House Of White mama and blogger Olivia interviewed our Designer Alex and chatted about her designs and inspirations, her beginnings in the fashion industry and what's to come for Oobi.
Thanks so much for featuring Oobi in your blog! xx
Alexandra Riggs is the founder and exclusive designer of the award winning children’s fashion label, Oobi, a company that she began at a market stall in Glebe, over twelve years ago. Alex is also regular blogger for Blog Society, a mentor for women in business, and even has her own charitable program called “Oobi-fy the World”.
We had a chat to the lovely Alex about her iconic clothing label, her amazing ventures, and also about an exciting upcoming event you don’t want to miss!
You have been in the children’s fashion industry for over twelve years now. Can you give us a little background on where it all began?
Yes for sure. I started Oobi at a market stall in Glebe. I was studying art history at uni and back in those days there was a practical component requirement. Whilst I wanted to do photography (full) I ended up doing screen printing (do I admit that that was ALL that was left?). Well… I loved it! I really took to it and my naïve drawing and printing style in bold, graphic colours really lent themselves well to garment textiles, especially for kids. The first day at the markets I was approached by Myer but in the end I started doing a lot of work with David Jones. I left uni and started my own small business after a couple of years of doing that and really followed my passion.
Your designs are always so fun and colourful. Can you tell us what inspires your designs?
I absolutely love colour. I rarely wear black and my home is bright and fun too. Colour makes me happy and mixing unexpected hues is my passion. I also love quirky, interesting design of all kind. My ‘childlike’ drawing style is perfect for kid’s fashion and I have also done a lot of study and research into early childhood development.
This has been a real driving force for me. Childhood should be all about wonder and magic and fun and colour and that’s what I’ve dedicated my life and my business to.
I don’t care if one day you want to be a doctor and one day you want to be a princess, it’s all about imagination and possibility and optimism. Through fashion and design a child can learn to play and discover the wonders of the world. Even motor skills from zipping and buttoning and broader skills for development in the simple act of choosing what to wear and what you’ll “be” today. I love that!
Oobi has won an array of awards, including being voted “Australia’s Favourite Children’s Fashion Label” seven years running. Did you ever imagine it would get so big?
It’s funny that you say “big”. We’ve never gone big, we’ve retained our unique boutique nature and have stuck with the same amazing makers and artisans that I’ve been working with for years. I’ve been approached in the past to do crazy collaborations or design for chain retail but I’ve never wanted to go down that pathway.
Ironically, I am big enough to have the luxury of being able to stay small, which means that I sell enough to be able to call the shots and drive the business in the way that I want it to go, but not so much that I’m having to cut corners or the added elements that make Oobi, Oobi. We are ethical, sustainable, fun and quirky.
I never have to make excuses for my choices, I never have to do anything I don’t believe in – and I guess in a way that makes me big. I mean, they don’t call me the Big Oobi for nothing.
You are also a “Global Sisters Ambassador” and run your own charitable program called “Oobify the World”. Could you tell us a little about these great causes?
Oobi-fy The World is my pet project and we’re very proud to make it happen.
Oobi pledges to donate a piece of ‘Oobi Magic’ for every dress sold from our Barefoot Princesses and I Love Candy 2015 ranges. If this is sustainable then we’ll continue it forever. Because every child deserves a childhood and we’re all about the optimism of that – if you give one child a bright and joyous moment, something that they can harness and look back on as an adult, that’s incredible. It shows that someone cares for them.
Oobi-fy could also be a call to action to other businesses because if we can do it, anyone can do it. It’s been a long time coming for me and although we’ve always been a very charitable business I never formalised it before. It’s scary to make a major commitment and put that out there, there’s no backing down.
I’m going to be cheeky and direct you to the Global Sisters website because it’s the best way to discover what they’re all about. Mandy Richards the founder is inspirational and she and her team work to help women refugees learn how to sustain a living, start a business (and all that entails!), hone and refine their talents and skills – all in their new country.
Women entrepreneurs in Australia become ‘Sisters’ by offering guidance, support, education, mentoring and even things like sewing equipment, fabrics, help to learn train systems to get to meetings – really “useful” stuff that we often take for granted. globalsisters.org
Global Sisters and Oobi are working on a project now which is very, very cool. I can’t give away more info now but we will send out a press release when it happens as it’s an amazing story and lots of fun.
When you’re not running a business, blogging for blog society or devoting time to some great charitable causes, what can we find you doing?
Loads. My husband Dominik Mersch runs an art gallery and I’ve been lucky enough to have been thrust into his world too. So evenings are often spent at his gallery openings, hearing him speak (we met at a charity event!) or seeing a great art show. We are both people who can’t sit still but we’re not just about art. We love hanging in the park with our dog, being with friends, seeing silly movies (he is massively into those 3D big-budget sci-fi things and hey, I pretend I don’t want to go but love those too).
You are heading to Melbourne next month to be apart of a new and unique shopping and lifestyle experience called The Wild Collective. Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect at the event?
We are really excited about The Wild Collective because of the spirit and the love that is put into this event. That’s what sold us. The bright ambition of creating a shopping event in Melbourne that is collaborative, interesting, unique and a bit quirky, suitable for young and old, was such a draw card for us.
The best part for me is being able to chat with our customers, meet new mums or introduce people to our brand. I love the idea of throwing a party there to launch our summer range and the fact that it’s at the Royal Exhibition is the icing on the cake. We feel very honoured to be part of this event and expect it to be really exciting, I can’t wait to spend a bit of money myself!
And last but not least, If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Someone who doesn’t eat much. I could then steal their dessert!