Lia-Belle King and Lotte Barnes live in beautiful Byron Bay, own the highly coveted Worn Store and are parents to two year old Ophelia. They have consciously and deliberately chosen the way in which they live their lives and are in turn, (perhaps even unwittingly) inspiring many working parents, business owners and budding entrepreneurs that there is ‘another way’.
Gone are the long days and late nights in the big city rat race, instead, Lotte and Lia-Belle are fusing parenthood with a fast-growing business – on their own terms. Here, these intelligent and articulate women talk us through balance, business and what their new Natalie Marie pieces mean to them.
Names and Location:
Lia-Belle King and Lotte Barnes, Byron Bay NSW Australia
Tell us a little about yourselves? (Eg, what do you do, where did you grow up, how did you end up where you are now?)
Together we own and run the ethical and sustainable furniture and clothing brand Worn Store. Prior to Worn, we both lived in Sydney, Lia-Belle owned and ran a fashion PR agency, and Lotte co-owned a creative agency.
Growing up we had very different childhoods. I (Lia-Belle) grew up on a farm on the Central Coast, whilst Lotte grew up on the Northern Beaches. Our childhoods and family dynamics couldn’t be more different and navigating our way through our different experiences has been an interesting journey now that we’re parents. Interesting in a good way in that our different experiences bring a very grounded balance to our approach as parents to our two year old daughter Ophelia.
In regards to our relationship, initially we met through friends but it wasn’t until we worked on a project together that anything special clicked. And once it clicked, it really clicked. Right from the beginning our relationship took precedence over every other aspect of our lives. The incredible energy we were exchanging led to both of us closing our businesses and moving to Bali where we ended up living for nearly two years. We spent the first two years of our relationship completely immersed in spiritual exploration and healing, it laid the foundations for the most magnificently empowering and rewarding relationship either of us has ever experienced. Bali presented the opportunity to start our business, and it also presented the opportunity to start our family. It was magic.
Lia-Belle, Worn Store is now a household name but before that, you worked in fashion PR in Sydney. Was there a pivotal moment where you knew you wanted to do something different or was Worn always in the back of your mind?
To be honest, no. I remember my mother driving me to my first day of university and looking at the turnoff sign for the Macquarie University and thinking to myself ‘I’m going to own a fashion PR agency’. I always knew what I wanted to do and was always extremely focussed and determined to achieve my goal. It wasn’t until I met Lotte that my focus was deterred, and the idea of what I thought I wanted, who I thought I was, how I valued myself and my work completed exploded in my face. For the first time my value and worth didn’t come through my work. It came from within. I stripped myself down to nothing and rebuilt myself in the most genuine and soulful way that I could. I think I’m still building, and hope to always be. Worn came about during this process which is why it’s a brand that rests so strongly on it’s ethical and sustainable design and manufacturing integrity.
Lotte, you also changed from a creative role to bring Worn to life. What advice do you have for those considering a career change?
Luck rewards the brave.
Everything good that I have experienced in my life has come when I have taken a risk, or been outside of my comfort zone. Being brave enough to open yourself up to new experiences, to teachings, to unknown successes and failures attracts universal support and guidance. To anyone out there too scared to make the change, to take the risk, do it! I promise it will be the best life experience you will ever have.
As business owners and mothers, what does the ‘balance’ look like for you both? Is there such a thing?
Balance is a constantly changing and evolving concept. It depends firstly, on Ophelia’s needs, then our own, then that of the business, in that order. We co-parent and for the first year of Ophelia’s life Lotte was more involved in the running of Worn, and now we have swapped and I am working four days and Lotte is at home with Opi four days a week. We share every responsibility at the home regardless of who has to leave for work. We are open about our needs as parents, partners and individuals and I think that open communication means we are both able to get as much as we need from the home and work environment.
Saying that, the business always needs ‘more’ than the hours we dedicate in the office, so a lot of ‘business development’ and problem solving occurs over the kitchen table, in the car, in bed at the end of the day. Sometimes, like last week for example, Opi was having an off week and just really needed me around, so I didn’t work last week. I didn’t work because her needs are number one and to be honest, work can always wait regardless of what it is and who you are, especially when it comes to family. Yes this week my workload might be double, but I’m a parent so I suppose that’s all part of the package.
Inside of our home we’re conscious of making sure each other has some ‘me time’ every week. It’s vital to mental and emotional well-being and is encouraged and important. Lotte meditates daily and that also is a major part of maintaining inner balance for her.
We love seeing the evolution of Worn and the new categories, including womenswear. Do you have an end goal for the brand? What can we expect next?
Slowly slowly Worn is evolving to become a more complete lifestyle concept. The business grew so quickly it’s taken three years to be able to go back to the beginning and actually start planning our growth properly. The future sees Worn expanding into a fully fledged interiors brand, with products for the home, not just furniture, that are all sustainably and ethically made. We will also start to offer interior design consulting service which is something I have been doing outside of Worn, but will now incorporate into the business.
We are also expanding the clothing wholesale arm, which is a daunting but very exciting prospect.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?
A mentor and a book-keeper are the difference between a good and a great business.
Also, stay humble and do whatever you’re doing with integrity and respect for the planet. Ask yourself, does the world really need what I am offering, and do your research! If there are businesses out there doing the same thing as what you’re doing or want to do, then there probably isn’t longevity in your idea. Create something new, something innovative, excite people and genuinely create some authentic.
Best lesson you’ve learnt along the way?
A business mentor will help you to grow yourself and your business even if you don’t like what they have to say. The advice bestowed upon us by several people we have sought out to learn from has been vital to some decisions we have made within the business that have eventually led to growth. Some decisions were easy to make, others more difficult, all of them were for the better.
When taking on the advice of someone else though, remember, you know your business more than anyone else, and do not ever compromise your vision of your brand direction or approach on the advice someone else, even if they do have more experience and most likely more successful businesses than yours. They got to where they are by following their own vision, with the added help of others input. A few times I lost sight of the Worn message, I forgot to remain an empowered leader and listened to heavily to what I was told I should do make Worn more successful, more profitable, more appealing to more people. But then I remembered, perhaps that isn’t what I’m trying to do here, perhaps that way isn’t the Worn way. It’s important to always remember the heart of your business and to listen to it.
What are you currently reading / listening to?
Listening to ‘Expanded’ podcast by Lacy Phillips
Reading ‘Polishing the Mirror’ by Ram Dass
Listening to ‘Oneness’ album by Matthew Halsall
Which pieces of jewellery are you always wearing?
Our wedding rings
What does jewellery mean to you?
It’s an extension of ourselves, our experiences and emotions. An external ‘garnish’ of sorts, a glittering piece of something-or-rather that holds weight emotionally and aesthetically.
What do you love most about your NMJ pieces?
Firstly, that they have been made just for us, that they’re not mass produced. And secondly, that each piece is its own quiet statement. It doesn’t yell for attention, rather it waits to be noticed for its beauty, for it’s intimate connection with its wearer - a little stoic piece of silent wonder.
WORN Store: @worn.store