DSO: It’s very courageous and inspiring of you to leave behind your career in law to pursue your dream in fashion. Can you put your finger on the moment that pushed you to make this decision, or was it more of a gradual transition?
BM: Thank you! It was a fairly gradual transition. From a young age, I had always been passionate about design but decided to pursue Law and Business at university. After graduation, I secured a job with a high profile law firm and I really didn’t enjoy it. I couldn’t picture myself practicing for the rest of my life so I decided one day to leave it all behind and start the brand.
DSO: What are the main highlights and challenges you faced when you took the leap to change career paths?
BM: Facing opposition about the decision from family and friends was challenging, as was giving up a consistent pay cheque for the financial uncertainty that comes with starting a fashion brand. Luckily for me, the highlights far outweighed the challenges. I cherished the freedom of running my own business and felt liberated by the decision I had made to pursue something I was so passionate about.
DSO: In what ways do you feel that growing up and being based in Australia has impacted the way you view fashion production and the importance of the quality of raw materials used?
BM: Growing up in Australia has given me a genuine love and respect for the natural world and an inherent desire to preserve and protect it. We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, it is a constant source of inspiration and motivation as we pursue a more sustainable approach. I believe this shows through in everything that we do, from our attitude towards production to the fabrics that we choose for our collections.
DSO: At Peony, you view the process of conscious creation as a journey. Are you able to tell us a bit about how the brand first began its shift towards sustainability?
BM: After visiting suppliers and learning more about the impacts of the fashion industry on the environment, I felt compelled to make a dramatic shift within the brand. We started by introducing fabrics made from recycled content and ensuring we partnered only with SA8000 approved suppliers (this is the leading social certification standard for factories and organisations across the globe).
We then overhauled the packaging within our supply chain to be compostable and biodegradable. In terms of our fabrics, this is where we really push the boundaries of what is possible to create our own custom sustainable fabrications that are uncompromising on luxury. We refer to this process as a journey because as we progress down this path, we realise there is always more to learn, new ways to adapt and endless possibilities to evolve. We are not perfect, but we are committed to constant evolution and progress.
DSO: It’s extremely impressive to see how you made the jump from 26% sustainable fabrications in 2018 to 100% sustainable fabrications in 2019! Could you share a bit about which sustainable materials you predominantly use, and why you chose them?
BM: Thank you! It may look like it happened quickly but there was an incredible amount of work behind the scenes to make it happen. We started by introducing 26% recycled fabrics into our swimwear collections and the percentage grew incrementally over the seasons. When we were unable to source our signature textured fabrics in a recycled content we realised that to continue our progress we needed to develop our own custom recycled fabrics in house - this is where the real challenges started. We worked tirelessly with our fabric suppliers to make this happen and finally in 2019 we did.
Today, every single swimwear fabric we use is made from recycled content. This includes our custom textures, prints and even our inner linings. For example, our printed main fabrics are made from 78% ECONYL® regenerated nylon (made by recycling post consumer goods such as abandoned fishing nets and carpets) and our custom luxe lining is made from 90% recycled content. In short, regular nylon is made from non-renewable petroleum oil which is a significant contributor to global warming. Recycled nylon differs from this because it is made by regenerating nylon goods that are already in existence, thus significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the fabric and saving the earth’s precious resources.
For our debut resortwear collection, our focus was on natural fibres such as Hemp, Linen and Organic Cotton and innovative new fabrics like EvoVero Viscose. The fabrics were carefully selected based on their environmental impact and uncompromising luxury.
We are most excited about our Petunia Crochet Pieces which are all knitted by hand, as opposed to machine knitted, which gives them the most dreamy and romantic appeal. The story is quite incredible. Our custom crochet yarn is made from a unique blend of recycled hemp and organic cotton. To make recycled hemp, “waste” yarn is collected from the floor of our garment supplier, cleaned, sorted and re-spun into recycled hemp yarn, which is then blended with organic cotton.
DSO: Your future strategy highlights an incredible goal of being completely sustainably produced by 2022. Are you able to tell us a bit about the contemporary tools and methods you use to measure sustainability in your fashion business?
BM: We will soon commence a process called quantification. This process will measure our carbon footprint as a business and highlight how and where we can improve. Our goal is to become a carbon neutral business and this will involve minimising our environmental impact wherever we can and also purchasing offsets to negate the impacts that we cannot mitigate. We look forward to sharing more about this with our community as we progress through the process.
DSO: As a female business owner / Director, what words of wisdom do you have for young women embarking on their career journey?
BM: It takes time, but work towards finding the overlap between what you are passionate about and what you are good at. When you find it, pursue it wholeheartedly and don’t let anyone or anything get in your way.
DSO: Which designers, artists, or public figures, do you draw the most inspiration from? Why?
BM: As a brand, we often look to the past for inspiration and to the future for innovation in sustainability. A sense of nostalgia is always a common theme within our collections and inspiration really can come from anywhere and everywhere. It is as varied as our brand is evolving.
DSO: If you could choose one hero piece from your latest collection, which would it be? And how would you style it?
BM: I would wear our Petunia Crochet Swing Top and Skirt as a set over the top of our Magnolia swimwear. I absolutely love the story of the crochet yarn and these pieces have the most dreamy handmade appeal. I recently took these samples to Europe on my honeymoon and it was the one thing I wanted to pick up and throw on every single day.
DSO: How would you describe your personal style? How is this reflected in your brand?
BM: I would say my style is quite understated and feminine. I love voluminous blouses, floaty textured fabrics and am drawn to the finer details in pieces.