FOUNDER AND CURATOR OF LIFESTYLE CONCEPT STORE BECKER MINTY
Becker Minty came about with Christopher Becker, my original business partner, who has since moved on. We were both at a bit of a turning point in our lives; I had finished working for the airlines as a flight attendant. I had spent my life overseas and shopping for myself and everyone else. He had worked in fashion and had a jewellery store and we just decided to give it a go. The space in Potts Point became available way before we were ready and we just decided to take the plunge.
We wanted to create something that was different for Sydney, something that was unique, unexpected, had products that nowhere else had. I had seen so many amazing stores overseas during my travels and was always finding great little trinkets. But I always thought, where do you find this in Australia, where does it exist? That was almost 10 years ago.
Our goal was to bring the best of everything from around the world into Australia and see what happens. The business has changed a lot over the last 10 years. In the last two years, it has been a lot about art and homewares. In the beginning, it was a lot about jewellery and fashion. We have grown with the market and with the demand.
I think the art direction of our business was a little unexpected but it makes total sense given we are all about helping people create beautiful spaces with unique and one-off things. Art really falls into that category because every work is individual. It is really exciting because we are having 1950s-60s fashion and celebrity photographer Mark Shaw’s work exhibited instore in August. He was the official photographer for the Kennedys and did editorial work for Life and Harper’s Bazaar.
We do lots of travel in search of pieces for our store. We probably do four or five international trips a year as well as domestic trips. I wander the streets; I go to the trade fairs. I now have a nice little collection of suppliers all over that I would visit regularly in certain cities. They know what I like. You also stumble across things, on the internet or walking down the street in Paris or New York.
Paris is a regular yearly trip as is New York, LA and Hong Kong. I have done buying trips to India and Singapore and I used to go to Spain and
South America. It evolves and changes over time. We might see Africa [emerge as a destination], I would like also to visit Vietnam. I love the travel. It is completely exhausting and very stressful if you cannot find things but it is the fabulous part.
I spent 12 years in the sky with Qantas as an on-board manager. I took a redundancy. I was really lucky because towards the end it was 50 per cent flying and 50 per cent on the ground. I worked with chef Neil Perry and launched the first-class product, trained all the crew on his product. That was a big part of my life – training and recruitment. It was a great balance. I had a really stable lifestyle and then I would get on a plane and go for three months.
I shopped when I was overseas. In the past, as a flight attendant you would have a lot of days off, so we would shop. I would buy for myself, for my partner, for my flatmates, for my family; people would say, can you pick me an outfit? A girl I lived with for years completely trusted me to buy her wardrobe. And I loved it. Becker Minty is an extension of that shopping habit.
I won a scholarship to China to study Mandarin in 1989. I was in Beijing at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre; I was actually in the square the night before. I was evacuated and came back on a Qantas flight. I got chatty with a few of the crew members and thought, wow, this job would be fantastic. I came back home to Hobart and rang up Qantas and they told me they had a recruitment freeze on. I was forced to go to university – probably not a bad thing – where I did a Bachelor of International Business Relations. Two or three weeks before I graduated, Qantas put an ad in the paper looking for Asian language-speaking flight attendants. It was the perfect fit.
I bought an apartment block in North Hobart 10 or 12 years ago. I decided to keep one [flat] for myself to stay in for holidays. But the more I went down, the more I thought this is in a really good position. If I could turn it into short-term accommodation, it could be really good.
The first apartment is almost finished. We will fill it with beautiful things and artwork from the store. It will be a good representation of Becker Minty, with a retro twist. The lifestyle concept store has been around for at least 10 years and so I think this is the next phase: having a space that people can rent and stay in that you can also shop in.