Ahead of the festive season, we've rounded up some of our favourite frocks and jewels to dazzle in...
We also spoke to model Phoebe Ghorayeb about her career and motherhood journey.
Phoebe wears Ephemera Bloom Bustier dress, $695. All jewellery by Pandora: Pandora Shine Small O Pendant, $89, with Pandora Shine Sliding Clasp Necklace, $199; Pandora Shine Reflexions Bracelets, $299 each, with Pandora Reflexions Clip Charms, from $39 each; Pandora Shine Sliding Bangle, $249, with Charms, from $89 each. Valentina wears a
Tell us about your motherhood journey...
Motherhood has been incredible. It's everything and nothing like you expect it to be and what you think will be easy is the most difficult and what you think will be difficult is surprisingly easy. In terms of ups and downs, everyday is different. If I've had a great night sleep and woken feeling like Supermum then the tantrums, heavy lifting, housework and general mumming don't phase me, however, catch me on a bad day and just thinking about what to feed Valentina for breakfast can seem like the most mammoth of tasks. I have absolutely loved watching Valentina grow into her own little person, she is full of such sass, loves her own reflection, knows what she likes and what she doesn't (and won't hesitate to let you know about it!) and it an absolute chatter box. She is mine and my husband's best friend so anything that motherhood throws at me (which at times is a lot) is all totally worth it.
How has your second pregnancy differed from the first?
To be honest it hasn't really been that different. I suffered with morning sickness during both from about two to four months, I held very similarly, my food cravings were pretty much identical and I popped out another girl, so even the end result was exactly the same. The only issue I had this time around was a major depletion of my iron levels. I was taking tablets but they weren't enough to get me feeling human again so I opted for the infusion which thank goodness worked wonders.
Phoebe wears ARTCLUB Hanaikada dress, $1,200. All jewellery by Pandora: Pandora Shine Reflexions Bracelets, $299 each, with Pandora Reflexions Clip Charms, from $39 each. Valentina wears Zara trousers and top.
You called your platform Model Appetite - where did the idea come from and tell us about the name? What message do you want to spread?
My blog first and foremost began because of my undying, unwavering love of food. It's something I'm incredibly passionate about and the best thing after eating it, is talking about it. I also wanted to build in my story and background as a model, with almost 16 years of work under my belt and having played such a significant part of my life it made sense to bring the two together. There are a lot of models writing food blogs but they tend to focus on the healthier side of spectrum, which is no bad thing. I mean a model needs to look after herself. However, for me it's about embracing everything food has to offer, the healthy, the not so healthy, food from around the world, hidden gems, the good, the bad and the ugly. Food for me should hold no boundaries, it is one of life's absolute pleasures and I suppose one of the messages I wanted my blog to convey was that you can enjoy a successful career as a model without having to restrict everything the culinary world has to offer. I brought my love of food and fashion together and as a result Model Appetite was born. Having a healthy body is one thing but having a healthy mind, attitude and outlook is something much more powerful.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about models?
I'm not sure if there are any misconceptions about models anymore. There definitely used to be. Models don't eat, models are dumb, models are self centred etc etc. However, I think these stereotypes and misconceptions have been challenged over the years, especially since the rise of social media, and models have a platform to speak much more openly about themselves and the industry. The discussion around body image is huge, a lot of models have opened up about their eating disorders and how they've overcome them, the plus size industry is making waves and is helping to deliver a more body positive and body inclusive message. In terms of being dumb, I know plenty of models who are incredibly intelligent and have gone on to pursue careers as lawyers, politicians, entrepreneurs, chefs or have committed themselves, their time and money to charity work. I have met some of the most incredible and wonderful girls and guys on the modelling circuit. Down to earth, kind, humble and generous people. Modelling is a job and it definitely does not define any one of them.
What’s the most challenging part of the industry?
These days you need to be more than just a model. The social media platforms have been a game changer in the modelling industry. It's no longer enough to be a pretty face, you need to be on some level an influencer, ambassador, charity goer, fitness guru, health expert, actor, singer, comedian, entertainer, entrepreneur, socialite, fashionista or activist. Audiences are getting smarter, there's more information, they know what they want and they know when they're being sold a lie. The industry are looking for models with more depth, something that makes them different from the rest and unfortunately being an attractive model doesn't make you that much different from the next attractive model. Continuously elevating and evolving your personal brand is a challenge and with so much competition popping up all over social media it is a huge task to make sure you stand out. It's about offering your audience more than just a perfect smile, even the big brands are recognising this and long gone are the days of them looking at your comp card or agency website portfolio. They're looking for someone their audience can relate to and be inspired by. Plump lips and long lashes alone just won't cut it.
