Born from an urge to design gender-neutral, coastal kid’s clothing, Salty Shreds creates stylish threads for sunkissed, saltwater-loving littles. Here we talk to mum, fashion designer and entrepreneur, Ash Reynolds, about the work/life juggle, motherhood, and all things salty.

Writer: Rebecca Walker, The Conscious Wordsmith

You made the switch from being an accountant (pre-motherhood) to being a momma, fashion designer and entrepreneur. Tell us about that shift. 

It was the best thing I ever did! I was working for the same company for over 8 years, greatly unappreciated for the work I was doing and I knew no matter what I did, or how hard I worked or tried to prove myself, it was never going to get me to where I wanted to go. I’ve always wanted a career. I’ve always been good with accounting, numbers etc. so I was doing it because I was good at it, not really because it was my passion. Working for the industry I was in is probably what turned me off accounting altogether.

Prior to going on maternity leave (with the intention of never returning), I started my Health Science degree with a plan to become a nutritionist. My hidden passion was gut health. I was living a paleo lifestyle, which began because of the struggles of trying to conceive my first-born. At that time, I was suffering from many skin issues, as well as going through an IVF struggle. I became fascinated with gut issues and the link to many other issues within the body. Being able to reverse my own infertility and all gut-related issues, I wanted to be able to help other women do the same. So my plan was to smash out my study whilst having my baby, have another child and hopefully be fully qualified by the time my first was ready for school. 

However, about 6 months into my maternity leave, boredom kicked in. Between study and motherhood, I still had spare time that I wanted to use up. If you know me, you know I don’t deal well with ‘spare time’. I couldn’t surf as much as I used to, so I was really struggling with not being able to do something for myself, that I was extremely passionate about. Not working as well was a huge struggle, as I’ve always been independent, supported myself financially, and loved doing so. One thing led to another and the idea of starting my own business and brand began to arise. Once I got a little taste of starting something that I knew didn’t exist (a unisex children’s wear brand); Something I was 100% committed to and believed in; I was determined to make it work. 

You are a momma of 3 (soon 4!). How do you balance running your own business with the daily demands of motherhood? 

Oh it’s ridiculous. I don’t even know how I get through my day half the time, let alone the week. I have a 12-year-old stepson whom I parent every other week, so that alone with his schooling is a full time job. Add on my 3-year-old and very very energetic 18-month-old who takes up every ounce of my time…it’s next level! I don’t switch off. I basically work in and around my kids. I only have 2 days a week which I have to myself, that I basically need to smash out as much as I can. Every other day after I’ve cooked dinner, cleaned up and the kids have gone to bed, I’m straight back to work. Oh, and did I mention I’m 25 weeks pregnant with my third (fourth counting my stepson) child?!

That said, I feel if my life wasn’t this hectic, I’d be bored. I would still be looking for something else to do. I’m more productive when I’m crazy busy. My creativity is fuelled by craziness. My motivation is my kids, and of course my success. Once I can see what I am creating come to life, and that I’m not the only one that thinks it’s amazing, there’s no stopping me. I think when you’re that motivated, driven, and believe in something so much, anything is possible. Balancing it all just becomes natural. My partner also works very long hours, so he isn’t home for the bedtime routines, the messy dinners, the tantrums etc. So, I’ve had to get into a routine and make it all work on my own. 

You don’t have a background in fashion design. How did you get the brand off the ground when you first started? 

I’ve always wondered why it’s assumed a child is a boy because they wear shorts, or aren’t dressed in pink or frills; Or because they prefer skateboards instead of dolls. This comes naturally to me, as it does to my girls. I wanted to create a fresh brand that had never existed. I would like to say it just came easily and happened naturally overnight. But it didn’t. When I do something, I’m not half-arsed about it. I do it wholeheartedly. When it came to the brand launch, I threw every ounce of myself into it. I tried all sorts to get my name out there and found the key was to just be myself.

What is the secret to your success?  

You have to be unique. Just do you. You cannot pretend to be something you aren’t. I have huge respect for all women who try to start their own labels or businesses, but in order to stand out and to grow, you really have to create your own vibe, your own product, and stay true to who you are. Be something unique, that you cannot find elsewhere, and work out what makes your product different from the rest. Really get people to form an attachment to you, your lifestyle, and who you are. It’s not all about selling.

The easiest thing about the branding aspect of the business is that it reflects who I am. I don’t need to pretend to be someone I'm not on social media, or take staged photographs etc. It’s all part of my everyday life: I surf, I skate, I’m not a ‘girly girl’ and I never have been. Hence the unisex brand, the need for clothing that suited both girls and boys. Once you are comfortable with your product, the next step is advertising. You can’t expect to grow without investing money into getting your name out there. At least not anytime soon. 

