She's a fashion and product designer, mama to two babes she birthed in a Bali jungle and marketing guru for cult brand COYO, Jessica Thurecht tells us why she needs to be surrounded by 'creation, palm trees and adventure to be truly at ease,’ and how her next design project comes straight from her eco-warrior heart.
It seems fitting that from an idyllic childhood of island adventuring, you grew up to become a swimwear designer. What inspired your journey into design?
I guess it all started with building cubby houses under my grandmother’s dressmaking table as a child. From the age of three, I was forever surrounded by bolts of fabric, pins and women being fitted for garments. My grandmother had her own label and was a talented dressmaker by trade. She would give me sewing lessons and make dresses for me, and I would always have input on how I wanted the dress – full skirt, bows everywhere!
One day, before a holiday to visit family in Tahiti, she gave me an empty notebook that was full of grid paper. I loved drawing so I spent every spare minute filling up that book with colourful patterns guided by hundreds of 5mm square grids. I was instantly obsessed! My ‘designs’ at that point (age 10) were influenced by what I saw on holidays – I remember even on that particular holiday taking note of the prints on local fabrics, the types of flowers on trees, the natural colours of the waters and even the finishing details on dresses from the market – my pages and pages of grid-paper textile designs were a reflection of everything I was seeing.
I grew up loving the islands, the environment and tribal culture because of my family’s close connection with Papua New Guinea and Tahiti, and constantly being surrounded by traditional craft, or being out and about with nothing to do except swim, dive or create something from sea shells. This led me down a path to study environmental and applied science. But while studying one day and looking through the microscope, sketching what I was seeing, I realised I had gone way off track! I ended up swapping courses and went back to design, and I’ve never looked back!
I’m still an environmental warrior at heart, but my life needs creation, palms trees and adventure to be truly at ease, and I think I managed to blend this perfectly when I found swimwear design! The perfect mix of fabric (thanks Grandma), island life (thanks Dad), business (thanks Mum) and art (thanks Aunty).
Tell us how about how your childhood drew you to identify with Mowgli from The Jungle Book?
The Jungle Book was one of the childhood books that impressed itself onto my soul as child. I wanted to be Mowgli, swinging from the vines, living with wolves – and who wouldn’t want Bagheera and Baloo as their best friends? To me, life in a jungle was the ultimate and as far as my 8-year-old self was concerned, Mowgli had it all. My inner child probably still equates the jungle as a safe place, which is why I was so eager to create a jungly nest for my first child’s welcoming Earth side. I have played the original Disney film for both my boys, and I think I love it now more than ever! That and The Dark Crystal and the Swiss Family Robinson… so good.
You lived in Bali and gave birth to both of your sons there. What was the experience like in Bali?
It was magical! I would have everyone’s babies for them I loved it so much – I even get a little bit jealous when I hear that someone else is pregnant and they get to give birth! Birth is such a wonderfully sacred time in a woman’s life, you are so connected to another being, and Bali just allows you to honour that connection in full without the hindrance of modern-day stresses.
I was blessed with the most amazing midwives, acupuncturist and partner, family and friend network that allowed me to carry out my dream of an all-natural, water home birth in the jungle. My first child Jagwa was born in seven hours and then my second son Vāga, I ended up delivering myself (by accident) because my labour went for 25 minutes! I believe birthing is all about the story you tell yourself and my story was David Attenborough’s time-lapse lotus blooms! It was wild, I gave in fully and let my body’s natural instincts take over.
What was living in Bali like with two small children? Do you feel like you have instilled the travelling vibe into Jagwa & Vāga?
It was an amazing time. The boys grew up salty and sandy, drinking fresh coconut water every day, immersed in culture and surrounded by a multitude of languages. They love hearing about where they were born and where we lived, it’s their special Bali story and they will forever have a special connection with Indonesia because of it. Jag was learning Bahasa Indonesia and would go up to the local school with our pembantu [nanny] Ibu Agung to learn dancing, he just loved it. I think it has instilled a sense of confidence and adventure in them that has defiantly led to the travel bug. Jag is always wanting go on holiday somewhere, preferably a place where whales live or Bali, and Vāga has an obsession with coconuts, which I guess is only fitting. What we loved most about having children in Bali, was being surrounded by a culture where children, family and gratitude are its centre. We don’t see that same importance in Western culture.
What do you miss most about living in Bali, and what do you love most about being back home in Australia?
I miss the adventure most. You are constantly in a state of discovery on the island, everything is always changing – you blink and there's something new. It’s an entrepreneur’s dream, a creative wonderland, and the perfect balance of food, culture and nature.
What do I love most about Australia? It’s the small things I love most.
- The purity and cleanliness of the land. We take for granted how pristine our wild country is.
