I ugly cried for two hours last month watching The True Cost documentary. (Film synopsis: there’s a messed up farming and manufacturing system in place that’s keeping garment workers in poverty so some companies can sell us another pair of $20 jeans we don’t need.)
My upset led me to write Fast Fashion, the lead story for the December 2015 issue of CHILD Magazines. I’ve also been seeking out ethical and sustainable fashion labels to support.
Within days, I found myself in the home/studio of children’s wear creator, Henrietta Cheshire of One Sunday. I needed to know why she started an ethical label, how having that creative outlet felt and how she was making Australian-made manufacturing work. And FYI, her home is as beautiful and inspiring as the clothing she makes.
Why did you choose to manufacture in Australia when producing offshore would be cheaper, even if you could find an ethical supplier?
I feel strongly about human rights and I don’t feel personally comfortable producing in India. India will deal with smaller niche brands like mine, unlike China, however I’d be on the bottom of the pile in terms of priority. The orders would always be late and I don’t feel confident my range wouldn’t be subcontracted to a less ethical manufacturer. Instead, we have a small group of women who sew for me here in Sydney. Highly skilled women who are well treated, reputable, respected and nurturing to me and my brand. It’s a good news story. I feel proud of my choice to manufacture here because I’m supporting local people. I’m also quite attached to what I’m creating and the quality needs to serve my beautiful customers.
Why don’t you use organic fabrics?
I looked into it, but found the variety and quality of organic fabric to be hit and miss, especially with jersey – and little kids clothing needs to be stretchy. I also feel that bold colours don’t hold well in organic fabrics and I’m all about colour, it’s something I think about a lot. I need more options.
Your husband is a QC, you were in recruitment, and now you’re designing children’s fashion and running the business. How did you get here?
My parents made a tree change in the ’70s, so I grew up in Bowral on two acres. I was surrounded by people who were going out and making something happen. My father is a resilient, gorgeous man who created a gourmet food company and a kitchen shop in the main street of Bowral, importing goods from Sweden. Mum is a creative; she ran a commercial art gallery, worked as an art critic and teaches art history in the area. She has worked in pottery and woodwork. Together, my parents also ran a small hotel. I had a really creative childhood; as a young child I had my own account at the local haberdashery. I created many sewing projects, printed fabric and made Christmas presents – there was very little else to do in the country. At university, I studied fine arts and also completed an interior design degree in London, specialising in soft furnishings. In my ‘spare time’, I work with Sydney Living Museums re-creating the soft furnishings for historic houses to bring the houses alive.
When did you first start working as a creative?
I can’t think of a time when I haven’t been creating, but I have certainly been able to spend more concentrated time on projects since having my girls. I launched One Sunday six years ago and haven’t stopped creating. I feel so privileged to wake up every day and do what I do.
Do you include your family in your creativity?
The girls (Millie, 14, Matilda, 12 and Eliza, nine) are extremely helpful when it comes to design ideas. Like many children, they have specific ideas about what they want to wear and are extremely supportive when coming up with new styles. They each have their own individual style, which is helpful for producing a clothing range. They also do all the modelling for each season. I work from home, so One Sunday is all around them. I’m really lucky to have an incredibly supportive husband who puts up with a little chaos and parents who step in and pick up the pieces when life gets hectic.
Can you talk me through the process of creating your line?
It all starts with ideas – I might see something out and about, like shapes or necklines, and then I sketch them. I work with a fabulous patternmaker; we make a sample from the fabric lengths I have chosen from my textile supplier who offers a range of fabrics and patterns milled in New Zealand. I try the samples on my daughters, review them and then it goes into production. I produce three ranges every year – autumn/winter, spring and summer. When I first set up, I had no idea what I was doing. I understood how clothing was constructed and was a sewer, so I surrounded myself with good people. I’ve stayed with almost all the same suppliers since I started.
Can you share some of your mistakes and how you’ve dealt with them?
1. I once ran with a pattern/style I knew wasn’t right. I didn’t feel proud of it, so I pulled it and donated them.
2. I should’ve found someone with a good business head and ran my ideas by them when I first started. You must think through the finance side of your ideas. I needed to get savvy about cashflow – money in, money out. I needed budgets. It’s easy to be naive about that and you can waste money quite easily.
What does it mean to you to be an Australian creative, who’s also a mother? Australians are great doers and love to hear about someone giving something a go. I could never have got One Sunday off the ground when we were living in London, people would have thought I was crazy. Australia is a land of such immense possibilities. We love something new and we’re great at supporting new projects and ideas. The best thing about being a creative who’s also a mum is the support you get from other parents.
Can you share any advice for other mothers who may be trying to combine their lives as creatives and caretakers?
1. If you’re working out of a shared family and work space, make sure that you make a dedicated space for you, even just a wall where you can put up your ideas. I love working from home. My home informs who I am. It’s not necessary to get an office outside of your home.
2. Prioritising your creative time should come next, especially if you are hoping to make your creativity a career.
3. Get organised, plan out how you will spend your time and delegate areas that aren’t your areas of strength. Motherhood and making the decision to stay at home with my children has enabled me to create One Sunday. I can’t imagine going back to working 9 to 5 and not being creative.
Henrietta Cheshire is a stay-at-home mum and business owner of One Sunday. She lives with her “clever clogs” husband, three beautiful daughters, faithful dog Friday and three chickens aka Charlie’s Angels, in Sydney. Check out her website to see her beautiful range of clothing for girls, plus women’s clothing and homewares, and follow her on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated.