The fabric of life

The Foong sisters’ garments are thoughtful, simple and created with zero waste.

As the world reeled in response to COVID-19, the pandemic also had smaller, quieter impacts closer to home: for the sisters behind homegrown slow-fashion label High Tea With Mrs Woo, the experience of lockdown helped to propel them towards a future they were already contemplating.

Juliana, Rowena, and Angela Foong began High Tea With Mrs Woo almost 20 years ago. Together they design and manufacture garments locally, using beautiful fabrics sourced carefully. Their work is thoughtful, intentional and focused on sustainability.

For most of this time they’ve had a shopfront in Darby Street, Cooks Hill. They also had a flagship store in Paddington for five years and they regularly travel to design markets all over Australia. Time to try something new However, with their lease coming to an end, and the ways of shopping shifting, they realised there was an opportunity to rethink things. “We knew our lease would be finishing soon and so we have been thinking and planning and asking ourselves pretty big questions, like is retail relevant anymore?” Angela, the youngest of the three sisters, explains over Zoom, one sunny winter afternoon.

“There’s this beautiful share economy that’s been growing,” explained Angela, “so we thought if we were to collaborate with another likeminded small business how would that be?”

They had some conversations with Angela Hailey from Studio Melt and found that they were aligned in many ways, and importantly their philosophy around customer service and the way they approach artisanship was aligned.

“We thought, you know, this is the time to try this out, why not put our heads together and also be able to share costs and marketing and ideas … have conversations, have events together, share so much that is challenging in running a small business.”

And that’s exactly what they’re doing. Come spring, you’ll find High Tea With Mrs Woo in a new collaborative space with Studio Melt, in the city.

Story by Megan Hazlett, photography by Alex McIntyre and Shan Rose

Read more in the Spring issue of Hunter&Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.