So, I think it’s about time I properly introduced Marijke. If you follow our Instagram you will recognise her as the delightful beauty who has graced our page since day dot. She’s always smiling, always genuine, and may have welcomed you into our warehouse or helped you in the past through customer care. She is part of my family and is the quintessential CU woman in so many ways... she follows her heart, lives fearlessly, radiates beauty from within and puts her money where her mouth is...our kind of girl!
Our paths crossed about 2 and a half years ago after she left her native Holland. She was almost 28 and fed up with being a physio and working a corporate job in medical equipment sales in Amsterdam. She was working long hours, felt like she was on a treadmill and was not feeling fulfilled. She quit her job and came to Australia on what she intended to be a little refreshing break before she refocused and went back home. She arrived in Byron, got a job in a restaurant, and started taking care of one of my best friends kids in exchange for accommodation at the hostel they run. It was a much-needed break from her previous life that wasn’t making her happy.
Meanwhile, I was working on starting this brand and as I had never used babysitters (literally NEVER), I was having a hard time at meetings with 3 non-school aged kids underfoot and a husband at work 12 hours a day. My friend recommended Marijke to give me a hand... and we basically fell instantly in love!
She would accompany me when I had to do work and would never take my kids away (as they weren’t ready for that) but would instead entertain and play with them so they were happy while I worked. I could still breastfeed on demand and give cuddles when needed and I got to know Marijke really, really well as we were joined at the hip. She’s open, clever, opinionated, quick to laugh, generous and loving. Both the kids and I fell in love with her and she fell in love with us.
She decided she didn’t want to return home to The Netherlands and has been working for Chasing Unicorns since our launch. She’s like an aunt to my kids, a sister to me, and an angel to Chasing Unicorns. She does anything that needs doing in this brand: modelling, digital marketing, customer care, shoot assistant and helping me daily with random little tech fiascos (as I’m without a doubt the most un-tech human alive). She also has an afternoon drink with me, gives my kids unconditional love and makes me smile every day.
Who knows where her future will lead her. I know I never take her for granted but for now, I’m enjoying every minute of having her in my life. We all have the power to create our own destiny and change things we aren’t happy with and Marijke constantly reminds me of that. She is so much happier and more fulfilled than she was when I met her and this has been a beautiful journey to be part of and I love sharing her smiling face and CU style with all of you.
How is your daily lifestyle different in Byron than it was in The Netherlands?
Back in Holland I would get up in the morning, go to work, come home, cook dinner, watch a movie and go to bed. Especially in winter I would barely see daylight, it would be dark when I’d leave my house in the morning, and by the time I’d leave the office the sun would have already set. On my days off I would drive (often over an hour) to see my friends and family. I was always feeling tired and had a list of things I wanted to try out and do, but somehow “life” always got in the way and I ended up doing pretty much nothing.
In Byron, I have recently made a lot of lifestyle changes. The people, the climate, the beach and the ocean have motivated me to finally do all those things that were on my “to do list” for so many years. In fact, they are now part of my daily routine. I exercise and meditate before work. After work and on the weekends you can find me at the beach surfing or hanging out, at Bikram yoga or exploring the beautiful Hinterland with friends!
What advice would you give someone who isn’t happy in their current life situation?
It may sound cliché, but when you know that you need a change, but you don’t know where to start, I would say try to remember what your childhood dream was and follow that.
Personally, I always wanted to take a gap year abroad. When I was in high school I looked into doing a high school exchange year when I finished school. I wanted to go to Australia for a year, but in the end, I never did any of those things, there was always an excuse or different priorities. Years later when I realized I wasn’t getting enough fulfilment from my everyday life and my job, I knew I needed a change, I decided to do what I’d always wanted to do, take a year off, leave everything behind for a while and go from there. This was how I ended up here in Byron, a place where I instantly felt at home, surrounded by people with a similar mindset.
There will always be an excuse, there will always be people that will encourage you and there will be people that discourage you, but in the end, if you’re not happy, you won’t be able to make anyone around you happy.
How has your personal style changed since moving to Byron?
I’ve loved playing dress ups my whole life and I have always had a personal style that was different from anyone around me. Growing up in a tiny town, I would often get teased over my outfit choices, in a way this made me happy because back then the last thing I wanted was to look like everyone else. However, as I grew older I was trying more and more to dress in a way to impress others and fit in with my friends, family and coworkers.
When I moved to Byron the first months were a bit of a struggle outfit wise, to be honest. I wasn’t used to dressing for such a warm climate and living in a hostel, out of a backpack, I initially tried to dress like some of the girls I lived with. But when one day I got all dressed up for a costume party and people on the street were complimenting me on my outfit (thinking it was my regular outfit) I realized in Byron I could wear whatever I wanted! Then I got to know Sarah, and shortly after Chasing Unicorns, again it felt like I had found my home. I believe you should wear what makes you feel good, not because it makes you fit in, but because it fits you!
You always look so beautiful in your Chasing Unicorns dresses. What do you love about this brand and what is your all-time favourite piece?
I love that the pieces can be worn in so many different ways, and every piece, no matter how you style it makes you feel like a princess. Every day when I look in the mirror before walking out the door I have a big smile on my face because I feel pretty and comfortable in what I wear!
My all-time fave pieces would be my first ever CU pieces. The Bad Moon Rising dress in Chambray and the Dust in the Wind jumpsuit in Sand. The jumpsuit to me is the perfect combination of sexy and chic and can be worn to any occasion. The Bad Moon Rising dress was my first ever maxi dress. Initially, I thought it was strange to wear a dress that fully covered my legs for a change, but I quickly realised that not a single miniskirt can make me feel more feminine than this long princess dress!
My most recent obsession, however, is the latest Wild Horses velvet tunic! I like to wear mine with Docs and a bit too much jewellery ;-)
You are such an amazing, capable woman, where do you see your career path going in the future? (It’s ok if you don’t answer this, I had NO idea that I was going to be a fashion designer when I was 30).
I find this such a hard question to answer because my career path has taken so many unexpected turns in the past 7 or 8 years, from physiotherapy to sales, to hospitality, and now to fashion. I just hope that whatever I’m doing puts a smile on my face as well as someone else’s.
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