Anna’s lifestyle brand OwnsIt! Offers fun, fierce and feminine size-inclusive fashion focusing on spreading female empowerment.
She left her career in Social Work and Criminal Justice to start OwnsIt! in 2017 to fulfil her creative desires. Her serendipitous path came about by following her gut and the call of her dreams. With love for bright, bold and beautiful designs, Anna created a femininely feminist brand and a community of wonderful women who appreciate the OwnsIt ethos and style. They have officially earned the Australian Made badge with their locally handmade and ethically sourced products.
It operates from a home-based studio in Melbourne. And her team takes pride in creating the highest quality garments.
Anna’s Podcast: Fun, fierce and feminine
- How she built a femininely feminist brand and what that means
- The story behind her ’18’ Jacket
- Her journey and most significant learning curves
- The power of following your gut intuition and following the signs
I idolised your jackets, and I wish I lived in a climate again where I could wear one every day because they speak to my soul like I used to work in Christchurch, dreary. As soon as winter hit. Let’s be honest, probably summer to everyone just stuck to blacks, navys greys like it was the jealous place in that space. And finding a splash of colour was so hard. Your jackets are gorgeous. They’re arrived sunshine in a sea of same same. But there’s a really kind of sad and serendipitous story behind your journey from social work and criminal justice to queen of colour. And it all seems to revolve around the number 18.
It does, it does. So it’s really quite unbelievable how life can just pan out for you when you just follow the signs, I think and that’s exactly what I did here. So number 18 was the first jacket that was ever launched by Owns It. And it was very much a serendipitous moment, it was not a planned intention to create this brand and to have the jacket. But I feel like the backstory is quite what is really worth sharing. So I’m going to tell you how that all happened. A few years ago now coming up seven years, my younger brother Tom passed away. And when he passed away after a couple of weeks later, I went back to work, I decided to go back to work quite early, just because I felt like I needed to get some normality back into my life. And he was quite young. So he was 23. And when I went back to work, I was because of the nature of the work I was doing at the time, it was quite secluded where I was based in my office. So here I was upstairs, it was almost like an old kind of wooden house, this office that I was in, I was sitting there and I remember looking at my computer and sort of just going through my emails and I was sad, naturally quite sad. And I was bawling my eyes out. And across my screen came this you know, those pop ups for adverts from the internet and whatnot. So and it said are you know, enter to go on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. And I was like, oh god, I would never have entertained something like that normally, but I guess I was looking for the distractions, it started filling out this application that was on there for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and sent it off and literally took no more notice of it. Like I think I’d even forgotten that I filled that format. And it turns out a little while later, actually, which was on the 18th of the month. And the significance of 18 is that my brother Tom, when he played footy for his whole life, he wore the number 18. And the number 18 was a lucky number for him. And so I was actually born on the 18th of June. And 18 was sort of quite a lucky number for me too held some kind of significance in our family. So anyway, weirdly, ironically, I ended up getting this text message from the TV show, it was on the 18th of the month saying you’ve got gone into the next round. And I was like who sends a text message to tell you that you’re successful into this next round, for sure this is not worth following up. So anyway, something was really pressing me like I had this intuition to really, I just let it slide. And then I thought, you know what, I’m actually going to contact the number and just see if it is legit. So I rang the number and they said to me, yep, you know, we want to bring you into the show for the next stage. You know, you do kind of this elementary round where it’s sort of like a quiz type thing. And then they sort of test you on the TV and what not. So I was like, you know, what am I got to lose if I go in I go in I had no like idea that I would win or thought that I would win. I went in and bombed out by one question. So I didn’t actually make it through from the quizzes because I was one one short but on the way out, the producers pulled me aside and had said, Okay, we’re gonna pop you through to the next round. We want you to go in and do this TV session to see how you kind of perform on TV and whatever. So I went through to that and ended up getting through to the next stage and the next stage, mind you was 18 months later. So I ended up going on to the TV. But to go on the TV, what they wanted me to do was wear, sorry, this is a very long way of telling you about this story. And I feel like if I don’t tell you the whole story, it doesn’t really add value to how the jacket came about. But anyway, to go on the TV show, they wanted us to wear something bright and colourful, and my whole wardrobe actually is really bright. But I just got this thing about wearing something new. I don’t know what it is. But when I go somewhere that’s new or quite special, I feel like I want to wear something new. I had this big canvas, which was