A conversation with Emma Kate, founder of Melbourne-based lifestyle brand

10 October 2019 - inspiration

It’s said that every cloud has a silver lining. For Emma Kate, that silver lining blossomed into a dream when her London work visa came to an end. She found herself back in Australia and decided to pursue her dream vision.

“It was a new beginning in every sense - and because I had nothing planned to return to, I suddenly found myself with a whole lot of space and no immediate accountability. Suddenly, I found myself with the rare and perfect chance to take a leap. The time was now! So I jumped in - full tilt! I worked like crazy for six months, designing my first ever collection. Then I booked a tiny spot at my very first tradeshow, and had forty stockists overnight. It’s grown from there! And I’ve never looked back.”

Five years on, Emma Kate Co. is a growing lifestyle and stationery brand with a mission to inspire adventure and joy. Whether it’s through her light-inspired travel photographs or her heartfelt art prints, Emma has a way of captivating her 70 thousand strong community.

TMC: What does a typical day in your life look like?

Emma Kate (EK): I always rise early and start my day with a big mug of English Breakfast tea, sorting through emails that have come through overnight, or lingering ones requiring a little more time, that I can sink into while it’s calm. Always tea before coffee.

On Mondays and Thursdays, and often on other days too, I work out of our studio space in Armadale, Melbourne, together with my wonderful studio assistant and brand manager Arabella. I love these days of the week, because I’m constantly surrounded by good energy, good music and hustle. Coffee runs to our local Melbourne favourite Moby are a non-negotiable, as is laughter and studio banter, to make the deadlines feel a little less daunting.

These days, I focus on the wholesale and product based arm of my business - where we’re in touch with our stockists, send online and wholesale orders out the door, prepare for new releases, upcoming trade shows or design markets.

Other weekdays, I work from my home studio in Richmond. On these days I try to focus more on creating, writing and the tasks that require immersion. I will also take photos for branded campaigns, or write blog content on these days. I don’t create well around chaos - I need stillness and presence for clarity.

I almost always end my day with a glass of wine - sometimes out with a girlfriend, or often with the company of a podcast if I’m at home and not heading anywhere! During evenings, I love cooking dinner (or ordering in) at home with my fiancé Charles. He also runs his own business, so there is plenty to discuss, seek advice and learn from each other, constantly. We’re also currently planning our wedding, so there is a lot of that to do, later into the evening!

TMC: What did you want to be when you were a child?

EK: I’ve had colouring pencils in my hand for as long as I can remember - and not surprisingly, I have always been obsessed with paper and stationery. Growing up though, I wanted to be a number of different things! Doctor, Marine Biologist, Psychologist… it was only much later that I realised I could make a career out of stationery and my creations.

TMC: When did you start lettering?

EK: I’ve always loved written things by hand, but I think I started lettering when I was around five, when my favourite thing was to write intricately detailed letters to fairies living at the bottom of my garden!

I’ve been refining my handwritten typography and learning the art of lettering for over ten years now.

During university, I earned my living by freelance - mostly designing bespoke wedding stationery. After one bride had happened to comment on my neat handwriting and requested it as the design feature across their entire stationery suite, I quickly became known for my typographic style. My lettering work evolved from there.

Photo courtesy of Emma Kate.

TMC: What do you enjoy about stationery?

EK: I love the tactile nature of stationery. Nothing beats that fresh-off-the-press smell!

As our lives become more and more digital, and it feels like time is speeding up, I love that writing in a journal gives us pause, and brings us back to our purpose.

While I don’t necessarily see stationery as the ‘end goal’ for my brand - my love affair with paper made for a natural beginning, and stationery has certainly been a beautiful foundation to build from.

TMC: What are some setbacks you faced when you first started Emma Kate Co.?

EK: Oh, so many! From entire print runs done entirely incorrectly, to spelling errors on products (eek!), I have certainly been kept on my toes, right from the start! I wouldn’t have it any other way, though. Every single challenge is an opportunity to grow, and mistakes always make for the best lessons!

TMC: How do you deal with them? (Continuation from previous question)

EK: Often not so well, at the time! If something isn’t flowing for me, my natural tendency is to try to force my way through; the not-stopping-until-it’s-fixed kind of approach.

I’m trying to be a little gentler on myself these days, and to trust in the process more! I find that it helps me to pause for a moment and look back, to remind myself of all the seemingly impossible setbacks and challenges I have already faced and figured out. It helps me to feel that whatever the current challenge is there will be a way through too!

