Lotte Barnes and Lia-Belle King are two of the most inspiring women we know. Meeting at a time in their life when they we’re both ready for change, they left their respective careers to pursue a journey of travel & self discovery. Ultimately it resulted in the creation of the business Worn, which they run together, a relocation out of Sydney to the Byron Bay Hinterlands and starting a family together. Change can be scary, but Lotte and Lia-Belle can definitely vouch that it’s worth the risk!
Please tell us a little about who you are and what you do?Lotte: Lia-Belle and I are business partners and life partners. We own and run Worn, a furniture, and lifestyle brand, and are parents to our three- month-old daughter Ophelia and one year old doggo Gray. We live in Clunes in the Byron Bay Hinterland and run our business from our office and boutique in Bangalow, as well as our home office. Worn as a brand includes several aspects. Starting with the furniture products and clothing we design and manufacture, to the logistics of importing and exporting furniture around the globe, and the management of our online store. We also have a side arm where we wholesale a selection of products as well as custom make pieces to customers specific designs or requests. Then there’s the boutique in Bangalow which doubles as a showroom for our Worn range, but is also a curation of objects from artists, designers, and brands that we admire. When stocking external brands we focus on their ethical integrity, that they are owned and run by women and that they offer something that compliments the existing themes currently running through the business. We’re dedicated to running our business in a very personable manner, Worn is a direct reflection of who we are after all. We’re both hands-on with every aspect of the business and if you email Worn, you will be emailing us directly. Worn is a harmonious business in that is it an extension of our day-today life and not separate from it. Orders, emails, enquiries and production all happen over breakfast, whilst we sip tea on the verandah, in the car and at the table at the end of the day with a glass of red wine in hand. Running the business this way ensures we can maintain a healthy balance of home and work life whilst co-parenting. From the outside I think we appear to be larger than we actually are. In reality it’s just the two of us, negotiating the running of this business with both trying to be the best people, parents and business owners that we can be.
You both left your respective careers to pursue travel and self- discovery, what prompted the decision and how did you work up the courage to actually go ahead with it!Lia-Belle: Lotte and I came together at a point in our lives where we were both ready for change. Change where our careers were heading and challenge ourselves by deciding what kind of life do we really want to be living, regardless of work. We’d both been in our respective industries for over ten years and were getting close to burn-out so we decided to take a few months hiatus and travel to Bali, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Within two weeks of leaving Australia we decided not to go back. To love overseas and pursue one year of self discovery, healing and growth. During this time we created Worn. Making the decision not to return to Australia was very easy. In fact it was the easiest ‘big decision’ either of us have ever made. The fear of letting go far outweighed the fear of returning to the same life and I suppose we both dedicated ourselves to living the best life we could, and put that idea at the forefront of everything we were doing. Luck rewards the brave and I remember sitting in a café in Indonesia and verbalising where I want to be in five years time and the both of us deciding, ‘well let’s work to that’. Let’s change our priorities and make our quality of life the focus and design work around that (not the other way around). I think so many people are so scared of not receiving their paycheck on the same day every month, and the fear of not having something ‘safe’, money, property they own whatever, keeps them from really living the way they want to be living. And for what…to have money in the bank in case of an emergency. Security. I suppose we wanted to challenge that. To prove you can have both. You can have freedom and money in the bank if you’re smart, work hard, and become a little more brave.
Tell us a little bit about the business you run together - WORN? How did the idea come about?Lia-Belle: Lotte and I met through work and gradually we started to neglect our independent business projects for projects we could both contribute to. By the time we left Australia we were working together on everything, from advertising campaign strategies, to runway show productions and it all happened very organically. We brought out the best in each other and challenged each others ideas and pushed each other professional limits at the same time.
Lotte: Worn is from very humble beginnings. We were in Bali sourcing for furniture for our villa and we found an incredible artisan who we worked with to have a chair made. This was to be the SLING chair. Lia-Belle posted the chair on her instagram and over night she had people wanting to buy one. So we took the risk, invested into the chairs, shipped them to Australia and haven't looked back. The start of Worn wasn’t intentional or strategic, in all honesty it’s been very fly-by- the-seat- of your-pants. The early growth of the business happened so rapidly it was difficult to manage but now, two years in and the growth has continued at a steady rate but so too has our ability to handle it. At the moment our biggest problem is being able to keep up with the demand for our pieces, which isn’t such a bad problem to have so early on in the game.
