This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Cindy Chen and Ollie

Family

Today our Family columist Emma Eldridge talks with Cindy Chen, stylist, photographer, Instagram phenomenon, and Mum to Ollie (18 months).

We’re massive fans of Cindy’s understated aesthetic, and in awe of how she’s incorporated motherhood into her busy, creative life.

2nd June, 2017

The family travels quite a lot and Cindy now expects trials and tribulations, always planning an itinerary with flexibility to adapt to the spontaneous needs of a child. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co for The Design Files.

Cindy and her husband hope Ollie will grow up to have determination and integrity. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co for The Design Files.

Playing in the stunning autumnal foliage in the park near their home. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co for The Design Files.

Stylist Cindy Chen with her 18-month-old son Ollie. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co for The Design Files.

‘It’s never easy passing up amazing opportunities – but right now, I am a mother first and everything else second,’ she says. ‘I suppose that’s when being your own boss comes in handy.’ Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co for The Design Files.

One of their favourite things to do together is visiting the their local park, where Ollie is mesmerised by the ducks! Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co for The Design Files.

Emma Eldridge
Friday 2nd June 2017

‘I’ve had to scale back the amount of work I take on – it’s never easy passing up amazing opportunities – but right now, I am a mother first and everything else second.’

If you’ve had a baby since the onslaught of social media, you’ll be familiar with a special sort of scrolling that takes place when your days are divided between nursing and napping, and you’re too close to collapse due to disrupted sleep to do much else but flick through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. Depending on the day, what you see there can lift you up or drag you right down.

I came across stylist / photographer Cindy Chen during a spell of post-natal scrolling (our sons, Ollie and Isa, are around the same age) and was a bit glamoured by her considered approach to motherhood and work – and seeming ability to not sacrifice aesthetic (all black and white, with hints of grey and autumn) post-baby, which is no mean feat considering the prevalence of pink and blue across nursery items!

Today we speak with Cindy about first-time motherhood – and its inevitable impact on how you work, travel, eat and more.

Cindy, you’ve nearly 200,000 followers on Instagram – I think that makes you an influencer! (Can I say that? I hope so!) How did Ollie’s arrival just over a year and half ago change your work world – how do you curate a gorgeous life to be glimpsed via social amid the chaos of life with a child?

Oh, it’s changed my line of work immensely! I used to spend every waking minute planning upcoming shoots, but since having Ollie my attention and energy has been focused on nurturing him.

I suppose that’s when being your own boss comes in handy; I’m able to pick and choose the amount and type of work I take up.

And life is never as perfect as it appears on social media! I’m a very visual person, so I like my images to look a certain way, but there is always some kind of chaos beyond the four corners of a beautiful image. A screaming toddler sitting to the side of a seemingly delicious table of food, my unwashed hair and makeup-free face. That’s the beauty of an image-based platform like Instagram – it’s an escape from the storms, big and small, of everyday life.

You’re just about to launch the second season of M.O.P. Children’s Clothier. Can you tell us a bit about your vision and inspiration for the brand? What is it, I wonder, about becoming a mum that makes many of us more entrepreneurial? How are you supported to do this – what does your ‘village’ look like?

For me, it was a very specific light bulb moment – I was nursing Ollie, and must have allowed my thoughts to wander way too far! I knew I wanted creative release and a challenge that involved my new role as a mother (yes, some might say that’s challenging enough).

My vision for the brand is simple: to create quality, unisex garments and accessories characterised by classic, clean and timeless design. It’s incredibly exciting to see the business doing so well and I feel eternally grateful to my Instagram family for supporting me thus far – I don’t think I would have had the courage to start without their support. And as for help on the ground, Ollie goes to child care once a week and, when I have a lot to get through, I’m lucky to have my mother on hand to look after him.

Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan: You’ve travelled a ton with Ollie in his first 18 months. How have these trips compared with those taken B.C. – before child? Any advice for a successful holiday with a toddler?

Holidays are so different – they’re no longer about what we want to do or where we want to go – and we’ve learnt to ensure each itinerary is flexible enough to adapt to the spontaneous needs of a child.

I’ve discovered there’s never a ‘perfect time’ to travel as a family – as Ollie grows, trips involve different trials and tribulations. So whether he’ll remember visiting each place is not a concern for us; what’s important is him having new experiences – of environments, cultures and foods – and enjoying himself, which he invariably does!

For long flights, we find flying at night helps – it’s so much easier when Ollie is naturally tired and sleeps for most of the flight – rather than during the day when he is most active yet in a confined space with limited activities. We also try to make restaurant reservations ahead of time to avoid queues (and hangriness).

Items we always pack on trips include: a BabyZen Yoyo+ (it can be folded and taken onboard as cabin luggage), an Ergobaby 360 Carrier, and snacks – lots of snacks!

We share in common being mothers to baby gourmands (Isa’s current favourite is Adam Liaw’s Okinawan Taco Rice – thank you, Adam, for your extraord kid-friendly recipes plus these tips!) Food is a thorn in the side of many parents I talk to – how was your food journey with Ollie, and do you have any lunch and dinner tips for tricky eaters?

I think we were blessed with a good eater – we started Ollie on solids at five and a half months, and his love for food has blossomed ever since. I was careful not to introduce too many foods at once, and instead of using salt I relied on foods rich in umami like mushroom, seaweed, and tomato to bring out the flavour in his meals.

Bite-sized rice balls are my go-to lunch for Ollie, they’re simple to make and easy for him to pop straight into his mouth – which means less cleaning up for me! For dinner, I usually keep meals light; soba in clear broth with steamed barramundi, tofu and spinach is one of Ollie’s favourite dishes, with a small plate of roast seaweed on the side.

