When Hannah Cecil Gurney was a child, her father Claud Cecil Gurney's office and showroom was situated in the lower ground floor of the family's London home.As the founder of the luxurious handmade wallpaper company de Gournay, which he created in 1986, their entire house was covered head-to-toe in glorious de Gournay wall coverings. "These wall coverings were rich in colour and pattern and each one told a story … " recalls Gurney, who is the director of global marketing and development at de Gournay.
Consequently, her home nurtured her imaginative soul in the most wonderful way, feeding into her family abode in London's Battersea neighbourhood, which she shares with her husband Eddie Harden, their son George, newborn twins Oscar and Scarlet and two dogs. It's only now, as the mother of three young children, that their home has really come to life and the chaos of a vibrant family home is something Gurney is embracing with open arms.
We were invited into Gurney's spectacular London home, which we discovered was as glorious as it is child-friendly …
Tell us about how living with so much colour and pattern influenced you as a child?
My father is the founder of de Gournay, my family business, that specialises in producing bespoke hand-painted wallcoverings. When I was a child, my father's office and showroom were situated in the lower ground floor of our London home and of course, our entire house was covered head-to-toe in de Gournay wallcoverings. These wallcoverings were rich in colour and pattern and each one told a story… for example, a scene of a Chinese Palace garden full of exotic flora and fauna… or a scene of a Chinese countryside landscape depicting rice paddies and tea plantations. It seemed totally normal to me that 'staring at the walls' could, in fact, be an incredibly vivid game for the imagination! I grew normalised to layered and vibrant interiors that had stories to tell. I loved the feeling of always discovering something new that you hadn't spotted before… The interiors fed by creativity and embedded in me a sensitivity and love for pattern and colour which is clearly reflected in the interior of the family home I now share with my husband and children.
And now as a mother of three, how does the happy energy in your home impact your life (especially if you’re sleep deprived!)?
I believe the interior decoration of your home can have a significant impact (albeit partly subconsciously) on the quality of one's life. Firstly, in a practical sense, if you design your home to suit the way your family lives then you are able to enhance the joys of simple routines such as eating together, bathing the children, socialising with friends at home etc. For example, we have seating at our kitchen island so that we can keep my husband company while he cooks… We created a separate snug for watching television in a very small and cosy room where we can all cuddle up together… We put lots of joinery on the ground floor so that we have plenty of storage for the endless coats, shoes, scooters, toys and books. Thought that goes into the layout of the home can create a lovely flow for day-to-day activities. Secondly, in a psychological sense, if you decorate your home in your own style and aesthetic then your home becomes incredibly personal to you and your family. Your home becomes an extension of you. The colours you use are the ones that feel positive to you. I love warm colours because they create a cosy atmosphere like being inside a cocoon. I love vibrant colours because they are uplifting. The combination of warm and vibrant colours makes my home feel happy and welcoming. The impact of colour on one's mood is very powerful and if I can colour my home in a way that inspires positivity then I am off to the best start even on a terrible day.
de Gournay started in the basement of your family home – what do you remember about these days? And can you tell us about your father Claud Cecil Gurney and how his energy and drive has inspired you – what are some of your most vivid memories of growing up with him?
My father is incredibly fun and charismatic and his energy catches you like a wave and takes you with it. He is a wonderful example of someone who has strength in both sides of the brain – he has great logic and wonderful creativity, the combination of which makes him a wonderful father and a great entrepreneur. He has an astounding breadth and depth of knowledge which enables him to give sound advice on how to deal with any predicament. A few years ago my father took a masters in Chinese Arts and he learnt about 'Wu Wei', a Confucianist concept literally meaning "inaction". Sometimes the best course of action is inaction. Whenever I am stressed about how to deal with a certain scenario my father will say 'Wu Wei'. Sometimes waiting allows the subconscious to form the right decision… Or enough time to pass to make the correct decision obvious. I admire my father's passion for learning – whether it be Chinese Arts, French literature, economic theories, beekeeping, gardening, cooking etc. My father has always taught us that no matter what the subject, provided you study it deeply, it can be fascinating both for you and for those you share it with. Watching our father create a successful business doing something that he loves made my siblings and I realise that being passionate about your work is vital. Work takes up a huge percentage of one's time on this planet and enjoying it is certainly a large component to one's happiness.
Not one machine goes near anything you do at de Gournay – talk us through the process behind the work at de Gournay and why it is so special…
In the modern world, so much is mass-produced. Technology has advanced so much that the majority of products are made by machine. Unique products are becoming more rare. Being able to offer our client's something bespoke is what makes de Gournay special. Because we produce everything by hand, our custom capabilities are almost limitless. Clients can come to us with a concept and we can create it for them so that they end up with a wallcovering that is completely personal. We don't have to set parameters to comply with the capability of machines. As hand made products become more rare they become a great luxury. Something with great craftmanship has great luxury. We consider our wallpapers to be art. When the artist creates them, he leaves a part of his spirit in the product. My father has always referred to this as the 'spirit resonance'. You can feel this spirit resonance when you see the product.
Top designers and tastemakers wait months for each paper to be rendered by hand – can you share any memorable stories of special wallpaper and where it has ended up?
We have just recently installed our new 'Houghton' wallcovering in Lady Rose Cholmondeley's bathroom in Houghton Hall in Norfolk. With interiors by William Kent, Houghton Hall is one of England's most beautiful stately homes and one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture. Our 'Houghton' design is a faithful reproduction of the iconic 18th Century Chinese wallpaper installed in the Cabinet Room at Houghton Hall which has lasted in near perfect condition since its installation in 1769. With our longstanding expertise in the creation of hand-painted wallpapers this project allowed us to reconnect with our roots; engaging ancient techniques to create Chinese wallpapers and continue a tradition that dates back to the early 18th century. The catalyst for this project was that Lady Rose had recently discovered in Houghton Hall's attic a set of 5 untouched and unused panels from the same original set as those installed in the Cabinet room. Knowing that we would be fascinated by her discovery, Lady Rose reached out to us at de Gournay. The 5 panels allowed us to see how the Cabinet room wallpaper appeared when it first arrived from China in the late 18th century. Comparing the attic panels to those installed in the Cabinet room showed that the panels were originally full of rich pink and red tones and that the flowers and leaves were accented with gold, all of which have slowly faded over the near-300 years that the Cabinet room panels have been installed. This unique opportunity allowed de Gournay to create two colourways for our 'Houghton' design corresponding to both the faded monochrome of the original installation ('Cabinet' colourway) and the rich flair of those stored in the attic, hidden from the vagaries of time ('Canton' colourway). The recent installation of de Gournay' panels in Lady Rose's first-floor bathroom marks the first installation of our 'Houghton' hand-painted wallpaper, just a floor up from its historic counterpart. For this installation Rose worked with de Gournay to create a third colourway for the design in fresh and lively greens, pinks and reds on a dusky cream coloured ground. I am so proud to think that the de Gournay panels are now part of the history of Houghton Hall and the story of their production will be talked of in centuries to come… and to think that we are continuing to keep the tradition of hand-painting Chinese wallpapers alive.
de Gournay has been called “couture for the home” by Lauren Santo Domingo. How would you describe it?
I completely agree with Lauren that our wallcoverings are couture for the walls. They are tailor made for every client, fitted to their walls so that the design flows beautifully around the architecture of the room. Our clients send us the measurements of their walls and we draw up a black and white design miniature that shows our suggested layout for the non-repeating pattern. Just like at a first dress fitting, the client can then tweak the layout so it exactly how they have envisaged it. In a similar way to a couture dress, as our wallcovering is made for each client, the client can choose which material they want us to use for the background, what style of painting they want us to employ, which types of paints they want us to use, which colours they want us to paint in and whether they would like us to add gilded accents or silk embroidery or beading… It is a beautifully layered process which the client is involved in very closely. The end result is something truly unique that dresses the walls beautifully.
Talk us through the renovation you did on your London home – did you come up against any challenges? What’s the secret to surviving a renovation with your spouse? What’s your favourite room and why? How would you sum up the renovation?
The renovation was particularly tricky for Eddie and I because he had very little interest in interior design and therefore couldn't understand why any of the work needed doing in the first place! His idea of interior design was the largest bed on offer at Ikea and an enormous flat-screen television. As such, when I started to knock the house down causing chaos and sending us to live with his in-laws… he wasn't particularly pleased! It didn't help that the builders took twice as long and cost twice as much as expected! However, it was all worth it when we moved back in and Eddie and my family adored the interiors. Suddenly Eddie understood the power of interiors to enhance daily life. And he understood the feeling of stepping into a warm, welcoming and beautiful home. There is no secret to surviving the renovation – just try to start out very in love haha! And remember that once it's over you barely remember it ever happened… It is so soon a distant memory. And being able to create a wonderful environment for your family to grow in is so special…
Where are some of your favourite places to source furniture and décor items?
Nothing beats the flea markets in France. My father and I adore going trawling through the antique markets together finding antique furniture pieces that we then have restored and brought back to life. We have a wonderful restorer that we work with in Paris. I then source vibrant patterned fabrics to use for the upholstery which inject youth and fun back into the pieces. I have lots of 18th-century antique pieces in my home that have been restored and upholstered in modern Dedar fabrics or graphic Pierre Frey fabrics. Aside from de Gournay, those are my two favourite fabric houses. They both focus on exceptional quality and also have an amazing breadth of designs from the very classical to the innovative and modern.
For accessories, I love The Edition 94 which has gorgeous unique pottery, lighting, art, tableware etc. Their store is just across the road from de Gournay so I can never resist going in. I have a particular weakness for the scalloped edged ceramics in pastel colours. I am a sucker for anything scalloped edged. I also love the scalloped edged accessories of Matilda Goad – particularly the linen napkins. She also has gorgeous ribbed beeswax dinner candles in jewel colours.
For bedding, I adore Once Milano. They make exquisite linen quilts and bedding. I have the buttoned quilts on all my beds at home. They are very rustic chic and also come in great colours.
The Conran Shop and David Mellor are also both great for kitchenware.
For bathroom hardware Catchpole & Rye is just beautiful – so English and such high quality and craftmanship. I love their bar towel rail that I have in my bathroom in a nickel finish.
How do you want to feel when you walk into your home?
I want to feel like my house is embracing me. I want to step into it and feel like I have completely escaped from the outside world.
Tell us about the bathroom featuring a paper of pink flamingos?
Veere Grenney – one of my design icons – designed an exquisite pink interior with pops of yellow. I saw it on the cover of a coffee table book and fell in love with it. Although my bathroom is not remotely in the style of this interior… it was that interior that made me realise how beautifully pink and yellow paired together. For my master bathroom, I knew I wanted to do something feminine and glamorous but not too serious. I am not a naturally glamorous person and so I wanted to do more tongue-in-cheek glamour. The pink flamingos on the silver background seemed perfect. I also loved the idea of bathing amongst a flock of flamingos in an exotic landscape. I have a hot bath every night, so I thought why not do something transportive with the decoration so that my daily ritual could become even more of an escapism. It really feels like you are a million miles from Battersea when you are in that bath! I added an ombre effect to the wallpaper so that the silver turns to yellow at the tops of the panels… and then merges with a yellow ceiling. My colleague found the epic tiles from a company called Mosaic del Sur and we had them custom made in pink and yellow. All the beautiful bathroom hardware is from Catchpole & Rye. I love mixing their traditional English fittings with the funky tiles and wallpaper. The mirrors were custom made by Reid & Wright. Overall, I haven't tried to adhere to any particular style. The bathroom is a jumble of things that I loved and as I was decorating for myself I didn't feel obliged to make it make any sense at all! The luxury of being one's own client!
