Lauren and Gen from Walter G Talk Textiles, Friendship and Building Business Over Chai
Building a business you adore, with your best friend by your side, as you make time to be present for your growing family ... Could it get any better than that?

If you ask Lauren Emerson and Genevieve Hewson – the founders of Sydney-based textile label Walter G – the answer is "no." While many would advise against starting a business with your closest friend from childhood, Lauren and Gem are living proof that it can be done – with a healthy dose of success and joy along the way.


With Walter G, they take inspiration from old textiles and new surroundings, working closely with a team of artisans in India to collaboratively produce a tactile range of hand printed fabrics. Channelling the relaxed vibe of coastal living through pattern, fresh colour, texture and nostalgia – their fabrics are designed to be mixed and matched to elevate an interior with both style and comfort. The result? Effortless style with a globally curated vibe.

So if the change in season has you ready to revamp your lounge room with new fabrics and textures, well, you can thank me (and Walter G) later.

Shop Walter G | Photography by Hannah Blackmore


What inspired the launch of Walter G?

Walter G is Genevieve Hewson and Lauren Emerson – two best friends who met in Year 7 in Sydney's North. After graduating Commerce and Design in 2008 and 2010 respectively – they went on to travel extensively, particularly to places known for their textiles – such as South America and Vietnam. Lauren travelled to India to do an internship as part of her degree, and Gen went to visit several times. They completely fell in love with it – and the idea that they could start a textile company was born.

They promptly moved to India for 6 months and immersed themselves, learning everything that they could about indigo and block printing techniques – living in tiny and remote villages. Upon returning to Australia, sadly both of their grandfathers Walter and George passed at a similar time. Walter G is named in their honour – and the business was officially launched at Life Instyle in Sydney in 2012. Lauren and Genevieve believe strongly in maintaining a hands on approach within the business, travelling to India annually and staying true to their passion for the hand block printing process. They describe their brand as lived-in, imperfect, timeless, relaxed, and artisanal. All designs are their own creation, developed hands-on with a team of Indian artisans and completely hand-printed.

What did your careers entail prior to the launch of your business?

We started Walter G when we were both 24, so honestly speaking, prior to that was university and a suite of casual jobs which we used to fund our travel to random textile rich countries around the globe like Vietnam, Peru, Guatemala, etc.

We had little to no experience in running a business and went into it completely blind, without even a business plan. However, this approach tends to suit our personalities, our passion was strong and we thrive in sink or swim situations.

Can you tell us about the business?

Walter G is an Australian-owned and Sydney-based boutique textile house. Taking inspiration from old textiles and new surroundings, we work closely with a wonderful team of artisans in India to collaboratively produce a tactile range of hand block and mud printed fabrics.

Channelling the relaxed vibe of coastal living, through pattern, fresh colour, texture and nostalgia – Walter G's fabrics are designed to be mixed and matched to elevate an interior with both style and comfort.

Can you share the story behind the wonderful artisans you work with?

What is your design process like?

Our design process begins with us drawing or painting a design in various layers, then scanning it into Photoshop where we manipulate the drawings and put them into repeat. From here we send our completed designs to our artisans in India who carve the wood blocks by hand. We then proceed with test printing in different colour combinations. Once we have sample swatches of all the different designs and colour variations, we then play around, mixing and matching to decide on what pattern/colour we will release in which size. It's all about creating various sub stories within a collection that layer beautifully with each other and timelessly with our past collections.

How do you make a successful business partnership (and friendship) work?

Everyone we know warned us against going into business with your best friend. To this day, people that we haven't seen in a long time still ask us (with a nervous expression), "Are you still doing that textile thing with Gen/Lauren?"

We think that the reason it has worked for us is the same reason that we didn't hesitate going into business with each other in the first place: we have exactly the same work ethic, and naturally gravitate toward the same aesthetic and are total textile tragics.

