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CREATIVES: PHOEBE BELL SAGE x CLARE


Sage and Clare


Whether you’re a member of the homewares universe or not, you’ve likely heard the name Sage x Clare. Perhaps you’ve scrolled through their Instagram feed, lusting after their bright and beautiful products, maybe you’ve pinned them to a mood board, included them in a feature... perhaps there are even some of their pieces within your home.


However you know the name, we think it’s fair to call Sage x Clare legendary within the world of homegrown design. Their innovative and creative approach combined with their nostalgic colour palette is truly iconic to their brand. But we’re not just here to talk about Sage x Clare’s mark on Aussie design. We’re also here because founder Phoebe Bell has built her empire in a way that perfectly showcases the benefits of a collaborative approach to business ownership and creative processes.


From her journey and her highlight moments to her favourite work to date and Walt Disney, we sat down with Sage x Clare creator Phoebe Bell to chat about all things collaboration - and her answers are as colourful as her wares.





Sage x Clare has become something of an Australian design cornerstone - but for those who may not be familiar with your story, can you tell us about the brand?


Sage x Clare is a lifestyle brand that designs colourful, textural, and handcrafted pieces that are both unique and joyful. It’s been running for almost 8 years now and we work closely with artisans in India to produce collections that span from resinware to cushions, bedlinen to dresses. We are based in Melbourne and have a phenomenal team who is equally passionate about what we do.

What has been your creative and business journey and how has working collaboratively been a part of it?


It certainly has been a journey! I’m a lawyer with no experience in the homewares space and no technical qualifications either. Much of my business journey has been self teaching and being prepared to give things a go, hoping it works out but also knowing that it could fail. The cornerstone of this has also been collaboration… whether that means officially partnering with another brand, employing super clever people to bring my vision to life, or unofficially reaching out to other biz owners/creatives to ask how they’ve navigated all the weird and wonderful challenges that are part of small business life.


I try to be as open and transparent as I can in the way I work and operate and I’ve had the benefit of meeting others along the way who work with the same ethos.

In a culture of competition over collaboration, it’s been wonderful to find others who also believe that sharing knowledge doesn’t mean you’re giving something of value away… sharing knowledge means you both have that something of value.



You have a really strong following of loyal customers with whom you often have direct conversations (like on Instagram). How important is the give and take between your business and your followers? What’s that dynamic like?


I love the conversations we have with our followers. Without our audience and their loyalty, we simply wouldn’t exist. They’re also the source of love, challenge, learning, and accountability and for that, I’m really grateful. It’s not always easy to read the feedback but I feel very lucky to have conversations with customers that take the time out of their day to cheer us on, tell us where we could do better, suggest a product idea, share a joke, and just generally share, sometimes incredibly vulnerably.

Tell us about some of the design or product collaborations you’ve done in the past.


It’s been an absolute pleasure to be involved in some product collaborations that I’m really proud of. We worked on a collaboration with Thankyou and designed two hand wash labels for their best-selling and world-changing hand wash. It’s not often that we get asked to collaborate with a partner that aligns with many of our own values but that is also making a very real difference in the world. We’ve also worked on an incredibly fun shoe collaboration with Rollie… and for a lover of shoes, it was every bit as fun as it sounds! We designed shoes with colour, pattern, pom poms, and tassels that literally brought new meaning to the term ‘happy feet’.

Favourite of all those projects and why?


Gosh, it’s hard to choose favourites. They’ve all been very diverse and I’ve drawn on different skills for each of them. Last year, I was asked to contribute to a book, Passion Purpose Profit by Fiona Killackey. To be considered and asked as a business owner to share my story for publication was a project that I felt incredibly fulfilled by and proud to be a part of. For years I’ve just chipped away little by little, bit by bit, showing up with discipline and commitment each day. At times, it’s felt solitary and even futile, wondering if anyone else sees value in what it is that I’m creating. I’ve far from ‘made it’ (what does that even mean?!) but it felt really special to be considered of value in this space.



In your opinion and experience, what’s the power of collaboration?


It’s really what makes the world the go around… it’s how we do better, be better, innovate, evolve and connect. My experience in small business (and life generally) would be far less enriching without these shared projects and knowledge. As marketing guru Seth Godin says, “Ideas in secret die. They need light and air or they starve to death.”

What’s your favourite collaboration of all time - music, design, art or otherwise?


My kids! Ha ha! A fusion of my husband and I as well as all the generations before us. Sorry to be cheesy, but it’s the truth!

If you could work with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?


Hmmm, interesting question. The first person that popped into my head (talk about big thinking!) was Walt Disney. Obviously no longer with us, but wow, what a legacy. To draw on that depth of imagination to create whimsical stories and characters that tap into the minds of kids of all ages… what an incredible gift to the world.

Any upcoming exciting projects we should be watching out for?


YES!!!! You’ll be waiting a good few months but we’re working on perhaps our biggest project to date at the moment. Fair to say, it’s not even in production yet but I want ALL THE THINGS :-)



 


WORDS | Lucy Francis, Phoebe Bell

IMAGES | Supplied, Armelle Habib

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