And what about your son George’s room with the divine paper featuring turtles. What kind of room did you want to create for him?
My main priority was to design the children's rooms to engage and inspire their imaginations. I wanted them to feel like they were inside a storybook or a magical land… So that when they entered their bedrooms they felt transported away from the mundane every day. It was also important for me to design the rooms so that they worked as adorable nurseries for babies but also as fun rooms for older children too… so that the rooms could grow with the children. I don't know when I will next find time to redecorate! I wanted decoration with longevity. Another criteria that I felt was important was to avoid creating rooms that were too gender-specific. Both children's rooms would work for girls or boys. I don't know how many children I will end up with… Or who will want to share with who. Life is always better with some flexibility. Then, of course, there was also the question of durability. The wallpapers in the children's bedrooms and bathroom are covered with a protective glaze. When my son decided to colour in a turtle with an orange crayon, I was able to wipe it away! The wallpaper in the bathroom is waterproof so they can splash in the bath without worrying about the wallcovering. So, the rooms were also designed to be practical! Decorating my children's rooms has been incredibly rewarding. My son George adores his wallpaper. We have named all the turtles and we say good night and good morning to them and make up endless stories featuring their adventurous journeys. My son really feels like his room is his… Somehow I feel like the distinctive décor creates more of a sense of ownership for him. Oh – and his first word was 'turtle'!
Why can some people feel afraid to use wallpaper in their home? And what is your advice to them?
I think some people are afraid of pattern or colour on the walls. People might think it is easier to have plain walls and bring colour in with the furniture, curtains and accessories… But, speaking from experience, one beautiful wallpaper and the room is brought to life and most of the work is done. The remaining elements can then be more simple. Wallcovering allows you to envelop and dress the room, thereby completely transforming it into whatever character you want it to assume. Wallcovering creates an entire mood for a room that a single piece of furniture does not have the power to do on its own.
You’ve described your husband as the “homebody—the opposite of me!”. How would you describe yourself at home?
I love variety. I love to leave home to be able to appreciate it twice as much when I return. I love that feeling of sinking into my own bed at home after long days of work trips and sleeping in hotel beds.
You’ve got friends coming over – how do you like to entertain?
My husband is the chef. I take care of flower arranging (a new passion of mine – so therapeutic!), tidying and lighting candles etc. I am obsessed with the smell of the Hotel Costes candles and buy loads of them every time I am in Paris and find myself having drinks or dinner there. I am one of those people that consider the ambience more important than the food. I choose restaurants based on their atmosphere more than their menu. Having said that, my husband is an awesome chef! With the new arrivals and my work, we don't get to see friends as much as we would like… so when we do have the opportunity we love to host big dinner parties and get everyone together. We designed the kitchen/dining room with a super long narrow table that allows us to host up to 14 for dinner. I love long dinners full of conversation.
What’s your approach to children and homes – are there any rooms that are off-limits? Do you get stressed when furniture gets damaged? How can we all have a lovely home that’s still family-friendly?
I love a home full of children and dogs. I love the chaos and the commotion. I absolutely wanted our home to be comfortable for children. I would hate if I had to spend all my time telling my children not to touch things or sit on things. They should feel totally relaxed at home. It is as much their home as mine. When decorating, I specifically chose beautiful yet durable fabrics and furnishings. For example, the bench in my kitchen and the sofa in my snug both have washable velvet on them. Where I have used antique furniture pieces, I have made sure they are ones that look even better with additional wear and tear….! At the end of the day, it is best not to be too precious about furniture, rugs etc. They are made to be sat on and walked on. Even the most fancy ones! I know that this is easier said than done. I remember initially banning my dog from my bedroom… now he sleeps on the end of the bed every night. Yes, I have to wash the quilt more often but there is no permanent damage. And the dog is in heaven. Equally, with children, I think we need to remember that most children aren't intentionally throwing food at the walls! A small part of preventing damage is having reasonable boundaries with the children. George knows to take his shoes off before getting on the sofa. To be honest, I am pretty sure I am the one who caused most of the spillages and breakages around the house!
When your son arrived, how did your approach to work/your career shift? Were you more ambitious/more efficient? Or did you want to pull back?
To be totally honest, I am not sure I have ever mastered the balance. With my first son, I was obsessed with proving that I could be back at work in no time at all. I think I was emailing between contractions! I wish I had taken more time off. The office were perfectly capable of coping without me! With the twins I have taken more time off but ironically this time – with two newborns to deal with – I have an amazing maternity nurse helping me… and I could have probably been doing more work than I am! Generally, I tend to veer too much in one direction and then correct myself. But that is my character. I love to be in full-on mum mode and ignore work… and then go into full-on work mode and burn the midnight oil. If I try to do a little of both then I end up doing neither well. I would rather work in the office and really work… and then come home and really engage with the children… Rather than give the children 50% of me when I am with them, which is an easy trap with emails so readily available on our mobile phones.
What has been the most challenging part of motherhood for you?
In the early days, definitely breastfeeding. No one told me how complex it would be! I was the first of my siblings and friends to have a baby and I was shocked how unnatural the whole thing felt for me and my son. I wish I had either had better advice at the start so I could have set myself up better for success… or I wish I had had someone to tell me to stop when I was losing out on precious time with my newborn son because I was attached to a breast pump watching Keeping up with the Kardashians. It was all very surreal now I look back on it! The second time around was so much better. With the twins, I did the best I could for 6 weeks and then I stopped guilt-free and switched to formula knowing that was the best decision for me and the children in my circumstance.
What about the most rewarding part – how would you sum it up?
The most rewarding parts are the moment you get to experience truly selfless love for another person and the many moments you get to witness your child experiencing innocent joy. I love the joy and happiness that our children bring to their grandparents. I love having a 3-year-old as a friend and experiencing things from his point-of-view. Summing up motherhood is almost impossible. As with everything in life, there are ups and downs…
Tell us about your pregnancy carrying twins – any highs/lows?
My goodness, yes, it was certainly intense! The pregnancy hormones aren't quite double that of a singleton pregnancy but they are 50% more… And that is plenty enough to create some mood swings which my husband handled with the utmost patience. With the twin pregnancy, the last 4 weeks were really tough as I was so huge and immobile. It was a struggle to get in and out of the car or the bed! I really did feel like a beached whale and being housebound was very frustrating! But now I am almost 3 months on the other side and I can barely remember it… Seeing the outcome I would have happily gone through something much much worse. The high comes every time I look down in my arms and see a newborn baby… then look across at my husband and he is holding one too! It is completely surreal!
And how was the birth – can you share anything about your birth?
I had a C-section with the twins. I always assumed this was the 'easy' option. I naively under-prepared for what was, in fact, a major surgery. My husband and I were almost surprised to find ourselves in an operating theatre! Post-surgery, the first few days of recovery were intense and a bit of a shock to me… but within 2 – 3 weeks I felt almost back to normal. It is incredible how the body can heal. I had a great doctor and the scar is amazingly small and neat for a twin birth. Overall, I found the recovery much quicker than that of a natural birth… but what I have learnt is that there is no rule. One person may find they recover faster from a natural birth than a C-section. The trickiest thing about childbirth and motherhood is that everyone gives conflicting advice. Everyone wants to help but it can often be rather confusing!
How have the early days of being a mother of three been (and a mother of twins!)? Do you ever have blue days/feel overwhelmed?
With George, we tried to do it all ourselves at the start. That was tricky as neither my husband nor I had a clue what we were doing… which often ended in tears (usually mine and George's!). We were so nervous! I remember not wanting to fall asleep as I wouldn't be able to monitor every one of the babies' breaths in and out. With the arrival of the twins, I can't believe the difference. We are so much more confident. And handling the babies more confidently makes the babies so much more relaxed… Having said that, we basically have Mary Poppins helping us in these first couple of months… so ask me again in a few weeks when she leaves us and I may well be feeling rather more overwhelmed!
What are your time management tips – how do you get it all done?
Google Calendar on my phone rules my life. And to be honest, if my husband and I have all 3 children on our own we have realised it is much better to surrender and accept that we will not get anything done other than keeping them alive and hopefully happy! Managing expectations and being realistic is key… as well as asking for help. When I have the help I have to really push myself to not procrastinate but to use that time wisely to be as productive as possible…
What’s your approach to health and wellbeing – what does a day on your plate look like?
I love having healthy and unhealthy days. I get bored by moderation. A healthy day is hot water with lemon in the morning while I get washed and dressed. A flat white in the park as I walk my dogs. Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice as I start work in the morning. Salad or an omelette for lunch and a carb-free but delicious dinner… Something like Thai green curry with cauliflower rice. I tend to avoid carbohydrates if I want to lose a little weight. If I want something sweet I snack on dried mango or 'Deliciously Ella's' 'healthy' millionaire shortbread which my husband stockpiles for me in the freezer (made with dates, almond butter and cacao nibs). In contrast, an unhealthy day (usually a Saturday) starts with pancakes, maple syrup and crispy bacon in bed with a big cup of Yorkshire tea. Pizza at The Oak for lunch (just by Battersea Park) and then cinema popcorn (literally via Deliveroo!) and Maltesers on the sofa with a movie and a bottle of red wine once the children are all asleep. Generally, I am useless at remembering to drink enough water each day but I do keep trying! All the supermodels say it works… But I am pretty sure that they also have genetics to thank!
As a busy mother of three, what helps keep you sane?
Hot baths with scented candles (Jo Malone green tomato is my current favourite), lavender oil and magnesium salts. I don't know what the magnesium salts do but a very zen woman once told me to add them and I sort of started and never stopped!
What’s your relationship with your inbox like?
Pretty unhealthy. I am never on top of it and don't know how to defeat it. I hate the email culture. I try to move as many group conversations onto WhatsApp as possible. I try to make phone calls and video calls to avoid endless email chains. I once read an article that James Dyson receives on average 4 emails per day. He has mastered the art of emails. I am probably on about 200 per day so my mission now is to change our work culture to improve the quality and reduce the number of emails that we send and receive. When faced with too many emails it reduces productivity as it diffuses concentration…
When you’re with your children, what’s a typical outfit for you? What are your favourite brands?
My favourite brand in the world is Erdem. I bought one of his dresses years ago, it fit me like a glove and made me feel wonderful and I never looked back. Now half of my cupboard is Erdem. Of course, that is not what I wear on a trip to the playground with the children… When I want to be casual I love wearing a woollen jumper (Whistles or Jigsaw) in a fun colour over a white oversized 'boyfriend' shirt with large collar and cuffs (& Other Stories have great ones)… on top of Paige jeans… with some Nike trainers. For work, I love to wear midi-length Ganni or Rixo dresses/skirts with nude suede loafers.
For my children, I recently discovered Olivier baby which has the most charming and beautifully made children's clothes (the cashmere hats and cardigans for babies are to die for). I love that it is British, as so many great children's brands tend to be French or Spanish (e.g. La Coqueta, another new favourite).
What about beauty – can you list your favourite products?
I am obsessed with lotions and potions. I tend to invest a lot more in face creams and serums and then spend less on makeup. I love the Lancer 'The Method: Polish' exfoliator which I alternate in the mornings with Revive 'Le Polish'. I am slightly addicted to exfoliating. After exfoliating, I apply The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid and then Sunday Riley C.E.O Glow face oil. I love richly hydrating products that give my skin a dewy feel. In the evenings I cleanse my skin with The Ordinary 'Squalane Cleanser' which is really hydrating. I follow with The Ordinary Glycolic Acid toner. Then I apply The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% (I have started at the lowest % and will work my way up as my skin gets used to it) followed by Sunday Riley Vitamin C moisturiser. For eye creams, I alternate between very expensive Revive eye creams and more basic Caudalie ones. That way the more luxurious products last longer… Makeup wise I am a fan of Charlotte Tilbury for all eye makeup and Yves Saint Laurent for tinted moisturiser and foundation. The YSL CC Crème is amazing for light dewy coverage.
