HOT Chat: Anna Martino of Wet & Wendy

Anna Martino is the brains behind the stylish weatherwear label Wet & Wendy. Wet & Wendy hails (pun intended) from Melbourne and the products are perfect for Melbourne’s four seasons in one day weather.

I chat with Anna in her Collingwood studio as she gets ready to launch her Spring/Summer 2011 range, some of which is available in my business CycleStyle.

Anna, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start your weatherwear fashion line Wet & Wendy?

I’ve been working as a designer for over ten years, back and forth between London and Melbourne. It’s wonderful to have worked for so many brands and it really gave me a clear direction for my business.

Living in London meant that the weather became a big part of my life and after moving back to Melbourne and feeling a change was happening with even more unpredictable weather than ever before, starting my own weatherwear label just felt like the right thing to do.

I also wanted to do something which brought a smile to peoples faces and that’s how Wet & Wendy came about!

Where do you turn for design inspiration?

My inspiration comes from days gone by. Traditional weather products and the feeling of nostalgia. I love the way remembering a time in the past gives you that warm feeling.

Wet & Wendy is inspired by old films and advertising, photographs, stories and the fact that in the days of old you (or my grandmother!) purchased things out of necessity.

Mixing a traditional raincoat silhouette with a modern fabric in a fresh colour captures the perfect mix of old and new and a stylish take on necessity dressing.

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in starting up your own business? What advice would you give to a small business owner?

Going out on my own is the most challenging thing I have ever done by far.

It is important to be ambitious and realistic at the same time. The right thing for me was to start small and to grow the brand slowly and in the right direction.

There are a lot of challenges but one of the biggest has probably been getting the product right, and getting it here. For people not familiar, the processes that happen behind the scenes to get products to store is overwhelming and being organised and working with the right people is key. Planning is the most important element, even in a creative environment, a clear plan and knowing what/ when/ who/why/ how is the only way.

What are your next plans for Wet & Wendy?

So many exciting things going on! We have designed a bike cart, like an old fashioned ice cream bike with Peter from PS Bikes. Its going to be riding around the Harvest Festival selling Wet & Wendy. We also have a new Pop-Up shoppe opening next month, especially for our Summer ‘Love The Sun’ collection and the Mens collection ‘Westerly by W&W’ is about to launch with Summer too. I am so excited to be working on next Winter, designing weatherwear is the most fun design work I’ve ever done! It’s hard work but someone’s got to do it!

Finally, what are your tips for what’s HOT in Melbourne?

My favourite things

Cafe- Proud Mary (cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood) for the coffee
Restaurant- Mamasita (1/11 Collins St, Melbourne) for the corn
Shop- Chapel Street Bazaar (217 Chapel St, Prahran) for the fact I always find something I love that’s been loved before.

Things to do

The view of the city down St Kilda road from the Shrine of Remembrance, it’s beautiful.
The Fitzroy Gardens, a blanket, sunbrella, a good magazine and a coffee is my idea of heaven.

HOT Chat: Benjamin Roberts of SKAPA BILDA

I recently visited the Portobello Bride Boutique Wedding Market with two of my about-to-be-wed friends and was  enraptured with the work of SKAPA BILDA. Who knew you could create such gorgeousness with paper! Todays’ HOT Chat is with Benjamin Roberts, one of the principals of SKAPA BILDA. Thanks Benjamin!

Benjamin, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start your business SKAPA BILDA?

I have a degree in Painting from the National Art School in Sydney went there straight out of a country high school. I have worked as a props maker and spent time in the retail industry.

My partner, Kristina Sundstrom, and I started the business a couple of years ago while Kristina was completing a BA in Printmaking. Our business growth has been a wonderful organic process. There has been a blurring of the boundaries between design and art for quite awhile now, we definitely feel we have a foot in both camps. Within the design process we provide an artists perspective, which allows for a unique approach to design parameters and construction techniques.

We have been lucky enough to collaborate with other creatives in the design and art fields on a variety of projects, from a bespoke envelope to large scale installation. A big thank you to Christian Wagstaff for being the first to pluck us from obscurity!

What’s the story behind the business’ name?

Our business name is inspired by Kristina’s Swedish heritage. A rough translation is skapa = create and bilda = form. That’s what we do…..

You do some really creative things with paper. What is it about that material that draws you work with it?

Paper as an everyday object is fantastic, totally underrated. We draw on it, fold it, store information on it. I love collage and have always used paper in my art. Kristina has a strong affinity with paper ever since her childhood xmas card sweatshop days. Yes, she blames you mum and dad!

SKAPA BILDA utilises a variety of different papers from tissue, found and recycled, newspapers as well as the highest quality cotton rag papers from Japan and Germany (which will literally out last us!).

Paper carries the association of being fragile and ephemeral, however it is such a versatile medium. It is very malleable and has great structural properties and this allows us to push it into different applications. From embossing text to kilometres of hand spun paper thread, paper flowers, cardboard houses, to using old wallpapers and found lists/letters to create different layers and textures.

Why your focus on environmentally sustainable design? How does it constrain or enhance the design process for you?

To be environmentally and socially aware is a responsibility of everyone whatever field you are in. We try to support this notion through our daily work practice and as parameters for  design .

Every part of the design process we try to make accountable.

We do short runs, most of our work is made to order. Jobs are site specific enabling bespoke  problem solving ( less waste).

