For Andrea Tonkin, the past decade has been one massive adventure.
In just four short years, this primary school teacher and mum of three established herself as a bona fide fashion influencer and one of the most sought-after stylists in Australia. Not content to leave it at that, Andrea set her sights bigger. In 2015, our fab founder launched her very own line of clothes, growing from a single PopUp Party™ with four items into an international fashion brand which today boasts a range of several hundred items and has customers in more than a hundred countries around the world.
No one is more pleased or surprised with this aAmazing turn of events than Andrea herself. Her mid-life renaissance is the stuff of memoirs and talk shows. Perhaps it’s unsurprising, then, that the aha moment that set things into motion occurred when Andrea heard Oprah interviewing author Joan Anderson about her memoir, A Year by the Sea.
But before we get to that, let’s take a look at where Andrea’s story began.
Andrea was born in Perth, the capital city of Western Australia, and one of the most isolated cities in the world. Her father was a bank manager, her mother, a home carer. Although Andrea was a relatively late and surprise arrival in their lives, her parents were instantly smitten, calling her their ‘little bundle of joy’. ‘Joy’ became Andrea’s middle name and the underlying theme for her life.
With an innate love of fabrics and creating, Andrea taught herself to sew and began bringing her imaginings to life. It wasn’t unusual for Andrea to have an idea in the morning, buy the fabric in the afternoon and manifest a creation to wear out that evening. When she was 18, Andrea traveled to New York to visit a friend. The trip opened Andrea’s mind to a whole new world of exciting fashion possibilities. She fell in love with the city’s vibrancy and its colorful, daring street style, influences which continue to shape her aesthetic to this day. Andrea’s interest in clothing persisted into adulthood, albeit on a smaller scale, as family life and her career as a primary school teacher demanded most of her attention. Even so, fashion remained a hobby, one that enabled Andrea to feed her creative desires as she reworked vintage shop finds into outfits for work and play.
Her original designs and vintage recreations often drew admiration and comments from her students, colleagues, friends and even strangers. It was obvious to everyone that Andrea had a gift.
One evening, while prepping dinner with the television on in the background, Andrea heard Oprah chatting with author Joan Anderson, about her memoir, which centers on her quest to rediscover herself after having devoted the majority of her adult years to her husband and sons. It was a story that resonated with and inspired Andrea, who had spent the better part of two decades raising her three boys and who was itching to discover what adventures the next chapter of her life might hold in store for her.
Andrea bought, and devoured, a copy of A Year by the Sea. But even after reading it three times, it still wasn’t clear to Andrea how to realise her own dreams. So she turned inward for guidance.
“I took my own version of a year by the sea. For eighteen months I walked along the oceanfront on West Coast Highway every day. With my headphones on and music on high, the day-to-day chatter in my head was calmed. I loved that I’d created a space to work with my inner voice and be guided.”
At the same time, Andrea sought out inspirational women who had changed their lives and found more joy. ‘I attended Business Chicks events and Women's Lunchbox luncheons at every opportunity. I always found them inspiring. I would leave those forums thinking, “If she can do it, I can too!” and “I want to be that inspirational speaker up there one day”’.
The stories of these successful women speakers pushed Andrea forward and sowed (or should we say ‘sewed’?) the seeds of possibility. All she needed to do was follow the thread.
After discussing the future with her husband, Andrea decided it was finally time to transform her love of fashion from a hobby into a career.
“I didn’t have any formal fashion training, so I knew I had to start at the bottom. I determined two fashion retailers I would be happy to work for as a sales assistant (Witchery and Country Road) and with a huge deep breath, fighting self-doubt and absolutely petrified, I walked in their front doors, no appointment. I couldn’t believe it when I was offered both jobs.”
“From my first day at Witchery, I helped customers in a way I imagined a ‘real’ stylist would. I was on Cloud 9. It was so much fun! I would have happily done it for free.”
“It wasn’t common at that time for people, other than celebrities, to have a stylist. I wanted to style people from all walks of life. I found so much of the joy I was seeking by helping women put aside self-doubts about themselves and their body. I loved hearing my customers’ stories and seeing them do what others now call ‘The AA Twirl’ as they walked out the door. I began to truly understand the transformative power of clothing.”
Thanks to her creativity and infectious energy, Andrea’s popularity as Witchery’s unofficial stylist grew. Customers began booking in for their own personal styling sessions. Other Witchery team members followed Andrea’s lead and the store’s sales skyrocketed.
Andrea’s time as a sales assistant would prove to be short-lived. ‘Out of the blue, just six months after starting my new career, one of my favorite customers offered me my dream job: to be the Western Australian resident stylist for Myer, the largest department store chain in Australia. A whole new world was opening up for me’.
Myer provided Andrea with her own ‘office’, a private fitting room where she was free to provide a boutique experience for clients right inside the department store. She was in her element. Andrea flitted between floors, grabbing garments from different designers and pulling together outfits that would make her customers shine.
Andrea’s styling sessions were less about ‘this goes with that’ and more about the life-changing effect that clothing has on confidence, state of mind and joy.
In her lighthearted way, Andrea helped more and more women to express themselves through their clothing, playfully reminding them, ‘There are no rules in fashion. Dare to wear and smile if they stare’.
As well as styling women face to face, Andrea became an early adopter of social media. Through the andAndrea blog and her Instagram account, Andrea began offering virtual styling tips based on her own fashion experience and the inspiration she drew from the streets.
