High Tea with Mrs Woo
High Tea with Mrs Woo is the collective memory and design collaboration of sisters Rowena, Juliana and Angela Foong, and the name of their clothing design label and stores.
“We are a small family business and we find inspiration in memory, story and landscape to create our designs and styles. Together, we work mostly with textiles, stitching beautiful clothing with printed and natural fabrics.
With our flagship stores in Paddington Sydney and in our hometown Newcastle NSW, as well as here online, we present our clothing designs, gather and cultivate charming homegrown ingredients and artisanal products made by hands and hearts from places near and far. We encourage high quality production and sustainable consumption, and bring these goods to our local market, celebrating thoughtful, well-made, long-lasting designs.”
“Our parents brought us here to Australia in 1988. We grew up in Malaysia and have strong childhood memories of our grandparents’ 100 year old goldsmithing and watch shop which was also the family home. Worn wood, rusty tools, age-old materials and textures still resonate with us today. We also grew up with many strong women in our lives – our mother, grandmothers and many aunts. Mrs Woo is the synergy of women who inspire us.”
Trained in Graphic Design and Visual Communication, Rowena and Juliana draw on their diverse design skills whilst Angela from her Economics and Commerce background, form a dynamic and wonderful sisterly collaboration. With sewing skills cultured from young, their small production team continue to cultivate, create, pattern, grade, cut and construct their designs from their studio in Newcastle.
Traditional tailoring techniques are used in developing unique shapes from conventional dress forms. The sisters appreciate and practice the time-honoured qualities of dressmaking. Fascinated with weaving memory into clothing, they explore the ability of fashion to unfold a great yarn – telling tales by naming each garment like a part in a performance, like Waiting for Jack; like Stuck in Ueno; like She sees Vendetta; like East of Eden.
“We are interested in making good-fitting comfortable stylish clothing with a timeless character using high quality natural fabrics. Clothes can’t last forever but they can mean so much more and last a long time when treated well, truly enjoyed and valued for their use. That is the spirit of good design and quality production, and in nurturing relationships with the things we own creates a genuine sensibility in the sustainable consumption of goods.”
When caring for the things you own, consult provided washing or care instructions. Keeping your things in good repair, necessary laundering and good storage is part of the caring process and allows you to enjoy the things you have for a longer time.
“We choose interesting, high quality fabrics that we love and there is expense that comes with our choice, as well as our choice to produce our garments in Australia using higher, local labour costs compared to off-shore production. We choose this because we feel that the cost of overseas labour comes at an even higher price. It is important to us to produce in small quantities minimising waste, work with and support people in our local community.”
“The details and elements and presentation of a good high tea service is very beautiful, and sort of seamless. It has all these little things that you probably don’t even notice. And you have a delicious tea with your friends and family. So it’s conversation that we hope the garments represent too. I think it’s not just about wearing something that looks good on you. It’s about you wearing it well. And when you wear it well is when people are drawn to you. And that’s the most amazing thing when it happens is a person walks in (to the store) and they’re really unsure of themselves, and they wear something and their face lights up. And they think this is what it should feel like, to be comfortable! And that’s kind of the conversation side of it.
I think that clothing often isn’t seen to add anything to you as a person because it’s just so fast now. It doesn’t mean it has to be like that all the time, but it can make a person feel a different way about themselves. That’s why you can fall in love with a garment, and when you put it on it just becomes a part of you, which is great because the garment also transforms.”
“A sustainable business to us is not that we have craploads of money. We make enough to live, comfortably not excessively – just simply – and this means we’re not making excess. And that’s kind of the key. Our approach is to keep small, because that’s
sustainable; to keep local, because that’s sustainable… as cheap as it is to produce overseas – and it is – you’re sending stuff back and forth so there’s lots of mileage. You’re also having to produce a larger quantity, because that’s the minimum, and you’re not helping your local community.
And we’ll take the extra effort to cut one at a time if we have to so that we don’t make excess. Stuff that takes us longer costs us more because labour rates are really high in Australia, which is why people go offshore. But it means we hire local labour, and it means that we only make what we need to make.”
High Tea with Mrs Woo stores and studio engages in as much recycling and as many energy-saving functions as possible, from basic electrical fittings to using machines and equipment efficiently. All paper and textile waste is recycled or re-used. Furniture and fittings are sourced as locally as possible, vintage or second-hand, hand restored, re-worked, or designed and built with local skills.
We are conscious of making decisions that support our sustainability practices views on a daily basis and work towards bettering the way we make and consume things.
We follow Slow Fashion practices as much as we can as a way of working, growing and striving to better in creating more sustainable living and business practices. You can read more about this on our Made-to-Order and Slow Fashion page.