Becky Jack is the designer and founder behind peony swimwear, a boutique Queensland-based label distinct for its feminine-boho aesthetic and delicate details. You can shop the label’s Instagram here. Becky was working in a high-profile criminal law firm when she decided the stress, anxiety, and bullying that came with the job weren’t worth it, and that she was no longer going to let external expectations dictate her life and career. It was then that she committed to her passion for design and swimwear, which is all she and her sisters would wear nine months out of the year during childhood. It seemed the most logical path. She wasn’t wrong.
In December 2012, her label, peony, made its debut at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane and is a love letter to the cusp of summer and following one’s heart. We chat to Becky in anticipation of her upcoming Collective101 Masterclass in Brisbane.
What were you doing career-wise when you founded peony? I’ve always had a passion for creativity and design. I used to draw in my school books and on napkins at restaurants. I really wanted to go to Whitehouse [Institute of Design] in Sydney after school, but my parents, who are a fairly conventional couple – a doctor and nurse – encouraged me to pursue a more “secure pathway” at university first.
After school, I studied a double degree in law and business. I really love studying law; I love the written word and working in the “grey area”, unlike my family who all prefer more science-y things where answers are certain. My first job out of uni was as a lawyer in a high-profile criminal law firm. I had been there almost 12 months before I quit.
I was stressed, exhausted and, to be honest, feeling quite bullied. I was the youngest and only female lawyer at the firm. The environment was extremely aggressive and bullish. I felt I had no support and the expectations were enormous. I am naturally quite a slender build already, but I had lost weight from stress and anxiety. I would spend every Sunday dreading Monday. I really hated my job but wasn’t sure what I would do if I left.
When did you hatch the idea? I’d quit my job and therefore had limited money coming in. I had a casual job at a local bar which was getting me by… just. I felt as though I had followed every path that was ever expected of me and it was time to pursue what I really loved, which was fashion design. It made sense to me because, career-wise, at that point I had nothing to lose. So why not now? Also, I had this lingering voice in my head that was like, “If you don’t try, you will never know”. I decided to listen to it.
I loved swimwear with an absolute passion; growing up it was all my sisters and I wore for nine months of the year, and so swimwear was naturally what I wanted to pursue.
How did you get it off the ground? I firstly told my family and friends that it was my intention. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this was a good move because it meant people held me accountable and asked me questions all the time about where I was at. I then found myself two strong mentors. Best thing I ever did. I then wrote a business plan and feasibility analysis. I wasn’t looking for a definitive yes or no answer to the question, “Should I go ahead?”. I did it for the sole reason that it prompted me to ask myself questions that hadn’t yet occurred to me.
I wrote it under the guidance of my mentors, often over a coffee or bottle of wine. It gave me confidence because I had answers for all the questions. As I was writing it, I was also actioning it – not sure if I would advise this, but I was way too excited.
How have you grown a sizeable following? An authentic story and reason for starting, a crystal clear understanding of who “our girl” is, a strong brand, a beautiful product, and bend-over-backwards customer service.
What were the learning curves you faced? When I started, every single decision was a learning curve because I knew nothing about the industry I was entering. I actually googled “how to make swimwear”. I had to learn everything from scratch: fabrications, pattern making, production, etc.
What has been the biggest challenge? The very first step was the hardest. Since then, the biggest challenge has been keeping up with, and managing, growth, which is a wonderful challenge to be faced with.
What’s next for the brand in 2018? The brand is growing at an incredible rate and now has a team of the most dedicated, skilled and passionate people behind it. We just moved into our dream office space, which we recently renovated – an old yoga studio with huge windows and original timber floors; it’s the most beautiful place to work from.
We are starting to pursue the wholesale market in in a more meaningful way and so far the response has exceeded my wildest expectations. There are so many exciting things on the horizon for peony, I am bursting at the seams to tell all but I am sworn to secrecy so watch this space.
See Becky Jack in our upcoming Collective101 Masterclass in Brisbane on Nov 23. Whether you’re toying with the idea of starting your own brand, or you’re in the building blocks stage of your business, this masterclass will teach you valuable insights into the dos and don’ts, things you must know, and what it takes to stand out from the crowd. Get your ticket here.