Light hearted and charismatic, Andrea’s message to her customers was irreverently delivered with her mantras: “There are no rules in fashion” and “Dare to wear and smile if they stare“.
As well as styling women face to face, Andrea became an early adopter of social media. Using an online blog and Instagram, she began offering virtual styling tips based on her own fashion experiences and inspiration from the streets.
For the three and a half years that followed, Andrea said yes to every chance to expand her skills and her comfort zone. ‘I chose the opportunities that were most likely to give me joy. I’m always looking for the magical joy factor’.
Along the way, Andrea had many pinch-me moments:
Interacting with leading Australian designers;
Working for her then-favorite brand, Sass and Bide;
Being flown nationally and internationally to train Sass and Bide store managers and running styling sessions with workshops for customers in flagship stores;
Promoting Australian designers on the streets of New York during Fashion Week 2015;
Styling celebrities for press and television ads.
Interviewing and presenting workshops with style icons such as Patricia Field (the stylist for Sex and the City); Judging high-profile fashion parades for Myer; Conducting styling workshops for large corporates such as KPMG, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and others; Styling at shopping centers like Enex100 and Claremont Quarter; Being nominated as ‘best dressed’ at The Telstra Perth Fashion Festival three years in a row; Presenting styling workshops for clothing and jewelry brands; Delivering keynote speeches designed to help other women who are searching for more joy (her favorite thing to do); Meeting hoards of beautiful people and becoming close friends with many; Being regularly stopped in the streets wherever she travels (Naples, New York, Shanghai) by people saying ‘“I love your outfit, where is it from’?”;
Interviewing and presenting workshops with style icons such as Patricia Field (the stylist for Sex and the City);
Judging high-profile fashion parades for Myer;
Conducting styling workshops for large corporates such as KPMG, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and others;
Styling at shopping centers like Enex100 and Claremont Quarter;
Being nominated as ‘best dressed’ at The Telstra Perth Fashion Festival three years in a row;
Presenting styling workshops for clothing and jewelry brands;
Delivering keynote speeches designed to help other women who are searching for more joy (her favorite thing to do);
Meeting hoards of beautiful people and becoming close friends with many;
Being regularly stopped in the streets wherever she travels (Naples, New York, Shanghai) by people saying ‘“I love your outfit, where is it from’?”;
With her reputation as a personal stylist well established, Andrea began to wonder where joy would take her next.
Encouraged by her husband and three sons, Andrea decided it was time to try her hand at creating and selling her own brand of clothing. After eight years of styling women, creating her own fashion line offered Andrea the opportunity to spread even more joy. In February 2015, Andrea dipped her toes into the fashion pool with the debut of her first online PopUp Party™, featuring four garment styles, all in white. The entire stock sold out within minutes and andAndrea the brand was underway!
With the full-time support of her husband and with feedback from the andAndrea community, the brand is now selling worldwide. Today, andAndrea offers around four hundred styles in every PopUp Party™ and its following and sales continue to grow as more women discover the magic of Freedom Chic™, Andrea’s unique, casual yet sophisticated style.
Although andAndrea has come a long way since its early days, Andrea and her husband are doing their best to maintain the brand’s original culture.
‘We’ve never used professional models. We never do fashion shows. All of our clothing must be comfortable and easy to wear. I try to make sure our designs are versatile and timeless so our customers can mix and match our garments for years to come. I don’t follow fashion trends because there are no rules. If I don’t love a particular style, I won’t sell it. And of course, this crazy experience must give me joy!’
Andrea still models the clothes with the help of a handful of UnModels, mostly friends from her styling days, plus a few ladies-about-town whose joy and style captured Andrea’s attention. Each design is directed by Andrea. She oversees manufacturing and road-tests every piece before it’s offered to customers.
In other words, andAndrea is the real deal.
Andrea’s story is proof that it’s never too late to follow your dreams or to make your mark on the world.
‘andAndrea is my way of spreading love and aA kisses and joy around the globe. I find it hard to believe I'm living my dream. I feel I'm exactly where I’m meant to be. I'm so grateful and appreciative of all my aA girlfriends around the world. Without them andAndrea wouldn’t be possible’.
After overcoming a plethora of challenges (for example, learning how and where to manufacture clothing), Andrea dipped her toes into the fashion pool and opened an online, Mini PopUp Shop comprised of just four garment styles, all in white. Everything sold out within minutes and AndAndrea the brand was underway!
With the full time support of her husband and with valued feedback from the AndAndrea community, the brand is now selling Worldwide. Australia and the USA are AndAndrea’s largest markets, however there are customer communities throughout Europe, UK, Canada, New Zealand, UAE, South Africa and Asia. There’s now around two hundred styles offered in every PopUp and all of the stats continue to grow.
Although AndAndrea has come a long way since its early days, Andrea and her husband are doing their best to maintain the brand’s original culture.
“We’ve never used professional models. We never do fashion shows. All of our clothing MUST be comfortable and easy to wear. I try to make sure our designs are versatile and timeless so our customers can mix and match our garments for years to come. I don’t follow fashion trends because ‘there are no rules’. And… I must love what we’re doing. If I don’t like a particular style, I won’t sell it. And of course, this crazy experience must give me joy!”
aA xxThat’s Andrea’s story—what’s yours?
Tell us about a time you reinvented yourself, kicked self-doubt to the kerb, or made a change in your life to seize more joy. Share your story, along with a picture of you in your favorite andAndrea outfit, and tag @andandreastyle on Instagram for a chance to have your story featured on our IG or website.
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