Connection means a lot to us, and we believe that lots of little stories create big connection. The #Inu8women series is how we share little stories about women who inspire us through their active lives. Learning from and sharing wisdom with like-minded women helps us to feel stronger, to feel supported and to be free to follow our joy. We believe we are better together.
Karen Miles is Founder and Creative Director of French Consul. She created the brand as a way of inviting more calm and beauty into her own life. It was a business idea that she confesses came to her when she wasn’t looking for it. Perhaps a solo trip to Paris had something to do with it! Karen sees beauty everywhere and enjoys sharing this beauty with the world.
Karen’s active life is defined by creativity and self-expression, it is an approach to life that she embraces and is evident in all that she does. It was such a joy to chat with Karen and to feel her enthusiasm for life.
Can you use just a few words to describe how you live your life?
Self-expression and integrity.
What is the work you do in the world?
I am a carer for my children first and foremost, looking after their growth and wellbeing. I am aware they need me to be fully present. I then fulfil my own need to express myself and my creativity in whatever form that takes.
I run a French linen homewares business from a studio in my backyard with a beautifully simple product range of 7 pieces.
What does a typical day look like for you – are you able to walk us through it?
The day typically starts with getting kids ready for school and school drop offs. I enjoy walking our dog Charlie in the morning before working.
During school hours I spend most of my time in the studio. When I’m not working on my business, I’m working on our home renovation project in Tasmania. We will be featured on Grand Designs Transformations next year so there is a lot to do to keep to the project timeline.
In the afternoon I am doing school or co-curricular pick-ups before dinner preparation. I actually find it a challenge to prepare and cook every night, which is why I sometimes use the dinner service Dinner on the Table. The Founder, Rachel is a former postdoctoral fellow, researching family and disability and started this business as a social enterprise to support women in need. For every meal ordered she provides meals at no cost to women made vulnerable by disability and their families. I find what she is doing so inspiring.
In the evening I sign off and either enjoy a movie or TV series with my hubbie, or I go to Physie (Physical Culture) and dance!
What is your favourite way to exercise/move your body? What do you love about it?
I love Physie and I’m currently rediscovering it after taking a break from it. It’s a form of physical expression to music. I loved dancing when I was young, and I actually met my husband dancing in a performance. I was a part of the dance chorus, and he was lead actor!
I feel free when I’m dancing, and I love the group I have joined. It is run by a mother and daughter team, there is no judgement, it is inclusive of age and size, and no-one is concerned about how they look. I feel that often as women, we treat exercise as a penalty for being overweight and for not being a certain way.
For me, Physie is not about the exercise, it’s about the creative expression. It allows me to forget about everything and be in the moment. Physie is about feeling strong and having fun.
What is your favourite activewear piece/s? Is there something that you currently own that you cannot do without?
To be honest I wouldn’t say I love putting on activewear. I want to feel comfortable, and I want coverage. I don’t want to feel vulnerable in my activewear. I feel the majority of activewear is targeting the perfect body. High waisted tights that are comfortable, without unpleasant seams are important to me.
Is taking time for rest and rejuvenation important to you?
It’s really important to me, which is why I love Tassie. It is my happy place. The air is clean, the food is good, and life is unhurried. I’ve noticed that people care, neighbours care, there is a slower pace that I enjoy and there is less pressure to ‘be someone’ or ‘do something’.
I’ve always wanted to restore an old house and fell in love with Tasmania.
Apart from the disruptions of the last couple of years we travel to Oatlands every school holidays and I’ll pop down there a couple of times on my own during term time.
What have you learnt from the last 2 years that you did not expect?
I didn’t realise how strong I was. It was a definitely a time to keep the family together and support one another through the challenges. The changes affected the retail industry and of course, my ability to get to Tasmania.
What do you expect from a new activewear company doing things differently?
That you will respect women’s bodies for what they are and not what they ‘should’ be. We need to find new avenues for women to move their bodies and express themselves without judgement.
What does simplicity mean to you? Is it important to you?
It is so important to me. There is so much focus on buying things to make us feel good or happy, and doing things to make us sound impressive. We all know this is superficial. I feel increasingly drawn to a simple, more meaningful life which is why I love being in Tasmania. What we do need more of, is time with friends and community.
What does a feeling of being connected mean to you?
Feeling part of a community and feeling a sense of connection to others. I have noticed that in Tasmania we have been welcomed effortlessly into the community however in Sydney I can feel completely disconnected. And, what I love about Physie is that we are a fun group of women who enjoy hanging out together.
I love seeking out opportunities to feel connected with others even if it is dinner with friends/family. There is nothing better than connecting with like-minded people who see each other and get each other. This money cannot buy.
In general, do you seek out new products that are created sustainably? Is this important to you when purchasing activewear?
Yes, I naturally gravitate to wearing natural fibres and choosing ethical manufacturers. This is the strategy for my business also. If it can’t be natural and sustainably sourced, I choose recycled materials. I am actually obsessed with linen for its simplicity and relaxed feel.
Which influential women do you admire the most? And why?
Glennon Doyle. I admire her intelligence and empathy and the way she champions human rights issues. By simply being herself and sharing her thoughts authentically she has inspired so many.
I am also inspired by my daughter. She has found a way to be herself in a stage of her life where there is so much pressure not to be.
What is exciting you at present?
Creating a home in Tasmania and the filming of the renovation for Grand Designs. Increasingly I just want to be in a comfortable space that inspires and uplifts me where friends and family can come to hang out.
I love learning from others through relaxed times and storytelling.
Please share with us a little of your journey finding and restoring a property in Oatlands.
I discovered the town of Oatlands when visiting a stockist. I learned that Oatlands is Australia’s largest sandstone village. I am not a modern architecture girl, I like the charm and character of historical buildings so felt really drawn to the town. I like the wide-open roads and big trees. In January 2020 I found a property on-line and bought it! After making an initial visit, the borders closed, and I couldn’t get back there for 8 months. My husband hadn’t even seen the place.
My favourite day of the renovations to date is the day we were peeling away the old paint from the walls when a large section of render came away from the wall. What it revealed was immaculate sandstone. It was one of the first convict-built sandstone cottages in the area. After a little historical digging we believe it was first built in the 1830’s.
Grand Designs will feature the restoration as well as the removal of a home handyman extension. We will return it to its former Georgian glory. I believe the render coming off the walls was the house letting us know how she wanted to be revealed.
I have been collecting furniture, period windows and doors and will fill the rooms with beautiful French linen, staying true to a simple country aesthetic, whilst paying respect to its history as a Georgian workers cottage.
Is there a phrase or a word that you live by?
Create what you want to see in the world … and then surround yourself with the things and people you love.
I feel that integrity is so important and by being yourself and taking responsibility for yourself you will naturally create an energy that attracts the right people.
Karen wears our 100% pure organic Cashmere Wrap