- Footpaths. After living in Bali I never knew how much I love flat pieces of concrete you can walk on, without the fear of tripping over or being hit by a scooter!
- Convenience. Yes, we pay taxes but my gosh, the convenience of paying bills online, having hot water all day long and a constant supply of reliable electricity is amazing! Supermarkets also fit into this category. I don’t know how many times I had to drive over an hour to buy a good toothbrush! Haha.
You now call the Sunshine Coast home and are part of the marketing genius (and family) behind the delicious COYO products. How are you enjoying your new role and life amongst coconuts?
It’s wild! I love it. I love being able to make a difference and be part of a brand working towards achieving bold goals, one that appreciates environmental impact and has the health and happiness of our beautiful world at the forefront of its mission. I work alongside a very committed and talented group of people who are truly focused on bettering the planet through plant-based, delicious food and I couldn’t be more grateful. My parents-in-law, Henry and Sandra Gosling (COYO founders) are amazing, driven and generous people who are still so hands on with all aspects of the business.
Again I have somehow manifested myself a place amongst coconuts, and as part of the marketing team I am able to help share my love for our family business by combining my knowledge of product building, design, strategy and brand development. They also let me in front of the camera for our food shoots and styling so I am in foodie creative heaven!
We can’t hide the fact that we are slightly envious of your unlimited access to COYO. Can you share your favourite ways to eat COYO?
I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty great having unlimited access to COYO Coconut Milk Yoghurts and Ice Creams, especially with the release of our world-first Organic and Dairy-Free Kids Pouches. So yummy!
Our Natural Coconut Milk Yogurt is my favourite by far! It’s super versatile because it’s not loaded with sugar like some other brands. The Natural COYO can be added to soups, dolloped on breakfast or used as a milk replacement in dairy-free baking, but my favourite way to use it is in guacamole or for making the easiest pizza base of your life! It’s just 50% Natural COYO with 50% flour of choice, kneed together and you’re done! I should probably make this an actual feature recipe on our COYO recipe blog. It’s amazing and bakes so crunchy.
As a mother of two young boys, how do you seek balance in between motherhood, being a working wife and self-care?
This is so tricky for many mothers and I’m not entirely sure I’ve nailed it yet. Good friends are always so important; a good tribe to surround yourself with. I always try to have clear boundaries between work time and family/home time, which can be incredibly difficult when your work is a family business. Where did I say that clear line was again? Ha ha.
Enjoying time together outdoors is something that really works for us, so we are always down the beach or making sure we soak up some sunshine for that all important Vitamin D. Self-care probably comes more in the form of the underlying basics of plenty of sleep, water, activity and good food.
I 100 percent believe that sleep deprivation is a form of torture and if you aren’t rested enough, how can you keep all those balls in the air? In our home, we are true believers in gut health, it’s responsible for so much of what happens in our bodies from our mood and emotions to our skin and our digestion, so our fridge is stocked with lots of greens and fermented foods, so diet definitely is key!
And then I think the power of mindset, approaching everything that comes your way with a sense of gratitude, positivity and generosity, there isn’t a lot those three values can’t solve. My husband Jonny always likes to quote Deepak Chopra: “Where the mind goes, a molecule will follow.” So we try to keep our minds smiling with all of the above.
What are the moments that make you smile most?
Those random, hilarious conversations that you eavesdrop on your children having in their little toddler words that make no sense to anyone else except them, or when they insist on kissing each other 20 times before bed even though they sleep next to each other.
What does the future hold for you? More island adventuring, or can we expect a return to design life?
I wish I knew! There will always be coconuts, there will always be island life, there will always be adventure and there will be a return to design. I am starting my own ethical and organic intimates label alongside my amazing co-founder Pricylla. The label is called Selen and we hope to launch this year. Pricylla and I are combining our love for organics, design and Pricylla’s knowledge as an Ayurvedic practitioner to create an intimates brand that is harmless to the planet, modern in design and encourages wellbeing in the wearer by infusing Vedic philosophies into the creation of the garments. Organic botanical dyes, peace silks, soft feminine shapes. You can follow us on our journey @selen_the_label.
Finally, we’d love to get your ‘Fast 10’. Can you share with us the first word that comes to mind in your life when we say, ‘Right now, I’m…’
Wearing: Nice Martin
Reading: The Conscious Parent
Cooking: Wood-fired pizza at home
Drinking: Coconut and lavender gin
Coveting: Velvet Canyon Eyewear
Thinking: How do I let Jonny know that I don’t think I want to play keys in the family band? I’m more of tambourine gal!
Watching: My children growing up too quickly!
Listening to: Mind Body Green podcasts
Dreaming of: A holiday to Portofino
Designing: Selen Intimates