Phoebe wears ARTCLUB Oenothera dress, $795. All jewellery by Pandora: Blue Round Sparkle Stud Earrings, $89; Round Sparkle Bar Necklace, $119; Blue and Clear Sparkle Slider Bracelet, $99; Pandora Reflexions Bracelet, $89, with Pandora Reflexions Star Clip Charm, $39. Valentina wears printebebe dress.
And what about the most rewarding part?
The people you get to meet. Yes travelling, the beautiful locations, the amazing accommodations, the once in a lifetime experiences are definitely up there, but if you're doing it with people who aren't that great, then none of the above is all that fun. I've had jobs that are not the most exciting. Standing in studio for eight hours against a white background, wearing up to 100 outfits, doing a front, back and side shot is not the most inspiring work, however, if you have a team who are fun, interesting, talented, personable, hilarious and all round nice human beings then those eight hours can seem like minutes. When I receive a call sheet the first thing I look at is who I'll be working with and from that I'll know if it's going to be a good versus an amazing day.
How has becoming a mother changed the way you approach your career?
I'm not sure if it has. I've always loved modelling, I've been doing since the age of 13 so it's such a "normal", everyday part of my life. I knew I was never going to be the next Kate Moss, so I just enjoyed the journey and was grateful for any work and experiences I got as a result. My mentality towards it is still the same after having children but of course my girls will always come first. If a job comes up, I'll do what I can to make it work but if not it's not something I dwell on. Motherhood has however been a bit of a driving force in my wanting to start up my own business. My incredible friend Joanna Burgess and I have started the ball rolling on a new business venture, Ma Quelle. It's still very early days but we are entering the baby market (obviously) in the hope of designing and creating a super stylish nursery/homeware brand. I guess having the opportunity to work from home and earn money while still being able to commit time to my children is the ultimate dream.
What is one of your most vivid memories of motherhood so far?
To be honest motherhood has been such a blur so far. They tell you it goes quickly but you don't know until… you know! I suppose my most vivid memory would be giving birth. Sounds like an unlikely thing to remember as they say that your brain releases a hormone or chemical that makes you forget the experience and the pain. Otherwise we'd all stop at one baby. However, I have very vivid memories of both my births and remember even the smallest of details. I still very much remember holding them both for the first time, the overwhelming feeling of having just brought life into the world and the instantaneous feeling of unconditional, unimaginable love. I hope I never forget.
Left: Phoebe wears Ganni ruched dress in leopard, $417, from Mode Sportif; Small O Pendant, $59, with Sliding Clasp Necklace, $69, both from Pandora. Right: Phoebe wears Ganni sequin mini dress, $795, from Mode Sportif. All jewellery by Pandora: Square Sparkle Wishbone Ring, $89; Celestial Stars Ring, $69; Celestial Stars Bracelet, $119; Pandora Reflexions Bracelets, $89 each, with Pandora Reflexions Clip Charms, from $39 each.
What are your time management tips - how do you get it all done?
I got Valentina into a relatively strict sleep routine and because of that she's a solid sleeper. It also helps that she has my sleep genes. I've been known to sleep through fire alarms, floods and even crying babies (thank goodness Georges doesn't share this same genetic miracle). She can sometimes sleep up to three hours in the middle of the day and that's when I get it all done, the cooking, cleaning, life admin, phone calls and of course most importantly, catching up on my favourite shows. When Valentina is awake she doesn't give me a minute so her rest time is my rev time. Although, one practical tip I can give, is to prepare and perhaps finish cooking dinner during her daytime nap, that way when it comes to her bedtime in the evening, I have a lot more time to catch up on anything I wasn't able to get done during the day. I also try my best to get her involved in any housework I need to do, for example helping me to "fold" clothes, or hanging onto the hoover while I quickly whiz it over the house, or throwing her a few kitchen utensils so she can "assist" me while I cook. Keeping her busy is the key.
How do you approach maternity dressing - what’s a typical look for you?
