By Rosie Panetta
If you love the idea of doing your little bit to save the world while shopping – yes, I said shopping – then let us introduce you to Marie-Pier Labelle.
She is the Adelady behind Days Of August, an eco-friendly jewellery label that’s putting SA on the map.
The Canadian-born designer started the label as a side-hustle in 2011. A decade later, she now has pieces stocked in boutiques and art galleries around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Transforming reclaimed industrial stainless steel into lightweight, sleek designs – which include statement earrings, brooches and hair accessories – her pieces are literally wearable pieces of art!
And the best part is, you can wear them with zero guilt thanks to Marie-Pier’s commitment to sustainable and eco-friendly businesses practices which means her label is 100% carbon neutral.
This year, she celebrated Days Of August’s 10th anniversary with a brand refresh, to reinvigorate the labels core values of sustainability and timelessness by offering a more considered, curated collection to encourage us all to buy better and wear forever.
We sat down with Marie-Pier to find out more about her passion for sustainable fashion and for some inspiration on how to transform a part-time hustle into a full-time success.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN SA?
I’m Canadian, so it has to be the beach! I remember when I first moved to Adelaide in 2004, I felt like I was on holidays every day. It was such a novelty, that I could go to the beach every day after work if I wanted to. The South Australian coastline is so beautiful; I love how it just seems to go on forever.
I used to live in Christies Beach and there’s a little cove there that’s still one of my favourite spots.
WHERE’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO SHOP?
I have a few… May Home Store is a gorgeous new little shop in Norwood. There’s Oscar & Willow in Unley, which always has stunning pieces.
And of course, The Jam Factory is amazing. It really is home to some of the most forward-thinking art and design in all of Australia and I think we’re so lucky to have that here in Adelaide. I remember the first time I did a show in New York, there was a glassmaker next to me and he was like ‘Oh my god! You’re from Adelaide? Do you know The Jam Factory? Do you work there? Do you have friends there?’ He had so many questions, it was such a big deal to him. It’s also where I rediscovered my love of working with metals, having completed my silversmith training there — so I hold it very close to my heart.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER ASPIRING CREATIVES LOOKING TO TURN THEIR PASSION INTO A CAREER OR TURN A SIDE HUSTLE INTO A FULL TIME GIG?
Start before you feel you’re ready. Especially if you’re a perfectionist like me.
There’s a lot of fear attached to the unknown and we can often get too attached to thoughts like ‘I can’t do this’. I think you have to get out of your own head, and you have to take the leap… just before you think you’re ready.
WHEN DID THAT MOMENT HAPPEN FOR YOU?
I started my career in movies, so I’d be away for months at a time on set shooting, and then I’d be home for a month or two waiting for the next movie. So, Days of August really started as something for me to do in-between my film gigs. It very much organically grew from there.
I remember at one point I was going back-and-forth between the two jobs and the juggle was becoming so overwhelming, that I had to stop and make a choice. And while choosing Days Of August over my film career scared me, the idea of having my own business was really exciting… so I went for it!
From there I just had to do a lot of learning. I didn’t go to business school, I didn’t train in that area, I just had to learn as I went… and I think that was the best thing; that day when I said to myself “okay, I’m going to give this a serious shot, whether I feel ready or not.”
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT SO FAR?
Having my work picked up by the Guggenheim Museum in New York. That was such a surreal moment for me.
I was at a trade show in New York at the time; it was the last day of the event and things started to quieten down. Then all of a sudden, I had this small group of people come through out of nowhere to my stall. Since it was so quiet, I had plenty of time to talk to them about my label and my products – which was lucky, because it wasn’t until they handed me their business card to make an order that I learned it was the Guggenheim! The minute I realised, it took all my energy to stay calm and cool not start screaming up and down. As soon as they walked out of sight, I was like ‘Oh my god! That just happened!’
The Guggenheim is just such an iconic place and to have the opportunity to have my pieces in there has just been a highlight of my business – and my life – so far!
HOW HAS COVID SHIFTED YOUR BUSINESS?
Covid was almost the catalyst for this year’s rebrand. For the first time in 9 years, I wasn’t busy preparing for markets or travelling interstate and overseas for trade shows.
Pausing all that gave me the opportunity to implement things I’d always wanted to do, but never had the chance, being that ‘one-woman business’ where I’m constantly juggling all the hats by myself. It was the perfect time to stop, to regroup, to look inward and focus on refining my product and ask myself ‘what am I going to do now, to make my business better on the other side of this pandemic?’
It was also a great time to reconnect with my community of creators and makers here in Adelaide. We’ve all become really great friends who are able to bounce ideas off of each other when we need. It’s been so great to have that community for support during the uncertainty of Covid, especially for small businesses.
HOW IMPORTANT IS SUSTAINABILITY?
Sustainability is everything. From the very beginning I’ve been focused on doing whatever I can to ensure Days of August is a 100% carbon neutral business.
It’s why I choose to use reclaimed stainless steel from a local machinist, because of its durability and longevity. It’s why I choose to power my studio with solar. It’s why I only use reusable packaging, so the buyer can repurpose it.
Up until this year I was volunteering with Trees For Life, where I was growing around 300 trees a year in my own backyard, which would be picked up and planted in rural areas of SA. Since moving to a smaller place, I’m now working with Ecologi, who help me offset my carbon footprint through various ecological projects across the world. It’s so great partnering with them because they allow me to see exactly where my efforts are going; I can literally check to see what specific things are being done for the environment on the business’ behalf and I love that!
WHY DO YOU WORK WITH STAINLESS STEEL?
The sustainability and durability of stainless steel made it much more appealing to me than precious metals. I needed a material that was going to support my desire to make pieces that would last, both aesthetically and structurally.
Also, it works well with my style. I’m not very frilly or girly; I like clean, refined, timeless pieces. I think if you’re going to keep something your whole life, it needs to age well aesthetically.
I’ve got pieces from my first collection that are still my best sellers because they are so simple and classic and that’s what I want — I want people to be able to wear my pieces for a lifetime and then pass it on to next generation.
WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
Trust your gut. If your gut says something isn’t right, don’t do it. Instead, focus on things that make your whole heart say ‘yes’.
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE THE LATEST COLLECTION…
Considered. Minimal. Architectural.
Days of August is stocked in boutiques across Australia and the world, including at the Urban Cow Studio in Adelaide.
To find out more, or browse the collection, head to www.daysofaugust.com.au.