Last Saturday we welcomed friends and fans from near and far to our Northcote store for our GOLDEN HOUR collection launch and meet the maker event!
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With craft queen Kitiya Palaskas instore selling her beautiful handmade 'forever foliage', (plus custom-making a special gift for customers to take away!), Kylie and the team spent the day meeting customers and talking about the inspiration behind our the 50th collection.
A big thanks to our friends at Remedy for their perfect Passionfruit Kombucha and Northcote cafe Little Local for sweet and tasty morsels. Scroll on to see some pics for the day!
Once the champers came out, the party really started ;)
As part of our partnership with west elm, Obus' founder Kylie Zerbst was recently invited to share her thoughts on building a conscious-brand, being a responsible consumer, and how personal style is evolving in a socially conscious day and age.
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In front of an audience of design lovers at west elm's Prahran store, Kylie was joined on stage by west elm's head of visual merchandising, Rhys Duggan (the stylist behind our makeover!), and freelance stylist, Heather Nette-King.
Alongside a lively discussion about supporting companies that are transparent about their manufacturing, or sourcing materials that are organic, recycled or biodegradable, there was agreement between the panel about purchasing with intent. In both fashion and home wares, purchasing one special item that will last, instead of multiple‘throwaway’ items can mean a lot when it comes to being an environmentally-minded consumer. Kylie talked about always shopping with one's own values front-of-mind – whether that be supporting a local business, a business that focuses on the labour rights of its workers, one that is female-owned, or that is transparent about its product supply chain.
Rhys talked about the changes west elm are making from a social and environmental perspective. Their Vice President of Social Consciousness travels the world to ensure the artisans who make west elm's handcrafted items such as rugs, vessels, and cushions operate in in good working conditions and are, of course, paid fairly. She is committed to ensuring west elm continues to move in this direction and makes meaningful impact on these communities. They also discussed west elm's shifts in product manufacturing to establish themselves as a leader in the ethical and environmental homewares sector, such as ensuring all bedding is organic and GOTS-certified by 2020, and assisting over 50,000 workers across the world with continuing education and health programs.
Overall, the message of the evening was about how two brands, in different areas of design, can align and strive for better. Both Obus and west elm have brand values that permeate everything they create. There is still a lot to fix in the fashion and homewares industry and as a brand, Obus tries to continually improve each season – in whatever way we can. We hope that we also inspire others to change their habits and mindset, too
For Craft Victoria’s annual Craft Cubed exhibition, artist Louise Meuwissen took inspiration from our NIGHT BLOOM collection colour palette and using reclaimed jewels, beads and sequins, created a beautiful custom piece for our City store window. Join us inside her studio to learn more about her process and inspiration.
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Tell us about your creative background. What led you to the work you are creating now?
I’m trained as a painter, and for a time was making a lot of paintings focusing on consumption and waste. By the third year of my degree at the VCA I was experimenting with embroidery, and now I work predominantly with textiles and found objects.
Essentially I started this style of work by ‘painting’ with found materials – collected yarns, beads and textiles The work I make still has painterly concerns like texture, colour, composition.
These works were really well received, and I enjoyed making them, and so this element of my practice evolved from there. For the past 6 years I have been experimenting with and refining sculptural textile works and wearable objects.
I’m also a collector by nature, and have always loved the treasure hunt of second hand shopping at op-shops and markets. I’m attracted to objects that contain a certain level of care, communicate something of a specific time or place, or otherwise feel particularly precious. I love things that are handmade, have bold or unusual prints, are made from luxurious materials, or evoke some sort of nostalgia.
The visual language of dress has always fascinated me, and is something that I had a lot of fun with in quite a performative way, with my extensive collection of vintage clothing and adornment. I still have a lot of fun with dressing – but now I direct much of this energy in to the work I make.
What I make now feels more sustainable for myself and the planet, while incorporating these other important aspects of my life.
Your work is so detailed and intricate - how long does it take to complete each piece?
Oh, thank you! I try to make them as detailed and intricate, and dense as possible. It really varies based on the scale of the work, the scale of the beads, and whether I am working in a colour palette that is more complex or subdued. I take a lot of care in the beads I select in each piece, forming the composition as I work. With the addition of every bead, I have to make a choice. But on average, I would say that to make a small wearable piece takes me between 4-30 hours, whereas the biggest sculptural piece I have made, Ecologies of Time, 2018, took 9 months to create.
