LM Woman #44 / Deborah Symond O'Neil

To coincide with the launch of Lee Mathews in Mode Sportif, we sat down with founder Deborah Symond O’Neil in her Elizabeth Bay home to discuss the year that has been and her journey so far as a new mother to her son, Beau.

How long have you had Mode Sportif and what inspired you to start it?

I launched Mode Sportif in September 2014, it’s been an incredible six years of building the business and I have absolutely loved it’s evolutionary journey. I had always dreamed of starting a fashion boutique, I knew the online space was where I wanted to be, and there was huge opportunity in the athleisure and multi brand market. From there Mode came to life!

"Adjustment and change often allows for reflection, and I used this time to channel positive energy into the brands growth and development."

How has this year impacted how you work and has it changed your perspective?

This year has been challenging for so many. For the Mode Sportif business we saw two months of retail store closures and a shift to working from home earlier in the year. This was an adjustment for the team, however, they all managed it extremely well, quickly pivoting to a new work style. We were fortunate that we could use our existing online platform to deliver the Mode shopping experience and shift customer focus to online during the closure. I am incredibly proud of how my Mode team continued to thrive in those challenging times, adapting and building, even when faced with daily challenges and uncertainty. Adjustment and change often allows for reflection, and I used this time to channel positive energy into the brands growth and development.

Can you describe a typical day in your life, with your business and your family?

With certainty I can say that no day is ever the same, which I love! Earlier this year I was blessed with the arrival my son Beau, so my working style has changed this year since becoming a mother. I often joke that Mode is my first born, so I’ve been balancing working from home, with spending time in the office with my team, as well as ensuring I have days just with Beau, I’m amazed how quickly he grows. Some weeks are manic, and some more calm. I thrive on being busy, so I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What do you enjoy most about your role at Mode Sportif?

I’m very proud of what we have built, we have come so far in a short period of time and have so much still to achieve. It feels like yesterday, when it was just me, in my living room, trying to bring my dream to life. I love how fluid a small business can be, and nothing makes me happier than seeing our clients in their outfits from Mode, feeling and looking wonderful.

If you weren't in fashion, what do you think you'd be doing?

I’d only ever be working in fashion. It's like a force!


What are you most looking forward to in the future?

Watching my son grow up, and building Mode with my incredible team.

You recently became a new mother to your beautiful son Beau - can you tell us about your journey so far with motherhood?

Motherhood has been the most wonderful gift. I can honestly say I have loved every part of it. It’s been an interesting year to have a newborn, with Covid and the fear that came with it, and the adjustment to working from home earlier in the year with a newborn. However, motherhood has been so rewarding and special, I feel incredibly lucky.

What would your biggest advice be to young working mums on balancing family and work?

Some days you with absolutely nail it, and celebrate those days! And some days you won’t, and that’s ok too. Babies and children can be unpredictable and sometimes things don’t go to plan. Do your best, and try to be present in whatever zone you’re in. Whether it be family time or work time. There is room for both, if that’s what you choose, so find what works for you, your family and your workplace. And most importantly, don’t compare yourself to other mums! You got this.

Photography: Martyn Thompson