Can you give us a glimpse into how your day starts and ends with Ollie?

A typical day starts at 7am when Ollie wakes up. Dreary eyed, I stumble over to his room, always wondering why I didn’t go to bed earlier the night before. We have breakfast together, then he spends the day with me or my mother or at child care, depending on whether I have any shoots.

I get most of my work done while Ollie sleeps – those two-hour naps are a blessing! I usually have just enough time to prep his lunch, check my inbox, and pack orders. If I have any time to spare before he wakes up, I jump onto Instagram to unwind.

We have dinner as a family at 6.30pm, then my husband bathes Ollie at 7.15pm and tucks him into bed – after which I respond to emails, send out invoices, edit photos, and plan for the next day when it all starts again.

Moving across time, what kind of adult might you like Ollie to grow into?

I would like Ollie to grow up to be a person of determination and integrity, but also someone who is kind and compassionate to others.

I would like for him to see the world with open eyes, and be accepting of difference.

 

Family Favourites

Children’s clothing brand

Le Petit Germain.

Bedroom item

Goose down duvet by Norsk Dun.

Activity

Visiting the ducks at our local park or The Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery at Melbourne Museum.

Dinner destination

It doesn’t serve dinner, but a place we like to go to for brunch is Fourth Chapter in Prahran. It has a wonderful atmosphere for both adults and children, and a park with a playground next door.

Book

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts by Maja Safstrom.

View Comments

Similar Stories

Studio Visit

Exquisite Portraits And Still Life Paintings From Fiona O'Byrne

The landscape architect and painter shares her meticulously detailed portraits and still life works.
Miriam McGarry

Creative People

An Installation Of Epic Proportions, Commemorating Victims + Survivors Of Auschwitz

After three-and-a-half years in the making, ceramic artist Dan Elborne’s 'Deathgate' installation is now on display at The Goods Shed in
Jo Hoban

Art

The Northern Rivers Artist Inspired By Parenthood And 'Building A Home'

A Studio Visit with Kathryn Dolby as she brings her latest exhibition to Sydney.
Elle Murrell

This Week

Sustainability

These Australian-Made Blankets Close The Loop On Textile Industry Waste

Sustainable start-up Seljak turns textile offcuts bound for landfill into high-quality merino blankets, at the country’s last remaining wo...
Elle Murrell

News

Have You Ever Secretly Wondered…What IS Mid-Century Modern?

A visual guide to a celebrated era of design ‘From A To Eames’ by Lauren Whybrow and illustrations by Tom Jay.
Miriam McGarry
45:53

Podcast

TDF Talks With Award-Winning Magazine Editor Justine Cullen

The mum-of-four reflects on her career, the state of the Australian fashion industry, and the future of magazine publishing.

Studio Visit

Exquisite Portraits And Still Life Paintings From Fiona O'Byrne

The landscape architect and painter shares her meticulously detailed portraits and still life works.
Miriam McGarry

Art

An Enormous New Public Artwork From The Artist Who Paints With Fire Extinguishers

A massive new painting from celebrated Melbourne artist Ash Keating, created with no client, no funding and no limitations.

Homes

A Colourful Family Beach Shack, Wrapped In Shingles!

Kip&Co co-founder Kate Heppell shares her colourful 1970's family beach shack in Sorrento, Victoria.

Interiors

A New All-Day Italian Eatery, Delivered With Flack Flair!

Doors are ready to open at Lagotto in Fitzroy North, where European design and food shines.
Miriam McGarry

News

An Inner City Steal – This Boutique Townhouse Could Be Yours!

Architect Lisa Breeze is putting her PERFECTLY LOCATED/expertly renovated apartment on the market!
Sally Tabart

Art

New Work From The Sculptor Who's Gone Where None Have Gone Before

Inside the current exhibition from Andrew Rogers, the Australian responsible for the largest contemporary art undertaking on Earth.
Elle Murrell

On The Market

One Of Fitzroy’s Most Iconic Homes Is On The Market

Your chance to see inside (and maybe own!) the most intriguing house on the street!

Creative People

An Installation Of Epic Proportions, Commemorating Victims + Survivors Of Auschwitz

After three-and-a-half years in the making, ceramic artist Dan Elborne’s 'Deathgate' installation is now on display at The Goods Shed in
Jo Hoban

Architecture

Grand Designs From The Small Island

Announcing the shortlist for the 2019 Tasmanian Architecture Awards.

Architecture

The Ultimate Heritage Restoration Project, On Remote Bruny Island

John Wardle Architects masterfully restore Captain James Kelly's 175-year-old cottage off Tasmania's South Coast.

News

Understanding And Celebrating Ramadan With Free To Feed

Join Farida and the Free To Feed team for a Bohri Thaal meal experience that seeks to celebrate the holiest month on the Islamic calendar.
Sally Tabart

Shopping

Doubling Down On Bedding With Milou Milou

Eco-luxe bedding created from re-purposed 'dead stock', in every colour you could dream of.
Miriam McGarry

Similar Stories

Studio Visit

Exquisite Portraits And Still Life Paintings From Fiona O'Byrne

The landscape architect and painter shares her meticulously detailed portraits and still life works.
Miriam McGarry

Creative People

An Installation Of Epic Proportions, Commemorating Victims + Survivors Of Auschwitz

After three-and-a-half years in the making, ceramic artist Dan Elborne’s 'Deathgate' installation is now on display at The Goods Shed in
Jo Hoban

Art

The Northern Rivers Artist Inspired By Parenthood And 'Building A Home'

A Studio Visit with Kathryn Dolby as she brings her latest exhibition to Sydney.
Elle Murrell