Excitingly, the piece I have just made for the Obus City store in the Nicholas Building is the largest wall piece I have made! This piece took a couple of months to make from start to finish; from meeting with the incredible Obus team at their High St head office and looking at samples of the new collection, to conceptualising the piece, seeking materials and finally making the work. I hand sew all the sequins and fabrics individually. So, it takes a while!
It's sometimes difficult to tell the size and scale of a piece when we see images online. What is the smallest piece you've worked on, and the largest?
The smallest pieces I have created small stud earrings – little wearable sculptures – these measure about a centimetre across, and the very largest Ecologies of Time, 2018 has a diameter of a meter. At the moment most of the pieces I have been making are sculptures for the body. I have been making brooches and bangles, and these are usually about 7-15cm in diameter. I am excited to start some really large scale exhibition pieces in September!
Louise used textiles from our NIGHT BLOOM collection as inspiration for her piece.
You use preloved and reclaimed beads and accessories in your work. What draws you to working with these materials?
Beads are in abundance, and there’s the thrill of the hunt. I also get gifted a lot of them.
I’m drawn to objects that circulate in society and are targeted at women that are highly labour-intensive to manufacture, but also highly disposable – like jewelry. I’m interested in unpacking the complexities of the dynamic of how we sell images to people, of how we sell aspiration and notions of beauty. I hope to use these discarded materials, both high and low brow, to make works and sculptures that walk a fine line between ugliness and beauty - and have a sense of accumulation and weight.
Louise Meuwissen's installation will be on display in the Obus City store window at Shop 5, 37 Swanston Street Melbourne until the end of August, as part of the Craft Cubed Festival.
Your work is currently on display in the Obus City store window for the Craft Cubed Festival. What was the inspiration behind the work you created for this space?
I was really inspired by the bold forms, colours and painterly compositions of Obus textiles. I wanted to make a large scale work that would compliment the spring collection, and respond to the architecture of the Nicholas Building (the ceiling is amazing!). Undulating circular forms and voids are a consistent motif in my work. I was thinking a lot about yearning and desire, about eyes and looking, and about peacocking.
How do you integrate art into your everyday life?
I treat being an artist like my job – I love what I do, and it’s the main focus of my work life. Everything else fits around it. It’s more of a question of how I shape my life around my art!
My partner is a writer, curator and artist too. So it’s something that we do a lot of together, it surrounds everything that I do – I’ve made a conscious decision to build a life around art, and so work at it every day.
See more of Louise’s creations online at louisemeuwissen.com or on Instagram, and of course at our city Shop 5, 37 Swanston Street Melbourne until the end of August.
In premium organic pre-washed Turkish cotton,our LEGACY and COMPANION denim pieces will make you feel good inside and out. Today we share some behind-the-scenes details about who, where and how these lovely wardrobe heroes are made!
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The development process for our denim capsule began late last year. After extensive research, we sourced fully-accredited organic cotton denim from Turkey. This denim is made from BCI-accredited cotton (an initiative to facilitate a better, more sustainable way of growing cotton) and is dyed using processes that minimise water wastage and chemical run-off by 85% compared to conventional denim production.
Next, we designed four styles that would at once be throughly modern as well as wardrobe pieces you'll love for a lifetime. And we were sure to include our standard high-quality detailing like gold press studs and heavy-duty stitching, while adding some extra special design features that we knew you'd love, too!
Then it was time to look at local production. We sourced a maker who is experienced in working with denim and couple apply the design details we wanted. Lucky for us, we didn't have to look far: just the next suburb over from our design studio in Northcote is our maker, Vinh and his team. Gotta love local! We were lucky to visit his workshop just as the buttons and finishes were being applied to the COMPANION JUMPSUIT, LEGACY JEAN, LEGACY JEAN SKIRT, and COMPANION JEAN, before being pre-washed for that ultra-soft and lovingly weathered denim look.
We couldn't be happier with the results of our new denim capsule, and we hope you love them too. Be quick, they won't last long!
SHOP ALL DENIM
During #FashionRevolutionWeek we’ve talked a lot about how we create our garments, but ethical considerations don’t end there. Everything from ensuring you’re receiving a high-quality garment, to managing waste is part of our commitment to creating clothing with a small ecological footprint.