Comfort, comfort, comfort. Being pregnant can be difficult at the best of times, sore back, aching legs, feeling sick, swollen ankles, headaches, tiredness and hot flushes don't make for the most comfortable of situations so when it's something I can control, like dressing myself, I make sure that my clothes help to counteract any discomfort I may be feeling. It doesn't mean that looking relatively fashionable and well dressed can't also play a part but let's just say tight trousers and high heels very rarely made an appearance. A typical look for me consists of a pair of black bike shorts, oversized white shirt and white sneakers, or a button up maxi dress with a pair of cute, wedge sandals, or my pyjamas. I kept pretty close to my regular style and way of dressing. I find that a lot of maternity brands are not that exciting and are all quite similar so I would just buy what I usually would but in a bigger size. It also means I can probably still get away with wearing it even after I've had the baby.
What about your beauty tips - what products do you use daily?
Soooooo I'm probably the last person you should ask about beauty tips. My "beauty" regime is extremely simple and I'm make up free about 90% of the time. When I do decide to make some sort of effort it usually consists of tinted moisturiser, a bit of blush and highlighter, mascara and a quick brush of the eyebrows. If I'm feeling really risky I'll wear eyeshadow and maybe even slap on some lippy. My skin care routine pretty much falls along the same lines. To remove my make up I use the Face Halo Make Up Remover, a soft sponge with water, but seeing as though that is never normally the case then I usually just splash my face with water, spritz on a bit of toner and finish off with some moisturiser and lip balm. My go-to skincare brand is Mokosh. They are a Melbourne-based company, all organic, cruelty free, eco friendly and just all round amazing products. They are so pure and chemical free I can even use them on my girls to clear up dry skin and nappy rash. I also recently discovered Ultra Violette. the most beautiful sunscreen. Perfect matt finish, not at all oily and zero white residue.
Le Reve is a promise I made to myself, to take our audience into a dream world where everything is calm, warm and amusing
If you've been following us for a while, you'll know that in our dreams, our entire house is filled with the scent of Maison Balzac candles burning, our cupboards are filled with gorgeous glass goblets and carafes in shades of azure, green, mint, pink and blue and our tables are decorated with elegant vases covered in chic spots. Sound dreamy? That's because it is.
Tell us about your lockdown experience - how did your family adjust? What have you taken away from this period of time? Are there any rituals you put in place that helped you?<p>Surprisingly, my husband started a new 'essential' job on the first day of lock down. He had to go to his new office everyday so Loulou and I were home and had a wonderful time together. I didn't take time off when she was a newborn, so it felt like a great opportunity for me to catch up and experience "maternity leave". My favourite things in life are my interior, good food, living slow, not going anywhere and being with my family. So, I was really happy during the entire period, but I knew I was part of the lucky ones (not badly impacted by COVID-19).</p>
As a business, how did you adapt to this time? <p>At first, everything was quiet, unknown, unpredictable and ominous. After a couple of weeks, the demand for our products was unprecedented. We received thousands of requests from around the world, people wanting to bring a touch of happiness or comfort into their homes. We had to adapt to this new, increased flow and we did! My team was incredibly dedicated and solid during the whole process.</p>
Can you tell us about your new collection Un Reve? What are some new pieces you have added? What about the colours?<p>Le Reve is a promise I made to myself, to take our audience into a dream world where everything is calm, warm and amusing. As a reaction to the world's uncertainty, we really wanted to provide an escape! We have added a new, exciting category: tapered and shaped candles. We love exploring different ways to add colours into everyday life... and we love blurring the senses, so we have purposely chosen the same colours for our glassware AND tapered candles. We find it playful to associate a volute candle holder in pink glass with a volute candle in pink...</p>
You've collaborated with Messina on a candle - how did this come about? What did you enjoy most about the collaboration process?<p>We were first drawn together through our like-minded ethos: addiction to quality, playful nostalgia and intuitive design. Honey was the obvious theme of our collaboration, being one of Messina's Creative Department's most cherished natural ingredients and supplied by their local apiary: Rosebery Honey. Also my grandfather was a beekeeper and it's my dad's passion. I grew up with hives in our garden, collecting honey with my dad and dipping my fingers into the frames. I am fascinated by synaesthesia (stimulation of several senses at once) and this collaboration was a chance to translate our new candle fragrances into an edible delight. To celebrate the launch of our collaborative candles, Messina has created a custom gelato flavor: MIEL. It is the first time one of our scents can be eaten!</p>
