To say that Stacey Cotter Manière is a chameleon would be a disservice to her achievements. As a creative consultant, storyteller, fashion entrepreneur and mother, she's more accomplished than any title would lead us to believe.
But the one thing that strings her work together? A focus on creativity and sustainability. Whether it’s her consultancy work, her poetry or her work with (re)vision society, Stacey believes that curiosity and play are the bedrock to innovation. And as we found, she applies this same desire for creativity and conscious living to her parenting.
“I was afraid to have a child because of my conditioning and the stories I’d heard from other mothers who speak so often of the sacrifices you must make when having a child,” Stacey said. “I never want to burden a child with my own regret of not having done things I wanted to in life and putting that onto them. What I have found instead since having Luna is that she inspires me even more than I could have imagined to live the life I love and to make time to do things I enjoy, because I believe it’s important to show her by example. When I take time to do things that fill me up and fuel my creativity it means I am in a place to bring joy to my family.”
We spoke to Stacey about her creative pursuits, how she approaches dressing in this fast-fashion environment, the impact that motherhood has had on her life and career, and left feeling completely creatively inspired.
Imagery by Grace Alyssa Kyo | Visit staceycottermaniere.com
What brought you to Sydney via Paris and London?
Frank and I always spoke about returning to Australia the country where we first met one day, maybe when we had children. We suddenly found ourselves as new parents and thought, well maybe now is that time. Being close to nature is really important to us and we’ve always spent a lot of time when we were not working being outdoors and immersing ourselves in nature and its healing powers. So coming back to Australia where we could enjoy more space, still live in a city for our work yet be close to the beach and have access to more rugged nature easily was something we wanted to do for our small family.
You’re the co-founder of (re)vision society - can you tell us a bit about the ethos behind the brand?
We created (re)vision society out of a desire to constantly (re)vision the way we consume, create and live ourselves. In doing so we hoped we may also inspire others to do so as well, accelerating the advent of sustainable behaviour. I believe it’s important to stop and be in check with our practices, to pool our collective knowledge in order to try and improve how we live as a species. We started with creating projects in the clothing industry in a broader sense because it’s universal. Clothing literally touches every one of us regardless of where we come from, how wealthy we are or what we believe in. The first products were created out of materials that would have been sent to landfill or incineration, discarded from clothing production. It’s crazy when you think of the resources that went into making these materials and that they never would have served a purpose had we not turned them into something.
As well as having a background and business in fashion design, you’re also a published poet and creative consultant. How do you juggle all these diverse roles day-to-day?
With (re)vision society we don’t work to seasons like most clothing brands. We release projects when they are ready as not to compromise our philosophy for the sake of just creating stuff. I love my creative consultancy work and helping other brands to solve design problems so, for now, it is important for me to also continue with that. Working for myself allows me to create my own working hours. Sometimes I have to work a lot to reach deadlines for clients so in other moments when it is quieter I make use of that down time to spend more time with my daughter, to write and invest in self-care.
All the creative pursuits I undertake are intertwined and influence one another. I am a huge believer in Einstein’s theories on combinatory play – whereby creative ideas are born from taking seemingly unrelated things and combining them together. It helps me to not get bogged down in trying to solve a problem, I move onto another thing and usually, it helps me to unblock and come up with something I would never have done if I’d tried to sit and stare at the problem. Einstein believed this combinatory play was an essential feature in productive thought, he would play the violin for hours and it would somehow end up helping him to solve a mathematical equation.
Whilst I certainly don’t get hours at a time to go off and delve into a personal creative pursuit every day I do make it a priority to make time for it. I believe it’s a choice away. I could choose to pull out my phone and scroll social media on my commute or I could jot down lines of a poem that I’ll come back to later and weave together. I could choose to sit down and watch TV after Luna has gone to bed or I could write for 20 minutes. As a poet, anything can become the subject of a poem, even the seemingly mundane such as washing up. You look at everything differently in that way. Making time for things is a shift in perspective.
You’re a staunch advocate for buying less but better, how do you think that message is coming across in a world that is obsessed with fast fashion and instant gratification?
There is a divide. Somedays I feel we are speeding towards the demise of our species and other days I feel we are moving towards a societal shift. I feel that whilst more people are starting to question the system and make informed decisions about what we buy and how our decisions impact the world around us, the facts also show that production of clothing is rising and in a society where we now even consume grids of images with a swipe of a finger for instant gratification I wonder if we are just expanding our consumptive behaviour into new areas?
You have a love of vintage clothing and often repair and rework items of clothing before buying anything new - what was the last piece of clothing you did buy, and why?
The last piece of clothing I bought was a gingham check suit from Australian label Ash White. I met Ash at the Legacy Sustainability Summit in Sydney in January. Ash was wearing the suit herself and it looked great so I went to ask her about it and we ended up chatting a lot as there was a synergy between us of creating positive change in the industry. The suit is made of organic cotton and is hand woven by a community in Tamil Nadu in India. It is beautiful quality and has soul to it. I feel great wearing it, it is very comfortable and stands out so people stop me a lot to ask about it which gives me the chance to talk about the ethos behind it. I definitely make considered choices when it comes to buying things. It wasn’t always that way. As a young fashion student I loved wearing future trends and expressing myself through clothing has always been important. However I guess with time comes wisdom well so they say, and seeing what my contribution to the fashion industry can have on the greater world at large I started changing my personal shopping habits. I started asking more questions of myself and why I felt I needed something new which meant suddenly I needed a lot less.
You have an 18mth old daughter, Luna. Has she changed or impacted the way you approach fashion at all?
I had already shifted towards a buy less but better approach before Luna arrived in our lives but what I didn’t realise until becoming a parent myself was just how much more difficult it is to invest the time in making more conscious decisions about what we buy. Sometimes like a lot of parents I find myself compromising on things because there is so much to juggle. If you are in a store trying to decide between one product and another and there is a toddler having a tantrum at your feet, it’s appealing to just grab the first thing and get out the door in a hurry. But I do believe it’s important to care about these things and in what state we will leave the earth for generations to come. I am often enquiring of myself, what will Luna think of the choices we made?
What about baby clothes - do you also look out for vintage pieces for Luna? What sort of brands do you like to buy for her?
When we were living in Paris before Luna was born I scoured second-hand baby stores in Paris to gather what I could so that I didn’t have to buy too many new things when she arrived. I would drop by every time I walked past to see if they had any new things come in. I would often find beautiful clothes from luxury French brands that looked as though they were barely worn. The quality of the items is very good so I will be able to pass them on as well. We are also lucky that we have friends who have older children who have given us a lot of hand me downs. Luna has a coat that belonged to 3 other children before it came into our possession. It will certainly be able to be passed down to many more children as well because it is good quality. Luna’s great grandparents also make her a lot of things. They used to have a haberdashery store and sewing school and so have a lot of fabrics leftover from when they had their store so they are happy to use things up and enjoy passing time creating things for her.
What has motherhood taught you so far?
That nothing is constant. That I cannot control life and what worked today may not work tomorrow. It has also taught me more than ever that you can hold two opposing ideas in your mind at once as you navigate the best way to raise your child and give them the tools they need for wellbeing.
What has been the most surprising thing about motherhood?
Oh wow, that’s hard to pin down to one thing. Every day I am surprised.
I guess I was afraid for a long time to become a mother. I wasn’t sure I had what it takes. The stamina, the endless compassion, the selflessness that you are told it requires… But motherhood has taught me that unconditional love gives you tremendous strength even in the darkest moments. I am stronger than I imagined I could be. It has also taught me that you can turn even the most mundane activities and things into something fun in order to bring joy to others and yourself.
I was also afraid to have a child because of my conditioning and the stories I’d heard from other mothers who speak so often of the sacrifices you must make when having a child, I never want to burden a child with my own regret of not having done things I wanted to in life and putting that onto them. What I have found instead since having Luna is that she inspires me even more than I could have imagined to live the life I love and to make time to do things I enjoy, because I believe it’s important to show her by example. When I take time to do things that fill me up and fuel my creativity it means I am in a place to bring joy to my family.
Did you always intend for Luna to grow up in Australia? How do you think the lifestyle and culture here is different for mothers and babies than in Europe?
Frank and I always talked about returning to Australia one day to raise a family because of the connection to nature and the good weather to spend more time outdoors. I have a lot of fond memories of playing outside as a child, making a mess creating mud cakes and running wild exploring local gullies and the bush with friends. I feel it definitely fostered my creativity. I would like Luna to have the opportunity to enjoy that sense of freedom. We would also like for her to have a connection with both her French and Australian heritage so perhaps she will spend more time in both places during her lifetime.