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At the tail end of the design and manufacturing process, we get the finished product delivered to our warehouse. This happens about once a fortnight, and we’re always excited when it does!
Upon delivery from our makers, Laura and Sam check over the garments to ensure they are up to our production standards.
But before these pieces go out to stores, we need to ensure the final product is up to a standard we know our customers expect.
Because we take great pride in the quality of our garments, quality control is an important step between receiving the final product from the makers and sending it into stores. This is where the keen eyes of our production assistant Sam and our warehouse assistant Laura come in handy.
At this stage, all the information for the products online are also finessed, including garment measurements, photographs and product descriptions. We know you might not always be able to make it into our stores to try before you buy, so we put effort into ensuring you can make a confident choice with your chosen size and style – just a couple of things that extend the life of our clothing.
If you’ve ever wondered why some sizes and styles sell out quickly, here’s your answer: We intentionally keep our quantities small, meaning you get a limited edition product that is worth cherishing.
Our jewellery now arrives both from our makers and from us when you order online without the inclusion of single-use plastic packaging.
If there’s one thing you get when you buy something online, it’s (often) an excess of packaging, right? Of course there is a functional element to packaging – noone wants their purchase to arrive at their doorstep damaged! But we also don’t want the efforts we go to when creating ethical clothing to be undone by poor attention to packaging our products
Packaging has been a focus at Obus for the last 12 months, with our team researching and designing packaging that can be used to post out online orders and be either recyclable, reusable, and/or not wholly made from plastic materials. As well, we have worked with our makers and producers to deliver product to us packaged in recyclable materials or in ways that reduces the amount of single-use plastic waste.
CAPTION: Our cardboard clothing swing tags are recyclable (and you can even bring them back to us for re-use!). Shoes arrive from our makers without superfluous plastic packaging. And if you choose to leave take your shoes out of the box before you leave one of our stores, rest assured that box will be put to good use in our production studio for housing bibs and bobs.
Fabric offcuts are inevitable part of clothing production. While we strive to make the most of each piece of fabric (even tweaking the design of garments to ensure fabric wastage is reduced), there will always be small leftovers.
So what do we do with those offcuts? Quite simply, we make things from them like scarves, beeswax wraps and other accessories. Yes, by donning a humble Obus scrunchie, you’re doing something to save the planet from fabric waste! Thanks, scrunchies (*whispers* We’re so glad you’re back.)
Extending the life of our clothing
As we mentioned earlier this week, built into our design ethos is a desire to make each and every Obus garment something to treasure – not just for one season, but for years to come.
It’s the key to reducing the pressure clothing manufacturing puts on the world’s resources: buy well, and be intentional about your purchases. Keep your items in tip-top shape and you’ll enjoy them much longer than a garment with an expiry date built into it.
Whether it's through our initiatives such as Swap Shop, or our offer to repair garments if they are found to be faulty, or sharing our tips for the best washing and general care of your garments – we're always looking for new ways to help our customers get the most out of their Obus clothing.
Thanks for following our FASHION REVOLUTION series!
While we realise the small size of our business can’t change the processes of a global fashion industry, collectively both yours and our purchasing power can.
We’re proud to be a part of a groundswell of businesses making similar ethical manufacturing decisions, and we hope this series has offered you insights into how we are making our business philosophy and practices more transparent and ethical.
Making a garment is one element of fashion production, but what about the materials these products are made from? In this part of our Fashion Revolution series, we take you behind the scenes of some of our local suppliers of fabric and hardware.
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At Obus, we like to design our clothing using fabrics that we trust to go the distance – in terms of wearability, comfort, and compatibility with our original prints. There’s a reason we feature cotton, linen, Tencel, Viscose, Merino wool, cotton jersey and denim in our seasonal collections over and over again. You love these fabrics, and so do we!
To talk about our favourite types of fabric could cover a dozen separate blogs, so we’ll keep it simple today and tell you about the fabric behind one of Obus’ best-selling products: our black TRAVELLER PANT. Yep, you know the one – you might even own a pair (or three!).
