in conversation with: deborah symond o'neil
renowned for her innate sense of style, deborah symond o'neil has become a key fixture of the australian fashion scene, with her premium fashion destination mode sportif – launched in 2014 – building a loyal following in australia and beyond. deborah recently shared with nuage. her everyday essentials, her recent childbirth experience, as well as how her personal style has evolved since becoming a mother.
You gave birth earlier this year to your son, Beau. What has the parenthood journey so far been like for you and your husband?
I have adored all the stages of our parenting journey so far, some more challenging than others of course! Beau has just turned one, and it is such a joy to watch him grow and develop and to watch us settle into our role as parents. The bond between my son and my husband is really special and I love watching them together.
You founded Mode Sportif in 2014. What were your motivations for starting the brand, and how has it evolved over time?
I saw a huge gap in the market, and had always had a dream of opening my own multi-brand boutique. The Mode brand has evolved so much over the last six years, starting as an athleisure pure online business and now being a ready-to-wear focused retailer with two boutiques and an online store.
Mode is known for its curated approach of local and international premium pieces that translate to the Australian lifestyle. How does this ethos translate to your home?
I am naturally drawn to fashion, homewares, and recently children's wear. I love to curate what we have in our home with as much care as how we choose what goes into the Mode stores.
How has your personal style evolved since becoming a mother?
I used to wear kitten heels and tiny bags daily, and now have swapped for sandals and totes (ha!), but I love getting dressed up, wearing dresses and having fun with my style. When I am with my son, I opt for slightly more practical looks but I can't go too far from my personal style!
Which particular pieces or labels have you reached for the most, both post-childbirth and during your pregnancy?
It really is more shapes that I have been drawn to, I have a lot more flowy and relaxed fits in my wardrobe as well as oversized styles ideal for pregnancy, post partum and beyond! Some labels I love are Sleeper, Staud, Lee Mathews and Ganni for this more versatile way of building a wardrobe for a changing body. Juem has been a life saver, I am still wearing my lovely nursing bras and sets even after I have finished breastfeeding, they're fabulous!
What are your go-to childrens’ brands, from clothing, to wellness, to play?
For casual wear I adore nature baby, and summer & storm from your beautiful website, and for more formal pieces I love Babidu and Beaford Bonnett Comapny. I use Lovekins products for my baby's skin and nappies and when it comes to play, Beau adores books! He is a major bookworm and they always win over toys
Which essentials can you not leave the house without?
Fully stocked baby bag, Lovekins sanitiser, phone, keys and sunglasses!
[With as much or little detail as you’d like] What was the childbirth experience like for you, and how has motherhood changed your life and worldview?
Women are amazing. I was very fortunate to have a wonderful birth experience, working with a Doula, my husband and my mum to achieve the natural birth plan I hoped for. Childbirth is wild, I cannot believe what our body's and mind's are capable of! I felt truly empowered (and obviously exhausted haha). Whatever birth experience you have, growing and birthing a baby is a true miracle and privilege, I have so much respect for all the mothers out there.
What do you wish people discussed more when it comes to pregnancy, childbirth and/or motherhood?
I have a lovely group of friends also with young children and we often talk about the hard, challenging, annoying, tricky things that happen daily! It's important to know that motherhood is amazing but it certainly isn't easy. Sharing the good and the bad is important.
How have the events of this year changed your day-to-day routine? How, if at all, has it changed your priorities, values and general worldview?
Having a 6 week old during lockdown and juggling the pressures that placed on my business was a testing time. I have learnt the importance of slowing down, spending quality time with my family and stopping to smell the roses. For that I am very grateful.
Although a cliché question, the struggle for a work/life balance still persists for women, especially those with their own business. How do you maintain balance between the business and time with your family? What advice would you give to those in the same position?
Each family is different and only you can know what is best for you, your work and your family. For me, I have cut back on my work to spend more time with my son. I now work two days a week away from Beau, and then juggle emails on the other days. It isn't perfect, but I do my best to be there as much as I can for my business as well as my baby. I am very fortunate to have an incredible team at Mode who drive the business daily!
Are there any perceptions about motherhood that you’d like to change?
I often get feedback that people see snippets of Beau and I on instagram and think every day is perfect. It's important to remember that this is just a highlights reel, its not a full depiction of each day!
What wisdom or life advice would you like to pass on to your son?
I want to support him to be exactly who he is and who he wants to be. Teaching him some of life's important lessons and raising him to be a kind and good man.
What advice would you give to new or soon-to-be parents?
Take each day as it comes, do what is best for you and your family, not what others tell you is best. Trust your gut, there is no rule book, you make the rules and can be whatever mother or father you dream of, you got this!!