An encyclopaedia of essential oils rests permanently a-top the desk of Alexandra Brown, Founder and Director of recently launched all-natural garment care label, Ms BROWN. It’s a noteworthy addition to her daily work space, providing insight not solely into the source of the botanic aromas that act to instantly describe the Ms BROWN liquids; the pages are a constant symbol to the drive behind the creation of Ms BROWN too - a movement toward a sustainable future.
Softly spoken and immaculately dressed in her signature black jeans and RM's, we meet with the compelling Alexandra Brown amidst wedding plans and new product launches to discuss the inspiration behind Ms BROWN; from a merino sheep farm to a career in fashion journalism.
You studied as a journalist and had a successful career working for the likes of Vogue & Harper’s Bazaar, what was the catalyst for the creation of Ms BROWN?
In the nine years that I worked in fashion publishing I never came across a natural, Australian-made garment care product that was as special as the clothes I wanted to wash with it. So, I thought why not try to create one!
I also believe that ‘going natural’ shouldn’t mean having to compromise on aesthetics. In my job I was exposed to so many beautiful luxury products but I wanted natural alternatives that had the same level of appreciation for design.
Before this, growing up on a merino sheep farm, I learned about natural fibres and why they’re so much better for you and the environment and why you should wash them (and everything else!) with all-natural ingredients.
Ms BROWN is comprised of 100% natural ingredients. How important was the consideration of bio & environmental sustainability in the planning stages of Ms BROWN, and ongoing?
This is perhaps the most important element of the products and the brand. When I started this business, I didn’t want to just create a brand that sold more products that would end up in landfill. In addition to that, I wanted to create something that would have a positive impact on the environment if you made the switch to use it. This is paramount to everything we do, now and in the future.
Your childhood on a merino farm on Kangaroo Island, SA sounds idyllic, could you share with us more about this stunning part of the world?
Kangaroo Island is a beautifully unspoilt place and I feel very lucky to have grown up there. Living on the farm meant endless space and always being surrounded by nature (and animals!)
Weekends, as a kid, were spent with our family and friends with lots of kids my age, having picnics in the paddock, making flying foxes, climbing hay bales and generally getting muddy or dusty and having fun. From around age ten, anytime I wasn’t at school or playing sport, dance etc I was roaming around our property on a horse. Even the towns on the island are very small so fast food, movie theatres and bowling alley’s were just not a part of my upbringing.
I say to people visiting Australia for the first time that KI is the best of this country combined in one tiny island – beautiful beaches, incredible landscapes, abundant wildlife and delicious produce. It’s a must visit! Do I sound like I work for the local tourism body?! Haha I just love it there and think everyone should get a chance to see it.
You recently celebrated your wedding on Kangaroo Island, What drew you most to the idea of hosting it there?
Kangaroo Island is of course a very special place to me and it has become so for [my husband] Will as well, as he has visited my family there many times. Over the years we’ve taken our friends over for holidays and showing them how beautiful and relaxed it is, is one of our favourite things to do. So, we thought, why not host our wedding weekend there and let everyone enjoy it!
You’ve met many inspiring Australians whilst working as a journalist - could you share with us some memorable encounters?
David Walsh was certainly an interesting character, extremely intelligent and always keen to shock and surprise. Barry Humphries was perhaps the most intimidating (and maybe Chris Noth! – He was just like ‘Big’ in real life!) but, in the end, fun people I’ve interviewed. He too, likes to challenge his interviewers but we ended up having a lovely chat about how he loves Adelaide and his painting trips to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia with John Olsen. Cate Blanchett (albeit very brief) was also a highlight as I so admire her work. Rose Byrne is a real sweetie. And Baz Luhrmann is just so crazily creative he’s so inspiring to be around! But then some of the most interesting and rewarding interviews have also been with much lesser known people such as curators, choreographers, conductors or dancers.
I was also lucky to interview some talents early in their careers. It’s so wonderful to see someone when they are brand new and green, as I did with Margot Robbie when I interviewed her for her first Vogue interview. She was so open and candid and just a young girl from the Gold Coast then, it’s been wonderful to see how she has blossomed into a full Hollywood star and now a producer.
Who would you most like to meet?
These days, rather than actresses, musicians, artists, dancers and designers I’m excited by the idea of meeting other women business owners like Vanessa Traina, Lauren Santo Domingo, Emily Weiss and Nell Diamond. They are the people who inspire me in my new life running Ms BROWN.
Do you have a favoured author?
To be honest I couldn’t pin it down to just one. I usually have multiple books on the go at any time and I actually reach for non-fiction and autobiographies more than anything at the moment. Currently on my bedside table (and in a stack on the floor…) — is Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (for my book club), Wonder by R J Palacio, The Power by Naomi Alderman, Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend by Meryl Gordon, Think Simple by Ken Seagall, Jamu: The Ancient Art of Indonesian Healing by Susan-Jane Beers, The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton (told you there were lots!) and permanently on my desk is The Nature of Beauty by Imelda Burke (A must-read for anyone interested in natural beauty!) and an essential oil encyclopaedia.
Who - or what - inspires you most?
Anyone who pursues their passion in design and the arts. Visual feasting is one of my favourite ways to switch off, relax and in turn, get re-inspired – seeing an art exhibition, viewing fashion collections and fashion editorials, stalking a great interior online and going to the ballet or the opera are my favourite things to do. Without the people who dedicate their lives to creativity I couldn’t do this!
And working mums and mums who run their own businesses. I have interviewed many over the years and I am always completely blown away by how much they can achieve in a day (usually off the back of a sleepless night!)
Do you have a daily uniform?
Yes, certainly. Black pants or jeans with a white cotton or linen shirt and RM Williams boots or leather or suede mules are my go to for most of the year. In winter, I’ll add a wool or cashmere knit and in summer I live in white cotton and linen dresses with black leather sandals.
How would you describe your personal style?
Mostly black and white. Always natural fibres. Tailored but relaxed. Almost never tight or revealing… Trying to find words to avoid using ‘classic’ but ultimately that’s what grounds my style. I try to buy pieces I’ll still love in 1, 5 or 10 years’ time & not be sick of by the end of the season. Lately, I love wearing my mum and aunt’s pieces from the late 80s and 90s. And everything in my wardrobe needs to be work with what’s already there. That’s the beauty of a monochrome palette.
What’s next for Ms BROWN?
We’ve got a really broad selection of products currently in development for 2018 release but we won’t launch anything new until we’ve mastered a formula that’s gentle and totally natural and really works… So stay tuned!
One day I’d love to have created enough products that you can have Ms BROWN in every room of the home and completely remove all toxic ingredients from your house and skincare routine.