The sisterhood and the TRAVELLER PANT
While we produce almost all of our products in limited edition quantities, the TRAVELLER PANT is one style we continue to produce over and over again (because you can’t get enough of them!). We love the Cotton Traveller Pant in Midnight because it is made from GOTS-certified Organic Cotton. The cotton is dyed by our partners in Melbourne, before being made by our Melbourne makers (maybe we should have called it the MELBOURNE PANT?). Our Winter version of this wardrobe staple - the MERINO TRAVELLER PANT - is also dyed here and made in Melbourne.
Our cotton jersey and Merino fabric is produced and dyed in Melbourne.
You might recall we visited these folks last year – they also dye our Merino fabric. Raw wool for all our Merino collections is sourced from New Zealand and Australian sources where possible, and when we source Merino from Vietnamese producers, this is done so by a Bluesign® system partner, which means the company producing the wool complies with strict ethical and environmental standards right from the beginning of the manufacturing process.
Not all the cotton we use is organic, but we work hard to ensure it is ethically sourced. We are signatories of the Uzbek Cotton Pledge, meaning none of our cotton is sourced from Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan (these countries have a seriously poor reputation on human rights when it comes to farming cotton). Most of our cotton is grown and produced in China, and we’re moving toward ensuring all cotton suppliers are BCI Members.
Of course, cotton is not the most environmentally friendly base material – it uses a lot of water in its growth and production. To counter that, we look to other methods of reducing water waste, such as our move away from screen-printing our original designs onto fabric, towards digital printing. It’s a small step, but in adopting a developing technology we hope that in coming years it will have a big impact on the industry as a whole.
Buttons and trims and zips, oh my!
The Melbourne fashion industry is full of colourful characters, and none more bedazzled than Jim Ketoglidis, affectionally known by his business’ name: Jimmy Buttons.
Every month or so, our production assistant Sam will venture into Jimmy’s shop in Fitzroy seeking out the perfect button, elastic or zip to complete an Obus design. And oh my, is there a lot of options!
Self-described as ‘a magical Aladdin’s Cave full of amazing fashion accessories’, this Melbourne institution is an important part of the local fashion industry.
Jimmy Buttons has wall-to-wall-to-ceiling buttons, zips and other haberdashery in Fitzroy, with its namesake Jimmy at the helm.
Jimmy Buttons is open to the public, so you can go and see it for yourself (and say hi to his pups from us!).
Obus Corozo buttons – a little thing that does a lot of good
We want to give a shout out to one type of button we often use in our garments, because it has some pretty cool environmental credentials. It’s a corozo button.
Obus corozo buttons ready to be sent away for dyeing to match our forthcoming SEVEN SONGS print. They're dyed for us into custom colours in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.
What is a corozo button? Well, corozo is a 100% natural product. It’s actually a nut that grows on the Phytelephas palm tree, a native found in countries such as Ecuador and Peru.
Corozo goes a long way to support indigenous communities of northwest South America with sustainable trade and employment, and because the Phytelephas Palm can’t be grown on plantations, it doesn’t risk these areas falling victim to deforestation and over-farming.
As a button material, corozo is tough, can be dyed into a multitude of colours and is much more environmentally friendly than plastic. Isn’t it great how a small choice can lead to a lot of good?
Read more about how we’re reducing waste at Obus tomorrow, as we wrap up our Fashion Revolution series!
Not everything from Obus is made in Australia, but that is by no means a bad thing! Ethical fashion production can be undertaken all over the world – the key is choosing manufacturers wisely, and we do so with our high standards front of mind.
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Around five years ago, the diminished state of the knitwear and leathergoods industry in Australia encouraged us to look overseas for specialised businesses who could produce our seasonal knits and footwear, while meeting our high ethical production standards.
Truthfully, it’s been a journey to find overseas partners who understand our ethos and can work with a business of our size to bring our ideas to life. For many manufacturers, we are simply ‘too small’ to partner with. As we mentioned yesterday, producing huge volumes of product is not something we aspire to - yet for many on the manufacturing side of things, consciously producing a small minimum quantity of clothing or footwear styles is often a dealbreaker. Which we’re sure you’ll agree is a sad state of affairs, given that there is a crisis of fast fashion today and an oversupply of poor-quality clothing on the market.
But nevertheless, we persisted! As we detailed on the blog last year, Kylie undertook a factory research tour in China in 2018, and we now work with Dongguan-based knitwear and Yunnan-based footwear manufacturing partners.
