We pressed pause with Deborah Symond O’Neil, founder of multiple independent Australian boutiques, Mode Sportif to discuss all things life & business.
She’s the founder of pioneering fashion retailer, Mode Sportif, and one of the best-dressed women in Sydney. This January marks Mode Sportif’s first collection with SILOU London. As a new SILOU stockist, we caught up with Deborah to discuss all things fashion, style, business and of course activewear.
As the founder of Mode Sportif, what is your favourite thing about working for yourself and with women?
Flexibility, creativity and being able to quickly drive change are some of the best things about working for myself. I love working with a team of women, who are all different and all bring their own unique perspective to Mode as well as inspiring me personally, every day.
Are you a get-up and go, kind of girl? And What does your morning routine look like now with a baby on the way?
Absolutely! Exercise has made me a morning person, I love waking up and getting out and about. Since being pregnant I have swapped spin for pre-natal pilates and morning walks. I love started the day by clearing my head and having a delicious breakfast.
How would you describe your style in 3 words?
Colourful, feminine, fun
As a multi-tasker, and a constant source of enthusiasm and inspiration for your team and your online community, what keeps you energised and positive?
The exciting possibility of every unique day keeps me energized. I surround myself with special and inspiring people which is a huge source of positivity for me, whether that be at work, or in my personal life. Positivity, keeping myself challenged and openness are a big part of my mindset and something I focus on daily.
Mode has an inspirational mixture of curated ready to wear and resort collections. How do you think this style has evolved in Sydney?
Mode offers a curated fashion and lifestyle edit to suit the Australian lifestyle. Our product offering, brands and styles in the store are constantly evolving to suit the Australian woman, what she loves and how she wants to feel when she gets dressed.
How would you describe the Mode Girl, and do you think you can define her in one box?
There are many #MODEGIRLS. It isn’t a one size fits all as anyone can be a Mode Girl. We love seeing the diverse range of customers who shop with us in stores and online.
You’ve recently opened your third boutique in Sydney, tell us the challenges, differences and success between them?
We have diversified our retail presence in order to be able to showcase our flourishing fashion and lifestyle offering. Launching our Double Bay Flagship Boutique in 2018, and most recently our Mosman Boutique in 2019 has been amazing compliments to our online store. Every location is different, and the product buy is suited to each store’s local community and customers.
Mode began as a retail website, how have your bricks-mortar boutiques influenced your e-commerce store? Have buying patterns changed? Is she the same customer?
Opening retail stores in Sydney has been an amazing compliment to our online offering. We learn from every channel differently, and the direct feedback we are able to get from customers in stores is invaluable. Both the retail stores and online work together to create an omnichannel shopping experience for our customers.
Your collection edits are incredibly interesting and always fashion forward – how do you find a brand that resonates with your values and customer?
We constantly search for what is new, fresh or exciting and we are always thinking ahead for what it is our customers are looking for next. We find brands all around the world, with most of the buying conducted in Paris. Fashion is all around us, and we carefully curate our brand offering in The Mode Edit.
How to differentiate yourself from other boutiques in Sydney?
We focus on a unique brand and product offering with the “Mode” point of view. Our clients come to our stores to shop our perspective on fashion, and to experience amazing customer service. We are constantly growing, refreshing and activating to create a special experience for our clients in stores and online.
This is your first year with SILOU, what pieces are you looking most-forward to wearing?
I am weeks away from having my first child and I am so excited to be wearing this gorgeous new collection for my post-baby workout regime. The all-in-one is definitely my favourite piece in the collection and so great for pilates and yoga!
If you could describe SILOU in three words, what would they be?
Feminine, functional, luxurious
What do you look for in your active wardrobe and what would you like to see more of?
I love wearing colour, without feeling too bright. The gorgeous colour blocking and soft colour palette of the Silou collection are what really first drew me to the brand. Once I then touched and tried on the pieces, the incredible hand feel, design and cut instantly made it a personal favourite.
SILOU is all about embracing the female SILOU-ette, how do you think MODE endorses this message to women?
Mode embraces femininity and individuality, we want our clients to feel amazing and empowered when they wear our clothes, so we love these brand values of Silou’s, which are very much in line with our own.
If you had to say one thing you love about your SILOU-ette, what would it be?
Right now at 36 weeks pregnant, it absolutely is my baby bump!
What do you believe are the 3 most important lessons you’ve learnt so far in running a business?
Trust your gut instinct, surround yourself with people who compliment your personal skill set to build a team and don’t be afraid to pivot or change.
With running an omnichannel business, an online community, and growing a baby, how do you fit it all into your day?
I prioritize daily, focusing on what is most important and starting there. The organization is key, as well as having a supportive and talented team, for which I am very grateful.
How have you personally felt the change in retail and fashion in the last 5 years?
Retail is constantly evolving, that is what makes the industry so exciting. The landscape has completely evolved in 5 years, I can’t wait to see what is next!
We have 24 hours in Sydney, how would you plan our ultimate short and sweet Sydney stopover?
Sydney is such a diverse city, I would plan the whirlwind stay around exercise, dining, the beach and the icons.
Spin class at Cycology or Pilates at BodyLove followed by breakfast at Bills
A visit to bondi beach, including the coastal walk, followed by a beautiful long lunch at icebergs
Visit the opera house for a sensational show experience followed by dinner at Bennelong
You are one of our Summer style icons at SILOU HQ, do you have any secrets to curating your perfect holiday wardrobe?
Thank you! I love the summer style, it is so fun and playful. For my holiday wardrobes, I pack in “looks”. I plan the outfits for the locations and get really inspired by where it is I am visiting. For me, more is more for holiday dressing!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Work hard, travel, laugh and love, spend your life surrounded by special people.
Lastly, how do you wind down in the evening – do you have any nighttime rituals?
I love looking after my skin in the evening, and indulging in a mask whilst watching my favourite series!