YOU ARE BRAVE textiles printed fabrics by textile designer Michelle Kistima-Menser

Newcastle

Authentically Speaking ... A Morning With High Tea With Mrs Woo

ArticlesMichelle Kistima-MenserComment

Finding and being your authentic self in business (as in life) can be hard to do.

TWO THIRDS OF HIGH TEA WITH MRS WOO. ANGELA + JULIANA FOONG. ROWENA FOONG IS ABSENT.

TWO THIRDS OF HIGH TEA WITH MRS WOO. ANGELA + JULIANA FOONG. ROWENA FOONG IS ABSENT.

Recently I spent a few hours at the High Tea With Mrs Woo headquarters chatting with Angela and Juliana Foong who, along with older sister Rowena, make up the iconic Newcastle fashion label.

“Who is Mrs Woo?” and “Why high tea?” I asked, trying to understand what the labels’ quirky name means.

Turns out, the name is derived from the memories the sisters share of the grand and strong woman in their lives … their mum, grandmother and many aunties. This combined with memories of special times over high tea with these inspirational women is where the name comes from.

During our conversation, it became clear that family and a tradition of making by hand are integral to the make up and values of High Tea With Mrs Woo.

Photo by High Tea With Mrs Woo

Photo by High Tea With Mrs Woo

In their earliest years, growing up in Malaysia, their family home was also their grand fathers’ jewellery and clock making workshop and store.

Looking around the studio, I could imagine their home and that workshop. Old hand tools, well-used furniture and natural and muted colours have their place alongside hints of the modern.

I understood why the tactile and aesthetic qualities of making by hand is not just important to the sisters but it is a part of their make up and the fabric of who HTWMW is. 

Photo by High Tea With Mrs Woo

Photo by High Tea With Mrs Woo

The slow, hands on processes of making give an object meaning and imbue it with something greater than itself … it becomes part of the maker and they share in a relationship that is meaningful and true.

Another important aspect of the labels’ make up is the collective experiences the sisters have as migrants to Australia. Settling in Newcastle in the late 80’s, the Foong sisters, along with their parents, struggled to find their place in a new and western society.

With the guidance of their parents, the importance of family and sisterhood was continually instilled. So too was an ethic of “making do” with what they had. The sisters taught themselves to sew and scoured op shops instead of buying new clothes.

Photo by High Tea With Mrs Woo

Photo by High Tea With Mrs Woo

So perhaps you could say this is where High Tea With Mrs Woo was born but more so I think it comes from Rowena, Juliana & Angela’s DNA. And that comes from long before they were born.

There are so many labels & brands out there offering so much. I found High Tea With Mrs Woo to be as authentic and real as the three women who still make the garments with their own hands and bravely and whole-heartedly believe in what they do.

Find High Tea With Mrs Woo at their Cooks Hill store in Newcastle, NSW Australia or visit their website www.highteawithmrswoo.com.au