The Grace Tales
At My Desk: Bronwyn Ferguson From Karolina York
Bronwyn Ferguson has her hands full: an adorable eighteen-month-old daughter, Billie, another baby on the way and an incredibly successful print design studio, Karolina York, which Ferguson founded a decade ago. The business has since grown into one of the world’s leading print design studios counting brands such as Givenchy, Etro, Zara and H&M as clients. Yet, the inspiring Ferguson seems wonderfully present and focused on each and every part of her life. “Motherhood has taught me many things: to be in the moment, that it is okay to say no and that my family always comes first,” she says. “Parenting is definitely not predictable and you have to be accepting of constant change.” We visited Ferguson at her Sydney studio to talk everything from prints to parenting…
What’s the best advice you'’ve been given about motherhood?
Let the chores wait. There won'’t be time to keep the house spotless during this chapter of our lives.
Do you enjoy pregnancy?
This has been such a different pregnancy to Billie. It’s is true what they say, no two are the same. This baby non-stop moves, which I have found the most beautiful and engaging part of this pregnancy. I haven’t had the luxury as I did in the first pregnancy to make evening yoga classes as I treasure my nights with Billie too much. I work five days a week, so there are some things that have slipped with this pregnancy and exercise has been one of them.
How do you pamper yourself while pregnant?
I am a believer in basic facials. I love going to Wild Ginger in Freshwater as they use the most interesting products. The other day I was getting a mask in Manuka honey, it felt amazing! I have an incredible Reiki master and I fall into a deep meditation during each visit. It’s a great way to catch up on sleep. I also used an Osteopath and Chiropractor a lot more during this pregnancy.
Do you follow a routine with Billie?
Every child and parents steer a different ship. We weren’t a routine family for the first year. I do believe babies find their own routine and in honesty, it took a lot of pressure off parenting by not trying to follow suggested sleep and feed times. Billie was such a chilled first baby to have, it made parenting and returning to work more manageable. Billie would join me at work most days, and sleep in the corner or rock in the bouncer. I have a wonderful team of staff who constantly provide so much love for Billie when she joins me in the studio. We also traveled (UK, Ireland, Stockholm, Barcelona, Paris and Perth) quite a lot in the early days with Billie so there wasn’t much point in having a routine with constant time zone changes. She was my little work companion and joined me at international trade shows. It wasn’t until I fell pregnant with our second child that my husband and I decided we should work on a bit more of a routine. It took a bit of work, but we got there in the end. Although right now I feel I haven’t slept in months, maybe Billie is preparing us for the arrival of the second baby.
How did you deal with the sleep deprivation after your daughter arrived?
It becomes the new reality. I remember the hardest part was getting myself going for work after a sleepless night. Billie and I did a lot of co-sleeping in the early months, so I could get some hours of sleep in before work. I will always treasure those nights, it really was special. I know it is not advised to co-sleep these days, however there was something very peaceful about letting Billie sleep in my arms. It was our time to bond as mother and daughter after heading back to work early on.
Can you tell us about your background and how you came to launch Karolina York?
I studied Fashion & Textiles at Central Tafe Western Australia School of Art, Design & Media. They had an incredible department for screen-printing and fabric experimentation on the campus. I moved to the UK and Ireland for three years in 2001, where I picked up on the print industry. I put myself through night school at Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion specialising in print. I then went onto work at John Rocha for two seasons. John is an incredible man, and I look at that experience as a huge stepping stone into forming my own company in 2005.
Can you recall your biggest career highlight?
Living and working in Barcelona in 2009. Selling to Givenchy and Etro in Paris. Flying into A Coruña in the North of Spain to visit the Inditex Group, aka Zara. I even took up Spanish to get us into more companies in Spain. My Spanish never was that great and I found I could use English, but I just love the language and I wanted to speak and breathe Spain in 2009. Entering into the US market in 2008. I had never been to America before this trip and it opened the doors to a whole new world of business. Most recently, flying into Brazil with the collection for the first time. Culturally this would have to be one of the biggest challenges I have faced in business, it really is so different. I am used to a meeting running for an hour, in Brazil some meetings went for four hours, inclusive of lunch and a lot of healthy negotiating. I really do have one of the greatest jobs. Travel to me is one of the best educators and I feel very privileged to have seen the cities I have and absorbed business in so many different cultures.
What do you love most about what you do?
Our clientele. It really is what keeps me going, I love working with so many different brands and being pushed to offer innovative designs for each of them. I strive towards each design that we produce being an ultra-modern interpretation of trends past and future. We run craft workshops in house where the design team learn artisan skills. I learnt the trade of textile design pre-computers and digital printing. Every concept design created was either hand-drawn or screen-printed. Nowadays many designs are started and finalised on computer. However, I still find it so important as a designer to understand the roots of the industry. By having craft days, we all sit around and cut our own lino’s for lino prints, we shibori and tie-dye concepts, we hand-draw and hand-paint florals and geometrics. We weave fabrics to scan in as textures. It is a skill I like to keep alive in the design team. Creatively I love that we are continually producing new artworks. Each week we are designing between sixty to eighty new one off designs. I have a design team of five now. I used to design full-time myself, but now I work a lot more on the company. I really enjoy the change and looking at new markets. Over the last year, we have picked up further business in Europe and entered into Brazil. Since having Billie I feel so creatively grateful that I am okay with my paintbrushes being down for the time being. I know there will come a time when the kids have grown up and I will relish in those days of just drawing, but for now I am loving being a mum and encouraging Billie to paint and jump in card boxes and pretend it’s a boat or a car or a castle.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Billie wakes us around 6/6.30am. We bring her into our room for cuddles and laughs and then she tears around the apartment with our dog. I leave home around eight am. I normally check in with my operations manager when I arrive at work and then everyday presents itself with its own challenges. I have a design team of five and sales team of three who I am in daily contact with on the weekly direction of our print ranges, who’s traveling next, when our next trade show might be. I arrive home after 5pm and will make Billie dinner, have some playtime with Billie before my husband and I share bathing her and reading a book or signing to put her to sleep. I am not the singer, that’s Dave, he sings her old Irish songs which I love listening in on.
Do you switch off when you get home?
Not easily. I am better now and love arriving home to Billie as she distracts me 110%. Though when she goes to bed my husband and I easily find we talk shop. He runs his own company so we are constantly throwing ideas off each other. Sometimes I think we are mad, as the demands of running your own business and having a newborn means it’s very hard to switch off.
Can you tell us about your work space?
I feel very lucky to arrive into a workplace, which is an extension of me. I am big believer in creating a space that my staff are proud to work in. I do like a clean and organised environment and everything has its place and is labelled. For me it’s important to try and have a clean space as daily we have paintbrushes, dyes, fabrics and ranges in use throughout the studio space. We are constantly changing the showroom around and have themes every three months in relation to a certain trend we have worked on. It’s nice for our clients to see an ever-changing space. I love having flowers and candles burning and these are always in our showroom.
What is your advice to working mothers?
Having an incredibly supportive and hands on partner has been a key to the changes I have gone through in the first 12 months of motherhood. Be prepared to outsource more of the roles that you used to take on-board, as time is valuable and not as easy to come by anymore. It’s an expense but by bringing in professionals in their field you actually learn a whole new way of running your business. I also have an incredible mentor who has guided me over the years, the advice I currently get off her as I navigate motherhood and running my own company is invaluable.
Photography: Julie Adams Makeup: Sarina Zoe Words: Georgie Abay