Bird’s the word for Fashion360 Alumni, Barbara Spooner

Barbara Spooner was a recent convert to cycling when she came across a problem – she couldn’t find cycling gear to fit her curves! Inspired and spurred on by similar tales from others, Barbara made the decision to launch her own cycling clothing brand, Birds on Bikes.

We sat down with Barbara for a chat about what motivates her, her time in the 2018 Fashion360 program, and how she deals with her day to day life as a colour blind designer (seriously).

What’s been your biggest fashion influence?

I’m not that fashion-ey to be honest. I’m pretty casual and the only reason I got into fashion was because I struggled to find a range of cycling apparel that would fit my body.  Nothing was ever big enough! I’m very much a person who thinks, ‘If you can’t find it, make it happen yourself’.

When I was in school I wanted to be a designer but I still never followed trends. I always had a tendency to be ahead of the game as I saw gaps in the industry and wasn’t afraid to address them. I’m not someone that sits back and waits for things to happen.

For people who don’t follow trends, why would they be interested in Birds on Bikes?

Well they might not be. I’m not following cycling or fashion trends, I’m creating a niche range for a market that’s crying out to be supported. My range is form fitting with a focus on beautiful patterns that accentuate and flatter real curves. The only trend Birds on Bikes follows is the trend of comfort and fit.

Cycling

What’s been a defining moment for you as a designer?

Fashion360 has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I think I’d still have been plodding along if I hadn’t done the accelerator. The program has refined my brand and helped to keep me on track, especially with the all hours access to the Stitch Lab space. It’s so much better than working at home. I’ve found that being around fellow designers has provided me with the perfect environment to grow the label.

What is something few others know about you?

I’m older than most people in the program – 56 this year. The secret to keeping young is to never stop thinking and to always be doing something that keeps you busy and creative. I can’t see myself ever stopping. I do need to slow down at some point as I’d like more of a life balance. Sometimes that’s hard to find when I put my whole heart and soul into something but I know that I’ll never look back and regret anything with that mindset.

Oh, and I’m colour-blind!

You’re colour-blind? Has that made designing hard for you?

It’s never been a struggle for me except back in school when I was told there were things I wouldn’t be able to do because of it. The issue has become more apparent in recent years – probably because of my eyesight deterioration. You look at things differently when you know you have a condition. You learn to think around it. I saw it as an opportunity to grow myself and overcome the obstacles it put before me.  

Both of my boys are colour-blind as well. If we’re ever unsure about colours, we just ask for other opinions. With fashion you can’t avoid asking those questions as colour is such a crucial element to great design. I’m not good with colour charts so when I’m thinking about a new range and the colour palettes that will accompany them, I ask for feedback. Luckily, in today’s world the rules of colour are more relaxed. So many colours are thrown together and people are more willing to try new combinations.

What makes you Barbara Spooner?

Life. The key thing about me is that I don’t like to fail. I grew up with an incredibly strong mother who told me that I could achieve anything I wanted.  I’ve always been the black sheep of the family but it’s taught me to believe that I can do anything if I apply the right mindset and commit myself.

What are your views on the sentiments around startups in the fashion industry?

Australians have a reputation of not being the greatest supporters of each other. I’m passionate about turning this on its head in my day to day work. I believe in getting the most out of people by nurturing anyone who touches my brand. Those are the personal values that fuel the passion behind Birds on Bikes.

If I wasn’t doing this, I would struggle to get a job. One, because I’m older, and two, because I’d be too opinionated to work for someone else. There’d be too many boundaries. You can reign me in a little bit but you can’t tie me down. This is my mid-life crisis (laughing). When I thought about the future, and ahead to when I would be 60, I didn’t like the idea of not working and not chasing a passion. I didn’t like the look of that future, so I changed it!

Can you think of someone who would really resonate with Birds on Bikes?

Taryn Brumfitt of Body Image Movement would understand my passion for the brand. She believes that it doesn’t matter what you look like because everyone is beautiful. It goes beyond body image. It’s about being proud of who you are and just getting out there and being amongst it.

What does Fashion360 Showcase day mean to you?

Fun! Oh, and stressful! My models are definitely going to throw chaos into the mix.  I’d love to be a fly on the wall backstage just to see what they get up to. I know it’s going to be a real celebration – a showing off of everything the other designers and I have achieved within the accelerator. I’ll have lots of support from my partner and kids on the day, as well as the girls from my cycling network who will be doubling as my models. It’ll be great to show them what I’ve achieved over the last six months.

The pitch terrifies me but I’ve spoken in front of a lot of people before. I know that if I talk from the heart then I have nothing to lose.

Eager to see Barbara’s latest range of curvy, figure hugging cycling wear? Visit www.birdsonbikes.com.au

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