One day. There’s another woman I’ve interviewed for this issue who said, “Don’t ever go into business with your partner” so I’m intrigued to know how you guys have made it work.
I couldn’t think of a better person to run a business with. So many times we have thought to ourselves how amazing and lucky we are, not only on a relationship level but, because we’re in the relationship together personally, we have the same long term goals. Our decisions are based on the same ideas for the business, whether it be the brands we bring on, or what we’re planning for the future, or the reason to stop doing something. We’ve always seen eye to eye. There have been a few times where Marco will be more conservative than I in certain areas, but I think it’s like the yin and yang I was saying before. We’ve had to learn how to listen to each other; he’s got to trust me when sometimes I’m going to be a little bit more risky or outrageous, and I have to listen to him when he’s being more cautious. It has definitely paid off. There was a time where I thought, we need more investment; we need more debt to take it to the next level. He was always, “A business should be able to pay for itself and re-invest in itself and a little bit of debt is ok but not too much” and I am so glad I listened to that. When the shit hit the fan last year and consumers stopped buying and spending … Because everything we sell is imported, Australia doesn’t manufacture really any optical frames or sunglasses, we found ourselves having to still maintain the debts we currently had and all of a sudden the exchange rate dropped dramatically. Fifty thousand dollars worth of debt suddenly became $90,000 worth of debt and at the same time sales just slowed. It was a real double whammy. I think if we were carrying more debt and had to service that on top of the normal bills … I think this is why a lot of big companies went down because they were carrying massive amounts of debt and just to service the debt alone and stay afloat became too hard. We got over our hump in three months. Within two weeks we changed everything – the way we did things, very quickly and it was the best thing we did. So that was the perfect time when I had to listen to Marco.
We met on the bus after school. I was 13 and he was 15.
So we’ve known each other a long, long time. We haven’t been together all that time, we had about six years apart … So 25 years I’ve known him and we’ve been together for 19. We know each other really, really well. That probably helps in running a business. We’re that sort of cliché where people say they’ve married their best friend. We did. So we’ve been really lucky. That’s helped running a business, having a baby, living together, travelling together; everywhere we went it’s always been together.
And what was he doing before you started ISSON together?
Marco was working. His background is in Civil Engineering. I think he just fell into that really by accident. He should have done something like Industrial Design. He is more of an industrial designer than I am, probably because he has got more patience.
He makes guitars too doesn’t he?
That’s right. In the time that we were apart he lived in a house full of musos and he got into bass guitar and started making bass guitars from scratch. He’d find really beautiful, specialty pieces of wood, whether it be ebony or birds eye maple … Starting off with planks of wood and designing and cutting, doing all the electronics and inlays, doing the frets and everything himself. He has made a few. The last one was probably the most technical, with a sliding pick-up – it was just amazing, a beautiful piece of art slash technology. Everybody wants to touch it.
And I hear you’re about to start on another big project.
Building a house, yeah. That’s crazy actually. We’re in the throws now. We really wanted to build a shipping container house. It was our dream. We were probably going to do it up in the bush somewhere, maybe Mount Colah, even Berowra, somewhere really quite isolated. It wasn’t going to look like shipping containers; it was more about the design challenge behind the shipping containers. What people have done with shipping containers globally is just amazing. We’ve bought a few books and Marco made a scale model, but after investigating the costs of the containers and the welding and the plumbing and everything, we think it’s going to have to be our next project. It’s just we’re a bit time poor and on a tight budget for this first house. Builders don’t want to touch it because it’s not their typical building material and who knows how long it’d take to get through council. So, putting that to one side unfortunately! We really wanted to do it.
But you’re still going to build?
We’re still building, yeah. Just got the builders happening on the weekend actually. Marco’s designed the house and we’re squeezing our whole lives into it. It’s going to be great.
A State Library, got that in there?
No, no! But it’s going to be a great little first nest, down near the beach near Warriewood. Even though we didn’t grow up in the Eastern suburbs we feel like we get enough of it here. We love it, but we also hate it. We’d love Charlie, our little girl, to grow up near the beach. We always grew up near bushland so it was creeks … Marco remembers finding yabbies and things like that in the creeks and just having that chance to explore. It’s the perfect place because we’re just near the Warriewood wetlands and there’s a rare mahogany forest down there and heaps of places to go and explore.
Will you still do this commute? Do you have to have your offices in the inner burbs?
I think we do. It’s been really good for stylists and to be close to media and all that sort of stuff. It’s not us, but we feel like we have to be here. I think the expectation is that being fashion related … It doesn’t cut it if you are outside the Eastern suburbs which is just so crazy because the whole thing about fashion is about people pushing boundaries and thinking outside the box. That’s what I find most frustrating. They want you to think outside the box but within their box. I’m not big on the aspect of fashion where people are following things just because it is. I’d really love for Australians in particular to be a little bit more discerning about what they themselves like and have the confidence to just throw caution to the wind. If you want to wear purple pants and a yellow hat … I see this really cool girl, she’s always wearing things like that old TV show Little House On The Prairie – long florally, flouncy skirts and she rides this big old push bike around. She just looks so kooky. I love her. Does she care what other people think of her? Nope. I just so love that about people. I really love that.