05 Mar 2020

Celebrating some of The Rocks' most inspiring women

One of Sydney's most iconic neighbourhoods, the hallowed streets of The Rocks are home to some of our city’s finest boutiques.
Celebrating some of The Rocks' most inspiring women
FAID, DUX Collection, Hunting Hue and The Tea Cosy, just to name a few, cover everything from fashion and fragrances to swimwear and sipping tea. The fabulous retailers behind these successful businesses may not always be apparent to the general public, and as it turns out, they’re all amazing women. So, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve decided to highlight them, their stores and their achievements.

Jess Speers, Kathryn Cowle and Tessa Boehm

The Founders of FAID

Women supporting women has certainly been a feminist theme in recent years and for the founders of FAID Store, where collaboration is key, this is no different. FAID was formed by Jess Speers and Kathryn Cowle - co-owners and designers of Cedar and Onyx - and Tessa Boehm - owner and designer of Boehm Intimates. After meeting at a quiet trade show, the three brought some like-minded fashion folks on board with the aim of using their collective power to help support each other’s brands and provide a greater focus on emerging Australian fashion brands.

“We started as a pop-up called The Australian Designer Collective,” they say. “A 6 week pop-up turned it into 10 months, at which point we realised that there was a need for a permanent space and hence FAID was born!”

Despite busy schedules born from running their own labels, their collective store and looking after employees, Jess, Kathryn and Tessa are conscious of providing each other with the emotional support required in a partnership such as this one, allowing time for simple pleasures, like a girls’ brekkie before opening their doors.

“We’ve also started having dinners with the three of us, just to check in with each other RE: personal lives and any challenges we may need extra support with [to overcome].”

Their support of women in fashion extends far beyond just the three of them though, having formed a strong family of fashion females in such a short amount of time.

“So many of our designers are women and their stories are all so different; it’s exciting and inspiring to see how other women are tackling business,” they say. “We have Isabelle from Love Isabelle, who is 18 and just starting out and then we have Catherine from Ms Kensington who launched her label while juggling two children under 5.”

So, do these wonderful women have any advice for someone looking to stroll down the same career path that they have?

“Trust your gut and power through. It will be worth it,” they say. “Also, network! You don’t have to start big but start somewhere – talk to other shops or email other businesses – there are businesswomen out there that want to share their knowledge!”

Truly, a testament to women supporting women.

Arlene Nolly

The Duchess of DUX Collection

The humble beginnings of Arlene Nolly’s DUX Collection are certainly an interesting one. 

“DUX was not planned,” says Arlene. “It evolved from a need.”

Starting with a homemade pure essential oil pillow spray to soothe her then young daughter’s chronic bleeding disorder, it was so successful that soon she was making blends for friends, then suddenly spas, boutique hotels and even healthcare professionals.

From there, the business was built, providing an environment for Arlene to absolutely thrive in, creatively.

“For me, work and leisure are intertwined,” says Arlene. “When I’m in a creative flow, I can easily work through the night. My work energises me. I’m in my element when I’m creating, designing, exploring…”

Luckily, for this creative workaholic, Arlene is able to work with her family, helping her achieve more of a balance. And the creativity is informed by the family connection, as she counts her two daughters, Courtnery, a solicitor, and Lauren, an actor/designer, both successful women, as her greatest inspiration.

“They are my living icons,” says Arlene. “I watch them achieve their dreams in the modern world, where the bar is so tough. They rebound from hardship and grow stronger from their struggles. They persevere through tough times and keep working toward their goals. They are not free from adversity, however, they never allow it to define them. They work hard on achieving mental strength, like practicing gratitude and forgiveness.”

Arlene’s inspiration and passion has helped DUX Collection to have a large local and overseas following and a stunning collection of luxury homeware, scent and botanical body store. Enjoy the luxurious experience with DUX Collection next time you visit The Rocks.

Rebecca Collinson-Smith

The Heart Behind Hunting Hue

Hunting Hue's Rebecca Collinson-Smith has seen much of her inspiration come from those women that came before her; be it her use of photography, the progression of this into wearable art or even simply, her work ethic.

Rebecca’s love of photography emerged from the use of her great grandmother’s Box Brownie (an old Eastman Kodak camera) to shoot and process her own film when she was very young. She went on to study photography and sculpting at university, slowly finding her way to printing these designs on to slow fashion wearable art.

“I was an interior stylist for 9 years, however, I have always been creating my own products after hours and on weekends,” says Rebecca. “My styling work wasn’t ticking the boxes anymore, I was ready for a creative change.”

And thus, Hunting Hue was born. While photographic inspiration is drawn from everything from taking the ferry from Rose Bay to The Rocks for a day at work or even dinner and drinks in the neighbourhood to finish the day with friends, Rebecca will always count her mother as her greatest icon.

“Her work ethic is incredible and has set the precedent for my career,” says Rebecca. “She is my go to for every idea I have. Mum will tell it how it is - to either forget it or to go for it. I could not have made this leap without her backing me emotionally. She also loves to help out in the store when she can; it’s nice to spend time together.”

Aisling Kinchin

The Hard-Working Matriarch of The Tea Cosy

One of The Rocks’ most delightful boutiques, The Tea Cosy could not have a more apt title. The warm nature extends to its founder, Aisling Kinchin, who set up shop in 2005. An old-fashioned tea room would create that heritage hospitality she was after, and would be the second in a family line of women running a business in The Rocks.

“My mum had her own business in The Rocks from 1985 and I was always really proud of the fact that my mum was a business woman,” says Aisling.

Aisling felt a tea room would be a good fit alongside the beauty of The Rocks’ many stunning heritage buildings, so it’s no surprise that the interior design side of her business, or to put it more simply, “making the tea room pretty”, is her favourite part. Having said this, you might find Aisling cleaning, cooking, as the barista, the office girl or simply greeting all the customers.

Aisling is glad to be back on the tea room floor, after taking a break to help raise her children, a welcome relief given her attitude to time off.

“I’m not good at down time, I drag my family to the beach, to markets, to events,” says Aisling. “I have friends who say that they spend their weekends on the couch, and I can’t get my head around it. I think it’s because - being a small business owner - my brain has to think about 50 things at a time, so when it comes to down time, I have a hard time relaxing.”

Though it might be hard for Aisling to relax, it certainly won’t be for any customers to do so in her tea room who can enjoy a cuppa and scone just like Nanna used to make.