Coast in the Closet – Tres Noosa

Image source: Photographer Ian Waldie

After a childhood spent cutting and pasting pictures of palm trees into her school diary, Pauline Kouw’s love for the ocean gave rise to her beachwear boutique Très Noosa. Georgia Beard discovers how Pauline brings Noosa to her store and sends it out again with her natural, tropical fashion.

Pauline Kouw from Tres Noosa – Style Counsel

How and when was your business born?

I come from the Netherlands and during most of my time there, both as a child and an adult, I was always drawn to warmer climates. I became a flight attendant for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in Amsterdam, which allowed me to travel and satiate my need for beach and sun. I don’t fly any longer but Noosa provides me with all the tropical climate needs my heart desires.

In search of a better life, my husband, himself a pilot, our then four year old daughter and myself migrated to Australia some sixteen years ago. I immediately wanted to get my hands on something creative to feed the artistic bug I knew I had in me for many years. Any walk on the beach, trek in the bush or swim in the ocean brought me closer to who I have become artistically today. Then I discovered the Eumundi Markets and while wandering the various alleys I thought “You know what, not only can I do this but I can do it better and more artistically.”

I held a stall there for nearly five years and then decided to open a real store at the Noosa Junction which I thought would look great with sand all over the floor. It featured all the products I exposed at Eumundi and then some more, loose shells, shell and driftwood creations, beach and coastal paintings as well as scented shell candles.

Some six years ago, I closed that spot and reopened at a larger location right on Sunshine Beach Road, where I am located at the moment. Following a trip to Europe a few years ago, with my eyes always on the prowl for new ideas, I stumbled upon some Italian beach clothing suppliers with beautifully crafted items. I thought “European summer fashion is ahead of us and Noosa could use some of it.” And so I started importing an extensive line of classy beach linen products that has attracted and charmed tourists and locals alike.

What do you love most about Très Noosa?

I value the independence of being my own boss. I’ve traditionally found it hard to work for someone else simply because I have a mind of my own. At Très Noosa, I can pretty much do and create what I like, and that’s priceless.

How would you describe your style?

Simple and natural yet beautiful and classy.

How would you describe your customers?

Tourists and locals alike, kids with their innate and spontaneous sense of artistic appreciation too. I believe more and more people are moving away from large iconic brands and looking for something fresh and new, something with a certain “je ne sais quoi.” As long as you love what the beach has to offer and truly connect with it, you’ll feel at home at Très Noosa.

What inspires what’s in store?

In a word: colours. The colours need to fit in with the beach-style living look of the shop and because it’s always warm in Noosa, the fabric of the various beach garments needs to be wearable. So basically. It’s either linen or cotton, never polyester.

What makes your store different?

So many things, the sand on the floor, the driftwood hangings, the beach-like atmosphere, the fashion perfectly tailored for a beach life, the art creations.

I get a lot of returning customers, many from interstate or even abroad. They all seem to say the same “we were here once and just had to come back.”

What do you love about working in Noosa?

That you can go to the beach before work or after work, or both.

What advice can you share with fashion start-ups and retailers?

The best advice I can give if you want to start your own business from scratch is to start small and learn from the product(s) you sell. You’ll pick up lots of information about your clientele and the various hurdles of running your own business. And more importantly whether you like it or not. Try not to be greedy, keeping in mind that the customers will keep you afloat even during difficult times. I love focusing on the locals and providing a personal experience, giving them a good feeling and being honest.

What can we expect to see this season?

Since I mostly specialise in European summer fashion, my reference is well…what’s successful on Italian and French beaches. And since their northern hemisphere summer comes before ours, it gives me a few months to decide what would suit Noosa beach goers. This Australian summer you can expect the very best European fashion has to offer with a particular focus on quality and comfort paired with a colour palette aimed to make you and Noosa ever more beautiful. Keeping a close eye on European summer fashion is a big part of my job and it is ever-changing.

What styling advice do you have?

A lot of our female fashion garments are multi functional. The same piece can either be worn on the beach, in town for a casual dinner with a pair of jeans and summer shoes, throw in a scarf and it could also be classy. That’s the beauty of the Noosa sub-tropical climate.

What fashion item can’t you live without?

A pair of jeans and a T-shirt. Simple, comfortable and natural.

Fave Five

Fave Hobby:  I like surfing; I’m not very good at it, but I do like it! I started three years ago and I think I’m an experienced beginner. With a bit of luck, I’ll catch a wave and actually ride it!

Fave Drink: Corona Beer

Fave Food: Balinese food

Fave Saying: May you always have a shell in your pocket and sand between your toes

Fave Store Item: Denim jackets, of course. They come in all different colours, and every colour is absolutely gorgeous.

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