Where luck has played into it, is that our personal lives have tracked very similarly. This has meant that we've both been able to support each other and pick up the slack when one has been married, had kids, got a mortgage, gone through family 'moments'. Had we been in different places, particularly when it comes to motherhood, we feel there would have been a lot of strain on the business. Even if people want to be understanding and sympathetic, it's not until you really go through pregnancy and motherhood yourself that you can fully appreciate the compromises that you need to make. Also, from the perspective of running a business, our goals are aligned: we want to grow the business steadily, not rapidly so that we can live a balanced life and still be able to be present with our families.

What are a few of your favourite pieces in your collections?

There have been many favourites over the years. Samples regularly go missing from our studio as we each 'try' a new look out at home!

Gen – my current obsession is our Luxor design that Lauren did. I have two chairs upholstered in it and would like to also do a bedhead in it and wallpaper my powder room in it. I just can't get enough of it!

Lauren – I'm not normally a huge green girl but I'm loving mixing our new Saltbush colour way with our Celadon and Saffrons. I've recently siphoned some samples home to pick the perfect combination for my guest bedroom!

A favourite for both of us this Summer will be our online exclusive release of Walter G Melamine plates. They are the ultimate kid friendly companion for Summer BBQs at home or by the beach – bright, patterned and unbreakable!

How do you incorporate so many incredible textiles into your homes?

With great ease! Even when there is no space left, we will begin to layer them up. This is really how we design all our collections – with the idea that they can be layered in with new and old. More is more! A designer in Boulder, Colorado just tagged us in an image where she had installed our Luxor Blossom wallpaper on the risers of her clients staircase. There is always room for more pattern in your life!

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Smoosh Founder Mim Gascoigne
Do you cleanse your face properly?

For so many of us, the answer is probably no (and it doesn't help when you have a small child at your feet trying to get your attention). Which is why we like to keep our skincare regime simple and effective, and also why we opt for oil-based skincare.


Enter Smoosh, a fuss-free, natural skincare range based on the hydrating power of oils, created by Sydney mum of three and teacher Mim Gascoigne.

"Cleansing is such an important step in your routine. If the cleansing step is too harsh and dries out the skin, you are a few steps back and you've only just stepped onto the starting block," she says, referring to that feeling of dryness that can come after cleansing if you've stripped all the hydration out of your skin. She set about solving that skincare dilemma. Smoosh's Silky Cleansing Oil, contains six organic and natural plant oils, including camellia, peach, jojoba, watermelon and passionfruit and leaves your skin feeling soft, supple and hydrated (the opposite to the aforementioned dry, tight state).

Next in the Smoosh skincare regime is a serum, and there are three in the range, so there's something for all skin types. "Pregnancy, menopause, hormonal changes, illness, travelling, seasonal changes, stress, shaving (men love our Soothing Balance oil serum) are just some of the things that can change how skin is behaving and its specific needs," she says. "I wanted to offer three multifaceted organic and natural face oil serums, free from fragrance and essential oils, that would offer nourishment and visible results to skin during the different phases life throws our way." As for what serum actually does (i.e. how it'll help us glow), she explains that a serum is that extra step after you cleanse and before you moisturise, that will deliver a concentrated dose of vitamins, antioxidants and/or actives to your skincare routine. If your skin still feels dry after you apply serum, Mim advises you to keep your skin damp when you apply: "our oil serums absorb quickest when skin is damp. after cleansing or misting is a great time to smoosh. Three to four drops massaged into damp skin should leave skin supple, bouncy and moisturised never greasy."

Her passion for plant-based skincare products came from her mother, who is a GP and studied naturopathy. "She has a real passion for research so was great at teaching me, from a very young age, all about plants, their great benefits as well as their contraindications," says Mim. And as for the name Smoosh, it was inspired by the feeling you get when you see chubby baby thighs. "You really want to 'smoosh' them," says Mim. "Whatever age you are, healthy skin has that beautiful glow and softness that brings about the desire to touch and smoosh it."

Here we talk to Mim about how she got her business off the ground (and the ups and downs of that journey), the key ingredients in her products and why your skin will love them, practical time management tips for the working mother, and most importantly, how to Smoosh.