What’s one daily ritual you can’t live without?Lotte: Most mornings we rise early after baby-induced sleepless night. Around 7am I get up wiith Opi and leave Lia in bed to rest. I make a cup of tea to go, rug Opi and I up and head outside. We first let the chickens out, then we walk...Opi, Gray & I. We set off to see the morning and get lost in the hundreds of sounds around us. I've been doing insta-stories as images don’t quite capture the sound and the true light that pours around us. I also like that I get to share this amazing part of the world with others and as strange as it is, I know it brings calmness to a lot of people to watch. I throw a stick for Gray, tell Opi about the trees that she looks up to and tell her things about the world until she falls asleep on me. It's our time together, our ritual, our walking meditation that brings us back to nature, roots us into the earth and just makes me damn happy and endlessly grateful that this is my home and I get to be here with my great little loves. That, as well as Meditation – as I’m also currently studying to become a Vedic Teacher, my daily practice is a ritual I love and dearly appreciate.
Lia-Belle: My morning coffee. I inherited my father's old stove top Atomic espresso machine and it’s tricky and time-consuming to use, but makes the best coffee. The timing of all the elements from the water boil, the coffee dispersion and milk foaming have to be just right and you need to pay attention to make a good coffee from this machine. The ritual of making the cup of coffee is both sentimental and meditative for me.
How do you manage to separate business and family life together?Lia-Belle: Right now we don’t! It’s more intertwined than ever being that we’re very focused on co-parenting. Lotte works from our home office three days of the week to ensure she’s part of each day with Opi, and to help me so the home and baby care doesn’t fall just on me. Before Ophelia was born we knew that we didn’t want there to be a home/work divide that would mean one of us would have to ‘go off to work’ and leave the other an ‘at home’ parent’. Our parenting style influences how we run the business which means we don’t work 9am-6pm. At the moment, whilst Opi is so little we work around her schedule and alternate caring/working roles throughout the day. Our daily to-do list is checked off in between feeds and sleeps but Lotte does manage most of the day-to- day running of the business and 90% of the email replies. Sharing the load of the caring for Opi, and sharing the load of running the business and the home means that when we’re doing Worn work – we’re totally focused, and when we’re with Opi, we’re totally focused on her –we’re very mindful to keep it this way. Worn isn’t just a brand or a business, it’s an extension of our life and so there isn’t any clear separation. Each customer purchase and email is discussed, everything that happens within the business happens within our home. We find having it this way keeps it personal and genuine, an attribute we hope to maintain within Worn even as the business continues to grow. Being that Worn is an extension of our day-to- day, the business is run outside of structured business hours. When we started Worn we wanted to ensure our business allowed us to have total flexibility whilst not compromising on professional integrity or our quality of life. We feel we have achieved that but of course, every day we learn something new and as the business continues to grow, so too does our dedication to maintaining a healthy balance between work, family and self.
After your return from Indonesia, you chose to base yourselves in the Byron Hinterlands, what made you choose this part of the world?Our decision to move back to Australia was motivated by the pregnancy, but also because we knew that to grow the business we had to be in the country. Our decision to live in the Hinterlands was the answer to the question, ‘where enables us to have the best quality of life’. After living in Indonesia in a large villa with lots space, we didn’t want to move back and feel we were compromising our quality of life. We had boxes that needed to be ticked to determine where we would live. Land space, house size and quality, and proximity to ocean were all key factors.
Describe your families perfect ‘Modern Utopia’....Lotte: I’ve never felt more whole than I do right now – our current surrounding really is our Modern Utopia…maybe if a perfect, uncrowed right hander point break was a stones throw away in our backyard – then life would be pretty damn perfect! Oh and a cabin with a natural hot spring – might as well add that into the Utopia mix!
Lia-Belle: I would say our life as it is right now, just maybe a little closer to the beach and family.