a Laura Blythman who’s quite a well known Melbourne college artist, she had created these canvases for children’s teepee tents, and they were getting sold through a small business that was online. And I I purchased the canvas with the intention of just putting on a like frame to hang on the wall. Anyway, I never got around to doing that, sat the boot of the car, I guess like everything else does. I never got around to doing that and decided that I wanted to use that fabric then to make a jacket. So I had this design of a jacket in my mind, we happen to have a friend of ours who was a tailor. And he then created the jacket for me based on my idea. It was bit chonky, it was definitely the prototype, but it did the job. So we made this jacket and I wore the jacket on the TV show it was a beautiful sort of pastel with some bright colours through it all abstract print really kind of stand out, flamboyant vibrant, was beautiful. And the cut of the jacket was just really nice, too. So then I ended up going on the TV show and just sort of crept up on me. But I wanted to let Laura know before I was going on there that hey, just in case because it was on Channel Nine, who knows the chances of her seeing it. But I thought just out of courtesy, I’ll let her know in case she feels like it’s a bit of a copyright thing or whatever. And I totally forgot to do it. The TV show went to air. And Laura ended up putting a picture of me on her social media. And I was actually a follower of hers just because I adored her work. And so with quite a few people that I knew. And I ended up getting all these messages from friends that were saying, Oh, look, Laura’s got you on her Instagram. And anyway, I thought oh shit a minute and I thought oh my god, she’s going to like, she’s going to come at me here with like this lawsuit because I’ve made this jacket and I shouldn’t have and I’m on TV. But anyway, so she was actually really brilliant about it. She was like, I love what you’ve created. The jacket looks fantastic with the print, we kind of just briefly got chatting. And she was sort of like, do you want to design and I was like, Well, why not. So literally the business Owns It was created from that moment that Tom gave me literally as a blessing to then create this jacket, go on TV and then be able to produce it. So I named the jacket obviously after him, that’s why it was called 18. And it’s still to this day is very sentimental to me and I feel like with this brand, I’m actually living life for two and I’m kind of carrying his spirit along with it too. So that’s how it started. It’s kind of really quite bizarre.
I love those kinds of stories, they make me so happy.
I feel like it’s almost, that that’s that whole thing of just following your intuition and what’s ahead of you in the next chapter in your life really. So I ended up now full time here, I would have never guessed it. I had no background in fashion or design, although I loved it and I was kind of always I was a little bit of a rebel with style. Like I’d often wear things inside out or back to front or, you know, boys clothes and bright wicked things. Although I would have loved to I just never really felt that that was the career I was going to end up in.
Now passion plays clearly a huge part in your brand. Yeah, because it all came from passion and a passion that you adored. There are just so many gorgeous prints and patterns that you use within your brand. How do you source that your feed is just so gorgeous, because of these prints? Do you do collaborations? Like how does it work now?
I would say the first 12 months at least was very much trial and error. I tried to work out really what the brands, I guess flavour was if you like initially I was kind of putting some designs out there that aren’t no longer with me. But I’ve really been able to kind of nail what the customer likes, what my flavour is, what the brand’s kind of style is. And so a big thing for me is collaborating. So all of our designs are through collaboration. So I work with other female artists, both, you know, local and kind of internationally. And generally, what I like to do is go to an artist because I love this style of work, like I’m selective about who I would work with. I love their style. I love their use of colour. I like how they work abstractly with design. And I try and give them free rein as much as I can. Like, I feel like that’s their skill. I’m going to them because I like what they do. I don’t want to go to them and say hey, I want you to create this for me, but we’re going back and forth around colour and sort of just a bit of an idea and then I’ll sort of produce the scale that I think will work well with the garment. But yeah, mostly all through collaboration. I feel like that’s one of my favourite parts of my business is being able to work with and support other women to then be able to create a collection. And they’re often bold, they’re always bright,
I often find people for in Brand You or that I want to follow on Instagram because as a graphic designer, what is ascetically pleasing to me, I will naturally gravitate towards your Instagram feed is on point I love how there is a really amazing segue between your collections and you can just scroll down and you can almost pick the section on your Instagram that the colours appeal to you or the patterns appeal to you. And that just sort of his beautiful way of almost organically occurring. I feel like I always have to compliment people and that sort of stuff because there’s so many trends in Instagram feeds these days, to actually find something that’s done it almost like in a really unique organic way. I think that’s really special.
