We recently caught up with the designer to chat motherhood, style, and what her ultimate race and polo day outfits would be.
Words: Marisa Remond | Photography: Kirsty Burns | Go to https://thegracetales.com.au/fashion-motherhood-go-hand-hand-south-australian-designer-binny-watson/
“I had the most amazing childhood in South Australia and after spending the last fifteen years in Melbourne then Sydney, it’s very special to be home," says Belinda Watson, the dynamic woman behind go-to fashion label Binny...
Watson originally started her label while living on the sunny beaches of Sydney and has since settled back to her hometown of Adelaide, where her love of fashion originated thanks to a family connection to sewing and beautifully made garments. “Both my grandmothers were avid sewers. One would knit (and smoke) non-stop, always be perfectly dressed in snappy little matching suits and would run herself up a new shirt dress every other week. The other handmade all her clothes and would be appalled that I am not hand sewing every garment in my collection or using cloth nappies,” explains Watson.
If her clothing label wasn’t impressive enough, Watson is also mum to 19-month-old Ollie, who has settled into the life of a fashion designer with ease. “There is no typical day, every day is really different. This week has been scouting shoot locations with Ollie (he slept the whole way, amazing!), fittings on our sample 2018 winter range, a trip to Melbourne to meet a new sales agent, negotiating with modelling agencies, endless haggling suppliers over delivery dates, costings and approvals.” A loosely followed Tizzie Hall routine has also allowed Watson to work during Ollie’s daytime naps. Thanks to a new-found level of productivity a full day’s work is miraculously done in two short hours.
What's the best advice you’ve been given about motherhood?
A great friend of mine said that when she was feeling like she wasn’t going to cope, she would remind herself how much she wanted this for so long. This stuck with me and has really helped keep me in the moment, appreciate how special every single stage is, especially when for a while I didn’t think I would get the chance to be a mother. So far, I just adore every second. It’s the most amazing and happy time of my life.
What does every mother need to get through some of the more trying stages of motherhood?
Dry shampoo and coffee. I hated the taste of coffee all through my pregnancy so I didn’t touch it. That has vastly changed now. If it didn’t make me slightly insane, I would drink it all day long. Also getting outside and walking. When I am at home on the farm we walk with the dogs and pram into town past ponies, sheep and screeching galahs. It’s great fun teaching Ollie about animals. He makes an excellent snake noise so we are all set when we get to see one of them. Hopefully not!
Can you tell us about your childhood?
I have an older brother who is such a great support to me now in my business and my favourite photo is of us on our scruffy old ponies, in a cloud of dust, helping muster sheep in the middle of a scorching summer. My family breed racehorses and merino sheep and I spent all holidays either mustering, helping dad in the yards for shearing, walking out the yearlings, checking mares, obsessively riding my ponies and brushing their tails. I always loved helping mum in the garden and cooking. I have such special memories of helping the shearer’s cook bring ‘smoko’ down to the shed. It feels like another world now.
What kickstarted your career as a fashion designer?
I always had an interest in fashion, even in my previous life as a chef. I remember refusing to wear the chef’s checked pants uniform and would wear my Sass & Bide jeans instead. Then an old boyfriend worked at a huge surf brand as a designer. We did some little projects together and I used to casually wander into Melbourne’s best boutiques at the time and just sell them. I literally had no idea how high-end these stores were. I would be terrified now! I then got offered a wholesale sale’s job, which is the best and toughest place to start. Cold-calling and lugging suitcases around the country. I was so happy to get out of the hospitality industry that I worked hard, learnt so much and look back at it now as one of most fun jobs I ever had. I was lucky to then get a design role after asking for one incessantly. I had to teach myself everything from scratch and was so computer illiterate. How to use Illustrator and Photoshop (this was the hardest thing I have ever done) and one time I crashed the server right before Christmas and the whole multi-brand office had to fax China and India pages and pages of designs, specs and bulk orders. I was not popular.
What have been some highlights since you started Binny?
When I see people wearing it on the street and they look great in it, I just get such a warm fuzzy feeling. Someone came up to me at a wedding the other day and introduced themselves saying they just wanted to meet me as they loved the brand so much. I’m sure she’d had a few too many champagnes, but that was just so nice. Of course, watching Asher Keddie wear it on the TV show Offspring was quite surreal. I also remember a very out of control fashion parade we did in Bondi in the early days behind Aquabumps. It was brilliant and something I would like to re-create one day (in a much more organised fashion).