Because we do things in a small scale we try to source product and labour locally. We choose to do most of the work ourselves to provide for our clients a unique, high quality handcrafted object, made to last rather than a mass produced throw away item.

Environmental considerations are also inherent in our design and construction process. Finding the beauty in, and potential for off cuts, deleted lines, found objects is a regular starting point for many projects. Our lines of quilts, cushions and rope jewellery are all made of upcycled industry remnants. ‘not blowing strongly nor falling heavily’ recently exhibited at aRtECYCLE at the Incinerator Arts Complex is also an example.

Where can we find your work?

Our quilts are stocked at Mark Tuckey and online through Estralia. We also have a sculpture at Format Furniture.

We do a large variety of projects you may have seen a little piece of SKAPA BILDA in your home, at the office, in the post, at the races, on a bed, as a necklace. We also try to do two art exhibitions a year.

We also do lots of weddings, private and corporate functions… anything!

What websites, magazines, books and/or people do you turn to for design inspiration?

We’re going to list them:

Robert Rauschenberg and his combines.

Kurt Schwitters and Piet Mondrian – I admire how they lived their artistic lives and the beautiful way Mondrian’s work crossed over to design.

Bauhaus– how they merged art, industry and design.

Yayoi Kusama – she’s mad!

Eva Hesse – poetic

Rachel Whiteread – she cast a whole house out of cement!

Concrete and bricks in general…

Katie Marx- installation artist, nature lover

Georgie Kay and the team from Georgeous –  events extraordinaire.

Carmen Reid – Melbourne based installation artist

Lauren Brown –  conceptual artist based in Melbourne and Berlin.

Krista Mcrae – contemporary jeweller.

What advice would you give to people wanting to start their own business?

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver, give up your day job and try not to work all the time

What are your next plans for SKAPA BILDA?

Focussing more on our retail ventures is main goal for us, promoting our quilts and exploring lines of jewellery and bags. We also look forward to future collaborations.

Finally, what are your tips for HOT places you like in and around Melbourne?

We’re currently building a studio and house in Malmsbury so most of our spare time is spent in the beautiful Macedon Shire. So head up the Calder and check out some favs:

A paddle of beer from Holgate Brewhouse.

Awarding winning vanilla slice from Bourkies Bakehouse in Woodend.

Piper Street is our new local in Kyneton.

The Sequoias in Malmsbury’s Botanical Gardens, designed by Dr Ferdinand von Mueller. (He also designed the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne)

When in Melbourne:

One of my favourite paintings which is usually on permanent display at the NGV ‘Moonrise’ by David Davies , oil on canvas, 1894.

The Bell Jar (656 Smith St, Collingwood +61 410 336 019), was a beacon of sanity we discovered last year while we did a three month job nearby. Great coffee and food, they are mean table tennis players as well.

Gills Diner (rear 360 Little Collins St, Melbourne +61 3 9670 7214) uses local produce and has an amazing interior.

HOT Chat: Emma Leonard, illustrator

One of the fun things about going to crafty, artisan markets is that you get to meet all sorts of interesting creative people. On my recent visit to Finders Keepers markets, I was drawn to the delicate, ethereal work of Emma Leonard under the label Belafonte. Today’s HOT Chat is with the lovely Emma – thanks!

Emma, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to work as an illustrator? What’s the story behind your store name Belafonte?

I have always drawn for as long as I can remember but it always just sat on the back burner until about 18 months ago. I was working in retail and I was really bored and frustrated, so out of the blue I quit my job, locked myself away for a couple of months, created a folio then began studying illustration full time. It was a big adjustment to return to study after a five year hiatus, but it was absolutely the right decision for me. I’m learning so much and I love that I have no idea what’s going to come next.

Belafonte’ came about because when I was starting I was very afraid of embarrassing myself, or that no one would like my work so I thought it best to keep my name under wraps until I was sure this whole ‘illustration’ thing could work. It comes from one of my favorite Wes Anderson films, The Life Aquatic, where there is a massive cross section of this ship named ‘the Belafonte’ and you can see all the activity under the surface.

On your blog you describe yourself as ‘I draw girls. And sometimes triangles’. What is it that attracts you to draw girls and…erm….triangles?

I’m not really sure why I draw girls. People always ask and I can never really explain it, I just can’t help it. I can draw other things but I always come back to them.

But I can explain the triangles! It’s because I find it really relaxing to draw something without thinking about it too much, it’s just three lines but when you put them all together it turns out different every time. And the four year old in me secretly loves to colour them in…

Are your figures real people that you have model for you?

I use a combination of different references from anywhere I can find them! Sometimes I use sketches from life drawing classes as a basis for an illustration, particularly the figure, but  I can’t wait for the day when I can hire people to model for me!

Have you always drawn with pen, ink and watercolours? Why do you choose to use these materials?

I guess I started out with watercolour and ink because I really enjoyed they spontaneity and fluidity of the mediums. I could mix my colours then just see what happens on the page! Now I seem to be moving a little bit more towards pencil and gouache, still transparent media, but a more planned and considered with lots of pattern and repeating geometric shapes combined with the portraiture of my previous work.

What websites, magazines, books, people or places do you turn to for art inspiration?

Magazines- Lula, King Brown, Uppercase, Russh, Frankie (beautiful photography and illustration on nice paper)

Books-  ‘The Age of Feminine Drawing’, ‘Lifestyle Illustration of the 60’s’, ‘Street Sketchbook Journeys’ and heaps of illustrated children’s books

People- Miss Van, Tina Berning, Audrey Kawasaki and Abbey McCulloch (my favourite artists and no surprise that they all paint women!)

Places- the Melbourne Museum, Until Never Gallery, Outre Gallery

What advice would you give to people wanting to start work as an illustrator?

Get drawing and painting. When I decided illustration was what I wanted I took two months to just draw and paint everyday. Then I put it out there on the net, mainly through Etsy and my blog, and I have been so amazed by all the opportunities that have come my way from those two avenues alone! Also, I think it helps if you can identify a niche or market for your work then get amongst it. With the huge craft and handmade movement happening at the moment, I have found selling my work at markets to be quite successful in finding both clients and a following for my work.

What are your next plans for your illustrations?

First and foremost, I have to finish my course!  But I have so many ideas floating around in my head. I would really like to move into doing some larger scale pieces and temporary installation work and, when I get some time, I plan on developing my oil ands acrylic painting skills.

Finally, what are your tips for HOT places you like in Melbourne?

Metropolis Bookshop (3/252 Swanston Street, Melbourne + 61 3 9663 2015) the most amazing book store in Melbourne, I pretty much want everything in their art and design section

Mamasita (1/11 Collins Street, Melbourne +61 3 9650 3821) my favourite place to eat in Melbourne, especially the corn and the fish tacos, if only the wait for a table wasn’t so long!

Outre Gallery (249 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne +61 3 9642 5455)  They sell prints of my absolute favourite artist of all time, Miss Van, but there are so many talented artists hanging on their walls that I can easily lose an hour in there.

HOT Chat: Chanie Stock of Genki

Melbourne loves its fashion and one of the most beloved labels of the city is Genki.

I first visited Genki‘s Cathedral Arcade shop when I arrived in Melbourne way back in 2003. I immediately fell in love with the tiny colourful shop and the adorable aesthetic of their clothing and accessories, especially their ‘I love….’ range of T-shirts (I still own a limited edition tee designed to commemorate the 2006 Commonwealth Games – ‘I love the Games’).

Fast forward to 2010 and I discovered that after a hiatus from the retail world, Genki was reopening with an online store. As I browsed through their collection I realised what was missing – ‘I love cycling’! So on a whim I contacted Chanie Stock, the owner of Genki, and suggested that she launch a cycling t-shirt….and when she did I would stock them in my online store selling stylish cycling accessories, CycleStyle.

So today’s HOT Chat is with Chanie, who’s not only one of my suppliers, she’s also worked in a big law firm like me, has a love of fashion, is a mother and is a delightful bundle of energy. Thanks Chanie!

Chanie, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start your store and label Genki?

I studied Arts/Law but my true love was always fashion. Even from a very young age I had a very clear aesthetic and dreamed of having my own label. My grandparents worked in the fashion industry so it must be in my blood, but unfortunately they sold the family business when I was just a baby. I got my first job at Portmans when I was only 14 and then continued working in retail all through school and uni and never tired of it.

I decided to leave my job as a lawyer after 2 years to pursue my dream to work in fashion and after a few years as a buyer, I decided to open Genki. Many people though I was crazy as there was nothing like it happening at the time and no one (except the first incarnation of Alice Euphemia) was in Flinders Lane. But I had such a clear vision for Genki – that it break away from traditional retail concepts and be something totally new. I wanted to create a space where it didn’t feel like you were shopping but more like visiting a friend.  When I discovered the Cathedral Arcade space I had butterflies in my belly, as I knew it was perfect and then with the amazing design by Six Degrees my dream became real.

I was inspired to sell all the things that I wanted to wear but couldn’t find locally (remember, this was 1998, well before online shopping). The original product mix was Japanese accessories, homewares and clothing, mixed with exclusive UK labels like YMC and US brands, Daryl K and Built by Wendy (which at the time were only available at Genki in Australia).   I also tested a few simple styles by the Genki home brand, which to my surprise really took off. So as time went by the Genki label developed into something very special with its own identity and great loyal following.

One of your most popular lines is the ‘I love…’ T-shirts. What’s the story behind how you came to develop that range and your collaboration with Beci Orpin?

This is a funny story which shows how even with a clear business plan things pop up along the way that you never expect.

I had a weird vintage t-shirt from when I was little that said ‘I love talking’ with the strangest illustration of a boy (like those oddball 70s tees that are NQR). At that time I had just started working with Beci, who I met through Misha Hollenbach (who designed the Genki logo and the graphics during the first year). The minute I met Beci I knew she was a kindred spirit. We instinctively understand each other’s language and working with her is effortless and always a joy.

So, back to the “I love..” t-shirts…. I went to Beci with the idea for an “I love talking” tee with a Genki character. It was an instant success. The rest just flowed from there. Soon they had a cult following and even now, 12 years later, people still love them.

Where do you turn to for design inspiration?

When I had the Genki shops, I used to get a lot of inspiration on my trips to Japan. It is a place that truly stimulates all the sense and is an aesthetic paradise. But it also gave me a break from the day to day so my mind would open up to new ideas.