How do you structure your day - how do you balance work with motherhood?<p>My day echoes the rhythm of primary school: I drop Loulou off at 8.45am, head to our office to start work at 9am. My husband picks her up in the afternoon and we all meet at home at 5pm-ish. I cook dinner every night (sadly I am the only one who knows how to make an edible meal in the household!!!) and I never bring work to our home. So, our evenings are all about relaxing, dining, watching movies or going for a swim near home. Work/life hasn't always been so balanced, so I am very grateful to have reached this stage, eight years into the life of my business.</p>
Running your own business is all-consuming - do you have any non-negotiable self-care rituals you can share?<p>I have zero non-negotiable self-care rituals! I would do anything required to make sure my family and the business are ok. I always come next. This is something I am working on though. I would love to try and prioritise myself sometimes. There is definitely room for improvement!<br></p>
Running your own business, what have been your biggest learning's around developing products, marketing and running a team?<p>Some of the lessons I have learnt are:<br>- There are always people around you who will say NO to your ideas. Ignore the NO and pursue your vision.<br>- Allow 12 months between an idea and a finished product (I used to think that 3 months was enough! No way!).<br>- Surround yourself with people who are better than you in pretty much every field!</p>
It's no secret we adore Ashley Graham, and just when we couldn't love her more, she has posed nude in Elle US's August issue, alongside her son Isaac, 6 months, and husband Justin Ervin, photographed by Ervin himself.
Ashley Graham with her son Isaac
Ashley Graham stars alongside son Isaac, 6 months, and husband Justin Ervin in Elle's August issue, with photos by Ervin
The story we are told of motherhood is one of lightness that leans into the beautiful, the incredible and the magical. However, for all the lightness there is shade, and in the shadows lies a rollercoaster which pushes you to your limits and at times breaks you. Both sides are important for open, real dialogue around motherhood. As a health professional I entered motherhood confident. I had all the resources at my fingers tips as a women's health physiotherapist. Despite this, my journey was far from smooth. Even though I was well informed, it didn't make me immune to the real emotional and physical challenges of motherhood that are still so rarely discussed.
My Motherhood Journey<p>When I first fell pregnant, I was blissfully happy. I felt I had realistic expectations of what motherhood was going to be like. I was also very aware of the high rates of mental health conditions that come up during the perinatal period and knew what to look out for. I was primed and ready to be the earth mumma I was destined to be.<br></p><p>Then my pregnancy had a slight curve ball, I had placenta previa which meant many unsettling vaginal bleeds, no exercise, and the very real threat of complete bed rest. Thankfully, my placenta lifted around 35 weeks, and I was able to have a vaginal delivery. I was induced, the birth was fast and intense, and I needed a ventouse and an episiotomy. Despite this, I felt very positive about my birth mainly because I was informed, supported and respected through the journey. We had a healthy little girl, and I was in absolute awe. Pure. Magic.</p><p>And then the post-natal period began. I had feeding issues, my baby wasn't gaining weight, she had blood in her stool, and chronic vomiting. Paediatricians prescribed various medications and prescription formula, but the constant crying from my bub and the sleep deprivation for all of us continued. For many years. </p><p>Bit by bit my confidence began to crumble. I was anxious that she wasn't getting enough nourishment, I felt guilt that this was all my fault and I started to doubt myself and believe I was a bad mother. This was not the motherhood I had pictured. But as all 'good' mothers do, I put on a brave face and pushed on. I continued to run my business, treated patients, and carried on with life. Under the surface, I was utterly depleted and hanging on by a thread. </p><p>And then we fell pregnant with our second baby. During this pregnancy my level of exhaustion hit a new low. I was still getting up through the night, working and studying, and I became highly anxious about how I was going to care for another baby.</p>
By the time you finish this story on Auguste founder Ebony Eagle, you'll want to move to Byron Bay, own a couple of horses and dress exclusively in Auguste. At least, I did. She's the type of woman who spreads positive energy and this energy trickles down to the clothes she designs. Ebony has created a fashion brand for women and children that's driven by sustainability and giving back.
