kat starr for madaboutmini.com

River Bennett (Photography River Bennett)

 

I often drove past the old homes in Mosman in Sydney, with their view of the glorious harbour and people wandering around its landscape. I would often dream about who lived in these dwellings and wondered how they spent their time.

As it turns out I was invited into one of these stunning old homes recently to see for myself what was contained within.

What I found was a woman of precision, determination and passion to be generous with her life.

She ran her household of two beautiful boys and a husband and sought to take on the Kids Fashion industry as well, with her stunning pieces of sheer comfort and design.

With her Chinese heritage and obsession with colour and design Kat Starr from MadaboutMini shares her thoughts on life running a kids fashion label, motherhood and how to be patient in making the Dream come alive.

When I was a little girl...

I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I just loved all things girly and crafty.

I used to make handbags from brown paper bags and decorate them with colorful cupcake paper cases and foil, and I would dress up my Barbies all day long.

As long as I can remember I always knew what I wanted to wear and loved styling my little outfits. I loved it when my Mum would sew me clothes and little elastic off-the-shoulder tops. I remember being so fascinated with my Grandma’s sewing machine that was hidden away at the back of her cluttered garage - she could make anything and I wanted to be just like her.

By the time I reached High School, and we were able to choose subjects, I chose Design and Textile electives and fell completely in love with it.

Growing up in a Chinese family, usually meant the expectation on the children was to become doctors, lawyers or anything that would make a good living. But my parents were different (Thank God! Otherwise I wouldn’t have been allowed to do fashion! ha!).

They gave me the support and freedom to do whatever I was passionate about - the only condition would be that I do a university degree. So I completed a Bachelor of Design in Fashion & Textiles.

I didn't have contacts in the industry and I really wasn’t as creative as other students in my course, but somehow opportunities presented themselves and doors opened which led me to working in the fashion industry for over 10 years - from designing in handbags, women's apparel, and now kids’ wear.

MadaboutMini came about…

When my sweet boy Harvey was 14 months old and finally began to sleep through the night.

My brain was finally working again. I always knew in the back of my mind (and heart) I wanted to start my own business again, but never knew what or when.

So at the beginning of last year it just felt right to start. I didn’t know where it was going to go, or end up, or if it really was going to eventuate into anything at all. But something in me just said I needed to start somewhere. So with my pencil and pad I started to brainstorm and draw.

It was either going to be Baby Bags or Baby Wear. I pursued both options. Doors seemed to close with my Baby Bag ideas, and doors organically opened with my Baby Wear pursuit.

After working on my now new business for a few months we found out that I was pregnant. At that point I hadn't yet placed my order for production so really it was a massive decision to either put it on hold or just go for it.

I came to the conclusion that it was now or never. Life was only going to get fuller and busier, and if I didn't start now then I wasn’t sure if I ever would.

So... I just did it. Dived in blindfolded - ha! I had "all-day sickness" for the first 20 weeks of pregnancy - so trying to keep up with a 18 month old and getting the business off the ground was challenging.

For me, designing a collection is the easy and fun part. The other parts of running  a business, like the accounting, website building, sales, marketing, PR etc. is the difficult part for me. If it wasn’t for my Mum helping me out with Harvey I don’t think I could have done it!

I had to also quickly learn to just take one day at a time otherwise it gets too overwhelming.

What attracts you to doing a Kids Fashion line?

I love how little kids are not restricted by fashion and trends, so you are not limited to what you can or cannot design for them. There is more freedom when designing for young kids as you are not designing each garment to compliment different body types, you can focus your energy on colour and prints - which I love.

I am also a practical mum who didn't like my babies in constricting woven clothing and wanted easy pieces for everyday to put on and take off my kids.

So naturally running a business from home where I could be both mum and designer seemed right - a creative outlet for myself and also have the ability to bring in income and build a business that could reach others beyond my four walls.

Our everyday is…

Everyday is so different.

Firstly, I am learning how to be flexible (especially with a newborn) - something I am not naturally good at.