Thank you, it means a lot coming from a graphic designer, that’s for sure. I actually put quite a bit of thought into my feed. I like that it does segue into different sort of colours and that it’s aesthetically pleasing. Like colour really is the superpower of a
brand I think and to have someone land on my Instagram feed which is kind of like which is the main marketing point for me. I want it to be inviting and I want them to feel happy and I want them to really enjoy kind of what they see. I don’t know I reckon with colour. There’s a lot of emotion and psychology just by looking at it you know, you don’t even need the spoken word. You just can look at colour and it’s automatically instantly as you say it you gravitated to it and I want people to feel happy, I want them to feel warmth, I want them to feel you know love and support and just when they look at my Instagram feed. Thought does go into it and everything has to be bright and colourful on my page actually. And also makes the brand stand out
And this is what I really like about your brand. So often people go will go off that brand too brightly and discard. But the what yours has just done so gorgeously that your Christmas apparel is so wearable, the things you have in there is still, you know, especially like gorgeous tartan jacket like, Oh, that’s just amazing. You can wear that any time of year. But then you scroll further down and you see like there’s a really monochromatic one that you’ve put out there. And if people are naturally want something bold and black and white, it’s there for them. But then you’ve got your linen, slightly more muted tones in the there as well. For some more classic pieces. You’ve got really great balance in your brand really spoke to my soul and it spoke to the very key personalities that I can bring out in myself.
That’s actually, it’s interesting you say that about the personalities because that really is the aim. And when I think about me, I’m a Gemini, my moods and the way I dress is very dependent on my personality on that day. My market within my brand is quite broad. So there are other women who love my jackets, but they they’re a little less daring. They’re not right up for the bold, bright colours just yet but they often they warm into that. And then I think the handmade market itself is really quite interested in colour. Like I feel like there’s this love and admiration for colour by the people who are shopping handmade. Interestingly, Melbourne, Victoria, are not as daring in their fashion, you walk down the street and most people will be in sort of darker colours or neutral tones or black, whereas Queensland love colour, love colour. They’re brilliant. They will just explore and adore colour with their outfits, which is amazing. I feel like Melbourne’s getting better now and we’re getting better at colour down here. A lot of thought into my colour of my branding, like when we first sort of started getting your logo, right, yeah, you can rebrand and whatnot. Amazing how much thought even just has to go into that I just wanted to Owns It to be black to kind of be timeless and sophisticated and sort of stand out. But even just we got these colour blobs on our logo and just understanding what the meaning for each logo was to really then attract that kind of audience as well. And align with our values, too, you know.
Your brand works well with whatever collection you’re putting out, it really does seamlessly flow through having that level of consideration. I get it all the time, I get people coming to me going, Oh, you’re too expensive, I’m going to go to Fiverr. I’m sorry but if you want to be grounded in values, and attract people because of those values, and if you’re not visually portraying those things in a way that almost feels intrinsic, feels like it’s just meant to be. What you’ve said already today is that you know what your audience likes, and you understand that they’ve got these many different faces. So you needed something that summarise that.
And I think it takes time to understand your audience. And a lot of that can be trial and error. There’s a lot of value that comes in taking risks around trial and error when you’re sort of trying to start out especially not everything needs to be successful or not everything needs to sell out. It’s around really trying to learn as well. You know what your market is what’s going to work well, what’s going to shape you for your future collections, too, I think and what’s
And what’s been one of your biggest learning curves?
I feel like there’s loads of them like I I’m learning like every single day in this journey of owns, it says I was saying it’s sort of been like four years in the first two years, I did not prioritise self care much at all. To be honest, I feel like it was just about making it happen and doing what I can to make that happen. But every day is a learning curve. My background, as I said, is not in fashion or design. But I feel like I know more about that now than I do actually about the, you know, the career that I sort of studied for. I found balance being quite a challenge in the learning curve and that’s around mum life, self care, you know, business. But as I was saying, sort of got a bit better at that. One of the things that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, though, is around responsibility. As a business owner, you’ve got responsibility for your customer, you’ve got responsibility for you, in my case, my sewers, the staff, you’ve got responsibility to like people and the planet, you know, around the social impact of your packaging, and the environment, and then what sort of culture you’re creating within your workplace, even within your customer base. It might just look like you create a garment and then you sell it. But in between that process, there’s a whole lot of responsibility that comes with it outsourcing, obviously, I feel like that’s it’s kind of just a bit of an obvious one as your brand grows or develops, just knowing that you sort of can’t do it all.
I’m a graphic designer, have been for 20 years. Worked for the man up until three years ago, and was made redundant from position I’d held for six years in a communications manager’s role. I had that moment three years ago, kind of like a lot of people have had and pandemic time where I went, I’ve missed out on so much of my kids. First six months, I put myself into burnout mode, because I was so used to the hustle and that was like so used to the expectations that I had on myself from a commercial point of view and working in corporate.
And also I recognised that glorification of being busy. It’s part of the Australian culture, unless we’re like hell mad busy, we’re not successful or progressing. I’ve decided that every second day works really well for me in my business. So find if I have a full workday, and then the day off the next day with the kids home, and then a full workday. It’s one of those things about a learning curve, I guess that’s been a big thing for me, that to make the business work the way it has to I need to have every second day because if I find if I leave two days in between, it just gets me too far behind.
That’s the thing I think everyone forgets, you can make this year like I do exactly the same things. For instance, I know, Mondays are my busiest day of the week, it’s the day that I just really need to crank out as much stuff as possible so it sets me up for the rest of the week. The thing with that is that I put my kids into after school care, I don’t need to. Buy myself that extra time my hubbies, I’ll go pick them up. I’m like, Dude, it’s four o’clock, I’ve paid for them until six, the earliest you can pick them up as 530, I need every single second to get as much as I possibly can so that the days that I don’t have them in there I can be preserved for sure. For sure.
I agree, you become an expert in being organised. Because your time becomes so precious, when you are working that you just want to get as much done like you were saying punch as much work out as you can to then be able to have those precious times with the kids or you know, your own time or whatever, as well. But I actually think like to be honest, I’ve been four years into my business now. And I feel like it took me at least two years to work that out. Those first two years, I honestly don’t think I slept for two years, like it was just the hardest hustle and just, your really just trying to work out what you’re doing. And no one can tell you, it’s almost like having a baby, you know, no one can tell you about it, you don’t know what it’s really like until you have your own child. And I feel like that’s the same with business. You can you can do all the courses and all that, you know, you can try and learn as much as you can. But I feel like until you actually get into it, you don’t realise the level of I guess involvement and work that it does take but then you get this massive reward of just like joy. And you know, when you see it grow and yeah, the people you meet and it’s crazy.
I’m starting to get to that point in my business where I’m like, okay, cool, I’ve got those rock solid foundations kind of have a bit more freedom to choose which directions I start going rather than full on in scramble zone and figuring out stage.
And you become much more solid on your boundaries. I reckon like you feel like you actually kind of step into your own power of your own boundaries. Like when you’re first starting out you’re just you know you’re wanting to take on everything you wanting to try everything explore, learn, make mistakes, and then as you kind of get into that couple years you sort of take more power around what you are willing to commit your time to.
Cherie from the previous issue, our cover woman she had this really powerful post on Instagram recently and it’s something that I learned two of the most valuable things you know how you like you learn lessons from people. I’m one of those people that I don’t need a convoluted lesson. I just need a simple takeaway. Two things. One, no is a complete sentence. There’s no need to justify, there is no need to, it is one of the most powerful things you have like Yes, yes, I saw that post. You are the master of your own destiny and your biggest weapon is the word note.
Yeah. 100% It’s all about self protection as well. Like you have to be able to say no and feel okay with doing that, because you know, you don’t want to reach burnout, you don’t want overwhelm, you want to be able to do your own job as well and commit where you have to without wearing yourself too thin. I think at the same time.