Take us back to your childhood. What was it like and what are some of your most vivid memories?<p>There are so many magical memories, particularly of summers spent at our beach house in Rosebud, Victoria – days that seemed to go on forever in a world that felt so big spent with my brothers and sisters, aunties, grandparents. Lots of sand, sun and banana paddle pops on the beach. We still own this beach house and boat shed and I now take my children there to do the exact same thing. It's so unbelievably nostalgic for all of us. It's the most at ease any of us ever feel. My childhood also wasn't without adversity, but children are incredibly resilient and you learn to deal with the situation you are in as best you can. These things shape who you are. I'm from a big family of four children and we moved around a fair bit so, affectionately, home was always where the chaos was! </p>
What was your career path like prior to starting Auguste?<p>I've worked since the day I turned 13, starting with an after school job at the fruit shop, into weekend jobs at cafes and then when I finished school at 17 I was a nanny for a travelling family and spent two years hopping all over Europe… This was where the fire in my belly grew for travelling and I believe it's where my perspective on more of an entrepreneurial career took shape. When I landed back in Australia at 19 I waitressed for a few years until I got poached for a styling/production job at a studio in Richmond. This is where I learned all about shoot productions, etc, and it was whilst working here that I decided to take the leap and start my own fashion brand at 22. I managed to secure a small loan to start my business while I was working full-time and then resigned to waitress again by night and work on my label by day. I had that brand 'ebonyeve' for ten years before I started Auguste five years ago.<br></p>
Was it always a dream to have your own label, or did that come about organically?<p>Well, my Grandma taught me to sew when I was eight-years-old and I continued sewing my whole life. I've always been a massive vintage and op shop trawler and I'm creative, so the whole design part came quite naturally. The business part I learned on the job!</p>
Did you have your girls prior to starting Auguste, and if so, what was that transition like?<p>I had Coco when I was 28 and then Frankie when I'd just turned 30 so at that time, I was still running my previous label 'ebonyeve', so yes I had a business. I never stop working and throughout pregnancy and when the girls were young this didn't change… I was living in Bali at the time that the girls were young though so I just worked wearing a few less items of clothing! Work-life balance will be my lesson in this life – it's something I'm still trying to master.</p>
What's been the biggest challenge of motherhood? And the biggest blessing?<p>The thing I find most challenging is the work-life balance juggle and the fact that I have missed out on so many precious moments due to my work commitments. The biggest blessing is all of it! The whole apple, even the seeds. </p>
You've lived in Melbourne, Byron, Bali and Sydney. Do you feel that you're settled now that you've moved back to Byron, or do you crave change? What were some of the challenges and joys of living overseas?<p>Yes, I've moved around a lot in my life. Auguste HQ has always been based in Byron so moving home to here made sense for us and we always wanted to bring our children up here. I'm very settled now. I've travelled enough for ten lives! Honestly, we didn't find living overseas challenging, we adore different cultures and the perspective that they give you. We are so grateful that our girls started their life like that. All four of us loved living abroad right up until the very end but you just know in your core when it's time to come home.</p>
Is there something about Byron that called you back? Has moving to Byron influenced your designs or your process?<p>Auguste HQ has always been based in Byron so coming back here was the natural decision. Growing up here as a teen I was super eager to get out and experience the world but after I had my children, I definitely felt a strong pull to bring them up here, but more so to the hinterland where we now call home. I just love being in nature, surrounded by my children and as many animals as I can fit in! My designs have always naturally thrown together bohemian and vintage inspiration so I suppose, yes, growing up here could have been the beginning of that attraction.</p>
What are your time management tips?<p>Oh god, finish emails in your evening bath? Between the kids, the horses, the business and my embarrassing attempt of a social life, there is very little time to stop and try to time manage anything, so I pretty much fail constantly, no tips here!<br></p>
How would you describe the Auguste aesthetic?<p>Classic, bohemian, feminine, timeless.</p>
Who is your ultimate Auguste muse?<p>That's a tricky one. Stylistically, the ever-influential Jane Birkin has always been a huge creative inspiration and a measuring stick for my designs. Would Jane wear it? Yes? Good, let's do it. Her sense of fashion was just so easy going and feminine, it's everything we make Auguste to be. I've also always felt inspired by Brigitte Bardot and her femininity, she just made it so approachable. My main inspiration though is Jane Gooddall. Her connection to nature, work with animals and bravery in her field, particularly as a young woman, have given me so much courage to create, stay true to myself and use my platform to give back to the planet. </p>