I like structure and routine - every moment of every day accounted for and productive. I set high goals for myself, but with two kids I am learning that I cannot have that same expectation on myself as I did when I just had Harvey- otherwise I would be disappointed and stressed at the end of each day!

The reality is that there is not much time in the day when you are looking after two, especially when your energy levels are low from sleepless nights and when (my husband) Matt works late nights. So my most productive time to work on business is when Mum is here helping with the two kiddies.

I knew that the first couple of years I just needed to start small and do what I could do whilst looking after young kids but now that I am in it - there is always so much more you can be doing to drive it forward - its hard to keep a balance.

So I would say everyday is simply learning how to enjoy the journey and to be a better me - wife, mum and business owner. 

I am passionate about...

Designing. I love colours. Trying to work out new colour combinations that work with each other. It’s like a puzzle to me and when I feel I have it right, my heart skips a beat.

I want to be a generous person. I don’t have to elaborate, but it’s so nice when someone does something for you, I want to be able to do it for others too.

Whether it’s buying a coffee for a friend, being hospitable to others when they come around, baking for someone just because - ultimately I would love my business to be able to give back.

It breaks my heart to hear of stories of children all over the world in need - we are so fortunate to be able to live in such a great country and have the luxury to spoil our kids with not just their needs but so many extras. My dream one day would be to collide my business with being able to support a great cause.

What does sacrifice and hard work mean to you?

It’s easier said then done. For any goal that is worth reaching 'you need to pay the price' that’s what my mentor used to always tell me. So that’s what I’m still telling myself.

What's your research process?

The goal is to be inspired, so in a nutshell it is gathering into my head as many images (as I am a visual person) as I can before I start designing.

Ideally (it’s a little hard on time now) I would like to look through all the runway shows of my favorite designers each season, buy a stack of magazines and peruse through, look through blogs and online stores to see what is going on the fashion industry. Now, as I am a little time-poor, I have a folder on my iPhone of things that I have come across in my everyday which have inspired me. These may be images I have taken from a magazine whilst waiting at the doctors, a snapshot of colours I have come across in everyday scenery, pictures of art, craft, make-up, interiors - anything really that I see on social media, I collect.

From there I put together ideas for prints and colours and design the rest of the collection from there...

What do you know now that you wish u knew 10 years ago?

Should have slept more. Ha!

When I started my first business at 22, I was just out of university, confident and ready to take on the world. I lived at home, didn’t have a mortgage and thought why not? So I just began, I designed a collection, got it made and then hit a wall.

I didn't know how to sell them (major lesson). Back then, online shopping was only just beginning and marketing through social media was not as widely used as it is today. So I was at a loss. I didn't know what to do. In the end I wrapped things up and was devastated that my first business had failed. What I didn’t know was that it was the biggest lesson I could have learnt, and was probably the only way for my young confident self to learn.

In hindsight, the timing was actually perfect, as it was only the beginning of my career and every job I went into after that experience I didn't take for granted. I was a sponge soaking up all that went on around me, learning from my bosses, observant of how other businesses ran, in the hope that one day I would give it another go. So what would I have liked to tell my younger self (and still even myself today)? To be patient, to wait, to enjoy the journey - that every part of everyday prepares you for the next.

Things that are most important to you?

My faith. My family. Having “me” time.

If you could get rid of one hurdle what would it be?

TIREDNESS - the greatest hurdle everyday! Oh, and every designer's thorn in their side - production!

My greatest indulgence is?

1. Shoes

2. Handbags

3. Nutella-filled donuts

(... 4.  and time to myself!)

Limited resources or money to buy everything?

The attitude of limited resources but the ability to be generous if I had money to buy everything!

And lastly, is there any tips on how to style your kids this winter...

MIX and MATCH prints, AMAZING shoes and a staple WARM jacket! They are kids so have fun with their outfits - there is nothing better than popping on bold prints backed with basics to make a mini statement!

Little shoes also make the biggest difference in topping off an outfit – it’s a make or break! And find a jacket that works with all outfits because ultimately it’s what they are wearing when out and about, and you want your kids to be warm this winter!

 

 

For more on Kat's kids range head to:

MadaboutMini.com