Lady Boss: Susan Tait
| September 23, 2016
Susan Tait is a highly creative woman who loves dancing in the kitchen. She’s also one half of Melbourne outdoor furniture and accessories brand Tait, with her husband, Gordon. The pair started Tait over 21 years ago and have built a strong reputation for their beautifully designed and locally made products. As creative director of the company Susan is involved in all aspects of the business – from product design to store merchandising and everything in between. She’s a real Lady Boss!
Please tell us about yourself and what you do.
I was a shy, daydreamy kid who built houses for fairies in the garden, climbed trees and loved to paint. As I grew older, my love of pattern and colour led me to study textile design at RMIT and after various retail jobs to support my studies, I landed an amazing role at Red Earth, which combined my studies and previous work placements. While I was there, the company experienced trajectory growth and as a 25-year old, I was completely thrown into the deep-end, overseeing all aspects of the brand from packaging, store design, visual merchandising, promotions to advertising. Little did I realise that one day I would utilise these skills for my own business.
After the birth of our first child, Gordon (my life and work partner) set up Tait while I freelanced to Red Earth and Mecca Cosmetica, however before long I was involved with Tait. I have to say, it isn’t always the easiest to work with your partner but after twenty years, I think Gordon and I have made it work! Today we have two beautiful daughters Coco (17) and Lily (20).
As Creative Director for Tait, I’m involved in all aspects of the business, from developing new product with Gordon or the external designers we work with, meeting with our manufacturing team in the factory, overseeing campaign photoshoots and design with creatives through to store design and merchandising – all the visual aspects for Tait. Now that I get to choose all the colours and fabrics, it’s like I’ve come full circle!
Work is always extremely busy, so to meet my creative needs I enjoy painting, seeing exhibitions, listening to music and gardening – if I get the balance right I’m a much happier person.
What is the greatest thing about being a woman?
Woman have amazing intuitive powers, often mistrusted due to self-doubt or simply underutilised.
Intuition can offer insights into people and situations, and provide amazing creative solutions.
What has been your most significant personal achievement?
I would have to say building Tait to be the brand it is today is one of my proudest achievements. Obviously, I have worked very closely with Gordon but we both bring very different skills. It’s taken a lot of hard work and many leaps of faith.
What’s your worst habit?
Not making enough time for myself and working too hard. You just have to ask Gordon that!
Which female in history or the present day do you admire and why?
There are so many inspiring women but recently Michelle Obama has really impressed me. She has brought such great strength, elegance and conviction of ideas to her highly scrutinised role, all the while being a proud mum, great dancer and seemingly completely comfortable with who she is. She’s so effortlessly cool!
Do women really have it all?
Absolutely! Although because we are so incredibly clever, we always strive to do it all, which is a constant juggling act.
If you were a plant, what would you be?
A Silver Princess Gum Tree; tall with weeping branches that sway in the breeze and surprising bursts of beautifully coloured blossoms in spring.
What is one piece of wisdom (a saying, a philosophy for life, etc.) that you learnt from your mother/grandmother?
“Enjoy the simple pleasures in life.” My mum lived and breathed this philosophy and was always happy. Nothing was ever taken for granted and every moment was cherished; an outlook I hope to instil into my girls.
What is one characteristic or trait that you inherited from your father/grandfather?
An appreciation for good design. My father always noticed when an item was well designed and would point it out. Funnily enough, when I first went to a café with my husband Gordon and he very quickly picked up a chair to look underneath and study how it was made, I thought, “oh God, I’ve married someone like my dad!”
If you had to make a garden with three plants, what would they be and why have you chosen each of them?
Firstly, a gentle flowering gum to stand watch over the garden, offering shade and beauty.
Secondly, a Grevillea to flower profusely – providing beautiful foliage and colour for so much of the year – yet requiring so little in return.
To complete what would be a very native garden, I would choose a low-growing plant like Banksia ‘Birthday Candles’. I adore its structure and fascinating flowers – They’re quite exotic looking.
Name one thing you couldn’t live without.
What cheers you up?
Dancing! Lounge room or kitchen dancing is always greatly encouraged in our house.
What would you be doing in an alternate life or career?
I suspect I would be an artist.
What’s one lesson you’ve learnt from the plant kingdom?
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