From rubber rings to earth-shattering epiphanies
Ever since my son was five weeks old, when I felt like I had just woken up from a very long and very intense dream involving repeatedly putting cold cabbage leaves on my nipples (nature's balm for that brutal early breastfeeding soreness), I have been mentally amassing a list of all the things that really, really made a difference. The moments that, whether psychologically or physically, gave me the fresh legs I needed to keep on going on my own new-baby marathon. Or the things I didn't do, that I would have done, had I known about them ahead of time.
1) It's impossible to ever be truly prepped for the arrival of a fresh, entirely unpredictable baby human<p>And so, finally, I've begun to write them down. Next up…</p>
Rebecca Ritman with her son Sonny
2. Before you have the baby, laser all the hair off your body<p>Okay, so this is extreme, and just the ideal – and needs to be done before you get pregnant. And, I hasten to add, that doesn't include the hair on your head, unless you want to be really efficient with your shower time. But shaving my legs was the one bit of self-care I didn't have time for until around the nine-week mark, which wasn't ideal for my general feeling of self-worth. Alternatively, you could decide not to care ahead of time and make peace with your temporarily 'different' pins – the less painful solution. Then celebrate when you find you do have a window to deal with them, and see that as a success milestone (which I did. And which I wish I'd shared with my new new-mum mates, instead of thinking twice and feeling too embarrassed to). </p>
3. Laser your eyes<p>If you can't afford or aren't feeling brave enough to get your vision fixed, just make sure you have a pair of glasses that actually fit your face and aren't at risk of falling straight into a dirty nappy in the middle of the night (his father's top tip). </p>
4. Get long-term with your beauty treatments<p>If you highlight or dye your hair, switch to a look that doesn't require an expensive and lengthy stylist appointment every three months. For me, balayage chose me during lockdown. Similarly, get a shellac pedicure in a colour that won't look terrible when it chips, and invest in some sort of teeth-whitening, whether it be strips, those magical gum shields or via treatment at the dentist – because you are likely to be drinking a gallon of coffee each day, once your real taste for it returns. </p>
Before you go into the hospital:
5. As mentioned, get your baby's clothes into age, or even better, size order<p>This is partly because all baby brands are in a conspiracy to keep their sizing completely inconsistent, and partly to avoid finding yourself weeping while holding tiny socks in a few weeks' time. <strong></strong></p>
6. Buy a rubber ring<p>Need I say more? You don't need to have it blown up and squeezed into your weekend bag, it's just good to know you have one if you need it. Hospitals seem to have forgotten that rubber rings are good for a certain something that happens whenever you put the most pressure physically possible on your back passage (i.e., to every woman who has a vaginal birth, surely?). </p>
Rebecca Ritman with her son Sonny
7. Take earplugs, an eye mask and a neck pillow...<p>Because you might find yourself in induced-labour-limbo-land for several days, with your partner creased up like a pug's face beside you in a plastic chair and a snorer sleep-roaring somewhere close to the other side of your curtain. </p>
After you've had the baby:
8. ... then have plastic gloves to hand when you get home<p>(If there are any left in the world by that point) so you can fill them with ice and hold them wherever you need them during those initial 'sensitive' few weeks. <br></p>
9. This has probably become clear from the points preceding this one, but remember that there weeks after the birth might be tougher than the birth itself<p>Because – if you gave birth in a hospital – you're no longer in a building filled with hundreds of people who just want to help you and your family. Now it's just you, your partner, your new baby and a whole lot of nipple cream. So pace yourself as much as you can, and keep popping those painkillers. </p>
10, If you can, arrange for someone to assist with the home-work<p>Having some help with the maintenance of your living space, even if only every other week for those early few months, is such a morale-booster. Mentally, seeing your home back in order occasionally helps to relieve the sense that you've totally lost control of your life. Then decide not to worry about the mess you simply can't clear up. Alternatively, venture out so you can't physically see it until you stop feeling the urge to throw dirty crockery plates against the wall. </p>
11. Some of the best, and truest, things people have said to me are...<p>'Your nipples "adapt", so that breastfeeding really does stop hurting.' (It did.) </p><p>'Four weeks will feel like a milestone, then three months, then you're off on and running.' (We were.) </p><p>'See breastfeeding as your me-time – to watch TV, have a snack, sit back…' (Now I don't really want to stop breastfeeding.)</p><p>'Keep your phone, various remotes and whatever you want to eat near your breastfeeding "station" so you don't need to struggle to reach them with a hangry human being clamped to your nipple, or to have to ask someone – who's fast running out of patience – to hand them to you.' (Funnily enough, it was my husband's idea to get a little trolley for this very purpose.)</p><p>'Lean on visitors as much as you can. Get them to do the washing up as a trade off for seeing your baby.' (We probably should have done more of that.) </p>
12. Remember that cabbage leaves may ease the nipple pain?<p>… but they reduce milk production too (your boobs will stop hurting in a few weeks, I promise). And shields aren't the end of the world during a nipple crisis. </p>
13. As soon as you can bear it, put him or her down when they're still a tiny bit awake<p>This is so that they are aware they are sleeping in their Moses basket or sleep pod rather than in your arms, and therefore may not freak out quite as much when they wake up. Or at least, be brave and try it a few times before you totally give up on this extremely un-intuitive strategy. </p>
14. Have your Sleepyhead to hand from the outset<p>For the ultimate arms-free 'hug in a pillow', that will probably help him or her sleep more contentedly for longer. </p>
15. Phone anyone who has ever suggested that you shouldn't use a dummy while your baby screams and make them listen<p>And just remember that the dummy fairy will have no problem ejecting all the pseudo-nipples from your child's life when the time is right. </p>
16. Once they reach six months and are okay to sleep in a seperate room, make sure it's dark<p>Because sleeping with a bedside light on is annoying for them too. </p>
17. Nap when they nap, but only if you want to<p>Alternatively, enjoy the buzz and stay awake if you like. It was a shock to realise what a huge social occasion having a newborn is. If you don't want to miss a moment of loved ones cooing at your baby for the first time, that's okay too. Some new parents need less sleep than others, and some new babies need more than others too, if you're lucky. When he or she gets to around nine months and, hopefully, starts combining all their naps into one three-hour stretch, plan what you want to do with that part of your day in advance. Don't waste time faffing – just do, do, do and you'll feel a little bump of satisfaction before they wake up each time. </p>