I had absolutely no intention of making an income for quite some time. Every single cent I made was invested back into the business…into making more products, bigger quantities, and into advertising. I never expected it to grow so quickly, but I absolutely believe life is what you make it; If you are passionate about something and work hard, it will happen.

When I was young I always had a dream of owning my own surf shop by the beach somewhere. I wanted to earn just enough to make a living. So being able to create my own designs and brand is so much more than I ever have imagined. It’s my ultimate dream…but it all comes naturally due to my love and passion for surf and skate culture. 

How has your coastal lifestyle and love of skating and surfing impacted the aesthetic of your brand? 

My brand is what it is because of my lifestyle. The way I grew up – my love for, and obsession with, the ocean and outdoors; skating; surf & skate fashion…this was all part of my childhood and is something I love passing onto my girls. My days are not complete without at least one glimpse of the ocean, or fresh salt air and sunshine on my skin. I cannot function without it. This is where all my inspiration comes from. Before having my first child, I would surf every day. I’d be up at the crack of dawn, and get whatever waves I could, wherever I could, even if it was for 10 minutes before work. I would go after work, before it was dark and do the same.

I taught my partner to surf, and introduced him to my salty lifestyle, and naturally he fell in love with it. I remember right up until I fell pregnant the first time, we’d park at our favourite skate park most nights, shine the headlights on it, and skate until we dropped. I wasn’t into shopping, partying or ‘girly’ things. I just wanted to skate, surf and be active.

A lot of the designs feature cute ‘endless summer’ vibes, tropical prints and salty-inspired sayings. Who comes up with the styles and slogans? 

I do. Everything comes from me and only me. One thing I pride myself on is that everything about my brand – including the little catchy sayings and slogans like ‘stay salty’ – are not just a brand, they’re a lifestyle. I don’t just say it; I live it. Of course I'm inspired by our beautiful oceans and natural surroundings, but the language of the brand 100% reflects my voice and lifestyle. 

Tell us about the materials you use.

We use lots of different materials including a wide range of organics, bamboo, soft-ribbed, cotton knits, waffle, corduroy and quality vintage denim. I’m always trying to improve, trial new fabrics and work out what's best for our market, while maintaining quality. We mostly use organic fabrics for our retro styles and rompers, and our bamboo range is perfect for little ones. It’s the kind of fabric you need to see in person to really appreciate. Our bamboo range has thin and thick fabric versions and our most recent range of surfy patterns was our best yet. But our most popular range is our corduroy one. I’ve always loved corduroy, and love being able to create new rad styles, for little ones to wear that you can’t find elsewhere.  

What is the best part about motherhood? 

Motherhood has changed my life. I’ve never experienced a love like it before, and honestly never thought it was possible. My girls are amazing, and together they are the perfect pair. My 3-year-old daughter Bryxton is well beyond her years, and she just continues to amaze me daily. The joy and amazement I get from just watching her, listening to her, and being able to engage in meaningful conversations with her is the best part of my day. I’m constantly in awe of this little human I created who at such a young age has such passion, care and appreciation for the simplest things in life. Ziggy is 18 months, and is the strongest, roughest child I know. She is my biggest challenge, but has taught me patience, which is something I definitely never had. She has made me realise just how much I can handle, and how capable I am. I love watching them both grow daily, and each day is never ever the same. 

What is the most challenging aspect of motherhood? 

Learning to give up things you love most, and put them last. Giving up your independence. I am someone who loves my alone time. I’ve always done things on my own, I lived out of home on my own when I met my partner, saved up and purchased my first house on my own at a young age. I’ve always enjoyed being independent and having freedom, without relying on anyone, or having anyone rely on me. That kind of freedom no longer exists. My partner works long hours; I don’t get space or time to myself because even when the kids are asleep, I’m working. I don’t ever truly get to unwind or relax and switch off. Having kids so close together is also crazy. Just when you think you have your body back, it’s happening all over again. 

What is the biggest lesson motherhood has taught you? 

Patience and sacrifice.

What are your dreams for the future of Salty Shreds?

I’m a small business, but I have big goals and dreams for my brand. It’s not just a side hustle or a hobby for me anymore. I’m always looking ahead to the next big thing…the next step to go further. I’m always trying to improve and work out what I need to do to get there. Our adult range has been a huge hit, but something I need to slowly work through. Adults are pickier then kids, so it’s definitely a bigger challenge trying to find what works for our audience. But in saying that, this season has definitely been our best yet, and I’m extremely excited about what’s coming next. 

Salty Shreds is stocked in The Mumsie’s Noosa retail cottage. For more brand details, visit their website: https://www.saltyshreds.com.au/