TMC: What would you tell your 20-year-olf self that you wish you knew then?

EK: That… it’s all going to be ok (SO much more than ok, even).

I’d tell my younger self to boldly live the questions and to learn to love the unknown and trust in my power a little more.

I’d also tell myself to lighten up a little, at times, and remember there can be joy and gratitude no matter the situation.

Mostly, I’d tell my five-year ago self to always refuse to live anything but the life of my dreams; to unapologetically live a life of freedom and a life on my terms, and to throw myself headlong into my dreams with unbridled abandon and never waver on that. Luckily, I have done that. But I’d definitely tell younger myself that yes! it’s a good plan!

TMC: What’s a mantra you live by?

EK: Always Show Up. My mentor, and first boss taught me this, and it’s something I live by every day! No matter what. To me, showing up means going all in. If you say you’ll do something, follow through. If you don’t know how to do something, show up and figure it out. Make yourself visible by creating situations where you will be seen and can connect.

Photo courtesy of Fête Magazine, Emma Kate.

TMC: What does success mean to you?

EK: To me… success is when someone I don’t know emails me and says our handwritten note or little extra surprise tucked inside their order completely made their day. Or that some of my shared words hit home and resonated deeply. Or that because of me, someone booked a flight somewhere to get out and explore the world. I’m very aware that I am not saving lives in my line of work, but I do believe that my purpose is to bring joy, make days, stir meaning, and to inspire adventure. That feels like success to me.

I also feel successful when I get to inbox zero or make it to bed before midnight! Neither of these happen very often, but it’s a work in progress!

TMC: Any advice or tips for those who want to pursue entrepreneurship?

EK: Invest in yourself. Sign up for online courses, night classes - dedicate time to learning.

TMC: How do you stay constantly inspired?

EK: Travel. It’s the single most inspiring thing I know. I think it’s impossible to travel and not be constantly awed and inspired.

TMC: What’s on your travel bucket list?

EK: I really want to explore Sicily.

TMC: What do you envision for the future of Emma Kate Co.?

EK: Doing exactly what we are doing now, but hopefully from a light-flooded, whitewashed warehouse studio space somewhere one month, and from my laptop in a strange and wonderful corner of the world next!

I would like to do more than make products. I know that we can make bigger magic in other ways by working on brand and travel campaigns, hosting workshops, speaking and presenting, consulting and finding ways to bring joy + connection on a very personal level.

TMC: What’s your favourite

- Coffee
EK: Double shot soy flat white, please! Or cappuccino, on days that I need the chocolate.

- Country
EK: So many places have my heart! Picking one, I’d say France because Joie De Vivre is a non-negotiable way of living life, there, and I think that’s such a beautiful way to live.

- Stationery item (one that you can’t live without!)
EK: A really basic notepad (and yes, I design much prettier ones) - but honestly, I’m all for a super simple, plain, tear-away style of notepad because I’m constantly scribbling notes and to-do lists on the go. I need to write everything down.

TMC: Could you share with us your favourite quote?

EK: “Every morning you have two choices: continue to sleep with your dreams - or wake up and chase them.”

TMC: What would you say is the best moment of your career?

EK: Collaborating with The Mindful Company, of course! :) Genuinely though, the best moments for me are the ones of connection. The opportunity to connect with a brand (+ its people) I really admire, and collaborate on something special is nothing short of magical. This is a dream come true for me.

TMC: What’s your inspiration for this collaboration?

EK: I really connect with The Mindful Company’s mission to inspire and encourage - it’s at the very core of why I do what I do and I think it was this similar purpose that formed such a kindred connection and alignment between our brands. I think that this has been the basis of inspiration for our collaboration together, too!

‘You Are Magic’ are the opening words on one of our bestselling art prints titled Things To Remember. They are simple words but extremely potent ones to carry with you. It’s such a beautiful, literal way to have these words on jewellery that you can wear on your wrist and be reminded of throughout each day.

‘It’s Written In The Stars’ is a beautiful phrase we wanted to incorporate into the collection, but less literally. I love the subtlety of this piece. Rather than using words, it’s a gentler reminder that magic is around the corner.

TMC: What are your hopes for this collaboration?

EK: I hope that we can spread a lot of magic the world over with our collaboration!

TMC: What’s your favourite piece from the collection?

EK: The You Are Magic cuff in Rose Gold.

Follow Emma's journey on Instagram or on Emma Kate Co.

Photos shot on location at Apartment Coffee.