Auguste is such an ethical label, from your fabrics and factories to your ongoing charitable initiatives. Is that something that has always been important to you?<p>Absolutely, I always wanted to get to a point in business where I was able to give back. To have a platform and a voice is a gift and one that I believe should be used wisely and for greater good.</p>
Do you think the fashion industry is becoming more conscious?<p>Absolutely and largely that's being driven by consumer demand, which is just awesome. It won't all happen at once, but the fact that more and more consumers are seeking out eco-friendly fashion alternatives means that more brands will follow suit. They're starting to realise that if you're not thinking about your impact on the planet, you're not being competitive, or responsible really, and that's the only real future for fashion. </p>
You regularly design collections in aid of a charitable cause. Tell us about your latest 'Hero' campaign...<p>As a mum and as a member of the global community, I wanted to unite people in recognising the dangers of bullying and how important it is to use your position to stand up for others. We designed a range of Hero slogan tees as a call to action and donated 100% of the sales to the National Centre Against Bullying and the Cybersmile Foundation to continue their work preventing abuse and giving support to sufferers. I'm incredibly proud that our message of solidarity was shared by thousands around the world and we raised more than $85,000 for our partner charities. </p>
Why is charity work so important to you?<p>It's just part of who I am and what I've always believed in, but when I had children it became a larger priority in my life. If we're not working to leave the planet a better place for our little ones, then what are we doing? How can you see what's happening in the world and not respond? I've worked hard and now I'm fortunate enough to have this platform, so I use it. To me that's just good sense, simple as that! </p>
Little August is your childrenswear line. Tell us about the inspiration behind it?<p>My daughters were my inspiration here. I created little Auguste when my girls were little and loved spinning around in full skirts, it was made for princesses – and even though those two princesses now will only wear ripped denim shorts and Auguste tees I'm so happy that there are so many other little angels out there still spinning in our creations.</p>
What's your parenting philosophy?<p>Shower them with so much love and kindness that they don't realise you often forget to do story time. Also I believe in teaching my girls independence – if they are able to do it themselves then they do. Also have fun with them and keep phones down.</p>
One of your most popular charity campaigns was your 'future woman' tee range. What sort of example do you want to set for your daughters?<p>The 'future women' tees were part of our charity campaign raising money for UN Women and promoting female empowerment, and as a mother of two daughters this meant so much to me. A big lesson I hope my daughters learn from me is to not be passive. Make opportunities, don't wait for them. Offer to help, don't wait for someone else to. Use what's at your fingertips, and then reach for more. </p>
How has COVID-19 changed the way you think about your business?<p>Covid brought a lot of perspective for me. It showed us all that everything can literally stop overnight, so for me it was a reminder to make sure that what I was doing was right for me personally and was to the standard that I wanted. We are doing a lot of work on our ethics and sustainability and really our whole brand identity. It's a time to contract and refocus on not necessarily being big but being great… and I am LOVING that.</p>
What changes will you be making?<p>We made the decision around the beginning of Covid to exit from wholesale entirely and focus on our own vertical channels, making Auguste exclusive to our online store <a href="http://augustethelabel.com/" target="_blank">augustethelabel.com</a> and our Brisbane and Byron Bay boutiques. The exit was a huge decision for me, however I know it was the right one. Being a purely vertical business means we can retract and refocus. There were many factors in this decision however the most important was the ability to continue on our journey to being a more ethical and sustainable business, because that is what it is, a journey – it is not about any one decision, it's every decision you make. Being a vertical business means we have the flexibility to make the decisions we feel are right.</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.
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 know that abandoned is a word that has been used in telling that story, but I actually don't want to use that word anymore," Zoe Hendrix tells me, when we go back to the beginning of her life, when she was born amidst the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war...
When she was five years old, she went to live at an Ethiopian orphanage with her twin brother. In her own words, "It sounds like you abandon an old tire on the road or something, and to me, it's more that she surrendered us because she was very unwell. I only learned this recently as well, so that's why I want to correct the wording I have used previously." Hendrix and her brother were later adopted by a Tasmanian couple and moved to Australia. Fast forward to 2015, and the country watched Zoe marry Alex Garner on the very first season of Married at First Sight. The couple went onto have a beautiful daughter Harper-Rose, but have since separated.