From a design perspective, it’s very freeing to work closely with manufacturers who have decades of knowledge and the latest technology to make excellent products at an affordable price. But we’re also thrilled to be in tune with them on an ethical level. Our knitwear factory is BSCI accredited and audited annually to confirm all aspects of their workplace conditions are in accordance with human rights, ILO conventions and national labor law. Our footwear is made by a small team dedicated to producing made-to-order limited runs of bespoke shoes in an ethically and environmentally conscious way (you might remember them from this blog last year!).
While leather is a natural product, there are environmental considerations when it comes to tanning, dyeing and producing products from it. We work with our partners to assist us at this level too. They help to ensure leather is sourced from tanneries that have strict environmental controls in place. All material comes from farmed animals, and is vegetable dyed (not chemical dyed with nasties like chromium).
We want to assure customers that products can be manufactured in China ethically, and the first step is to increase transparency around our overseas production processes (so both we and you can make informed decisions). Having chosen our manufacturers after an extensive research process and site visits, we can be confident that those who produce our footwear and knitwear are respected, have safe working conditions and are remunerated fairly. We're excited to be creating products with them thanks to their decades of specialist craftsmanship and their passion for investigating new ethical materials and processes.
As you might already know, over 80% of Obus products are made in Australia (the majority of them right here in Melbourne!). Today we introduce you to our designers and production team, and take a tour of one of our local manufacturer’s factories.
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It starts with considered design
Each Obus collection is designed in collaboration by our founder Kylie, designer Joni and general manager Natalie. At any one time the team could be working on three seasonal collections at once, each at different stages of production.
Kylie’s inimitable prints are always the core of each collection, bolstered by coordinates in unexpected colourways. Depending on the season, the team could be conjuring up styles and silhouettes in light breezy cottons or cosy knitwear.
Kylie, Joni and Nat are concerned not just with creating single-wear items – that concept is wholly against Obus’ philosophy. Instead, they are committed to building wardrobes of pieces that are at once on-trend and timeless in their design aesthetic.
Truthfully, there is a lot of talk about YOU in these meetings – how are you, our lovely customers, wearing our garments? Where are you wearing them, and why? How do we want you to feel when you put them on, and what features do you love that we can include in a new design? Surrounded by fabric swatches, yarn samples, and tons of colour inspiration, the pieces of each collection puzzle come together slowly but surely at these meetings, before being passed on to our production team and makers.
Remie, one of our pattern makers, Tamsin our sample machinist and Sam our production assistant take the design team’s ideas and get them closer to a final product design. When making samples, Tamsin records her time spent making a garment, and this helps to ensure bulk manufacturing is costed at a fair wage price.
From 2D sketch to 3D garment
Before we make dozens of an Obus garment, we must first make just one! Our pattern makers Ros and Remie, and sample machinist Tamsin, work in our Northcote studio taking the sketches from our design team and turning them into a three-dimensional garment. Through fittings and some informal ‘wear tests’ (meaning the Obus team wearing samples around the studio to see how they perform in real life!), the design team tweak each design until it feels just right.
Once a garment is perfected, Ros will create garment patterns and Remie will grade them to different sizes, before our production assistant Sam gets these patterns ready to deliver to our makers.
Meet one of our Melbourne makers
Liem, one of our Melbourne-based makers, with a fresh batch of our LOVE AND FURY styles!
Our commitment to manufacturing locally has a been at the heart of Obus since its beginnings 20 years ago. While once-upon-a-time Kylie made many of the garments herself, over the years we have been in the fortunate position to work with other small businesses, primarily in Melbourne, to manufacture our clothing.
The benefits of working with local makers for a business of our size is two-fold.
First, we can keep our order quantities small, so garments are not over-produced (contributing to myriad environmental problems down the track!). Yes, many of our garments sell out quickly when we produce in small quantities, but we think this is actually a good thing. Each one becomes a treasured possession for years to come.
Sam regularly visits our maker Liem’s factory to check in on how things are going with upcoming styles like our WINTER GARDEN print, pictured here (really though, we think she just loves to regularly cuddle Liem’s puppy Luna).
