Start It Up - Banjo & Matilda's Belynda Macpherson

Inspired by the Australian sea breeze and early morning sunrise, Belynda and Ben Macpherson have created a luxury cashmere brand that is effortlessly chic. The young couple go by the moto 'Life can be complicated, but your sweater doesn't have to be' and the brand name itself was inspired by Belynda's supermodel sister-in-law Elle MacPherson saying 'My sister-in-law Elle Macpherson desperately wanted me to name my son Banjo when I was pregnant.  I ended up calling him Xander, but she was happy when I named my label Banjo … and Matilda seemed to be the natural fit for his Aussie lady.'

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Banjo & Matilda is worn by socialites and celebrities including  A-list stars Naomi Watts, Claudia Schiffer and Gwyneth Paltrow. As Banjo & Matilda launches at Donna Ida, we had a few questions for Belynda about how she started the brand. Here we talk about her to her weekly team meetings on Bondi Beach and about forgetting the fear.

Donna Ida: How did you get started?

Belynda Macpherson: 'I began Banjo & Matilda after a really satisfying corporate career in the film and publishing industries through my 20s. When I reached my 30s I longed to do something creative again that took me back to my roots.  Growing up, I studied classical ballet and musical theatre, made my own clothes and wore hand-knitted cashmere leg-warmers and wraps to my contestant ballet classes. Knitwear was always my staple and where my love of knitwear began. I realised I was passionate about it, and wanted to start a business surrounded by what I love.'

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Donna Ida: Where is your Head Office?

Belynda Macpherson: 'When I launched the label in 2008, it was out of the spare room of my house in Bondi Beach.  It was me, myself and I, and I did everything from design and production, to the packaging and couriers. We're now a bigger team needing a bigger space which is in Paddington - but we have a weekly team meeting at my favourite cafe in Bondi Beach every Friday morning.  It reminds us all where the label's heart lies.'

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Donna Ida: What inspires you?

Belynda Macpherson: 'I'm inspired by the ocean and my beach lifestyle.  I can see the water from my house and the smell of sea salt perpetually wafts through the air. Visiting the beach every day, and having the sand between my toes always rejuvenates my mind and body, which is when my creativity is at its best.  Solitude gives me space to create.'

Donna Ida: What is your business mantra?

Belynda Macpherson: 'Work to live, don't live to work.  Our business is very much about having a great lifestyle and balance, and our knitwear reflects the ease of the mantra.  It's easy to throw on a beautiful sweater and a pair of jeans, it's a discreet luxury that is so simple.'

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Donna Ida: If you weren’t a designer what would you do?

Belynda Macpherson: 'I'd be a writer. Nothing makes me happier than sitting at a blank screen on my laptop ready to put words onto a page.  I also loves movies from my days working in the film industry (I worked for the big Hollywood studios like Universal, Paramount and Dreamworks), so I'd also like to make a movie. I have been working on a screenplay for about ten years, so maybe I'll give that a go before I retire!'

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Donna Ida: Describe your style highs and lows?

Belynda Macpherson: 'Style high - before I had my son, being able to run in the highest of heels from my days of classical ballet. Style low - the Madonna-style teased fringe I insisted on persisting with in my early high school years circa 1984. I still think about how I single handedly contributed to the hole in the ozone layer from the volume of hairspray I used.'

Donna Ida: What advice would you give to a younger you?

Belynda Macpherson: 'Forget the fear. Being fearful of failure or ridicule is a such a disability in life, and hinders your potential. The first collection I launched had a verse from Goethe stitched into the neckline which read: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!” Being bold and fearless is the most empowering gift you will ever give yourself.'

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Donna Ida: What's next?

Belynda Macpherson: 'Growing Banjo & Matilda into the best luxury knitwear company in the world.  Well that is the plan anyway, we are ready for that adventure and anything it throws at us… a very bold plan indeed.'

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