Today I can’t travel as much as I did, but I find inspiration in the simplest of things. Food, nature, films, art, old magazines but mostly inspiring friends. There are some days when I wake up and feel fresh and clearheaded and I know something exciting will happen. I don’t want to get old, dull and boring so I need to keep learning and surrounding myself with innovative people.

You used to have very popular shops in the City and Windsor but now sell only online. What kind of challenges have you faced launching an online store?

Closing the city shop in 2009 was very difficult for me and while it was the right decision I still miss that part of my life. It was such a pleasure to go to work with fantastic staff and wonderful customers and do what I loved most. It wasn’t just about selling fabulous things. We laughed and chatted and built close friendships and a special community. My challenge with the online store is how to preserve some of that magic and create that warmth and familiarity in a virtual space.

It has taken some time, but since I turned the “Genki News” section into the “Genki Blog” so there has been a shift and I sense an online Genki community is forming.

What advice would you give to people wanting to start their own business?

The most important thing is really believing in what your business is about. Be it a product or a service, you must live and breathe it and know it inside out. Following on from that, it must be original and have your own fingerprint or flavour.

Assuming the passion and dedication is there the next step is good planning and discipline. A clear detailed business plan is essential and use the resources you have around you (for example if you have an accountant in the family or someone who has specialist skills). Never be afraid to ask for help.

What are your next plans for Genki?

I would like to develop the Genki Blog to touch on other aspects of life. Not just style, but food, hobbies and funny odd topics.

I will continue producing the “I love..” tees, the striped tees and the basic denim pieces as long as the demand is there. There have been many requests for our fleece hoodies and jumpers so I’m planning to bring them back for winter. My plan in the next 12-24 months is to reach new customers, especially the 18-25 year olds (the most popular age demographic back in the day).

Finally, what are your tips for HOT places you like in Melbourne?

Being a mother of three I don’t get out as much as I used to, but I do have a few special tips to share:

I adore De Clieu (187 Gertrude St, Fitzroy +61 3 9416 4661), Seven Seeds (114 Berkeley St, Carlton+61 3 9347 8664) and Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke St Melbourne). The best coffee in the world and most excellent treats.

I still love Ciccolina (130 Acland St, St Kilda +61 3 9525 3333) for lunch or dinner and the new Ilona Staller (282 Carlisle St, St Kilda +61 3 is just fabulous.

Kappaya at the Abbotsford Convent (1 St Helier St, Abbotsford +61 3 9416 0070) is a haven for me. It’s so beautiful there and the food is fresh, pure, tasty and simple.

The Beatbox Kitchen and new Taco Van. Delicious great quality food with heart and a great soundtrack-too good!

The NGV (International and Australia) and other local gallery spaces in Melbourne. What a perfect weekend outing for the whole family. My kids love it as much as the grown ups and it reminds me how lucky we are to live in this wonderful city.

HOT Chat: Bhakti Talreja of Twestival Melbourne 2011

Tweeps of Melbourne, it’s time to get together to support a great cause. Twestival Melbourne 2011 is coming up next week Thursday 24 March with food, drink and entertainment for a mere $25 and this year’s charity is STREAT, a Melbourne-based social enterprise providing homeless youth with the opportunity for a long term career in the hospitality industry.

What is Twestival you ask? Find out in today’s HOT Chat with this year’s volunteer organiser, Bhakti Talreja. Thanks Bhakti!

Bhakti, Twestival is a funny name for an event – what exactly is it and how did it come about?

I have to agree the name is a bit strange but it kind of blends well with the twitter trend of people adding a TW before many words- Tweeps, Tweet-ups etc. Twestival is a short for Twitter Festival. This is a global festival that was born out an idea that if twitter people all over the globe got together for a cause, the impact could be spectacular!

Twestival uses social media for social good by connecting communities offline on a single day to highlight a great cause and have a fun event. Twestival is the largest global grassroots social media fundraising initiative to date. Since 2009, volunteers have raised close to $1.2 million for 137 nonprofits. All local events are organized 100% by volunteers and 100% of all ticket sales and donations go direct to projects.

Why should people get involved in Twestival?

For many reasons depending on the kind of person you are. This is a great chance to meet the people you have been tweeting with. You have the chance to raise funds for a great local charity and to interact with their management to understand what they do and how you can help. This event encourages Twitter users to harness their collective energy to give something back to the community.

This year’s event is being held next Thursday 24 March and is going to be a great evening with the best people from Twitter, lots of smiles and entertainment. The food is great and if you have a sweet tooth, expect to be thoroughly spoilt that night. Also, there will be a silent auction of great goodies. All this- the food, drinks, goodies, auction items and the entertainment have all come together because of the generous businesses and individuals who have come forward to support a great cause. I don’t want to reveal a lot so that you can look forward to many surprises when you join us next week!

Can you tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to head up this year’s organisingcommittee for Twestival in Melbourne?

With half a decade advocating ethical fashion (most of which was in Fashion PR and communication for ethical fashion brands in India), I moved to Melbourne in late 2009 with my husband who works for a software company here. Everything here was totally foreign to us and this drove me to Twitter. I realized that this was a great medium to meet the people here and to interact with locals.

Incidentally, the first event I attended in Melbourne was the Twestival Melbourne 2010 on 25th March, which was organized by @Vineetwtr who has now become a friend and great support for me. He is like my “social media guru” who guides me at every step with my work.

