: International Women’s Day

Treeblog: Celebrating International Women's Day

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day with some of the women we admire…

International Womens Day honours the scientific, political, economic and social achievements of women. We’re celebrating the power, strength, beauty, resilience, creativeness and kindness of women today and everyday with at Tree of Life with the women behind this beautiful boho brand.

Treeblog: Celebrating International Women's Day

Wendy Borthwick, CEO & founder

How did Tree begin?

Tree of Life evolved out of a little hippie shop in Sydney in the late sixties called Meher Handcrafts. This business changed into an Indian clothing wholesale business after my husband John imported a shipment of Ram Ram shirts for a music festival called Ourimbah in 1970. Festival clothes back in the day!! In the late eighties our daughter Meherose wanted to get back into retail. She had been running a market stall and then opened a tiny store in Glebe called Desert Rose. This initiative gradually evolved into the first Tree of Life store in Balmain, Sydney.

What path led you here?

John and I travelled to India as young hippie backpackers in the late sixties searching for adventure. We fell in love with India… the people, the culture, the magic. We always had a fascination for Indian handcrafts and textiles. We both loved the romantic, hippie clothing of the time, all of it made in India and inspired by Indian traditional designs. Upon our return to Australia we fell in love with Meher Baba. The Indian connection circle was complete. Woven together, all these elements have shaped the path which led to Tree of Life.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The working relationship I have enjoyed with two remarkable Indian women for the last thirty years. They are an integral part of the heart and soul of Tree of Life. Each heads up a family garment manufacturing business. Strong, wise, humorous, down to earth, hardworking, creative… they have very different personalities but also share a lot of values and qualities. They are the two main suppliers of Tree of Life clothing. We have not only shared a lifetime of creating beautiful garments which we all love, we have shared a lifetime of friendship and trust in an exciting but often turbulent world.

You work with two woman-run companies in India. Was it a conscious decision to seek out women to work with and what impact do you think this has?

I did not consciously seek out women to work with. When I began seriously working with clothing in the late eighties there were few women to be seen in senior positions. I was struggling along, trying to find the right people to work with. It wasn’t easy. I worked, or tried to work with many different men. It changed my world when we found Priti. Suddenly I had someone who took ME seriously. Someone who would happily work on the detail of a garment, happy to tinker endlessly to get the right fit, the exact colour, who cared  about the softness and fall of the fabric. Wow!!
Someone who cared about her workers, who wasn’t just counting the money she was hoping to make. Someone who didn’t just see me as fussy. Don’t get me wrong . She’s a businesswoman and very level headed… but she also is passionately interested in the garments and getting them right. I hadn’t found  that before. Nisha was similar although different. She is an artist and her strength lies in her love for prints and colours, particularly  handblock prints and indigo dyes. Once I found these women, I was in a whole new world.
Today, working in this world of women is a very comfortable and free environment for the whole creative team. We can endlessly debate the length of the crotch and how much of  the butt can be revealed. We can angst over which particular shade of mustard etc etc. it goes on and on, with lots of laughter, cups of tea, bits of gossip, minor ego clashes ….and of course, we all have to keep our heads together at the same time. Make sure it’s saleable, wearable, doesn’t cost too much, how to cut it down, how to sex it up. Women’s business!!​

You have been traveling the world finding treasures for Tree of Life for a long time now, what changes have you seen in the opportunities available for the women you meet in your travels.

There has been a huge change in the opportunities I see for women in India since the sixties. Beyond description. The biggest changes have come in the last ten years I think although it has been a gradual process and is very far from including all women. This is a complex society with many different religions and great inequalities. It is a difficult question to answer simply. But there is a definite move to better education , better health care, more respect, more legal rights. An interesting development is an imbalance between the sexes which means there are fewer girls. More boys were selected during pregnancy testing , girl babies were aborted. As a result, girls are going up in value. Interesting.

What advice can you give to young women in the workplace today?

Listen to your heart and follow it….. but make sure you keep your head fully engaged!!

Treeblog: Celebrating International Women's Day

Abigael Whittaker, Creative Director

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

My mum has always told me you make your own luck which makes me feel like you’re in charge of your own destiny, but that we’re all a bit magical too! If we can make luck!

What other women do you admire?

Other mums!!! I’ve just had my first baby and holy moly it makes you appreciate ALL the women! Mums are doing a lot all of the time. The juggle, the struggle is real.

Any career advice for other young women?

Make yourself indispensable. If you say yes to anything and everything people ask of you early on you learn a lot and you get to experience bits you like and bits you don’t like. It’s often the bits you don’t like that are the most important to know about. This type of in-depth knowledge gives you a lot more wiggle room later because you now know the ins and outs of the industry/position/company.

What path led you here?

I grew up traveling and selling my family’s handmade jewellery so I was always destined for the gypsy life. I studied fashion design and took a casual job at Tree of Life while I finished my degree. I said yes to everything that was offered to me and worked my way up the tree branches…. nearly 15 years later!

What’s the best thing about your job?

The travel, the clothes and the constantly evolving industry.

Treeblog: Celebrating International Women's Day

Billie Edwards, Digital Marketing Co-ordinator

What other women do you admire?

Many! Gloria Steinem, Naomi Wolf, Rupi Kaur, Leandra Medine. And of course, Wendy Borthwick.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

My mother told me to be be independent​. The world doesn’t revolve around having boyfriends – learn to be happy by yourself – create your own career, life and happiness. And my dad told me to travel. Both stuck with me.

Any career advice for other young women?

Aim high, work hard! It always always always pays off.

What path led you here?

I first modelled in a Tree of Life summer campaign two or so years ago. I was studying marketing and fashion at university at the time, and something just clicked very naturally with Tree. I began freelancing, doing some blogging work, and things just kept flowing flowing flowing.

What’s the best thing about your job?​

India! The textiles, the travel and the lifestyle. I have a beautiful life in a beautiful town, and am encouraged to be creative every single day. It’s a dream really.

Treeblog: Celebrating International Women's Day

Sophie Scala, Webstore Store Manager

What other women do you admire?

My mum! A seriously hard working lady in business and in life. My friends who are constantly pushing themselves and achieving amazing things in their careers. And of course Wendy, what a boss business woman! It’s been amazing to see how she works and her vision for Tree.

Any career advice for other young women?

Work hard and good things will come! It is totally true. Oh and do something you LOVE!

What path led you here?

After fluffing about after school with random degree I finally did what I wanted to and studied fashion! Soon after I had my own online business selling and making jewellery, lingerie and crystals homewares. I decided to get more experience at a company and got the gig at Tree! I’ve been here for 2 years this month.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I get to work with lots of amazing women each day, we have such a great team! My job is exciting and I love working in the online world! My recent trip to India has been the highlight for sure!