Rebecca Ritman with her son Sonny
18. Plan ahead and a shower can always be possible<p>Ideally, have your partner do the morning nappy change – especially if you're doing all the night feeds – and you can get washed and dressed then. Alternatively, if your baby isn't rolling yet, plonk them down in the bathroom naked and label it their daily dose of nappy-free time. They love it. Or, dash off to get ready whenever they eventually go down for their first nap. If you're anything like me, you'll feel at least 50 per cent stronger post-shower. </p>
19. Use a baby carrier around the house<p>Babies generally love watching your hands do whatever you're doing with them around the house, or will pass out if they're at all sleepy if you wear them facing forwards (advised for babies under five months). It's an excellent work out for you too, so there's no need to force yourself to do much other exercise during that first year. If you have a Bjorn, you may well need a thinner one for summer days. My baby was born during the hottest UK heatwave since recordings began and I did not quite have the brain-width to both order a cooler wrap-style carrier and learn how to tie it. </p>
Rebecca Ritman with her son Sonny
20. Save answering Whatsapps for the endless breastfeeding sessions<p>Don't respond to the many messages you'll likely receive as a new parent if you've just yourself you're going to try and have a nap. Have a blanket 'Love your message – I'll respond properly when I can' kind of 'Whatsapp Out of Office', ready to cut and paste so you never need feel any nagging guilt about ignoring anyone. </p>
21. Don't be afraid of your baby<p>I realised I was a little bit scared of my son about six weeks in. But then I realised: he's a baby. I'm a grown-up. (Exactly what I tell myself when I see a big spider, and they're far less cute – in my eyes, anyway). He's more scared to be alive than I am about keeping him that way. And then all the rest felt infinitely easier. </p>
The Melbourne-based founder of The Suite Set Sally Branson Dalwood has worked as a senior media advisor to a prime minister, developed and promoted strategy around entrepreneurship policy for women and worked as the director of a political party. Ask her about her career in politics, and you'll hear about the time she was catapulted off an aircraft carrier. And the time she climbed a rope ladder down the side of a US warship into a pilot boat floating aside it in the middle of the ocean. There's also time she was accompanying the Prime Minister when the Duke and Duchessof Cambridge visited Australia. Dalwood not only attended the royal's events in Sydney and Canberra, but travelled in the car behind the couple.
Tell us about your days in politics – what was your role and what did it entail?<p>Over a career in public affairs, I've played a few roles in politics. I've worked as a senior media advisor to a Prime Minister and developed and promoted strategy around entrepreneurship policy for women. My last role before I had children was as the Director of a political party - it's the true behind the scenes role of a political party. Campaigning, electioneering, making sure membership was happy, making sure each elected politician was doing what they said they'd do and working to harmonise the elected officials aims with that of the party's membership. Each role has been early mornings, long days and working on projects that were highly value-driven - so many great days of job satisfaction.<span></span><br></p>
You were once catapulted off an aircraft carrier…<p>I was working in public affairs for the US government at the time and had fallen into the role of Defence specialist. This is a role I had never thought I would have interest or aptitude in, but it turned out to be a life-changing experience for me. I learned so many lessons in crisis management, planning and about service and community. Who knew? I had to host a visiting group of VIPs on to an aircraft carrier -these things are about ten times the size of the town I grew up in. It's a true skill to be able to land an aeroplane on the deck of a ship, it take amazing technique and defiance of the laws of gravity- the plane literally has to catapult off a slingshot to get enough movement to fly. As a passenger, you have to brace to take off and land because of the velocity. Because I was managing the guests, I spent a week "commuting" to work. I kept getting in trouble from the pilot because I was becoming too relaxed and too busy asking questions and chatting. Part of the joy of this role was that sort of excitement, but also learning and appreciating the roles other people play in the world. Sometimes now, I look at my piles of washing and wonder if this really happened.</p>
You also once climbed a rope ladder down the side of a US warship into a pilot boat floating aside it about 500kms out to sea – tell us about this?<p>You also once climbed a rope ladder down the side of a US warship into a pilot boat floating aside it about 500kms out to sea – tell us about this? I had managed a visit by a large warship, it was a visit that had significant political value and interest - it was not without challenges. There was also a really large community element behind the scenes. When a warship visits a port, it's like a mini town arriving so it can be a big injection of money into a community as well as raising some eyebrows. In our planning, I always made sure there was a community volunteering element of a visit, where I would send US Navy personnel out into work with local community groups, from building, repairing, painting, landscaping. We'd lend the sailors in to do meals on wheels and provide staffing respite for community organisations. We tried to provide value for the communities we visited, these sailors come with such diverse skills, cultural background and education. At the end of the visit, the Ship's Captain asked if I would like to sail off the Port of Darwin with them. I initially declined, because it felt so out of my comfort zone. One of the NCIS (like the tv show, yes) officers explained to me that it was a rare privilege and not to turn it down. He also gave me some sage advice on what shoes and clothes NOT to wear. It honestly was an amazing experience to sail out, pods of dolphins aside and get a glimpse into this world for a short time. Growing up, landlocked in a tiny rural community, this was far away from the life I had imagined for myself. The whole climbing down a rope ladder into a boat to come back ashore was not the graceful experience of being at one with the sea as I had envisaged though. I truly learned the meaning of white-knuckling it, I was on the ladder over the side of the ship, holding on to the metal edge of the ship and I'll always wryly remember the lovely, polite sailor repeating <em>"Just let go of the side ma'am. Just let go. C;mon M'am, let it go"....</em></p>
