to care, every day, all the time, for others. Since slow life hit us, we're now much more capable of taking time to reflect, and to care for everyone around us – start with a smile, you'll realise how big an impact this has. Look around you, a charity, an elderly person in your building – the crisis has hit hard and every little bit counts.</p>
In a few minutes you can learn a lot from contemporary textile artist Nikita Sheth, namely the importance of quality family time. When she was just two year's old, her family home was burnt down.
Luckily, no one was hurt but it meant she was raised in a home where material possessions came secondary to family dinners and spending quality time with one another. She grew up in a home with "good food and laughs". While it took time for her to embrace her Indian heritage – her dad's family was one of the first Indian (Gujurati) to move from India in the 1950's – she later realised how lucky she was to have it.