Phoebe Bell says she was always the ‘academic bookworm’ type growing up. She did a double degree in law and media and communications, and was certain she would end up forging a career in at least one of these fields. As it turns out, life had other plans.
In 2012, Phoebe and her husband Chris started their homewares business Sage and Clare on a whim. ‘I was at a bit of fork in the road, enjoying aspects of my job, but also feeling like I had a whole lot of creative ideas and thoughts bubbling away beneath the surface, and no way to express them,’ explains Phoebe.
After travelling to India, the couple found themselves completely inspired by the creative culture and textile industry that surrounded them, and the seed of an idea was born. ‘We decided to use the small amount of savings we had to start Sage and Clare,’ recalls Phoebe. A few short weeks after their return, Phoebe quit her job and flew back to India to start work on a bohemian collection of bedding, linen and soft furnishings, with a heavy focus on rich textile design, intricate beading and embellishments.
Sage and Clare’s first few seasons had an emphasis on imported, one-off and vintage goods, as well as a small collection of pieces custom designed by Phoebe and made by local craftspeople she had met in India, Morocco and Turkey. As the business started to grow, Sage and Clare shifted gears, and began to design their entire collection in-house from their Northcote base.
As her business grew, Phoebe was keen to continue to support the artisans she had met along the way. ‘It is important to us that we continue to work closely with artisans to produce pieces that have a strong handmade element,’ Phoebe says. ‘I love the nuances that come from their traditional craft techniques, such as block printing, embroidery and weaving! Together we re-interpret ancient techniques to make them relevant to our taste and lives today.’
Sage and Clare’s third collection, Atlas, launched last week. It’s a beautiful, varied range of bed linen, cushions, bean bags and accessories inspired by Phoebe’s time in Morocco. ‘It definitely has a retro, ‘70s vibe with plenty of shaggy texture, geographic prints and patterns inspired by Moroccan zellige’ she says.