I think one of the strongest things is really knowing your values. And knowing that if you’re stepping into a space where it really aligns with your values, then it’s okay to say yes versus No. But having a really strong sense of self and sense of what you need from your business, and what you definitely don’t need from your business. One or two o’clock in the mornings, and saying yes, and really meaning no, and just dreading every second of it, those are the most powerful things that you can actually do. Well, you mentioned sustainability and responsibility. And that’s a big thing that has come to the forefront recently in the fashion industry, you know, a lot more awareness around the processes involved, what are some of your manufacturing or your process non-negotiables to try and do better?
So recently, actually, we’re pretty proudly been accredited as Australian Made and I feel like as you’re just saying, there is definitely a conscious shift now for people that are shopping Ozzie made getting better quality, even more prepared, you know, pay extra for those sort of garments. For me personally, that’s something that is a non-negotiable, I wouldn’t offshore, my sewing, my manufacturing. Have got a beautiful team of women who are mostly migrants to Australia, you know, they are incredible workers, they’re amazing at their craft, they work you know, really hard for us, and you know, whoever else they’re working for, as well. So, I don’t know, I feel like that’s something that I just is a non negotiable, I wouldn’t offshore any of my work. And that’s a lot around ethics as well with the way things are going from our world too.
I think is a huge awareness these days where mass produced, is definitely becoming the Dark Horse of the industry. I find myself inwardly cringing a lot more going somewhere like Kmart quickly now, because there’s just been so much more awareness especially you just need to see how empty the shelves were, when the pandemic that to realise how much of that industry, is not actually feeding back into a local economy.
Exactly, you know, with the offshoring and feeding back. And but even with them, some of the relationships now with offshore, you know, they’re starting to really deteriorate as well, you know, there may not be the opportunity in time to be able to shop cheaply, or, you know, mass produce, like it has been so freely able to happen now. There’s probably a bit more risk of that happening when you think about, you know, sending your kids off to childcare, or sending your kids off to, you know, a school and you can just get, you know, $5 t shirts or $2 t shirts, because you know that they’re just going to get destroyed anyway. I don’t know, I feel like it’s that idea around, you’re wise about the choices you make, you can do that, because then just kind of be worn there. And then you know, have some quality pieces where you’re prepared to spend a bit more money for or you know, have less in your wardrobe, and buy the quality over the quantity perhaps.
So there was a few things on your website that really spoke to me. Like I said, I love a singular message takeaway. One of my favourite sayings from your site was ignite your inner happy when I go shopping, and I find that perfect piece that’s exactly like there’s something that sparks inside me. What does it mean to you?
Yeah, so I feel like we are responsible to a degree around our own happiness. And I feel like we actually have the match, to light our own happiness. I’ve always been a really optimistic girl, my glass has always been half full. Even like throughout my life, my childhood was quite hard, but I always was happy. Like I always just made sure I tried to be as happy as I could be. One of the things I have done since I was a little girl that really made me feel in control over my own happiness was to wear beautiful, bright, happy clothing. And I feel like have you ever worn something that’s not bright, or looked at someone that’s not wearing something really bright or has a bright lip or a beautiful bright outfit on and not felt their happiness, like not felt happy from their outfit The brand is around igniting your own happiness by the beautiful, colourful clothing that you can wear to take some control and power of your happiness as well.
I love that idea of sparking your own match of happiness and really having that level of awareness of not looking outward, but looking inward and sort of figuring out what steps you can take. I feel like that’s personal and business, like what sorts of things could you do to make this a happier space for you? Because the realisation is we don’t get into this to be miserable, figure out those things that make you happy.
Like I’ve got a responsibility as well to help other people feel happy, like I have created this brand, to be positive and to be nurturing and to provide happiness for other people to like. I feel happy when I wear my clothing and I want other people to feel that happiness as well. It’s quite a few of the brand values are my own are my own values really like, who I am, what I am, my values that are really true to me, are also core to the brand. And I feel like that translates when you’re just really who you are.
