Introducing Bronwyn + Interview with Sarah Street
We are so excited to introduce a new brand to Head over Heels, Bronwyn. Established in 2021 by New Zealand designer and Creative Director Sarah Street, Bronwyn has just launched their first ever collection.
Bronwyn is built on the belief that a focussed wardrobe with key items creates a 'less is more' approach to wardrobe footwear.
Named after Sarah's late mother, their shoes are inspired by Bronwyn and many like-minded women in their lives. Conscious and forward thinking women who lead multifaceted lives, with an appreciation for a minimalist aesthetic and an eye for detail.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what a typical day in your life is like.
I have been a footwear designer for over 12 years now and it's absolutely the best job in the world, coming second only to being a Mother. I have two little boys to run around after in a half renovated house, so it's definitely full on from the moment we get up. My day always starts with a cuddle with both my boys in bed, followed by a glass of water, and then definitely a coffee (two). After breakfast and daycare runs, I head to my part time job where I'm Head of Design at a children's footwear and clothing company. It's a fun, creative and busy role with a great team, and I literally don't stop until it's time to go and collect the boys again. The days that I'm not working at my part time role, my focus is all Bronwyn - amidst the admin of Mum life. Depending on where we're at in the season at Bronwyn, my day can start with a video call to our ethical partners in Brazil to work on new collections or fittings, development and planning content or new ranges for the brand, meetings, working with my amazing stockists, or the endless admin and multitasking that comes with running a small start up business. I am a list writer, so I often start the day reading the list I've written from the night before. As a small business owner on a (very tight) budget, you really are wearing a multitude of hats every day. The learning curve has been steep, and I'm so grateful for the support I've been lucky enough to have had along the way from incredible friends, family and business mentors.
What has the process of starting Bronwyn to where you are now like.
Bronwyn has been an absolute journey, and a labour of love. It's been something I've been wanting to do for at least the last six or seven years, but I guess I never really had the courage or the headspace to take the leap until last year. Starting a brand is an incredibly hard thing to do, I think even more so as a creative or as a designer. You're putting yourself out there for the world to see, which is an incredibly vulnerable place for anyone to be in, and feelings of imposter syndrome are present almost constantly for me, so being able to focus on the positives and the highs of running my own business is definitely important. Bronwyn has also been in some ways therapeutic for me. I named the brand after my late Mother, who passed away 6 years ago, and she was my biggest inspiration. It's been really nice to be able to honour her in this small way, and I hope I have made her proud.
How did you begin your journey in fashion, was this something you studied straight out of school and what are your earliest memories of your love for fashion?
It definitely wasn't a direct path to a career in fashion. I studied a bachelor of design, majoring in industrial design, and took a really big interest in furniture for my final years. I sort of stumbled into footwear design after a few years in a product design role, and haven't really looked back. After a few years in my first footwear role, I traveled to London with my now husband, and worked there for 3 years with some incredible brands. This isn't one of my earliest memories but definitely one of my favourites - In 2015 I went to see the V&A exhibition in London - Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. I don't think I had ever experienced anything like it before. I was blown away by his incredible ability to push the boundaries between fashion and art, fantasy and reality. It was so moving in that you could almost feel what he felt when he created some of his collections, such incredible displays of human vulnerability and passion. It was one of the most incredible exhibitions I've ever seen. The David Bowie exhibition had a similar impact on me for similar reasons, he was such a profound artist, in every sense of the word.
What influences your personal style?
I love simple yet flattering silhouettes and pieces that can be worn in a number of ways, with a number of different items. My style and wardrobe has definitely become more streamlined over the years as I've been learning how to be a better and more conscious shopper. Comfort and practicality is key, especially running after two little ones. I love supporting New Zealand brands as we have such a talented pool here, and I always try to invest in pieces that I will wear for seasons to come.
Where do you draw your inspiration from when you’re designing and what were some inspirations behind this first Bronwyn collection?
I draw inspiration from a multitude of places, it can really be from anywhere, whether it's an exhibition, a piece of art or furniture, and of course fashion inspiration also plays a large role. Creating this brand has moved me into a real transitional period in terms of my career and the way I design. I feel like I'm finding myself again as a Designer. Discovering who I am, and getting more confident in designing for me, as a brand and as a person rather than for someone else. Slowing down, being more considered and thoughtful, designing for longevity rather than just a season. Relearning the design process and realising the impact being a creator of product has and the responsibility that comes with it.
What's your personal favourite style in the range and how will you wear it?
Hardest question! I love Cas, I love the utilitarian aesthetic of it balanced with that all day practicality of a low heel, I also am a fan of the extra wide rand on Cas. I find it a style that is easy to dress up and down which is a major bonus, so it's great being able to pair them with a suit or a pair of jeans. I also really love Stevie for a go to forever mule, and Ross is honestly like walking on clouds!
What do you love to do when you’re not working?
I love hanging out with my boys, we have a lot of family time on the weekend as they're both at daycare 5 days a week so we make the most of our days off. I really enjoy reading also - I have a kindle but I love the tactility of a book. I'm passionate about drawing, which I find therapeutic, and we've recently bought an ipad which is a dream to sketch on although sometimes I love just getting out a notebook and pencil. Starting a small business means there's not a lot of free time at the moment where I'm not working, so I try to make the most of small windows where I can.
What do you feel is important when designing footwear?
Balance, listening to your intuition about the direction of a design, and being true to who you are as a designer. I also think evolution is important and being considerate in everything you do. Taking in each lesson learned and growing from it, creating better product because of the mistakes you will undoubtedly make, and absolutely listening to your customers.
What and who in your life inspires you?
I think you can draw inspiration from anyone and anything really. I think my inspirations are constantly shifting and evolving. I think in terms of this business we have so many incredible New Zealand designers that have created some beautiful brands, and they're really all such an inspiration for me.
Where is your favourite destination of all time and why?
These questions are hard! All time, I would have to say Whangamata, New Zealand. It holds such a special place in my heart. It was where my 3 sisters and I spent a lot of our summers growing up as kids, and I really feel like I'm with my Mum when I'm there. Internationally I adore Paris and New York for the culture and the fact that both cities practically BREATHE life into you, and I would love to spend more time in Portugal, an absolutely beautiful country.
What are you reading / watching / listening to at the moment?
I'm listening to a lot of podcasts at the moment. Predominantly about business and entrepreneurs. I love Offline with Alison Rice, and have listened to a few of the Life with Marianna, Second Life, and How I built this podcasts. The most recent books I finished and really enjoyed are the Christodora by Tim Murphy, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo and Ghosts by Dolly Alderton.
What are your most cherished rituals?
Peppermint tea and magnesium before bed, cuddling my babies morning and night, sunblock every morning, and washing my face each night before bed.
Who is your ultimate style icon?
There are so many women who inspire me every day, My Mum is my forever icon. Style icons I'm obsessed with at the moment are Veneda Carter, Pernille Teisbaek, Camelia Farhoodi and Tylynn Nguyen. My ultimate style icon may have to be Phoebe Philo, I think she understands women so well, understands our shapes, our needs and wants, and really is an incredible creator. I was obsessed with her tenure at Celine, and am so incredibly excited to see what she does with her newly announced brand.
What’s your most treasured item in your wardrobe?
My pounamu bracelet that was gifted to me by my Mother before she passed away. My first Bronwyn samples I will also treasure forever.
Colourful or neutral?
Both! But I definitely lean towards neutrals, which is why they form the foundation of the Bronwyn collection.