August 09, 2021 4 min read

Justine Mills is the brains behind iconic Tassie togs brand TicTasTogs. Using bold colour and exclusive Aussie-inspired prints, Justine is adding a parent's wish-list of design features, a splash of colour, and true sun-safety to our swimwear choices - all with a uniquely Aussie touch.

We chat to Justine about her cross-hemisphere upbringing, Olympics, and why boys should be able to wear bright fun colours, too.

Koala swim suit for Aussie kids

An Aussie by birth, Justine grew up in country England between the age of nine to 16, so enjoyed a childhood book-ended with sun-drenched summers at the beach, with snowy winters and adventures in England’s lush country side collecting acorns and chasing squirrels in the middle.

Returning to an Aussie life-style in her teens included “lots of reverse culture shock,” Justine remembers, “I missed white Christmases and easy travel to Europe, but enjoyed a real outdoors lifestyle that I certainly didn’t have in England.”

A sporty and creative youngster, Justine recalls “while I was never one of those kids at school who was good at Art, I enjoyed being creative - preferring other forms of creativity like colouring in and making jewellery.”

Making the most of Australia’s outdoor life-style, Justine was a competitive 100m sprinter in her teens, following her passion into a sports science degree and a career in corporate fitness.Then Sydney won the right to host the Olympics...

“One of my career highlights was working on the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. For two years I worked on the look and aesthetics of not only game venues but broader Sydney – ensuring Sydney2000 signage, colours and branding were consistent and highly visible right across the city - so that Sydney shone on TV. It was an amazing role, and quite a unique concept at the time.”  

Justine was hooked on the buzz of big-scale sports events, and went on to work onthe Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games and then the 2003 Special Olympic World Games.  She then based herself in London working for a company who designed and manufactured signage for international sports events, enjoying a high-flying corporate career that took her all over the world.

Justine Mills - Founder of TicTasTogs

Returning home to Sydney in 2008 involved a change of pace and the birth of her son on 2012. Justine reflects on her early inspiration for her popular togs range.  “It was on a family holiday to Fiji that I first took notice of what the kids were wearing in the pool and what really struck me was that for the most part boys got the short straw with stereotypical blocks of navy, blues and blacks featuring heavily.”

Justine decided to startTicTasTogs after her young family moved from Sydney to Tasmania. “We enjoyed a lot more outdoor adventures and beach time, but learnt that hard way about how harsh the UV can be – even on cloudy days.”

Sunsafe swimmers for Australian kids

Justine recalls the frustration of how little choice there was trying to purchase sun-safe and fun togs in a regional town. “I was pretty frustrated” Justine laughs, “and the boys togs were all so boring!”  Inspired to address a gap in the market for practical parent-designed swimwear in fun bright colours that protected young skin from harsh Aussie sun, Justine started TicTasTogs in 2018.

“Its probably one of the bravest things I’ve done – because I really had no idea about garment manufacturing or e-commerce, but I just really felt that Aussie parents needed more, and safer, choices. So I took the plunge."

Justine admits that it’s been a really steep and challenging learning curve, but the amazing feedbackrom customersand being open to learning about e-commerce from otherskeeps her going. “Running a small business can be incredibly challenging – but my customers love the togs so I know I’m on the right track and will keep doing what I’m doing!”

Cool Aussie swimwear that's sunsafe

Justine works from her study at home, with the family garage converted to a warehouse and dispatch centre. Having left the big city behind several years ago, Justine and her family are in love with life in a big country town. “Life is much more relaxing and friendly and it’s always enjoyable to trade at local markets and meet my customers face to face”, she says.

Native Australian animals and landscapes have always held a special place in Justine’s heart and right from the start her designs included exclusive designs featuring Aussie birds and animals.  Her son is the colourist-in-chief, enjoying coming up with amazing new colour combinations with Justine’s colour swatches, and providing age-appropriate market advice on the ‘coolest’ designs. He is also regularly called upon to model new styles. Justine laughs, “I have to get his friends involved or he wouldn’t model for me – having his friends makes it a lot of fun – and of course kids having fun is always a great photo.”

 Australian designed sun-safe childrens bathers

Some of the most memorable feedback Justine has received over the years is from mums of boys.  “Mums of boys in particular tell me how glad they are to have found TicTasTogs as our prints are so colourful and bright compared to most other boys swimwear they’ve found on the market. This makes me really happy as I think boys too deserve a choice for bright fun clothing – let’s not pigeon hole them into drab corporate colours too young!”

Justine is always updating her designs, with fresh prints and colours each season. You can see her gorgeous range of Aussie swim wear here.

 

What challenges you? 

The evolving world of e-commerce is the biggest challenge. There are soooo many online businesses now so I work had on being different and being strategic in my approach to how I run my business.  

What tool / item couldn’t you do without? 

My colour chart! My favourite part of designing the swimwear is playing around with colour combinations. It’s always hard to make that final choice though as there are always several that work and look good.

What piece of advice would you give your 18-year-old self? 

I’d tell her there are not right or wrong paths in life but rather path A or B and either lead to a life of adventure!

Check out TIcTasTog's swimwear range here.



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