On this very day, the idea of So Ethic was conceived. On speaking with people that night, I realized that there was a lot of buzz and interest in ethical fashion but there was hardly any physical presence of ethical fashion here. I made phonecalls to all my friends (who are designers, writers, business people mostly dealing with ethical fashion) to discuss the idea and when I received a thumbs up from them all, So Ethic was born. It was winter time in Melbourne and I’m glad I had my Como No boots with me in time! We started the store on 18th July 2010. This launch was attended by my favourite Twitter people who made it such a success.

The time has come for me to bid farewell to Melbourne and it is a strange co-incidence that Twestival will be my last event in Melbourne! Vineet, who held the Twestival torch for Melbourne, is travelling all of this month and hence, he could not devote much time to organizing the event this year. When he approached me to organize it, I instantly agreed thinking that this was the best chance for me to thank twitter and all the lovely people I met in Melbourne because of it. So, the short story that started with Twitter will happily end with it on 24th March, this year. Whoever said that there are no happy endings clearly didn’t have a twitter handle :–)

How did you choose the Twestival charity this year?

The most important contribution is Lou Pardi’s (@LouPardi). Soon as I had confirmed news that I will be organizing Twestival in Melbourne this year, she was the first person I spoke to for her expert advice. She gave me a few options and STREAT was the first to impress me. For one, they are on Twitter too and then again I LOVE their work. I have had coffee at their cart in Melbourne Central and always thought they were doing a fabulous job.

However, my decision could not be final. I sent out tweets for volunteers and charity nominations. Thankfully, I had a great team happy to be a part of this cause almost instantly. Jane, Toula, PennySandi and Steve are extremely enterprising and working with them has been amazing! You will see it yourself at the Twestival.

We shortlisted the nominations we received on Twitter and within the team we collectively felt that by supporting STREAT we would all feel very proud and useful. It wasn’t a one-sided affair, even the team at STREAT were very happy to be a part of Twestival and welcomed the idea.

Finally, what are your tips for HOT places you like in Melbourne?

Kinfolk café (673 Bourke St, Melbourne) is by and large the best place for coffee! Not only is the coffee amazing but the values they stand for are the most inspiring.

Curry Vault (18 Bank Place, Melbourne +61 3 9600 0144) is my favorite Indian restaurant. Trust an Indian to tell you that they have the best parathas ever! I doubt if even the Indian restaurants back home in India can match their taste.

Dumpling Plus (269 Swanston Street Walk, Melbourne +61 3 9663 8181) Whenever I am in the city and feel like a quick bite (especially in winter time) I love the dumplings at Dumpling Plus. You must try their steamed dumplings in hot chili sauce. Om nom nom.

See you at the Twestival!

HOT Chat: Braeden Lord of Aussie Farmers Direct

Bizarre as it sounds, one of my hobbies is grocery shopping. I’m not talking about trawling the fluorescent aisles of a mega-supermarket, but rather poking around farmers markets, ethnic grocery stores and fancy providores.

However, given my recent lack of mobility due to pregnancy and a newborn baby, I’ve fully embraced the concept of online grocery delivery. After asking the Twitterverse for recommendations, the most common response was Aussie Farmers Direct. The business has their headquarters in Melbourne but they deliver fresh products all around Australia, and so far my orders have varied from their fruit and veg boxes (I like the ‘mystery box’ element it adds to my cooking), excellent salmon fillets, milk and bread staples and Glick’s bagels.

Today’s HOT Chat is with Braeden Lord, the big boss of Aussie Farmers Direct. Thanks Braeden!

Braeden, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to head up Aussie Farmers Direct?

Great fresh food has been my life, my career and my passion! I began my career sweeping the floors of a bakery as a young boy and worked my way up through the ranks.

My background in fresh food, franchising and national retailing meant that I had the experience needed to oversee the different aspects of the Aussie Farmers Direct business. This involves sourcing premium fresh food from around Australia which is then home delivered by milko franchisees in the major cities and regional areas across the country.

What makes Aussie Farmers Direct different from other grocery delivery companies in Australia?

Aussie Farmers Direct is 100% Australian. Our mantra is to support Australian farmers by delivering, to thousands of homes, a wide range of 100% Australian products including fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, milk and other fresh food essentials. Families love the ease and competitive value of the service.

Our product range is 100% Australian grown, made and owned and it’s fresh! For example much of our fruit and vegetables are delivered within 48 hours of being harvested.

By ordering with Aussie Farmers Direct you are supporting Australian farmers and your local milko, as well as reducing your carbon footprint as our products are all sourced within Australia. Plus less time shopping means more time with family.

I notice that Aussie Farmers Direct has just established its own dairy. Where else do you source your produce from?

Most of our produce is sourced within the state that its delivered to and comes from major fruit and vegetable growing regions such as Victoria’s Yarra Valley and Goulburn Valley, the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area in New South Wales, plus a lot of our tropical fruit comes from Far North Queensland. Our apple juice comes from Tasmania, our yoghurts are made in Melbourne, most of our pork comes from an RSPCA approved farm in the Otway ranges in south-western Victoria… no matter what region our products are sourced from, you can be guaranteed EVERYTHING comes from Australia.

Since you started as CEO, what has been the most challenging issue you’ve faced?

Guaranteeing 100% Australian supply in everything we do is an ongoing challenge. We are committed to providing only Australian grown, made and owned products and as our customer base grows across the country there’s a real challenge in providing wholly Australian food in the quantities we need.

What are your next plans for Aussie Farmers Direct?

This year our two main focuses are launching our dairy in Camperdown, which produces fresh, delicious milk that is 100% Australian owned, together with launching Aussie Farmers Foundation which is a not for profit provider that works to help farmers in need and improve the future of Australia’s agriculture industry. Both of these projects will bring us closer to the farming community.

In terms of new products, we’ve just launched hot cross buns and spreadable butter in time for Easter. We also have a new range of sliced deli meats available and Australian-grown tea is on the agenda.

Finally, where are your tips for HOT foodie places you like in Melbourne?

For a weekend breakfast you can’t beat Replete Providore (302 Barkers road, Hawthorn +61 3 9818 4448). It’s a friendly café run by a young couple which stands alone next to a 7/11. They have a great seasonal menu board of home-made breakfasts including my favourite home-made kidney and white ‘baked beans’. My kids love their range of muffins – the service and quality is great, the only hassle is that it’s hard to get in!

HOT Chat: Steve Chambers of CMUK Shoes

Happy Chinese New Year! At first glance today’s HOT Chat may not seem relevant for celebrating the Year of the Rabbit but traditional customs include getting new clothes, paying off all debts, cleaning the house, feasting with family and friends, giving out red envelopes…and getting new shoes.

This is where new Melbourne-based shoe store CMUK Shoes comes in, because coupled with the HOT Chat with CMUK Shoes founder Steve Chambers is a giveaway for readers to win a pair of shoes! Thanks Steve.

Steve, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start  CMUK Shoes?

I’m someone who has always enjoyed change – I’ve taught in Aboriginal schools in the Northern Territory, worked with compensation programs for Holocaust survivors throughout Eastern and Central Europe, spent time in Banda Aceh with re-construction projects following the tsunami and most recently worked as barrister in Melbourne.

A couple of years ago I went to a friend’s wedding in South America, was in awe of their beach culture and love of colours and thought it was time for another change! CMUK Shoes is a St Kilda based company that imports its own sneakers focusing on style, comfort, bright colours and cost efficiency.

What makes CMUK Shoes different from other designer sneakers on the market?

I firmly believe that cutting-edge style doesn’t have to come with a lead weight for a price tag, so our sneakers retail for under $50.  CMUK Shoes are very lightweight and comfortable, which makes them perfect for a day at the beach, a walk in the park, a stroll down the shops or out for a bite to eat or drink with friends. They also dry very quickly in the sun so customers having been buying them for boating or for non-running activities at the gym as they can also be machine washed on a cold cycle.

You may also have seen in the Herald Sun last weekend that Miss World and her runner up, Miss World Africa, called in to pick up some CMUKs (check out the picture)!

What do you enjoy about the world of retail versus working as a barrister? What advice would you give to people wanting to give up their day jobs to start their own business?

Retail has been a fantastic way to connect with people so as listen to their input, find out what they like and don’t like and what they would like to see next. It is also really enjoyable to go to work knowing you’re going to be running into smiling people most of the day, as opposed to people who come to see you due to often extremely stressful and often unpleasant circumstances occurring in their lives.

My advice to people wanting to start their own business is plan well, get a good mentor, do your homework and then roll the dice. Life is too short to be left wondering!

What has been the most challenging issue you’ve faced starting up  CMUK Shoes?

Establishing relationships with suppliers has been a taxing process but when you are putting all the pieces of the puzzle together it is integral to the success of a business such as ours. Luckily I enjoy working with people and negotiation comes with the territory.

What are your next plans for CMUK Shoes?

We are currently having a new website built and pushing hard with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to focus on our online presence. To not do so would be madness. We are working on new designs, colour ways and researching new materials that comply with the global organic textile standard for our next range, so what you can see now is only step one. Stay tuned.

Finally, what are your HOT tips for where to take your CMUK Shoes around Melbourne?

1. Jock’s Ice Cream (83 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park +61 3 9686 3838): the Hokey Pokey is unbeatable…
2. Newmarket Hotel (34 Inkerman St , St Kilda +61 3 9534 2385)… great for a beer after work if you can get in!
3. Mahjong (165 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda +61 3 9534 8833): nobody has a better yum cha trolley going around than Max on Sundays…
4. Prince of Wales (29 Fitzroy St, St Kilda +61 3 9536 1111): you can take your dog, sit in the sun and get view over the bay… sensational…
5. Claypots (213 Barkly Street, St Kilda +61 3 9534 1282): spaghetti marinara served for weekend lunch is mouthwatering… little tip though, always order for 3 even if there are only 2 of you! (it’s that good)…

Giveaway: Steve is kindly giving away three pairs of CMUK Shoes to three lucky blog readers! All you have to do is check out the photos from the CMUK Shoes website and write a comment picking your favourite style. Entries close 5pm Thursday 10 February and the winners will be drawn randomly and announced on Friday 11 February. Good luck!

HOT Chat: Anna Brockhurst from Eco Christmas Trees

It’s fitting that the last HOT Chat for the year is a Christmas-themed one. I found out about Eco Christmas Trees via Twitter and was immediately captured by the idea of  having a real live Christmas tree in my home, without the waste that goes into cutting down a tree and then disposing of it afterwards.