In terms of the differences for mothers and babies in Europe compared to Australia, what I’ve noticed a lot more since being back in Australia is that there is a lot more support for mothers to stay at home longer with their small children. I had the impression in France that mothers are expected to return to work very quickly. Many of the mothers I knew went back to work after 3 months of giving birth. It seems that maternity leave is a lot more generous in Australia than in France or England and from what I see companies often are more flexible in allowing mothers to take more time to adjust to returning to work.
How do you and your husband approach the baby/working juggle?
It is important for my husband and I to take time to spend quality alone time with Luna and also the three of us altogether as a family. During the time Frank and Luna are hanging out together I take the opportunity to go to yoga or spend time writing or doing some things on my own and vice versa for Frank when Luna and I are hanging out.
Unfortunately at the moment Frank has a 1year rehabilitation from a serious foot injury and he has a 4hr return trip commute back and forth to work on top of that. It has not been easy for sure, but we have found a way to work around it which in a way has taught us to be more creative and effective in our approach to facing the juggle.
For instance, we decided to have family cooking time on a Sunday afternoon where all three of us are in the kitchen listening to music and preparing meals for the week so that it is easy to have nutritious and delicious food ready available when I arrive back home with Luna from work and daycare in the evening. We also make extra so we can store in the freezer so that we are always prepared and have a stock built up for the Sunday afternoons where we want to do something spontaneous instead of the routine.
I am very grateful to have my own business and be able to manage my own time. Although sometimes I may have to work late for a deadline for a client I can also organise myself so that I can then also take a slow morning with Luna where I drop her to daycare later or pick her up early and go to watch the sunset at the beach. Fridays I try to only work half a day so that I can spend more time with Luna.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed?
I think we all do at some point, whether we are parents or not. Life is always full of ups and downs. It’s important to always keep that in mind.
Every family has its own challenges and we’ve definitely had our fair share of them. Even after barely being here in Australia a few weeks we were faced with Frank and Luna both requiring emergency surgeries. There was a period of a few weeks where it was quite tough for me caring for both of them at the same time, navigating being in a new city, setting up a business, looking for new clients. Life will always throw curveballs. Sometimes one after the other. We cannot always choose what happens to us in life but we can chose how we react. Will we let the challenges define us or will our reactions shape us and make us more resilient?
We can build stories around why we don’t do the things we want in life, why we feel a certain way, behave a certain way and if we are not careful we can begin to believe these stories. I am constantly trying to check in with myself and have awareness of the self talk. I write essays and poems a lot about these kinds of ideas.
What is a favourite thing to do together as a family?
As I mentioned earlier Sunday afternoon cooking time was born in a way out of a necessity to try and make life a little easier but it turned into joyous family time for us to spend time together because we make it fun rather than a chore. Luna stands up beside me at the bench with her little toy utensils and pretends to chop too and I feel its a great way for her to learn an appreciation for food and what it means to prepare a meal.
Being so close to Bondi Beach at the moment I feel very blessed that we can spend time near the water. We often go to sit together on the sand, even in winter on warmer days just so we can enjoy the sunshine and the sound of the waves.
What is your definition of self care and how do you make time for it?
Writing makes me more conscious of my thoughts. It nourishes me. I turn to the page to work through all my biggest challenges and to find clarity. I used to think oh gosh it’s so late I need to go to bed in case Luna wakes at 4am or I’ll be too tired but in fact on the nights I stay up an extra 20mins to write I am more energised. Its the act of showing up to do things for ourselves as mothers that is the most difficult but once I reach the page and start to write I realise there is no question that it is needed. It fills me up and ultimately that ripples into helping fill up my family. Also one night a week I go to write and share poetry with others. I have recently set up a poetry group in Bondi with a new friend I met at a writing group and now there is a few of us who meet every Thursday. I take this one evening to ensure that I can work on my poetry. I am working towards collating my poetry into a book.
Yoga is also very important to Frank and I both. It is a ritual that helps me reconnect my body and mind and stay more present, something I find requires constant practice. We have ensured yoga stays a part of both of our weekly routine even with a baby because we believe it is important for our wellbeing.
Looking back on the first year of motherhood, what are your feelings and thoughts?
Gratitude. Gratitude that I get to be the guardian of this human being who I have absolute love for. It is something I try to never take for granted even for a second.