How long have you lived in Bali and what inspired you to move there?
I moved to Bali 2009. I had moved to south- east asia as a model 2001 ( taking a break from the hustle of trying to survive in london on a junior designer salary) . I met my partner in Singapore in 2005 and decided to stay. We had a baby, I started to travel less as a model, the fear of becoming a trailing spouse set in and that desire to create things came back full force. It seemed every holiday in Bali I'd accidentally find myself in workshops sampling for myself.... I would get so inspired. I decided I needed to be there so I could have my own workshop, build a team and source materials on my doorstep. It felt right for me and my daughter... plus I had a partner that understood and supported my needs. Not many men would let you break up the family geographically to chase dreams.... I was very lucky... It seemed like a calling. It has been. I now have 2 kids . My partner commutes on weekends and I have my workshop. It's small, its sustainable but it literally produces everything I dream of.... and I still love my job.... so I guess it was the right move.
When and what inspired you to launch your own accessories brand - The Tui Collection?
A combination of reasons but the main being that I had always bought clothes and jewelry that I would spend my time taking them apart and reconstructing them to make them more unique and more me. I couldn't do that with footwear.... added with the fact that in late 2000 you couldn't buy size 40 shoes in Asia ....so I started designing shoes and belts that I wanted to wear... my girlfriends started ordering, then clients and suddenly there was a demand for a collection ... it was a natural progression.
Where do you find inspiration
At the risk of sounding self centered the answer is ME- I design what i feel is lacking in my life... I love intricate detail and things that transcend trends. I go to basket weavers, carpet stores, metal , resin and wood workshops. That's the beauty of living in the largest archipelago in the world. There are so many natural materials, and local crafts to discover and take inspo from. I also pick up trims, accessories and unique things i find on my travels further afield.
With my footwear I don't reinvent the wheel in terms of shape but I like things that are unique and full of technique, so I incorporate basketry, embroidery and hand made brass rivets for example on simple mule silhouettes. I used to buy shoes in great leathers but then the accessories would rust and I'd have to get rid of them. I found it so wasteful...leather that could last a lifetime, but with a faux sole and rusty buckles... as a result i dont think I've ever binned a pair of shoes since . The construction stands the test of time, and the detailing looks better the older they get so i just resole them. That's my contribution to sustainability.
AS for my jewelry, I always wanted everything in the jewelry section in museums.... Obtainium by Tui is completely byzantine inspired but using traditional Balinese silversmithing techniques of hand weaving chain, hand beating, etching ... stones, pearls and shell sourced world wide. A range of jewels with antique detailing but affordable and stepping away from the wastefulness of costume jewelry. Hence all base metals are sterling silver and semi precious stones that again stand the test of time in quality and value and trend. a collection you can buy into and build up.
You have travelled a lot - where is your favourite place?
Jaipur for the architecture and colour, Tanzania for its wilderness and stunning beaches, Sumba ... rich culture, amazing crafts and paradise landscapes.
How do you manage the juggle of running your own business, being a model and being a mum to your daughters?
Oh it's hectic and we have an unconventional structure, but luckily for the girls, when you grow in a place like Bali you are naturally adaptable.
Logistically I cope. I hate to admit it because of.... the iphone!!! ...i can check in on homework, video qc production and be on set all at the same time.
Physically. I cope .. by getting the whole fam on board and making it a way of life.... I
I try to get the girls booked on the same jobs as me, so we can cuddle and work at the same time.
For the design side....as much as possible the team comes to my house for production meetings.... I sample from home so the kids have just learnt to accept that they will always be surrounded by piles of leather, samples and tools!! They've also accepted that I may get them to study maths by helping me with measuring, calculating consumptions or inventory management. Even the Man of the house gets on board in a whole array of areas from design criticism to playing mixologist at my exhibitions. He has even been known to feature in a few campaigns when needed.
Who is your ultimate style icon?
MY MUM!!! She is brilliant at perfectly mixing colour, texture and silhouettes. I'm always envious of how she blends her handmade wares with high street and tailoring. One of the best skills she ever taught me is how to alter clothing to work for me.