It’s so true. Now another saying that was on your site, and it’s across your Instagram and everything as well. These three words, women do battle with so much preconceived notions of who we should be what we should be doing all of those should words, right? Fun, fierce and feminine. So much of it was bred into us that, you know, if you’re going to be successful in business, you can’t be feminine, you’ve got to step up into a man’s world. And it’s like, no, I still want to be a girl, I still want to be a woman, because being a woman is amazing. Those three words just spoke to me so much. What are your experiences with those words, in your own business world?
Those three words are a big part of who I am, like, I feel like if I was to describe some of who I am, those three words really stand out for me. It’s about being yourself, trying to be as inclusive as others too. So fun, fierce and feminine. And so I am literally just love having fun, I really adore the idea of being fun, like I can be a bit sarcastic, and I can be a little bit silly, and I want my brand to just be light hearted, and a bit soft and fun. You know, I want people to feel that when they come over to Owns It, I don’t want them to feel bored. With the fierce and feminine, it’s quite interesting, because the fierce for me sits around the element of feminism. And I feel being a feminist and feminine really complement each other, rather than contradict each other. Which is, as you were sort of just saying then, you know, there’s this, there’s this idea that being a feminist, they’re described as people who are sort of, you know, quite masculine, or have sort of those masculine traits around them. And that idea, I think is still quite alive today. But I would say that you can still be feminine and nurturing, passionate and quite soft in your approach and still be, you know, a feminist. So for me, the feminism and the fierceness and being quite feminine sort of all sort of intertwine with each other. And that’s what my brand represents, not only through, I guess, the values in the branding, but also even through the cut. Like when I think about the pattern of our jacket, like a blazer can be described as you know, a boyfriend jacket, but people would describe this as a boyfriend jacket or a blazer. And that’s kind of quite, you know, that powerful sort of look that women wear when they have a blazer. When the pattern was first created, I put so much thought into how I wanted it to sit on the body and to really accentuate women’s curves and to make them feel feminine and womanly and, and beautiful, and not hiding who they are under this kind of big blazer jacket. But to still have the ability to feel powerful in a jacket, even though it had a feminine sort of cut to it. Those three words, I feel like come into play with how we’ve designed a lot of our clothing and stuff, too.
It’s one of the most succinct summaries of a business I’ve had on Brand You that I’ve seen. Like, it’s just, duh, that’s it, those three words. That’s it. And it’s so true to who you are and your business and how you show up.
Thank you. And I feel like I always knew that that was the brand and what our values were. But I really sort of only nailed that a couple of years in I think when I really, really kind of got our motto of who we are. And I felt like those three words just really fitted into.
It’s always something to come back to does this fit into what our values are? You know is this being fun, is this being fierce, is this being feminine, a really singular baseline that you can measure everything up against.
Absolutely. And I feel like that’s what I what I sort of mentioned before, we have kind of this quite a varied target market. And some of them you know, will be into the bright fun colours. And then the others are quite fierce. And that’s you know, quite a loyal feminist group who loved the slogan empowering wear, and then the feminine who might, you know, really adored the shape of the jacket. So they’re there for that, but they’re less about the bright fun sort of colours. So it’s Yeah, it’s always goes into the thought of, I guess our collaborations and our designs too.
We’ve clearly summarised that colour is a huge part of your brand, your business and who you are, what is one of your first colour memories that you have?
Wow, one of my first ever colour memories. So for me as I was sort of saying before, my childhood and upbringing was quite dark, I’m okay kind of talking about that but so what I did was really took control of my happiness and my optimism and survival in a way by really gravitating towards colour. So everything I wore was, you know, colourful, everything that I purchased was colourful. Pink has always been a super favourite for me and I feel like that’s kind of just that nurturing kind of quite feminine colour that I just loved. Feel like just most of my clothing was always colourful, and I loved art at school too. I was always sort of painting and you know, using bright colours to create pictures. It was a nice sort of creative outlet where I was just able to embrace colour.
Every single person that said this, their first column memory or their strongest, like childhood colour memory has linked into the career they’ve ended up in?
Yeah, amazing. It certainly does, doesn’t it? Yes. That is quite incredible, isn’t it? And it’s probably taken me to this podcast to really deeply think about that, this is you know, this was almost a destiny because when you think back to childhood about colour, and yeah, how it’s gone through now to actually have created the brand.
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