Go to www.smooshskin.com

Smoosh Silky Cleansing Oil

Smoosh Silky Cleansing Oil

www.smooshskin.com

Smoosh skincare

Smoosh skincare

www.smooshskin.com

Smoosh Nourish oil serumSmooth Soothing Balance oil serumSmoosh Radiance oil serum

Smoosh's range of serums

www.smooshskin.com

There are so many cleansers in the market, why did you decide to launch an oil cleanser and what are the benefits of oil cleansers?

So many cleansers, yet I still felt like I hadn't found my perfect one. Personally, having such sensitive skin I really wanted to create an oil cleansing blend that was free from essential oils and fragrance, yet was also light and silky enough for all skin types. A cleanser that is gentle yet thorough is crucial. This is where an oil cleanser shines, it has the ability to cleanse away the most stubborn makeup and sunscreen yet leave your skin soft, hydrated and your skin barrier healthy and intact. I also had customers asking for me to create one.

What skin types would this product suit? For example, should oilier skins steer clear?

All skin types can benefit from our Silky Cleansing Oil, each plant oil in the blend has been thoughtfully chosen to provide just the right amount of slip for a beautifully smooth massage and cleansing ritual, without overloading the skin. Once massaged in and gently removed with lukewarm water and a soft cloth, your skin will be perfectly cleansed, super smooth, nourished and glowing. No greasy oil slick in sight.

Smoosh has three different serums. Firstly, what role does serum play in our skincare?

A serum is that little step that will deliver a concentrated dose of vitamins, antioxidants and/or actives to your skincare routine. Our oil serums can be used alone or added to your moisturiser. Luxurious, potent and brimming with goodness each of the three oil serums is loaded with omega fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants to help nurture and bring about healthy and glowing skin.

What is the difference between the three serums you offer - and how did you settle on three?

I settled on three, as I feel within the trilogy, all skin types can find a a blend to support them. Whatever skin season they are having. Pregnancy, menopause, hormonal changes, illness, travelling, seasonal changes, stress, shaving (men love our Soothing Balance oil serum) are just some of the things that can change how skin is behaving and its specific needs. I wanted to offer three multifaceted organic and natural face oil serums, free from fragrance and essential oils, that would offer nourishment and visible results to skin during the different phases life throws our way.

Radiance oil serum is a nectar-like oil serum, deeply moisturising so wonderful for very dry and/or mature skin. It turns around lack lustre skin really quickly and it's also wonderful in cold windy weather. Soothing Balance oil serum is for all skin types, especially those prone to breakouts, it's silky and light yet still provides beautiful moisture. It's calming on inflammation and brings clarity to confused skin. Nourish oil serum is a satiny, berry packed oil serum, it gives dewy hydration, nourishment and is really rejuvenating for normal to dry skin types. It's a bit like a super berry smoothie in a face oil!

Natural skincare has always been part of your life - tell me how your mother influenced your skincare decisions and how you approach your skincare regime?

My mum is a GP and also studied naturopathy so I was surrounded by tinctures and natural skincare products from a very young age. She has a real passion for research so was great at teaching me, from a very young age, all about plants, their great benefits as well as their contraindications. She was also instrumental in teaching me about the benefits of nutritious healthy food, the benefits of having a healthy lifestyle and how both can impact skin health for the better. She was into bone broth long before it was trendy!

Smoosh skincareSmoosh Nourish oil serumSmoosh Radiance oil serumSmoosh Soothing Balance oil serum

www.smooshskin.com

Smoosh skincareSmoosh Radiance oil serum

Skincare has changed a lot over the years, what are some ingredients or products which have stood the test of time?

I think face oils have been around for a long time but have definitely become more mainstream which is great as I think they are really transformative. Oil and balm cleansers have been used by actors and stage performers for decades to remove heaving makeup so their credentials are pretty good too. Weleda Skin food is a great classic as is Dr Haushka Rose Cream. Lanolin is another ingredient that has stood the test of time, Lanolips 101 ointment, is such a great formula. Glycerin is a bit of an underrated ingredient, it's been around for ages and is so healing for dry skin. It seems to be having a bit of a resurgence though!

