In our Tastemakers series, we talk to Australia's movers and shakers to learn what importance travel has to them.  

In the fashion industry, a growing movement of ‘slow fashion’ is taking centre stage. And travel, believe it or not, plays a major role in this revolution. In essence, slow fashion is a movement rooted in ethics, from using sustainable resources to paying fair wages to garment workers.

Enter Joel and Rachel Cooper, Garment Designer and Creative Director of Frank & Dolly’s, and their 3 young children: in 2010, the Coopers opened their first brick and mortar Frank & Dolly’s store. Today, Frank & Dolly's lives online and with Stockists around Australia, where they sell their own unique fabrics and garment lines that celebrate the ethos of slow fashion.

The manifestations of their creativity were so deeply inspired by travels and treasure-hunting for fabrics and designs abroad that in 2018, the Cooper family of 5 took 5 suitcases and left for a slow journey in the name of slow fashion. This is their story.

Cooper children looking at map in China

Indonesia - 8 weeks

We set out with the intention to create a year’s worth of work and designs in only a handful of weeks. The dream was to set ourselves up for months so that we could travel the world carrying 3 garment collections, a camera, and a whole lot of inspiration. When we arrived In Indonesia, we didn’t take a day to rest. Long days and nights of designing, hours of working alongside fabric printers and dyers, in studios and across many different techniques, trips to fabric markets and lots of vision casting and campaign preparation… it was a whirlwind. Working in a foreign country isn’t always easy, and our work in Indonesia came with its challenges. Often hours worth of work would be thrown out the window due to communication break down or language barriers. But this is all a part of the garments’ story, and it is a story that we love.

But we made sure we could dive into the landscape to absorb every bit of nature, culture, and exhilaration. We hiked through rice fields, climbed waterfalls, visited Elephant Sanctuaries and spent time at the local community centre doing workshops with the children on temple traditions and offering making. And each morning at our local produce market for fresh mangoes and rambutan.

Finally, we released our Autumn Collection from Indonesia, Meadow Soiree. We worked hard with our Wholesalers and campaigned to make sure the collection felt just as personal without being their in person. The response was wonderful and strong, and gave us the confidence that we were on the right track… literally.

The entire Cooper family sitting together in Bali

Singapore - 3 Days

While this detour only lasted three days, it was an important part of our trip because It highlights the importance of pace when traveling with 3 children. Finding stopovers, to rest and relax, so that we aren’t all burnt out after a long flight, picking up the pieces for days to come. Mindful travel is a key for us, and every choice we make, from flights, to accommodation, to the food we eat, is made with thought.


Vietnam - 2 Weeks

This stop was added to our agenda for the purpose of exploring the traditional villages and handicraft culture of the Sa Pa Region. We had travelled through South East Asia before, but had never invested time in Sa Pa. So we teamed up with Ethos Spirit, who work purely with Tribe minorities, and they hosted us around the incredible mountains, through remote villages, mostly all by foot, to discover the beautiful cultural traditions of dyeing, embroidery and of course, just everyday life. We seek to learn from these incredible, rich traditions, and bathed in their wisdom as they showed us their extraordinary skills.

Watching the children weave their way around narrow dirt tracks, along the mountains of Sa Pa, engaging with the village children and sitting around the fire, as we prepared and cooked our lunch with the locals, was simply magic. Our kids quickly threw off their shoes, and slid down the dirt hills with the other children, embracing the enjoyment of play, without language.

The Cooper family exploring Vietnam

China - 1 Month

Our time in China was the most ‘unknown’ and somewhat daunting adventure we’ve been on. We were travelling the South of the county, the ancient Tea route across the wild landscape from Kunming to the Tibet Boarder, with a rising altitude and breathtaking scenes at every corner. We instantly learnt that very few people spoke English or had seen westerners before (especially 3 blonde, curly-haired adorable children) and considering that the ‘one child’ policy had been in place for so long, our family was seen as quite a large family. Travelling from town to town was not as easy as jumping in a taxi and never have we had to rely on our instinct and the ‘flow’ of travel so much. Incredibly, in every place we went, there was always one person, one local who became our rock for communicating and connecting. The kindness of strangers, and the universal desire to care, was displayed, without words, and this we will take with us forever.

In all this, never once did we hear ‘I want to go home’ or ‘where are we’ from the children. They were bright eyed and so eager to learn. We rode horses through mountains, walked through valleys and passed turquoise lakes, we ate dumplings galore and feasted our way on fried rice and milk tea, admiring the endless red lanterns and bright tribal clothing.

Italy - 2 Months

Italy very quickly became our home away from home. Everything about Italy we connected with - the people, the food, the culture, the siestas, the cities, the colours, the rawness of its landscapes, its diversity and of course, its gelato. Work shifted gear in Italy, as we shot our Winter Collection Song Lines in the Streets of Rome, campaigned and released the entire collection from the Laptop. The anticipation was incredible and was received with great success, having sold out entire lines within the first week of their release.

On the flip side, it also challenged us the most, as we were now 8 hours behind from Australia, so communicating and managing the distribution and remake of the collection meant many all-nighters, and meetings throughout the night to the other side of the world.

We saw a real shift in the children, too, as we explored Italy. Our rhythm became a lot more fluid and smooth, we were in our flow, and the children were really blossoming within the travel lifestyle. We have an amazing working relationship, and husband/wife/parents/business partners work seamlessly all together. With the 3 little ones by our side, we have become really smart at working hard and consciously using our time with wisdom and thought. It takes a lot of time to plan a trip around the world, run a business and nurture a family, but it’s the choices we make everyday, whilst fiercely following our instinct, that makes it all works.

Rachel Cooper in Italy in her garments

What’s next

The rest of our journey around the world remains to be seen, and we are eager to see what our adventures in England, Scotland, New York, and Canada bring us.  

Family on rooftop building

For another story of inspirational family travel, read here.