You've spoken about not forgetting the visit of William and Catherine to Australia?<p>I've long been a fan of the Queen and the way she has served and worked in her role, and long-held a soft spot for William and Harry. I had followed their story with interest and was obsessed with Price George and his peter pan collars. I was accompanying the Prime Minister at the time of William and Catherine visiting Australia, attending their events in Sydney and Canberra, travelling in the car behind the royal couple. I remember being amazed at the people lining six deep on the streets to wave to the royal couple, and thought it was lovely - albeit extraordinary. My real shock came when I was walking with them in public spaces, I was wholly overwhelmed by the screaming from the crowds. I appreciate the adoration and the excitement but I was shocked at the primal nature of it. It was something I had never experienced before and I found it really confronting. It gave me such a small insight into the realities that come with their privilege and power, gifted through birth and marriage. It also made me think more about the concept of what it is to serve. I think to be prepared to have that privilege, you need to steel yourself for the public ownership. Although from a public affairs/past media advisor perspective, I feel like Meghan and Harry made some strategic mistakes in the way they exited the "firm", I can very much see why they did.</p>
When you fell pregnant, did it change the way you thought about your career – what were your expectations around motherhood and work?<p>I knew a federal election was looming. I honestly thought that at 39, I would have a baby, love it and still be all consumed by politics still. I scheduled in a time frame for my return, first meeting a month after I was due (to keep connected) and then all guns blazing at six months. My expectations were that I would love being a mama, but also that I would still really need the cut and thrust of work to feel fulfilled. I felt confident that I could and would manage it all. </p>
And what happened after your first baby arrived – what led to you leaving politics?<p>I soon realised that although my love for work was still there, it had been eclipsed by my love for my child and my desire to meet our family needs first. I simply could not believe that I felt this way, that my wish to be there for his early days, surpassed my ambitions for my work. I did try and juggle working, breastfeeding, running home from the train station with boobs leaking. I never stopped loving work, but I couldn't make it work. To be able to fully participate in my work at the level I needed to successfully do the role, meant that I couldn't be present for my family. I really felt I had failed. I had failed all the women that went before me, and those I was working so hard to set an example for. I also felt I was failing the progressives in my organisation who had supported me along the way and were working hard to make it work for me. And it was a big blow to my ego too. I kept thinking "but all those other mothers could do it" which is reductive and unhelpful. I had to do a lot of deep thinking about how my identity had changed as a mother and as a professional and what that looked and felt like. I had to get clear on what my priorities were at that exact moment. And after years of just making decisions based on my own values I had to factor in my family priorities too. Funnily enough, I had trouble reconciling what I knew was the right path, the path that physically felt right - which my own expectations of what I should. I still sometimes feel "less than" when people ask "but doesn't being at home with babies bore you? how do you get any mental stimulation" and my honest answer is that I was never bored, I could still self stimulate and be in wonder every day even as a stay at home mum. I've had to work to reconcile this with my value and worth.</p>
What changes would you like to see for mothers who work in politics?<p>I think recognition mothers must be supported to be active and involved in formal policy and legislation making - but after having a newborn, they should be able to take formal maternity leave, even as an elected representative. I think an open discussion about the true challenges of balance, mother and career guilt need to be discussed, that it shouldn't be an all in, or not at all equation. Mothers have to be involved in policy making or else policy isn't fit for purpose.</p>
You've said that politics that ignited your interest in small business – and the innovators – tell me about about this?<p>I was so fortunate to be able to work on "the small business budget" in 2015 focusing on energising a culture of female entrepreneurship and startups. The research and connections that went into preparing this budget meant that I was able to sit down in roundtables and policy discussion with amazing female small business bosses. These were the most invigorating and exciting meets we had. My eyes were opened to the wealth of ideas and also the challenges female startups face - do you want your venture capital with a side of commentary on your appearance or a sexual proposition? I remember one woman coming in for a one-on-one sit down meeting with the small business Minister, but her childcare fell through, so she was in the meeting plus one. I can only imagine the stress she would have felt, but she powered on. Bringing a baby didn't make her ideas any less valid or supported. It was a seminal moment for me - you can bring a baby and still impact policy. These women opened my eyes to entrepreneurship, I was unashamedly inspired by them and even though I'd started my own babysitters club and car wash at age 11, I never thought it was a path I would "need" to take - I was so committed to politics. Funny how it turns…..</p>
Take me back to your first baby – how did you pack your bag? And what exactly did you pack in your bag? <p>I often laugh that our business is based on being organised. I had a reputation for having the most chaotic desk, the most jam-packed handbag ( Once upon a time, I was out on a visit with a VIP and one of the visiting Secret Service complained he hadn't had time to eat, so I dug around my bag and found him a boiled egg). As footloose and fancy free child free couple, we used to joke that we could fling our stuff from one end of a hotel room from the next on a visit and we didn't want that chaos when we were learning about our new baby. I've always been able to pack light (but messy) for a work trip, but when it came to my hospital bag, I did all the overthinking I could. My hospital bag was all sorts of overpacked, overwhelmed chaos. The one saving grace was some cobbled together zip locked bags, so we had a semblance of organised. It sparked a kernel of an idea - if I could manufacture something, that made sure there wasn't any overwhelm or chaos when everything else was overwhelming and chaos.</p>
