Stef, can you tell us about the inspiration behind Osborne Monarch?
I have loved fashion ever since I can remember. My happy place has always been reading through magazines and studying fashion look books. I am always on the hunt for pieces that are unique, bold and fun. The inspiration behind Osborne Monarch is to bring new and interesting pieces to an audience who also want to push their own fashion boundaries.
Tell us about the experience of launching your own brand, was your self-belief tested along the way and how did you manage this?
Goodness, there have certainly been highs and lows. It’s such a mixture of emotions launching your own business and brand. There’s the happiness that comes along with the decision to start something that is your own, and then making progress and seeing plans unfold. There’s also the uncertainty and frequent the ‘what the f***’ moments.
Starting anything new and starting from scratch, there’s always lessons to learn. I’ve been lucky to work for myself in other industries for the past 20 years, so I’ve drawn on that experience and knowledge many times. That said, I’m definitely learning and flying by the seat of my pants. It’s great to get positive, encouraging comments from our followers on instagram, it helps motivate and propel me to do better.
Can you tell us about the range? Your brand ethos?
Currently, we specialise in these amazing, handcrafted bags I discovered whilst travelling overseas. I was amazed by the quality and the wide range of really great colours they come in. They’re ultra-lightweight, easy to pack for travelling and handwashable. They’re also vegan and the choice of colours, prints and patterns is phenomenal.
The current line of Osborne Monarch bags come in a range of sizes, the smallest being the Miss Petite, then the original Miss size, followed by Miss 3/4 and the Miss Traveller, which is the largest of the range, perfectly suited for travel and weekenders.
Honestly, the most difficult part of the job it is actually unpacking them for the store, as I fall in love with each and every colour and style and want to keep them for myself!
Tell us more about being in business with your daughter?
My daughter, Demelza studied Industrial Design in Adelaide and has exhibited her work across Australia and overseas, including Milan and London. She has a keen eye for design and I wanted a project that we could both get behind that utilised our natural skills. I’m the fashion lover, she’s the design and brand developer. Not to say we are completely perfect of course but we enjoy working alongside each other and just play to our strengths.
What does fashion, and personal style mean to you?
I think its a combination of the confidence that comes with age and the fact that I’ve had a lot of time to experiment and make mistakes along the way, that has helped my personal style evolve. I love to take risks but I also seek out functionality and comfort.
I place a lot of importance on my personal style. I feel together, organised and take pride in my fashion sense. I also love that feeling I get that when I wear a piece, I’m wearing someone’s hard work.. their labour of love, their story…. and to me, that’s such a privilege.
Do you feel the development of your personal style has been positively or negatively affected by age?
It’s all positive!!! Like I touched on previously, I’ve made the mistakes, I’ve lived through many trends and I’ve taken risks. I feel a confidence that comes with age. There’s an understanding of what works on my body and I think I’ve made peace with any body issues I carried previously. We can at times be our own worst enemy. Backing yourself is far more productive I think!
Who would you say has a strong influence on your sense of self?
I have to say my grand-daughter Hazel… Who knew a three-year-old could do that! She always notices what I’m wearing and comments. I see a lot of myself in her and her love for dressing up — she knows exactly what she likes and speaks her mind without being at all concerned about what others think!
You’re an Australian style advocate, what advantages or unique traits do you think our designers have over others?
Firstly thank you… This is an interesting question! I’ve lived through a time when Australian designers such as Carla Zampatti, George Gross and Harry Who, even Stuart Membery were all starting out with their own fashion houses. I’ve had the privilege of watching these designers start out, grow, evolve and in some cases sadly, close down.
I can’t say with certainty what it is that gives our designers a unique advantage, however, I do feel that our unique geography and our culture plays a part. I say geography because we have a rich, diverse amount of flora and fauna here in Australia — given the abundance we have here, it’s hard to ignore that as being a unique advantage, a real source of visual inspiration.
I think there are challenges we face here that in some way also offer opportunities — given our relatively small population and remoteness, designers who have big aspirations must consider the logistics of a global audience. The other challenge, of course, is this one we find ourselves in right now in this pandemic, in that we have been forced to be distanced and live with restrictions on local businesses. Though usually creative types are the quickest to adapt and evolve, refine their craft and come out shining, so I am really looking forward to seeing what our designers are going to release in the coming seasons. People are looking to feel good, to feel happy and fashion plays a big part in that.
What would you say to somebody who is unsure how to define their personal style, or is worried about pushing the boundaries?
I would say, don’t stress too much, fashion is meant to be fun. Like anything, it can take some time getting used to and comfortable, but the more you do it, the better you become. Don’t be afraid to ask for help — ask me even! I see Osborne Monarch as an opportunity to engage with people and help them find what they love too. Dress up… always push yourself to style up (whilst being practical of course), take pride in your appearance and just enjoy.
How do you feel about trends and how the fashion industry shapes how women see themselves, particularly women over fifty?
Look there’s always going to be trends and a favouring of the younger woman in marketing campaigns, but I am noticing that more and more we are seeing models of different ages and body shapes, and I love it! It’s so much more interesting and in touch, I think.
Finally, brands and marketers are catching on that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and ages and that by portraying these models to their audience is actually far more effective. We have so many great designers and the ability to discover them via designer markets and social media, go forth people, it’s exciting!
What are you most looking forward to in the future?
Growing Osborne Monarch, developing new product ranges and taking the time to enjoy the process. We are so excited about growing our audience and love engaging with our customers via the ‘gram. We hope to inspire and motivate them to take risks with their own decisions when it comes to fashion.
The latest collection of Osborne Monarch bags can be found on their store at osbornemonarch.com.au or you can window shop on their insta page at @osborne_monarch. You can also follow Stefanie’s personal profile where she ‘shines the light on Australian designers, style leaders and the beautifully dressed’ (including her of course!) at @osborne_society.
Stefanie’s daughter (and one-half of Osborne Monarch) Demelza has recently launched a new venture called Queenies Australia, a range of easy to heat headbands designed to curl and style your hair while you get ready — no cords, no machine, no scolding hot tongs. Australian designed and made, Queenies come in a range of fun colours and patterns, are ‘easy af to use’ and you can check them out at @queenies_australia.
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