Eco Christmas Trees is effectively a tree rental service whereby you are delivered a live potted tree for Christmas and then it is taken away to be replanted, ready for use again next year (and the year after that, and the year after that….).  I have ordered my 1.75m Cypress for delivery next week but in the meantime today’s HOT Chat is with Anna Brockhurst, the founder of Eco Christmas Trees. Thanks Anna!

Anna, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start Eco Christmas Trees?

I am a freelance business consultant that works with businesses to help them manage changes successfully.  Last year whilst waiting for a project to commence I found I had some extra time leading up to Christmas and I decided to start a business to rent live potted Christmas trees.

It has always been a pet peeve of mine to see dead brown trees on the nature strip after Christmas.  They make me feel sad and frustrated at the disposable world we now live in. So I stopped moaning and started Eco Christmas trees to offer people a different option for their Christmas tree solution.  This way you can have your tree for Christmas without having to throw it away once you have done with it.

What makes your Christmas trees ‘eco’?

The eco refers to the living nature of our trees.  They are replanted after Christmas so your tree will continue to live and exchange CO2 into oxygen. Did you know that in one year, an average tree inhales 12 kilograms of CO2 and exhales enough oxygen for a family of four for a year! (Source United Nations Environment Programme).

By renting an Eco Christmas Tree, you don’t end a tree’s ecological cycle by cutting down a living tree, or impact green house emissions by the production of plastic.

Where do you source your trees?

Our trees come from growers local to Melbourne and are always unique to that year growing patterns.  For example this year has been so cold the trees are not as full as last year yet they are more whimsical and have more interesting shapes than the previous year.

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in starting up your own business? What advice would you give to a small business owner?

After working in corporate environments for so long I found the personal nature of starting a small business quite challenging. An eco Christmas tree is not for everyone, and when you believe in something it’s hard to not think everyone will want one, or even that they might try one year and not take another in the next year.

You have to learn to trust what you are doing and not take things so personally.  Take the compliments and the enjoyment from the people who love it and ignore any criticism unless it’s constructive, this way you can use your energy in planning and moving forward rather than sweating the small stuff.

What are your next plans for Eco Christmas Trees?

I would love to take it to Sydney and Adelaide next year; plans are afoot which is exciting.

Finally, where are your favourite places to visit or things to do in Melbourne around Christmas time?

I have just spent most of this year in the UK working so I am craving decent coffee.  Oliv sells amazing olive oils and makes the best coffee (328 Auburn Road Hawthorn +61 3 9818 3122 ).

I am looking forward to a Christmas dinner with the girls at Ananda (197 Gertrude St, Fitzroy +61 3 9415 6101) and have been reminded of the funkiness of Melbourne with an always-delicious Thai dinner at Cookie (1/252 Swanston Street, Melbourne +61 3 9663 7660).

HOT Chat: Alyssa Milton of Lyssy May

I recently received a wallet made from an old Melways map (it covers the area of the CBD) and I was so thrilled with it that I contacted the maker, Alyssa Milton. Alyssa runs a craft label called Lyssy May from a studio in Kensington and today’s HOT chat is with her. Thanks Alyssa!

Alyssa, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start your label Lyssy May?

I have always been interested in crafts and started selling things I had made from the age of 17 at local markets which I continued to do as a hobby for a number of years. After studying business and working in marketing I travelled and lived in London for a couple of years and whilst living overseas I was inspired to start creating handbags.

Upon my return to Australia I started to make bags using vintage fabrics I collected. They proved popular with friends and colleagues which eventually built to the point where I owned and operated my own store in Brisbane selling my designs and other handmade goods. I moved to Melbourne 2 years ago to soak up the local fashion scene and to expand my business.

Your bags and accessories are all produced using distinctive fabrics and papers. Where do you source your materials?

Everywhere! I am always on the look out both when out and about and also online. I have hundreds of fabrics I have collected over the years and often use basics like denim or corduroy which I team with special prints. I have also been collaborating with a textile designer for my latest range which features natural fibres.

Where do you turn for art and craft inspiration?

Vintage stores are a favourite haunt for inspiration. I also have a huge library of craft books dating back to the 1950’s which was passed on to me by my Grandmother. This is a real treasure trove of ideas for me.

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in starting up your own business? What advice would you give to a small business owner?

I think the most challenging thing is to continue to look at the bigger picture as day to day there can be many disappointments and lots of exciting moments which can be very draining. So over time I have learnt that things generally even out as long as you keep working hard and being focussed. Holidays are also a hard thing to manage but you need to try and make time to rest and recharge (although that is often easier said than done).

What are your next plans for Lyssy May?

The first thing is to make it through to Christmas as this is always my busiest time of year when the sewing machines are going nearly around the clock. The longer term plans are to continue to develop a reputation as delivering quality handmade Australian products and to one day open a concept store.

Finally, where are your HOT places to visit or things to do in Melbourne?

My studio is based in Kensington and I just love the community vibe of the suburb. The Luncheonette (173 Rankins Road, Kensington)  is a lovely little spot for coffee and Tonik (524 Macaulay Rd, Kensington +61 3 9376 9928) is perfect for a meal with friends.

