We celebrate women, and mothers, every day. But today – on International Women’s Day - we’re celebrating the accomplishments of women by sitting down with Shannon Clynes from Saint Helena. Having achieved success in senior leadership and co-founder roles for several global fashion labels, Shannon is now taking her own label, Saint Helena, to new heights. We chat to this business owner and mama about chasing down her dreams, forging her own path, maintaining her passion and juggling business with motherhood.
Where did the idea for Saint Helena come from and what has been the process of getting the label off the ground?
Firstly, I wanted to create a women’s brand that was inclusive rather than exclusive. I wanted a brand that carried the full size range of shapes that look good on both petite and more voluptuous women, not just from one walk of life, but many. I found that so many brands were one or the other.
Secondly, I was living on a property that over looked the Saint Helena Ridge (which separates Byron Bay and Bangalow). I’m not a religious person, however when I googled Saint Helena there were so many positive connotations that really meant something to me and what I wanted to portray through the clothing and brand message. I checked if the trademark was taken - it wasn’t and so I jumped on it and began the journey.
Who inspires you?
People who live a full life - in any walk of life. To elaborate on that - those who have never allowed themselves to be boxed in or pegged as one particular stereotype, group, talent or profession. I have been told so many times in life that I cannot do what I have now done and continue to explore in life.
What’s the most rewarding part of the business?
I have a very strong work ethic and thoroughly enjoy that I’m on my own schedule (although that means more hours than a regular full time role). It’s broken into different parts of the day which allows me to pay attention to my children as and when they need me most.
I also get to choose to work with people I respect and who share the same values. Although I like to think of Saint Helena as its own entity, I get to establish my own ethics into a business and put together some truly talented and inspiring people to create something for people who also identify with the same values.
Women’s fashion is a notoriously tough and competitive industry. How do you maintain your passion?
I'm now 37 and considering how hard I’ve worked over the years, it’s something I want to continue to put into practice as an independent operator. Taking that knowledge, being open to the creative process and making a good, honest business is very rewarding.
I’m now coming into a position where Saint Helena has the strength to create significant job opportunities not only locally but world wide and that is such a cool fact in continuing the passion to have a strong and profitable business. To know that other people can benefit from having an opportunity that has come from years of hard work is the absolute best!
Can you share your thoughts on the work / life balance and how it works in your family? And do you have any advice you can share with other mums?
Starting a business is a huge commitment to see it through. Understanding what is your driving force is a big one and ensuring you have at least some balance is essential to the sustenance of what you’re creating (and the actual reality of daily life).
Creating a business that works into your lifestyle is key, particularly as a mother - I actually couldn’t do it any other way whilst my children are young.
Motherhood brings a lot of joy but also a lot of challenges, how do you tackle the not-so-easy side of being a mum?
Gosh the ‘mum guilt’ was something I had to learn from, and although it doesn’t just go away as my children get older… I have learnt how to manage it so when I do get that guilty feeling or inkling, I need to acknowledge it, stop and pay more attention and make the space to be present with the kids.
I think that goes for any challenges with kids/family/friends … tackling issues that arise as they happen, rather than avoiding them and letting things build up, allows everything to flow more consistently.
Communicating about how I’m feeling to my partner and the kids is also a big factor in my own sense of feeling supported and understood; it’s definitely a strength in working through challenges.
What’s next for Saint Helena?
Recently I have expanded my manufacturing resources and found myself in a world of textile heaven… Finding the perfect fabrics and working them into garments that will be long-lasting pieces that my customers absolutely love and are proud to wear is the goal - then with that, definitely having some fun with it along the way too.
Also, I'm forever a beach girl and want to spend more time on the beach than on the computer all the time, even if that means working on the beach or varying my hours. How that actually translates I'm not sure, but that’s the fun part of the creative process and following your dreams.
Photos by Alice Wint @shecriedwolf