In General, Humans of SKY, Inner West, Kingsville, Seddon, Yarraville

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My sister and I, with one of our goats

My sister and I, with one of our goats

“I grew up in Diamond Creek. We had chooks, cats, dogs and goats, plus lots of tiger snakes, lizards and echidnas. Diamond Creek was considered semi-rural then. Dad was a lawyer and had a very successful law firm, and retired when I was about 18. Consequently, he set up our family business, Serval Investments. I’ve been a Director of the business since 18.

Mum is/was a fashion designer. She did bridal and did one or two weddings a year. I’ve been around fashion all my life and I still lean on Mum for inspiration sometimes. I have an older sister, Anna who is a film and theatre director.

I went to high school in Kew, and really enjoyed school. I did all the sports – high level competitive netball, rowing, water polo, skiing and swimming. Sports was a big part of my life.

Travelling was a big part too, and my parents would take us on big trips every few years. I still vividly remember our trip to Europe when I was six. Mum gave us a little sketch pad, and everywhere we went, we would draw what we could see. I’ve still got my six-year-old drawing of the Statue of David. Mum said ‘If you sit and draw it you more likely to remember it.’ My love of drawing and travelling came from these experiences. We still travel as a family; the last big trip we had was to Ireland and Italy, and we returned just before the pandemic struck.

Another kid photo

Another kid photo

Dad has Parkinson’s so it’s always easier to travel together. It’s also nice to have Dad and Mum around as a few extra helping hands for our young family.

I did my first solo travel when I was 15, as an exchange student in Paris over the Australian summer months. It was reciprocal program with the schools, and my host sister came over to Melbourne over the European summer months. This started a 28 year family friendship. I was the maid of honour for Anne-Laure’s wedding not long ago.

I went to Victorian College of Arts (VCA) and completed a Bachelors in Creative Arts. I wanted to be a photographer and painter but realised I wasn’t going to earn any money doing that! I jumped on a plane and travelled from Canada to Central America. Most Australians go to London for their working holiday, but I didn’t want to do that. I chose Ireland, and lived in Dublin for three years, and started my Lush career there. I worked for Lush, on and off for the next 15 years.

Dublin had the largest Lush shop in the world at that time, and it also gave me the chance to travel and work through Europe. That was where I found my feet and independence.

Fergal and I in Rio | My family and I on the Great Wall of China | Standing on top of the world - the Matterhorn, Switzerland 2018

My family and I on the Great Wall of China | Fergal and I in Rio | Standing on top of the world – the Matterhorn, Switzerland 2018

I had just done a big trip to South America and resigned from Lush to move to Scotland. As soon as I did that, I met my husband, Fergal in Ireland. We started seeing each other, but I knew I was leaving for Scotland soon, so I asked if he’d come, and he did.

We lived in Edinburgh for five years and bought our first house there. We loved our time in Scotland but I really started to miss the Australian sun. We got engaged on my 30th and then married in Ireland 6 months later.  A few weeks after that, we moved to Australia and have been here ever since.

I rejoined Lush once back in Australia. Our first home is our apartment in St Kilda, which we still have.

Lush was sending me to Japan, and I was juggling work and travel time, and soon realised all this travelling made it hard for me to focus on my life.

Travelling in Spain | Hill walking in Scotland | Hill walking in Ireland

Travelling in Spain | Hill walking in Scotland | Hill walking in Ireland

So I left Lush and I started a business consultancy business, which is similar to what I did with Lush. I thought, why not work for myself, instead of doing it for a company?

Almost immediately after starting my own business, I fell pregnant. It seems every time I start a new business, I fall pregnant!

Adelaide, Rory and I

Adelaide, Rory and I

After we sold our home in Edinburgh, we were trying to buy in Melbourne for about two years. Two of my best friends live in Yarraville, and they were like “You need to move to the West!”. The only times I’ve visited the West was to visit them, and I didn’t know it well, but it took only 12 minutes to cross the bridge to get there.

