I love a story. Especially when the story comes from the heart.
When I met Sonya from dog&boy we instantly had a mutual connection. We both had our corporate pasts, an understanding of the rollercoaster ride of the creative journey involved with a new business and we also shared a deep understanding on the importance of appreciating the everyday, after the scars of cancer.
When creativity is born out of spontaneity and nurtured through passion, you can’t help but be taken along for the ride.
“It’s about a journey, a story; and not just about my story of the beauty of every day, it could be anyone’s.”
Where did it all begin?
The idea for dog&boy was (at least I thought it was at the time) just a throw away comment from a friend one fine spring day in the dog park, where Barry, our goofy chocolate Labrador and my son, Nicky, were running around madly. Yep, literally. And yes, that is how dog&boy got its name.
My friend and I had been talking about how we both loved wearing scarves as part of our outfit, regardless of season, rather than just something practical to keep your neck warm in winter. I have worn scarves for as long as I can remember in all shapes, colours and fabrics.
My ‘past life’ was in the corporate world in consulting and banking, where the standard uniform was black, grey or navy. I always felt it so boring with no character, so a scarf worked beautifully and added the colour I wanted.
So back to the conversation with my friend… I was telling her that I couldn’t find anything interesting – nothing unique in design and in natural fibres. Lots of vector graphics, lots of photo images, and lots of synthetic or man-made fibres. Lots of sameness. So she just said, ‘well make your own’.
And here we are!
It’s funny you ask. Like with most new ventures, half the battle is getting known, getting brand awareness. So I started drafting some blogs recently to soon feature on my website to update my SEO and SEM and whatever other SE acronyms I might be missing.
Naturally, as my first blog, I wrote about the story of dog&boy and where it came from. Then I wrote about how to wear a scarf; how a scarf is more than just a fashion accessory… that sort of thing.
But then I thought, if someone asked me why do you do it, what would I actually say?
So why do I do what I do? Of course I love what I do but that doesn’t answer why do I love it?
Simply, I want to connect. I want to connect with others who love and appreciate beautiful things; literally and figuratively. dog&boy isn’t just about some gorgeous, luxurious fashion accessory. It’s about a journey, a story ;and not just about my story of the beauty of every day, it could be anyone’s. Everyone has at some time been touched by love, loss, joy and a hint of magic.
dog&boy designs tell a thousand stories of the simple beauty that is around us every day, however with our busy hectic lives we don’t pause often enough; to be grateful, to enjoy, to take a breath, to laugh, to look up or to breathe deeply and just smile. That is the essence of dog&boy – every beautiful day. Any beautiful day.
That’s why I do what I do.
“You know Mum, imagination comes from the heart.”
Inspiration and Values
For inspiration I have to look no further than my son, Nicky and by enjoying the little moments he experiences every day. I love the way he sees wonderment and magic in everything. I was really taken aback by him one day when I first commenced the journey of dog&boy – I was telling him what I was doing and he turned round and said to me, ‘You know Mum, imagination comes from the heart.’ Never a truer word spoken.
Quality was paramount to the manufacture of dog&boy. I wouldn’t produce something I wouldn’t buy or wear. dog&boy designs are printed onto a luxurious premium export quality cotton silk blend (70% cotton / 30% silk) fabric using digital print. I plan to introduce other fabrics in the future but baby steps first!
Digital print technology onto fabric uses reactive dyes, which are excellent for use on natural fibers and are eco friendly. Digital printing is also cleaner, safer, generally less wasteful, and less environmentally hazardous than traditional screen-printing methods. The result is a stunning, sharp and bright design that is easy to wear and care.
The spirit of childhood is a strong motivator for dog&boy, so ethical sourcing and processes is a priority. Our fabrics are sourced and printed in China by a long established manufacturer known and certified for its ethical and fair-trade practices.
I remember reading some time ago, “Dreams inspire you, but goals can change your life.” It’s the difference between doing something and just thinking about it.
I have many goals for dog&boy, which I am working towards bit by bit. I think I am fortunate to be in a start-up business where I can try anything I want. Many of my successes to date have come through opportunities that have presented themselves rather than me specifically seeking them out. I like to think there’s a bit of serendipity at play in the universe.
The ultimate goal though, would be that moment when someone is walking down the street and people say ‘oh! That’s a dog&boy design.’ How cool would that be?!
Solving a problem
It might sound all a bit airy-fairy but I still don’t think of dog&boy as ‘having my own business’. I started dog&boy to solve a problem I had. I figured if I had the problem, others would too. I know in reality terms I have my own business, but for me, this is and continuous to be a journey, an adventure and one that I am moving forward on. Everyday is my favourite part. It presents something new, something for me to learn.
I would love to think I could impart some deep and meaningful words of wisdom that would be the catalyst of change in someone’s life, but I unfortunately think I’m too pragmatic for that! The best advice is to work at it and keep working at it. It is basically hard work, plain and simple. Be consistent and regular and say yes to everything in the beginning, well an informed yes that is!
But probably more than that know WHY you are doing what you do. Wanting to work flexible hours, being your own boss or simply just to make money is not the why. That is a by-product of having your own business. People won’t connect with your product, or service, if that is your why.
Ask yourself why you get out of bed in the morning. If it’s just to pay the bills, then you’re starting your own business for all the wrong reasons.
Your bucket list…
All the things on my bucket list involve travelling with my boys – my husband Tony and son Nicky. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I want to show the world to Nicky.
– A diving holiday around Europe. It is simply stunning. And the food and the wine. I’ve told Nicky he’d better get his French and Italian up to scratch so we can go! Did I mention how good the wine is?!
– Cycling through Holland during tulip season – masses and masses of tulip fields. Gorgeous!!!
– Breakfast with the elegant and statuesque inhabitants of Giraffe Manor in Nairobi.
– Japan – It is such a country of contrasts. So traditional, yet so modern. It is also so very beautiful.
– Galapagos Islands before they and their ancient creatures disappear.
– But our favourite place to travel is New York. My husband lived there before we were married; we’ve travelled there several times as a couple and a couple of times now with Nicky. It is simply an awesome city. I love everything about it. I would live there tomorrow. Although they do need to work on the quality of the coffee……. 😉
On the side
What? You mean starting a design business where the only employees are me, myself, and I – isn’t that a big enough project???!!! Kidding.
About 3 months before I launched dog&boy we started building our ‘forever’ home in Melbourne. We were super organized, had selected all our fixtures and fittings, and all our finishes before the build even commenced. How hard could it be?? Well, as anyone who has ever renovated house in inner Melbourne will understand, nothing usually goes according to plan! So the count down is on to early November when the house is supposed to be completed – check back with me then and I’ll let you know how it went!
Prior to dog&boy, I was never an avid social media user. Of course now it is one of my key tools for dog&boy. I was pretty apprehensive about it all at first as it was not something I really understood how to navigate or utilize effectively. In the nearly 6-months since launching dog&boy, I have been surprised and delighted at being a part of the Instagram community. I have ‘met’ some wonderful people who themselves are clearly passionate about what they do – case in point, it’s how I met you @hillsandwest! The feedback has been great and the support wonderful.
As for my favourite bloggers / websites / and IG accounts,
@ofkin – I first met Kylie about 12months ago. Being the social and digital media guru that she is, she explained how to use Instagram as a tool effectively for business. Her blogs are a lovely mix of something practical, then something a little inspirational and thought provoking. I love reading her ‘Leap Stories’. I was so chuffed about her recent Leap Story on Prue Aja. Prue is the gorgeous lady with the magical camera lens for dog&boy. She makes my designs come to life.
@dunnewithstyle – I love Sam’s regular musings. They are like a delicious hot cup of tea on a cold day. They make everything feel better.
@milymiss & her other half @melbourneiloveyou – everyday Melbourne through the eyes of a gorgeous young couple. They post some gorgeous images around Melbourne and Victoria.
@agata_louie curates the most gorgeous moody yet delicate images every day. She lives in LA so her feed is one of the first things I see in the morning when I check my IG. It’s just one of those IG accounts that make you sigh and enjoy the simple moment.
When I first started dog&boy I did a lot of reading, I still do a lot of reading. I don’t quite remember what I put into Mr. Google this day, but it came up with the website StartUp Fashion, the fashion business blogger, Nicole Giordano. Nicole’s fashion business musings have been a bit like a soothing hand when things seem totally overwhelming, and when needed, a slap in the face reality check. I love her authenticity.
I shop online, just little bit ;), so love websites that are straight forward and easy to use, have great product shots so I can see the detail and if they ship free, then that is a huge bonus. I love shopping withASOS . Their selection is endless, I love the ‘save for later’ list where I can save things I like for 60 days and their returns process is so easy.
You can’t live without?
#1 of course is a scarf!!! I think my life is diarised by the scarf collection I have.
#2 would be my very comfortable collection of flats from Sambag, Habbot and Rollie Nation. I also have my ‘princess’ shoes, a gorgeous pair of Roger Vivier Belle pumps in grey suede that my husband bought me in New York a couple of years ago *sigh*.
#3 boyfriend jeans. Jeans have pretty much become my daily uniform. I dress them up or down depending on whether I’d meeting a stockist or just doing the school run. They are comfortable and look good.
#4 my growing collection of coats and jackets. With Melbourne’s weather so unpredictable much of the year, I love to layer regardless of the season!
#5 my perfume – ‘Tiffany’ eau de parfam by Tiffany & Co. People always compliment on it.
#6 can I do 6?! I always need a great cross-body bag. Not too big, not too small. It needs to fit my essentials as well as my mini-iPad and notebook. Oh, wait, that almost sounds like a Hills&West Morgan mini convertible clutch……
Thanks Sonya for being so open and honest about your journey. I will enjoy sharing our wonderings and musing as we both grow and build our stories.
At Hills & West I know there is nothing better than feedback. So, when I am lucky enough to have some time with someone I always ask what is their favourite Hills & West accessory and why. Sonya knew instantly.
“Oh this one is easy! I can’t remember when I came across @hillsandwest but I was so glad I did, for a variety of reasons! I instantly fell in love with the Everyday Cowhide clutch in grey/black. I loved the texture and the grey hide softened the black. It’s simple but so elegant. The handgrip design on the back is genius!”
That definitely put a bounce in my step.
Let’s all walk away from today with an added appreciation for the everyday.
See all dog&boy designs and the wonderfully colourful stories that accompany them.
Photographer Prue Aja @prue_aja_photography / Styling Jess Lee @ivorymoth