Tell us how Oh Mabel came about?
Oh Mabel was born over seven years ago when I wanted new sheets that were as fun and memorable as the sheets in my Nanna’s linen closet, or the vintage sheets I collected from op shops. I couldn’t understand where we had lost colour and pattern in our every day lives so I thought about creating it. And thoughts became research and research became discussions with people who knew about such things and discussions became action and then Mabel was a real live store on the internet!
Who’s behind it and what is your background?
Just me, Sarah! And my alter ego named Mabel who takes all the credit. My professional background has been in the private and government sectors in various property roles but my personal background is a little more creative. I’ve been a dancer, traveller, design student, ran a farmers market, and now a mother.
Tell us what your brand is all about. What is your company ethos?
Oh Mabel is all about memories. I have all these amazing memories from my childhood that are linked to certain patterns and colours. From a blue polka dot dress my mum wore to a fancy ball, to a woolly blanket my Aunt knitted me before she passed away, to the crazy wallpaper in my Nanna’s house. Just thinking about these textiles and patterns make me feel loved and a sense of belonging to family and a life free of the everyday adult routines and stress. I wanted to bring a sense of this love and nostalgia to bed linen because bed becomes the backdrop to so many significant moments in our lives. Whether it be staying up all night to read your favourite novel, to bringing home a new baby, to lazy Sunday mornings with a loved one.
Oh Mabel’s ethos is to bring these moments and memories into people’s homes but to do so in an ethical and sustainable way. I don’t produce endless collections that need replacing every six months, in fact, over seven years there’s only been four collections. Production is done through a GOTS certification that ensures the manufacturing meets strict environmental and social standards. I don’t believe there is any other acceptable way to create products. To not consider the valuable teams and processes and of course this amazing world of ours that allows an idea to become a real thing in our life is madness.
Tell us about your brand’s creative process. How do things get made from start to finish?
Most designs are inspired by a memory I have from my childhood. It may be a wallpaper in a family home or a dress I had as a child. Our current range includes a collaboration with Jessie Miles from In The Daylight as I thought it would be lovely to have a fresh floral to create new memories from. Designs are then discussed with my team in India and samples begins. Once everything is signed off production begins and I start the creative process of working with design and photography friends to bring alive the essence of how I see Mabel fit into people’s homes. It can be an 18 month process!
What type of material and cotton do you use? Where does it come from?
I only use GOTS certified organic cotton for my pillowcases and bed sheets and it is supplied by certified farms in India.
How many kids do have?
Three! Joscelyn is 4 and Clara is 9 months old. Elinor is our eldest and she passed away in my first year of business in 2012, she was only a couple of hours old. She is still very much part of our family and we will be celebrating her 6th birthday this month.
How do you kids influence your work?
They’re the reason Mabel is all about moments and memories. They’ve shown me how important it is to live day by day and just to treasure those small everyday moments that we all have.
Describe the moment you thought you could be onto something and the business began.
I don’t think I truly knew until after I had already started and 300 odd boxes showed up on my driveway one day! I was very lucky in the beginning and Oh Mabel was featured on some amazing blogs. When I saw Mabel’s first quilt on The Design Files one day was probably when I first thought, ok, maybe this will work!
Tell us your biggest challenge.
Production. Production can be challenging when you have a vision in mind and you try to have it created in real life.
Tell us your biggest win.
The daily interaction I have with my customers is by far, my biggest win and accomplishment. My customers write to me to tell me how Mabel fits into their lives. I get building updates on new homes, I get photos of children growing up, I get stories on the cats and dogs that love Oh Mabel. I get stories about Mabel being lost in London, or of customers telling me they were on a road trip and a van drove by and they saw a Mabel quilt inside or a walk down a laneway and someone saw Mabel pinwheel sheets hanging up to dry on a neighbours clothes line. That and being featured in South Korea’s Big Issue. That was an awesome little surprise!
What’s the most satisfying thing about running a small business?
Same as my biggest win above
What’s your creative process like? Do you design everything yourself or have collaborators?
Same as the questions about my brands creative process above.
What’s your most treasured items at the moment and why?
Not surprisingly it’s a treasured textile that is my most favourite thing in the world. A knitted cocoon that held Elinor after she was born.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt about yourself in running the business?
How resilient I am after seven years of running a business and raising a family. And that I have the most amazing support network of friends and family that I could ever wish for.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to yourself five years ago?
You’re not going to regret a moment of this.
Have you always wanted to design bedding? Tell us what you did in your former life?
No! It never occurred to me that that was a thing that people could do! I did collect a lot of vintage bedding though so it was only natural to create something that I’d like to see in a vintage shop one day!