What inspires your work?
So many things. I reference the country and my upbringing a lot. Also the coast as the brand started in Bondi. We have a tiny boutique at Robe and I’ve spent a lot of time on the Victorian surf coast. My trips to Brazil have been a huge inspiration and influence. I also adore India and I am looking forward to Ollie being old enough to go back (really it’s me, as I just couldn’t yet imagine ever leaving him for a night to even fathom going).
What have been some challenges you’ve faced since you launched your business?
Production is a killer and is just so difficult. It’s a balancing act between India and China and not having too many eggs in one basket. There’s always a drama… monsoons, government restrictions, the latest is a religious leader shutting down the whole city our knitwear comes out of!
What would you wear to a day at the polo?
Our broderie lace is ideal for the polo as it’s cotton (it’s always so hot) and more relaxed. I love jumpsuits as you look cool and don’t have to add too much. Our ‘Girl from Ipanema’ broderie cutout jumpsuit is perfect.
Do you think fashion design is innate?
Some people have fabulous style but I feel that design is something different. I don’t think you can teach creative fields such as art, design, photography and writing. You either have it or you don’t. For me, it’s just always been a case of loving colour, pattern and print. I would never have thought I would end up in this field, but I have always been very creative and it just makes me happy. It doesn’t feel like work for me, sourcing and coming up with my prints, I love it.
What are your time management tips?
Ollie’s daytime sleeps are my saviour. I have very loosely followed Tizzie Hall routines since he was tiny and it has really helped me. A hideously long-haul flight to Brazil and a month there taught me babies are tough and can survive and everything will be fine. It’s definitely made me a bit more relaxed (although NOT at the time!) and I’ve learnt not to worry so much. I will try to cut back on some things next year as I don’t juggle very well at the moment and I’m not looking after myself at all. I have a nanny one day a week and I try not to do any emails or phone calls when I am with Ollie as he has learnt to screech to get my attention and it just isn’t good for anyone. I have turned into a bit of a frantic babbling crazy woman as there is so much going on all the time – the sort who used to drive me mad before I had my own baby. Now I completely understand and in my head, I apologise profusely to all the people I was internally rolling my eyes at before.
What keeps you sane?
Going to bed early. Not doing too much outside of work and family. I’m so lucky to have the farm when I need space and the city house when I need some shops. My friends, those magic ‘laugh til we are crying’ moments. I love how we are screaming about everything non-stop then hang up on each other mid-conversation as one of us has a child going bananas and it’s totally fine.
What is your approach to health and wellbeing?
All or nothing. I love eating healthily, it’s not even a choice for me, but currently, I love cooking for Ollie so he eats like a tiny organic health prince while I seem to be just eating toast. I used to do Bikram yoga and toyed with the 60-day challenge. Then I never did it again. I trained for a half marathon obsessively, got the time I wanted and then went home ate a packet of BBQ shapes and haven’t run since. I so wish I was a normal person who could be in a good health routine and be more systematic in my approach. I went to Gwinganna a while ago and loved it, so I aim to get back there. I think the best feeling in the world is to be fit – it’s the key to happiness and I will get back into it, eventually!
What makes you feel stressed?
Armholes. The factories can never get our armholes right and it’s driving us insane. Photoshoots. They NEVER deliver my samples on time. We fly models into Adelaide and then have to coordinate a circus of photographers, stylists, hair and makeup, props, nanny, catering. It’s chaos and I worry for weeks beforehand. Not getting outside at all. An untidy house. Being on my computer or phone too much. Not getting enough family time when I feel like work is taking over.
Binny's little list of loves:
Reading books in bed in the morning with Ollie tucked under my arm, I never want this to end.
All the natives starting to flower at home and picking them for the house.
My jasmine ‘Nattomatto’ perfume that reminds me of India.
I ate so much watermelon when I was pregnant. So as a little memory, I just bought myself all the Lucy Folk watermelon pip jewellery. I love it.
My friend makes Banjo Bear carob chocolates and she always gives me the seconds, it is so delicious.
Paul Bangay Country Gardens book – I am planning the garden at the farm and it will be so far from anything like this book but is nice to dream.
Ollie sitting on mum or dad’s lap as we drive around the paddocks checking the mares at dusk.
Black Chicken all natural deodorant paste and face oil. I read about it and it’s as good as all the reviews say.