In Richmond I love go to Bridge Road Florist (597-599 Bridge Rd, Richmond +61 3 9428 9715) who I rely on to always have fresh flowers in my house and the Bridge Hotel (642 Bridge Road, Richmond +61 3 9428 3852) is a great place to take advantage of the local specials on a weeknight when catching up with friends.

Fridays at the Mountain Goat brewery (North St & Clark St, Richmond +61 3 9428 1180) is also a great time to grab a sample tray of their beers.

HOT Chat: Will Cook of Harvest Box

For a foodie like me, December is definitely the silly season. The lead-up to Christmas perfect excuse to eat lots of mince pies, pudding, chocolate and canapes – which means I have to be a little bit disciplined about what I eat in between.

Enter my newest discovery Harvest Box, a nifty service that delivers nuts and dried fruit packages to your office. Having these healthy snacks on hand means there’s less of a temptation to dip in to the biscuit tin and snack vending machine. You can choose your own mixes – I personally like By the Beach mix containing mango, macadamias, coconut and Brazil nuts. Today’s HOT Chat is with Will Cook, one of the founders of Harvest Box. Thanks Will!

Will, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start your business Harvest Box?

I have worked in large corporations and have also run my own catering business, therefore I have experienced both sides of trying to eat better at work. I remember working for large organisations where you would often be stuck in meetings or working back late and all you had at work was biscuits, unhealthy vending machines or fruit that nobody else was prepared to eat!

After many discussions over many evenings myself and two other mates decided to stop complaining and actually do something about turning workplace snacking on its head. We decided to think about it from the busy workers point of view and provide a product that is healthy, delicious, convenient and never boring. We even decided to allow our customers to rate all our mixes to their own taste so we only send you mixes you like. We want you to look at Harvest Box as a delicious self preservation box that sits on your desk.

Also, we worked with Australia Post to design a box that could securely send 4 punnets of healthy snacks (from a range of 50 mixes) to any address in Australia. We have been around for two months and have already sent thousands of boxes around the country. We won’t be happy until every desk has a Harvest Box!

What are the benefits of snacking on dried fruit and nuts?

Snacking on healthy and natural foods between meals can help to regulate blood sugar levels for sustained energy throughout the day.

There has been a complete shift in attitude to nuts and dried fruit recently. It is now widely recognised that nuts are natures own little vitamin pill, they don’t contain trans fats, are cholesterol free and are a great source of fibre and protein. The high protein content of nuts quickly satisfies your hunger and over time the nuts slowly release energy into your blood stream to give you lasting vitality.

Dried fruits are a good source of fibre and roughage and retain most of the health benefits of fresh fruit. We make sure we use as much fruit that is naturally dried and not soaked in sugar that you commonly find in the market place.

Our 4 punnets contained in each box are potion controlled so that you only have a suitable amount. You definitely can have too much of a good thing!

Our mixes are designed be delicious and to make you eat better. We want Australian workers to have more healthy eating options at work so they can keep their energy up during the day. We feel by having a box arrive on your desk each week with a range of natural foods will allow you to always have that snack on hand.

Where do you source your ingredients from?

Wherever possible we have hunted down the best tasting local produce we can find. We think Australian produce is the best! Our dried apple is from Tasmania, our dried mango and pineapple comes from Queensland and our almonds are from Mildura to name just a few. Seasonal constraints may dictate that from time to time we need to use imported produce, but this will be the exception. Wherever possible our dried fruits, nuts and seeds are free from preservatives, sulphites additives and added sugar.

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in starting up your own business? What advice would you give to a small business owner?

Finding enough hours in the day and prioritising your work load. There are so many jobs to do and so much you want to achieve you need to make sure you are being effective with your time. We have found so many people want to talk about our product. If you are passionate about your offering your customers will be to. Because Harvest Box is committed to providing our customers choice we are constantly looking for new ingredients. This is fun but does take time.

All three of us have young families and I have an 11 week old baby so we have to make sure we split our time as fairly as possible between work and family. Being able to send our Harvest Boxes home each day makes life a little easier!!

What are your next plans for Harvest Box?

Looking to the future is the best part of running your own business. We are focused on ensuring our product range for our current customers is the best it possibly can be in terms of taste, freshness and health. Communicating all the options available with Harvest Box is critical but we don’t want to send too much info across. Things like pausing your deliveries, rating new products and forwarding on our free boxes all need to be communicated in an efficient way.

We want to keep increasing the amount of mixes we offer but we are also looking at supplying cafes and supermarkets with our individual punnets. Not to mention large companies wanting bulk orders.

We are in an exciting development stage we just have to make sure we grow in a sustainable manner. We love people coming to us with ideas so if any of your readers like what we do and have any suggestions feel free to drop us a line through our online feedback form on our website.

Finally, where are your HOT places to visit or things to do in Melbourne?

Three Bags Full (56 Nicholson St, Abbotsford +61 3 9421 2732) A funky cafe in the middle of industrial Abbotsford. On the weekend you will be waiting for a table so you know it is good!

Picnic in the Botanical Gardens – in the middle of the city it is nice to surround yourself with nature.

Farmers Markets – I try and go to one every month. The produce and knowledge they have is fantastic. We have actually found some great suppliers by popping down to a local farmers market. They appear across many suburbs throughout the year.

If you’re interested in giving Harvest Box a go, Will has kindly provided blog readers with a promotional code.  Just enter 169BTG9RF to get the first box free and second box half price – there’s no expiry date.