If you're not a naturally organised person, what's your advice on packing a hospital bag? <p>I'm not - which I feel brings a special perspective to our business! Hospital and birth is unfamiliar and often uncontrolled situation. So it's good to be able to control what you can and focus on the important things rather than what's in your bag in the hospital. So prepare well when you can, segment your bag and follow a good list. </p><p>If you've got a support person, make sure they're playing an active part in packing. They know where and what things are. You'd be surprised at how hard it is to recognise the difference between a singlet and a onesie at 2am if you don't really know what they are to begin with. Only pack what you need and what you know will bring you joy or make you feel comfortable. Oh, listen to me, Marie Kondo-ing. In every single hospital, I've been to, there has been a chemist close by which always stocks essentials so relax into knowing that if you do forget something, you can always find it close by. My other tips are just to pack for simplicity, ease and comfort. </p>
You did a load of research about new parenthood – what did you find?<p>That all mamas, young and old, felt overwhelmed by the pressure to have it all worked out and all perfect before babe was even born.<br></p> <p>That often we spend so much time getting a good looking nursery set up, we have not talked about the pressure of being prepared or our values around parenting. To be able to take small action steps about organising the detail, means it isn't overwhelming when the time comes.</p>
So many women think about launching their own business - Tell me about the early days of launching The Suite Set and have you ever looked back and wished you were still in politics?<p>Talk us through the ups and downs? Some days when I worked madly through nap times, or tried to ignore the triggering piles of washing, and worried about finance - I have thought how nice it would be to be salaried and in politics. Even now in COVID times, there are some days I think "how can I help more?" Would I be more useful in a formal role. This is one reason we've started doing some information "brokerage" on the suite set - how to actively talk to your health providers, how to have a conversation about your values as a family before babe is born" - so I hope this past experience is informing and value-adding to our community online. I started working on the concept in the 19 months between babes, I did some informal and some more structured research and recognised that the idea was one that people loved and wanted. Although I had done some work in PR in the past, and been and seen so many product launches by celebrities - it wasn't in our wherewithal to launch in a big way (we'd spent our bathroom renovation money on ethically manufacturing the bags so a launch budget wasn't there). To be frank, we were also deep in having a baby who had not yet turned one and a two-year-old - and sometimes even having a daily shower seemed like a task, let alone organising a product launch with balloon garlands and champagne and influencers. It is important for small startups to realise - that isn't what a launch has to be, in order to be successful. We did what's known as a "soft launch". I had to keep reminding myself that "perfect was the enemy of the good" and we launched with the product done, and the webpage as good as it could be for that stage of our business. So we pressed "live" at about 8pm at night, sitting at the kitchen table when the boys were in bed. At nine am the next morning we sent an email out to all of our family and friends, explaining our why and how of the business. We then posted on my personal social media accounts and linked in and shared the website. It was as soft as it gets, but it was the right launch for our business. I'm not saying I don't play the compare game when I see a celeb launch a product with celeb friends and celeb promotions - because any business that needs monetise, loves that exposure. I am saying that accepting that wasn't within our start-up means, was a healthy thing and it's been a true joy and satisfaction to see our business and community grow through word of mouth and recommendation.</p>
How did you go about getting the products made and what was important to you?<p>I had a crystal clear image in my head of what the individual bags would look like, and I kept true to that during the whole manufacturing process. For me, it was vital the bags were quality and strong enough to be reusable, for them to be as environmentally friendly as they could be (for plastic), they were smell free and nasty free. Although our market research showed differently (!) having them made in Australia was really vital too. In fact, in all of the suppliers of product and service were Australian, and mostly female sole or small traders. I felt this needed to be part of our DNA. But, easier said than done.<span></span><br></p><p>It took a literal year of learning about plastic compositions, learning about manufacturers and speaking with manufacturers to work out how I could get this done. I dragged a six-month-old and a just turned two-year-old around international plastics fair, powered by coffee, bottles and bananas meeting with suppliers and explaining I wanted an environmentally friendly plastic option to manufacturers from all over the Asia pacific. I was well and truly a novelty at that trade fair. It was here, just as the wheels fell off and the tears were almost flowing down the three of our faces - that I saw my supplier - I couldn't stop and talk but emailed as soon as I can and set up our manufacturing relationship. They were very patient as I felt my way through the process, multiple questions per email and multiple emails a week.</p>
What is your vision for The Suite Set?<p>For our products and our conversations in our community be a valuable contributor to supporting growing families, in whatever form they take. That we engage in conversations about understanding realistic and manageable expectations for new mums, we promote care and community and we just make things easier. <br></p>
You describe yourself as a fixer – how has this practical approach to solving problems helped you in your career?<p>I think that "fixing" things comes from a mindset of generosity in the first place. I've learned that to fix things, one must remember a few "rules". Some things don't actually need fixing however there is always a workaround, always a way to be able to reframe a problem and it is important to go along the path knowing "the outcome may not look like you thought it would look, but it is the right outcome for the time". This mindset I am sure is a genetic one, inherited from my nana and my mum. It's meant that I've always been willing to get in and do the work for a better outcome, find the greater good (because that's what fixing is) and be willing to be flexible. By knowing how to reframe something, means you're never stuck. This comes in handy at any workplace, or in any relationship really!<span></span><br></p>
What do you think holds women back the most?<p>Our lack of self-belief coupled with the sad reality that other women can be dissuasive of each other. Also the pressure we put on ourselves for perfection means we struggle to be able to bring joy into our lives - we're so busy with the mental load, of making sure we're doing everything right, the competition - we forget that it feels good to feel good.<br></p>
If you could go back to before you had children, what advice would you give yourself?<p>I wouldn't have listened to even myself, and I still don't listen to myself - when I say "all babies need is love and food, so rest, be kind, don't worry about the washing piling up".</p>
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.