Secondly though – and importantly – by manufacturing locally we have ready and easy access to the working conditions of the people making our clothes. Based in Melbourne’s West, our maker Liem’s small factory is equipped with all the space and resources needed to make small-batch clothing. Timelines for production and delivery of our products are dictated by our makers. This means they can manage production of garments without requiring excessive overtime from their staff, all the while ensuring fair remuneration.
Sam, and our production manager Alison, are in regular contact with Liem and our six other local manufacturers, coordinating everything from fabric delivery to garment details. Whether we go and visit them, or they come to us, they’re a visible part of the Obus family. (One maker regularly brings us donuts, so they are obviously our favourite. Kidding, Liem, kidding!).
Details of Liem’s studio. From our large rolls of fabric, his team seek to maximise the use of the fabric for the style (thereby reducing fabric wastage), before producing and pressing each garment.
Just like our customers support us – a local business – we feel proud that we can support small local businesses as well. We’d like to make everything we produce in Australia, but unfortunately this is not always possible. Why? Tune in tomorrow for information about our overseas manufacturers and the steps we’ve taken to ensure our high ethical standards are upheld when we produce offshore.
Each piece of Obus clothing goes on a long journey before it is worn and loved by you. As part of Fashion Revolution Week 2019, we want to show you who makes our clothes and talk more about what we are doing to champion ethical fashion.
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A few of the faces behind Obus clothing! Back row L-R: designer Joni, production assistant Sam, photographer Kit, sample machinist Tamsin, patternmaker Remie, marketing manager Tess and founder/creative director Kylie.
First things first – what IS Fashion Revolution Week?
In April 2013, over 1100 garment workers in Bangladesh were killed and a further 2500 injured when a Rana Plaza - a building that housed factories for five of the world's largest clothing brands - collapsed. This tragedy spawned a movement called Fashion Revolution, encouraging supply chain transparency across the global fashion industry and pushing brands toward more humane and environment friendly practices.
On the anniversary of the disaster, Fashion Revolution calls on consumers to ask with confidence ‘Who made my clothes?’; and for fashion brands of all sizes to educate their customers about the people and processes behind their product.
Why we’re taking part
All of us at Obus are passionate about making clothing in a safe, clean and fair way! For founder Kylie Zerbst, this ethos has underpinned the business since its inception 20 years ago.
“Each new collection pushes us to do better environmentally or ethically. We’re committed to providing information about our local and offshore manufacturing processes, and we do this via regular updates to our website and blog” says Kylie. “We love that customers regularly engage with us on this topic, too. Everyone should be able to make an informed choice about the clothing they buy. Beyond sheer aesthetics, we hope that as Obus customers, you can feel great wearing our clothing because it aligns with important social values such as fairness and considered design.”
Our manufacturing information is always available to our customers via a prominent link on every page of our website. We’re not hiding it, and we’re always updating it.
But if you’re anything like us, you love to see pictures, right? Then you’re in for a treat this week. On our blog and across our social media, we’re going to show you around the different aspects of our clothing production process. We’ll introduce you to some people behind the clothes we make; give you a greater understanding of how the Obus piece you love goes from a simple sketch to a beautiful item to treasure; talk about our waste management initiatives; and more.
Our store staff work extra hard this time of year bringing the cheer to your Obus visit. We spent a few minutes with these lovely ladies to find out what they are rockin' and loving this Christmas!
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Alter ego: I take photos, sew, craft and experiment baking vegan treats!
Fave festive tune: It’s gotta be something Michael Buble right?
Fave Xmas tradition: Probably Christmas crackers.. I think sitting around the dinner table, awkwardly sat next to a relative you perhaps don’t know that well, a Christmas cracker always helps to break the ice and everyone has a laugh!
Secret skill: Embroidery! I haven’t done much, but I seem to have a knack for it.
Alter ego: Painter... Well, thinking about painting. Next year will be the year of exhibiting!!
Favourite festive tune: Little Drummer Boy by Boney M. (My mum would play their Christmas album every Christmas, it would drive my brothers and I crazy... Now I play it every year and I totally love it!! So does my daughter.)
Favourite xmas tradition: Having to come up with meaningful gifts that have a cash limit. I love it because it forces you to be creative and thoughtful...
Secret skill: I asked my daughter and she said "You're amazing and cool... ;). And I make a mean green curry !