The term "clean beauty" is very trendy - how would you define clean beauty?

As there is no official definition for the term, I feel the term can sometimes be confusing. One brand's clean list can vary from another. I would say Smoosh Skin is a clean beauty brand insofar as it is organic and natural, plant-based, free from added fragrance, vegan and cruelty free.

What are the hero ingredients in your products?

This is a hard one; we source 26 of the highest quality organic and natural plant oils and create all our formulas in small batches so they are fresh and vibrant. They all play an important role, but special mention to the luminous coral red of the organic Rosehip fruit oil, and the dark vivid green of our virgin Hemp seed oil, however, they are all such a delight to blend and work with.

Where do so many of us go wrong when it comes to skincare?

I think trying too many new products, all at once can often send skin into a spin. I speak from experience in this area! Adding one new product to your skincare routine at a time and using it for a few days before adding the next, is the best way to see if a product is working for you. Also, when using actives like retinol and acid toners it makes you even more susceptible to sunburn so it's so important to practice good sun safety.

Smoosh founder Mim Gascoigne

What lead you to launch your own business - was there a defining moment where you made the decision?

I'd thought about it for many years, however, once I started having babies it took a back seat. Once I had my third child, I somehow felt ready to start a new chapter and had the confidence to jump in. I've always been naturally driven by creative projects and have a genuine passion for skincare so it helps to have a real love for what I'm doing.

The beginning is often a stumbling block for so many women when it comes to launching their own business. Where did you start and how quickly did you launch?

Much of the product line is a culmination of decades of my own research and experience so developing the products has taken years. However, once I decided to go for it, building the brand and business itself, took about six months to solidify. I drew on a bit of knowledge I had from some marketing subjects I did at university. My husband works in marketing so he offered to give me a framework to build the business from i.e. key steps to follow in launching the business, which was very helpful.

What has been the most challenging part of starting a business?

The most challenging parts have been sourcing packaging, labelling and suppliers. Some of our oils have been very hard to source. Covid-19 social distancing and restrictions hit just as I was launching, which brought new challenges as many of our oils were suddenly out of stock. Lastly, being from outside the skincare business, it is a challenge to build brand awareness as a small start-up as it is a crowded market, so that is our biggest challenge right now.

What about the most rewarding?

Customer feedback. Seeing our customers' skin transformations from our products. Having sensitive skin myself and dealing with eczema and more recently rosacea, I know how hard it can be to find a product that works and supports your skin. I genuinely love that we can help our customers get relief for their skin condition and attain healthy, happy skin.

www.smooshskin.com

Now, how do you manage your time between your children and your business?

It is a constant juggle, especially as many of the aspects of starting a new business are completely new to me, so I feel like it takes me more time than the next person, I have to do more research and this comes with more frustration! I have three kids, 9, 7 and 2, so working with them around makes any task infinitely longer! When possible, I plan ahead and carve out pockets of time to work when they are otherwise engaged. I have moved into a casual teaching role which gives me more flexibility to work on the business too.

How do you look after your skin daily? What products do you personally use?

I cleanse every night with our Silky Cleansing Oil and a soft cloth. I then use one of our three oil serums depending on how my skin is feeling.

In winter I mostly reach for Radiance oil serum in the evenings, it's so deeply moisturising and wonderful for dry winter skin. I then often choose the lighter, Soothing Balance oil serum in the morning. In the summer it's more often Soothing Balance in the day and Nourish oil serum at night.

I don't cleanse in the morning unless I've used a mask overnight. Skipping the morning cleanse has been really helpful in calming rosacea flare ups.

Every 7-10 days I use the Allies of Skin retinal and peptides overnight mask. I also use a pure white french clay mask mixed with one of the Smoosh oil serums if I need a soothing mask.

Other loves…….
Mother SPF
Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Moisturiser and RMS Un-Cover Up
Baby Cheeks Blush Stick by Westman Atelier
Tubing mascara as I have hooded eyes and no mascara stays put!
Lanolips 101 Ointment

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