If we had to choose a local brand with the most charming story, it would be UASHMAMA.
Here’s a snapshot. While travelling in the vineyards Tuscany a few years ago (yes, really!), Bondi local Casey Languillon discovered a small, family-run business working out of a cottage and creating unique, washable bread bags. While traditional bread bags are made from brown paper, these ones were special. Made using cultivated virgin fibre, they look and feel like leather, but are crafted like paper, meaning they can be rolled up, styled and washed easily.
Casey got to chatting to the family behind the bags, the Marconis, and the rest is, as they say, history. She now works side-by-side with the family (and a larger facility in Florence) to distribute the designs Down Under. While the paper bags are still the hero product, the range has expanded to include accessories and homewares – and Sydneysiders can’t get enough.
Sitchu caught up with Casey to chat about business, balance and making beautiful bags.
Q&A with Casey Languillon
What sets UASHMAMA apart from other design companies?
UASHMAMA really is one of kind. The quality, the make, and the story – there’s nothing like it!
Why did you choose to initially open stores in Bondi and The Rocks?
We opened the first store in Bondi because that’s where we live – the store is literally a three-minute walk from home. The Rocks came about because of a feeling that I needed to get out of Bondi! As soon as we saw the space, which is the old entrance to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), we couldn’t stop! The Rocks really is a special place – if you live in Sydney and haven't been down there for a while, GO. It’s amazing!
You run a successful, covetable and recognisable business in Sydney, which isn’t an easy feat! Do you have any advice for new business owners?
My advise to anyone wanting to start a business is that if you can’t stop thinking about it, and that thinking is becoming obsession, then you’re meant to do it. But before you jump in, do your homework first.
What does a typical day look like for you?
When you have two little boys and a number of stores, there is no such thing as a typical day.
How do you maintain that elusive work-life balance?
Being a small business owner, finding that work/life balance is definitely the biggest challenge of all. Given the business is so young, it’s hard to switch off, but I am learning and always hopeful. My husband joined me full-time just over two years ago when our second son was born, and we do find it really difficult to turn off our phones at night, but we are trying! The goal is to put our phones in a drawer from 6-9pm to have some family time, and then Italy (our business partners and creators of UASHMAMA) come online and we start the second part of our working day. To answer your question, that balance is a work in progress.
What is your all-time favourite UASHMAMA product?
It changes all the time, but at the moment it’s the small quartz (pink) clutch, which is my everyday wallet. I’m the type of person who runs out of the house only to realise I have nowhere to put my sunglasses. The small clutch is wallet size with room for sunnies – perfect for me!
Can you spill a little on what’s coming up next for the brand?
At UASHMAMA, we never stop. Marco Marconi, the creator, is in his 60s now and puts us all to shame. He has the energy of a teenager.
This year you’ll see some cool collaborations in Australia. We launched the year with tableware for Jardan, which was a dream for us. The collection for 2017 is, in my opinion, the best collection we’ve ever completed. We’ve listened to our customers and we’ve learnt a lot, and you’ll see this in the new collection.
As a Bondi local, where are your top places to eat and drink?
Living in Bondi, we really are spoilt for choice. I love brekkie at Drake and Earth Food, then lunch at Bills – or I’d splurge on a long lunch at Icebergs. For dinner, it’s back at Drake or China Diner. For those willing to venture out of the Bondi bubble, Three Blue Ducks is just up the road in Bronte and it’s a must!
In The Rocks, it would be The Tap Rooms for a beer and then Tapavino for dinner, or straight to El Cameo for cocktails and tacos.
There are three stand-alone stores, plus stockists all over Sydney.
Shop 7, 157 Curlewis Street, Bondi Beach
140 George Street, The Rocks
Suite 7.02, 75 Mary Street, St Peters