We weren’t particularly in love with the East. I was very pregnant, we had a two-door car, and a one- bedroom apartment, and I was getting increasingly desperate.

We settled on our previous home in Edgar Street in 2016, about five weeks before we had our first, Adelaide. Having a baby, and having two best friends within walking distance, and also the parents group, meant we got to meet local people really quickly. Funnily enough, I’ve ran into old friends who I haven’t seen since I moved overseas; they’ve all gravitated to this part of town.

We still have the St Kilda apartment and sold our Edgar Street home in 2020. We are now in Wales Street. We love it, and feel like we’re in the centre of Kingsville.

I was still working while I was on maternity leave with Adelaide and of course, I hit a wall. I took four months from my own business. I’m a bit of workaholic but didn’t anticipate how tired I’d be with a newborn. Once I started feeling like I wanted to go back to work, I did a bit of work on Agents of Innovation, and I thought ‘Why don’t I create a dummy company, and use all my consultancy templates, to see how effective those tools are?’

The dummy company was a tee shirt company.

Just one product, easy!

Three generations travelling in Rome 2018 | Our wedding day in Dublin (it was -2 deg)

Three generations travelling in Rome 2018 | Our wedding day in Dublin (it was -2 deg)

I looked at the figures and numbers, and decided to start drawing again. Something I’ve not done since my uni days. I’ve always done black and white portraiture, and the first people I drew were Ita Buttrose and Germaine Greer.

I launched High Tees and I fell pregnant three weeks later!

High Tees allows drop shipping, which is a relatively new concept in Australia. You sell the product, but it gets distributed somewhere else. I was looking for a printer who could print my artwork, while picking and packing for me too. It took me a long time to find a printer in Australia who had the necessary sustainable credentials and skills. I needed unisex organic cotton, get quality prints and sustainable dyes.

I finally found someone in Ferntree Gully, and I’ve been partnering with them from Day One. It’s a commercial and sustainable choice to use dropship, with print on demand. This means I only print the ones I need, while it takes more time, I’m not buying unnecessary of stock, contributing to fashion waste.

Jess in a High Tee tee shirt

Jess in a High Tee tee shirt

I didn’t think anyone would buy my tee shirts, but just kind of kept going. I enjoyed the creative side of things, and love to sit and draw. High Tees draws on all my retail experience with Lush, and creativity from my degree.

Around the same time, I was volunteering with ASRC and my first campaign tee shirt, Kids of Nauru was in partnership with them. High Tees has always had the ethical mandate to contribute back to the community.

Kon Karapanagiotidis, the CEO of ASRC even wore the Kids of Nauru tee into parliament. He got kicked out as it was a protest tee shirt!

In my first year, over 50% of my profits went to supporting ASRC.  I now partner with West Welcome Wagon. The first tee shirt I did for West Welcome Wagon was the Welcome tee shirt and I had the opportunity to get Cate Blanchett to wear one. Best part was, she told me to share it how I wanted it.

Cate at that time was promoting a brand new tv show about asylum seekers and was promoting it in the UK. So here’s a Hollywood actress, who’s also the Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, wearing my tee shirt designed to support a grassroots organisation in Sunshine.

We raised $5000 for West Welcome Wagon through that initiative alone, and I’ve since donated over $10,000 for them.

In the last 19 months, I’ve been able to meet a whole lot of people within the Inner West, and an opportunity to connect with businesses and female-led businesses within the West.

The majority of my clients are from the West, and I feel very supported. I did a shout out on facebook in the middle of the year, looking for models for a doorstep photoshoot. My husband could only be a model for me so many times, and I posted on the Kingsville Good Karma Network, asking if anyone would be interested to pose in my tee shirts. Few lovely people said “yes”. All I did was walk from doorstop to doorstop and clickity clack got my photos done. It was one of my favourite days of lockdown as I had all those social interactions with people!

That moment for me, sums up my experience with the Inner West.

On weekends, we’d normally be at the footy during footy season. I love Fig & Walnut, Olive Oil and Butter and Coracle Café. You can also find me at a local park.”

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