You may not recognise her face, but there’s a good chance Bronwyn McCahon has played a big role in your life already. As the former Editor of Dolly & Cosmopolitan magazines, she dictated what we wore throughout those awkward teenage years and helped us navigate the perils of dating and job interviews as we grew into independent women. Now Bronwyn, alongside an equally stylish business partner, have created a joyful label for our children, PLAY etc. The Delivery speaks to the mother of three about family, fashion and her formula for life.
Motherhood is ….
Harder than my own mum made it look!
How was PLAY etc born?
My business partner Kristiina and I met back in 2007 when we were both working at ACP Magazines. I had just finished editing Dolly and was now Editor of Cosmopolitan and Kristiina was the National Advertising Manager on Cosmo so we worked closely on a daily basis. We became fast friends (and so did our husbands) and we discovered that we both had a secret crafty side. We’ve tossed around business ideas many times over the years, always in the kids space and always something that fed our creative sides. With full-time jobs and young kids we never really had the time required to get anything off the ground, so when we both stepped back in our careers last year it gave us the perfect opportunity to really throw ourselves in to something…and that’s how PLAY etc was born!
Where do you draw your design inspiration from?
Our own kids. Between us we have five kids (four girls and one boy). The girls all have very particular tastes and wants when getting dressed, but the common theme with all of them is comfort. Nothing too tight, too short, too long, hard to get on or off – basically they would love to wear clothes that make them feel naked. So many of our designs are based on that premise. We have very few buttons, zips and tricky bits. It’s all about super light fabrics in fun prints that are easy to get on and off without the help of mum or dad.
What’s your vision for the brand?
We want it to be known as a fun brand with a subtle nod to the nostalgia of our own childhoods in the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s. We’ll eventually expand in to other areas like pjs and maybe accessories. We’re also looking to launch a small women’s capsule later in the year.
“It’s so boring and predictable to say, but JUST START. Stop looking at Instagram and wishing you had someone else’s business and just put your head down and do it.”
Would you do anything differently if you were starting over knowing what you do now?
So much, but we had to make the mistakes first to know what works.
What has been your proudest moment in business?
Actually launching and not just talking about it. We’ve also been approached to collaborate with some awesome brands (coming soon) so that’s been a real buzz to know that what we’re doing is being so well received.
Tell us about your partnership with Room to Read…
We’ve both spent our careers working on brands that empower and support women, so we wanted to continue doing something that championed and encouraged girls to live their best life. After researching many charities focused on girls’ education we decided that Room to Read was the organisation we wanted to partner with and luckily they felt the same. Room to Read is a not-for-profit organisation which supports girls’ education and literacy in developing countries. 84 cents out of every dollar goes directly to the education program – this is high compared to some other charities. Keeping girls in school so they can reach their potential is something we’re both really passionate about so together with Room to Read we established that every piece sold from our range, be it a dress or a headband, would educate a girl for one day.
Golden piece of advice for women/mothers keen to start their own business?
It’s so boring and predictable to say, but JUST START. Stop looking at Instagram and wishing you had someone else’s business and just put your head down and do it. Also, think about who is in your orbit that might be able to help you along the way. We’ve asked for advice from friends in PR, we’ve enlisted the help of one of the mums at school to help us with artwork – tap your network!
Can you tell us a little about your journey into motherhood?
Mine took longer than I expected, which for someone who likes everything NOW, was a real challenge! I think you go through life thinking it’s your god-given gift to have kids, but after a 18 months trying and one miscarriage I was starting to think it would never happen. I finally decided to make an appointment to start the IVF balling rolling, but a week before the appointment I found out I was pregnant with Harper. The other two kids came in rapid fire after that. We were worried it might take another 18 months to fall pregnant so we started trying for another baby when Harper was nine months old and I fell pregnant straight away. The same for our third!
What is the biggest lesson pregnancy and birth has taught you?
That there is such a thing as pain that actually “hurts so good”.
What do your morning & evening routines look like?
Now that the kids are a bit older (4, 6, 7), our mornings are reasonably easy. My husband and I alternate mornings to exercise – I go on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 6am and do a mix of pilates and F45 and he goes cycling on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings and then Sunday is family morning. Once home from the gym around 7am, I make the lunches, dress the kids, shower myself and we’re in the car off to school by 8:30am.
Depending on what after-school activities the kids have on, our evenings are generally bath at 5pm, homework at 5:30pm, dinner at 6pm and stories at 7pm. The girls stay up for a bit reading to themselves and lights are usually out by 8pm.
Do you have any rituals?
We do family trivia every Sunday night. We go around the table and ask age-appropriate questions to the kids, every correct answer gets them an M&M or whatever small chocolates we have going in the house.
“I think you go through life thinking it’s your god-given gift to have kids, but after a 18 months trying and one miscarriage I was starting to think it would never happen.”
When you are feeling overwhelmed with the demands of motherhood & life, what do you do?
Write lists. I love lists. The satisfaction of crossing things off makes me feel instantly organised and less overwhelmed.
Describe your personal style…
That’s tricky because I change my look all the time depending on trends and how I feel. My go-to looks are probably either a girly maxi dress or jeans, trainers and blousy top.
Having been a beauty editor during my magazine days, I got to try A LOT of products. The ones I buy over and over again are:
Alpha-H Liquid Gold (life changing for your skin)
Rose hip oil (any brand)
Klorane dry shampoo
Favourite family friendly holiday destination?
Noosa at the moment but we’re about to head to Europe in a couple of months so I’ll let you know!
Drink of choice?
The Bronze Horseman
TED Talk/Podcast recommendation?
How I Built This and Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin