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Polka Pants

Founders story of Polka Pants

Words by: Maxine Thompson

Making and cooking has always been in sync throughout my whole life. My Mum taught me to sew when I was young; she had started her own clothing/ activewear company that specialised in making sky-diving suits for women. In the early 90s, women were all flying and sky-diving in men’s suits – which as you can imagine would be quite baggy and not very aerodynamic when you jump from 10,000 ft! Mum had a production studio on our property, so one of my first jobs was to make screens for bespoke screen-prints, unpicking seams and stuffing grip pads into lycra tubes for these female sky-diving suits.

Looking back at my Mum’s company now, I guess it could have planted a very early seed in my brain – WHY isn’t there a female specific outfit/ uniform? WHY do we have to wear men’s outfits for certain activities? Perhaps this seed has grown into PolkaPants!

The turning point to starting PolkaPants happened quite naturally. I was working in a restaurant in Tasmania in 2013 and the idea just came to me. The restaurant did one hundred covers a night with the choice of either an 8 or a 10 course tasting menu that was different every day. With only three of us in the kitchen, the days were long, hard and fast – and the service hot and sweaty. I could not, for the life of me, find a pair of trousers that were cool, comfortable and durable enough to work in for a 14 hour shift.

I went through so many different pairs of trousers from high street stores – I even tried cooking in highwaisted, tight jeans one night and almost passed out! I was so hot and uncomfortable! None of the trousers I tried fitted the bill. They would either lose their shape, a button would fall off, the crotch would split or the fabric would bleed onto my chef whites when I was scrubbing down at the end of the night.

I was fed-up spending money on unsuitable work clothes. I did some initial research and was surprised at the lack of options that were available. At that time, there were no companies designing trousers specifically for women working in the wonderful world of hospitality, so I took the matter into my own hands and started to make my own.

Launching the PolkaPants product was pretty straightforward. I hired one of London’s best PR people. I knew she’d be the right woman for the job and that she’d get anyone and everyone who we needed to know about the product to the launch – and it worked! The product was received with so much positivity and excitement, with Olia Hercules and Gizzi Erskine becoming our first brand ambassadors.

PolkaPants is very much in the ‘slow fashion’ family. I am as passionate about slow fashion as I am about slow food. I feel that if you are a Chef and you care about the provenance of your food, then this philosophy should translate across all aspects of your life – from food to fashion to travel.