Hey Margot, Could you tell us about yourself? Where you grew up?
Hey, my name’s Margot, and I grew up in Summer Hill in the Inner West. I am a Speech Pathologist from Monday-Friday, working at a not-for-profit with children with disabilities. On the weekends, I love keeping my hands busy. Whether that’s by gardening, cooking, sewing ... That’s when most of my creative juices start to flow.
Why did you want to create CousCous? when or where did it start?
I started CousCous in my first year of uni. I wanted a hobby that was totally different from my studies. I’ve always loved to sew so made myself a bag using a piece of fabric that had been given to me by a great aunt. She had worked in a fabric factory in the countryside of Italy in the 70s. I liked that the fabric had a story and that I could wear that and make a new life for it. I would wear it out and get quite a number of comments about it. That’s when I came up with the idea for CousCous. I think it was word of mouth mostly, people started knowing me as the girl who made bags, and from there CousCous grew to what it is today.
What do you like about working with textiles?
It’s quite meditative actually. It’s often how I enjoy spending my solo time. I’ll put on a movie or a funky playlist and can spend hours at my sewing table. Sometimes the fabrics I choose can be quite frustrating to sew but I’m always up for a challenge. It can become about problem-solving on a material level, but there is only so far you can push the fabric to do what you want it to do. It kind of talks back in that sense.
Where did you learn to sew?
My mum taught me to sew. She learnt from her mum who used to make all her clothes as a child. I remember when I was little, my mum and I would sit down and plan a creative project, often a dress or a costume. We’d come up with a design together and then she’d help me create it!
Can you talk about the designs?
I started with the drawstring backpack as it’s pretty classic and versatile. Then I started taking it out to gigs and parties and found I didn’t need such a big bag. I also have a few friends that skate who mentioned the backpacks weren’t as easy to take around. From there came the mini Cous, a cross-body bag. It surprises me how much people can fit in them!!
Wearing prototypes is a really good way to figure out design choices. I had to make a few adjustments to the kind of rope I used, which previously was thinner and more uncomfortable. It’s really important that CousCous bags are comfortable and durable!
How do you choose your materials?
I see a fabric that excites me and go from there. It’s very instinctual, I don’t question it. Either it’s a piece that’s unique, or maybe it has a nice texture. A part of my practice that I love and have a lot of fun with is choosing the fabric combinations for the lining and outer fabric of each bag. Deciding whether to choose more of a daring, bold colour or texture or something more subtle and classic. The lining makes the bag stronger but also creates a second personality on the inside. The combination of the two fabrics work together to create the uniqueness of each bag.
Repurposing materials and giving things a new life is really important to me as well. I always look in op shops to see what treasures I may find. I have a friend who bought a bunch of fabrics in India and commissioned me to turn them into wearable objects for all her family members. It was so lovely to get the opportunity to work on a personal project with such beautiful textiles and such a great idea!
Where’s your favourite spot in Sydney to find the materials?
Reverse Garbage! It has some amazing finds. You’ve just got to keep a good eye out for it. Also, living in Marrickville there are tonnes of op-shops that have a groovy collection of material.
I also recently found out about this social enterprise and fabric store called ‘The Sewing Basket’. They sell fabrics that have been donated and all proceeds go to supporting people with disabilities.
Why is making important to you?
I’m such a tactile person so I love using my hands to create. It’s something I have loved for as long as I can remember. My family are very creative so making was always highly encouraged and celebrated in my home. Something that also brings me a lot of joy is seeing others wearing my creations. There’s something so beautiful about creating, sharing and then seeing how people make it their own by attributing their personality to it.
Do you have any creative heroes?
I would have to say my family. They are all so incredibly talented!! And have been such inspirations in showing me how you can be successful, while doing what you love, and being creative.
What’s your favourite home-cooked flavour?
I think I will have to go with homemade pasta!! So much fun to make, a communal activity and always tastes DELICIOUS!
Finally, where would you like to take CousCous?/ what does the future look like?
I am really interested in working with natural dyes. I think this will be a 2020 project for me. Ideally using food scraps or Australian native plants to dye fabric and then make something out of it ... watch this space… :)