In Conversation | exclusively for the X-FILES, Eva Galambos, director of Parlour X, sits to talk female leadership in an insightful and intimate interview with the co-founder and co-designer behind Mara & Mine, Jasmine Yarbrough. Saint Cloche Gallery and artist Bec Smith's Cameo exhibition is the ideal backdrop for this must-read one on one. Jasmine: I’ve got to confess. I’ve always been such a fan of yours. I remember going into Parlour X years ago, when it was this perfect little jewel box tucked away in Fiveways, and just being so impressed with how you put it all together, the way you curated the most perfect edit of pieces. Now Parlour X is the best it’s ever been – I honestly think what you’ve done is amazing. While others have come and gone, you’ve just taken it to a whole other level. In your opinion, how have you successfully evolved and stayed relevant in such a competitive industry for almost two decades now? Eva: Over eighteen years, I have never really slowed down. I am completely obsessed with evolving, being agile and always working on the next initiative. It is worth remembering that Parlour X is the only luxury operator in Australia that combines a truly special bricks-and-mortar experience with a thriving, established online presence. And I have an obligation to continually improve our offering for our clientele who expect us to be innovative. The team and I are constantly striving to exceed their expectations and create a memorable experience. I am ambitious and persistently set myself new goals… I can’t escape this self-imposed treadmill! What can you attribute to building the brand, the experiences or secrets behind successes for Mara & Mine, Jasmine? Jasmine: Sometimes I think that one of the secrets of success is just to be brave enough to try. I’ve been reading a great book recently, ‘Rising Strong’ by Brene Brown. There’s a part in it where she writes, ‘I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage, or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time’. It’s a huge risk to start a business. Everyone wants the success, but not everyone’s brave to put it all on the line to try. Do you feel that sheer courage – just being genuinely brave - has played a part in your success, Eva? Eva: I guess I consider myself brave although it sounds strange to describe myself that way. I am relatively thick-skinned. It’s these two ingredients that are necessary to be successful in business. Launching a business and trying your best is one thing, but withstanding pressure is another key aspect to being successful. You need an inner strength to handle pressure and stress, and a particular fortitude to deal with knocks and setbacks. So yes, I believe my success is partly attributed to bravery. And what about you, what’s taken the most bravery on your part? Jasmine: Just putting myself out there. Putting your creativity out there and hoping that women will resonate with it. I think any designer or business owner would agree, it’s one thing to have a dream, but in order to make it a reality you have to be willing to open yourself up to being critiqued along the way. It really does require a backbone – you cannot just give up when it’s hard. The thing is, we don’t want to learn from our successes, we learn from our mistakes, the things that didn’t go right. I believe it’s how we use those experiences - whether we have the guts to turn that failure into a real lesson and transform it into a strength - where we become wiser along the way. Eva: The significance about women designing for women is a powerful message and particularly relevant now. I have always been a strong advocator endorsing woman empowerment so the stronger the message the greater my own personal sense of happiness, in a female solidarity sort of way, and also as a mother of two young daughters. Hearing you talk about your ethos for Mara & Mine is ‘made by women, for women’, how does this motto or mantra influence your design process and vision for the brand? Jasmine: The topic of women designing for women has definitely come up a lot more recently in light of so many cultural, social and industry changes, though we’ve always had ‘made my women, for women’ at the heart of Mara & Mine. My business partner Tamie and I know that how a woman feels in what she’s wearing is just as important as how it looks. A great shoe – whether it’s about understated elegance, comfort to make a busy day that little bit easier, or a bold style statement that’s going to garner attention – can completely change how she moves through her day. What we wear can be a liberating way of expressing who we are. You don’t have to wear a sky-high heel to feel powerful. Eva: I love how the women around you inspire you so much. I too take great nourishment in surrounding myself by plenty of successfully impressive, balanced and grounded women who inspire me, and who I in turn inspire, which is a major sense of fulfilment as it encourages the wheel of ‘giving and taking’. Which strong women have been a mentor to you or would you say are the most influential or inspiring women in your life? Jasmine: On a personal level, my nanna’s style has always inspired me. She came from a generation where true style was so ladylike. It was all about matching your bag to your shoes to your necklace. Everything about her was immaculate and elegant. And truly, you’re right, my friends constantly inspire me with their strength, wisdom and humour. I’m surrounded by strong women, who haven’t always had the easiest of rides. They’ve each gone through their own hardships and tough times, yet they’re often the ones reminding me to laugh, and being a rock of strength for me. Women are so resilient – no matter what life throws at us, we rise stronger. The women around me remind me of that every day, and I am so thankful for that. How do you think, Eva, the celebrated wave of female empowerment and issues has already, or will impact the fashion industry? Eva: I am fortunate that as a business owner, I have always felt empowered, however I know I have been the exception rather than the rule. Challenges exist in any industry where most corporations are helmed by men. However the recent shift, and coverage of unacceptable behaviour, will have enormous ramifications. At the very least it should give all women, of every identity and creed, the confidence that they cannot be silenced, nor can they be constrained by gender barriers and glass ceilings. On to revelations; what is the most exciting business revelation, or win, you have had this year? Jasmine: Mara & Mine being picked up by major retailers in the U.S. this year was a real win for us. Establishing the brand in Los Angeles, we’ve always had a customer base in the U.S. Now, the further expansion into the best US bricks and mortar retailers is exciting, knowing that we’ll be able to see our shoes on the shelves of these retailers is something that feels very tangible. The success of our flagship boutique in Sydney has also been a win… It was such a risk, a real leap for us as we knew that everyone would be watching, and it was a bit nerve-wracking. For a life well lived though, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. Opening our first store was really that for us. And it’s been a revelation for Tamie and I, that not only did we have it in us, but that we could flourish. I’m so thankful for all of the local support that we’ve had in Sydney. It creates a sense of belonging, that the brand has a home in Australia too. Before we go, I’ve got to ask. What advice or insights do you have for me, Eva?! Eva: Trust your instincts and be prepared to get it right most of the time. If you stay true to your vision and values, you will occasionally make some mistakes, but you will never fail. I believe it’s the key to all successful businesses and finally, choose carefully who you surround yourself with. Invite the positive influences, who can provide constructive thoughts and opinions that help rather than hinder. What is the main point that you have discovered about women through designing for women, through your brand? Jasmine: I agree with you – trusting your instincts is so important, but it’s also one of the hardest things to do! I feel the same way, staying true to your values is the only way to be truly happy, both personally and professionally. One of the main things I’ve realised about women is that being empowered is not just about circumstances, but it’s about how you feel in the midst of them. It can often sound superficial or one-dimensional, but a woman can be transformed in the way she feels through fashion, this does play a huge part in instilling confidence and with self-expression. Feeling completely at ease in our skin allows us to just get on with the things that are really important. Eva: Absolutely, I will forever take inspiration from and appreciate the stories behind the designer and brands. Over the years having the honour to be part of these incredible Paris or Milan showroom experiences - when you comprehend and feel the level of craftsmanship, the construction and production of a beautifully produced piece, it is meaningful and it moves you. Fashion has the power to symbolise an ideological and philosophical meaning to the wearer… it’s definitely a for of self-expression for many women around me, and for me personally. Feeling inspired? Keep reading - for Jasmine Yarbrough’s industry interview on X-FILES where she discusses her label Mara & Mine. Love Jasmine's looks? View new season Isabel Marant here. Special thanks to: Saint Cloche Gallery and artist Bec Smith, for allowing the ideal setting for our new season shoot. Raechel Temily for her gracious collaboration and Paloma Garcia for Jasmine Yarbrough at PALOMA Salon.
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