Inspiring stories: Allison from Asolon baby clothing

March 24, 2015

I’ve been thinking about doing some interviews for a while.  But I didn’t want to just chat about products or brands, I wanted it to be something more than that.  I wanted get to know the person behind any venture and to talk to people who were truly inspiring and could teach us all something.  Then it came to me – I would interview people who have overcome something to get to where they are.  Simple as this may sound – it’s not.  Once you read the the interview below you will know what I mean.

If you have ever found yourself wallowing in self pity over the smallest or even big things (I know I do) then this interview will really inspire you.  If you find yourself making excuses not to do something because of your circumstances, then just keep reading because anything can be overcome – it’s all about the attitude.  It’s about accepting the situation and making the best of it no matter how bad.  And in this instance, out of sheer determination despite such a massive struggle, was born a gorgeous baby clothing brand.  More about that below.

Allison one handed designer

Meet Allison Tovey who is the founder and designer at Asolon – a beautiful baby clothing and baby gift brand.

Tell us a few words about you?
I’m Allison, a one-handed New Zealand designer whose mind never sleeps!

inspiring interviews overcoming struggles

What has been your biggest struggle so far?
When I was 25, thinking about quitting my full time job and working full time on my own womenswear brand, I had a major stroke.  After surgery and four weeks in a coma I woke up to find my speech missing and my right side paralyzed.  I spent another six months in hospital learning to speak, learning to walk and learning to function without the use of my dominant arm.  After five years of countless physio, OT and speech sessions and all the rehab tools in the world – I’m back running my own business, doing what I love but in a different way to what I expected six years ago.  Now I still walk with a stick, my right arm and hand are not functional but I’m still working on my rehab.  I have a quote on my desk to keep me on track – ‘anyone can be cool, but awesome takes practice’.

Where and how did you find the strength and determination to carry on?
People ask me this all the time and I have yet to come up with a strong answer!  Before my stroke I was a very independent, determined person.  Then when I had my stroke and came out of my coma I wanted to know how I could get back to my old self.  I couldn’t hold on to the ‘what if’s’ and ‘poor me’ – I just had to get on with life and deal with whatever came my way.  I was determined not to let my stroke define me and I just accepted it as part of my journey.

A lot of people in your situation would have given up.  Did you ever feel like giving up?  And how did you pull yourself out of those dark moments?
As most people do, in the beginning I had my pity parties especially when I wasn’t able to do the normal things that other people don’t realise they do all the time (e.g. communicate) – it was a real emotional roller coaster.  I would cry with frustration but luckily I had my extremely understanding father and boyfriend (now husband) at my side to bring me back to reality and help guide me back on my path.

merino wool baby clothes

Tell us about Asolon, your baby and kids clothing label?
Asolon is a baby clothing and baby gift brand selling mainly baby bodysuits, sleepwear, tops and baby gift sets.  I design and create the entire range which is all about classic styling with a strong focus on quality. Every piece is individually hand-crafted using natural fabrics – NZ Merino wool, organic cotton and cotton. Perhaps most importantly, a great deal of love and care has gone in to making my garments so I hope that you will enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.

organic cotton baby leggings

So many kids clothes designers say their inspiration came from their kids.  I know you don’t have any kids (yet) so how come you chose to design a baby and kids clothing range?
My stroke affected every part of my physical body but my creative brain was still intact.  I’m not good at having nothing to do, so when I finally got home from hospital my dad got me a shiny new Mac with all the design software and I spent all my time learning to draw and design again without using my right arm.  This became my rehab tool!

Soon after I was invited to a baby shower.  I was still very much a shell of my old self and finding it extremely hard to communicate but I wanted to show my friends that deep down I was still the same creative person I had always been.   This led to me creating my first handmade gift set ‘The Hare and The Tortoise’ and with that Asolon was re-born.  As my recovery has progressed and my skills have developed my range has expanded more and more in to what you see today.

As creatives we are always looking for new ideas and ways to make them a reality.  Tell us us how you look for inspiration and how do you turn that in to a piece of clothing?  
So many inspirations, but I guess my main inspiration for Asolon is fabric.  The feel, handling it, colour and the limitless items these fabric could become!  My mum was a seamstress and ever since I can remember we were always found in material shops dreaming of what we could make that weekend.  As you have probably guessed now I’m a fabric hoarder!  Merino is my favourite fabric to work with – simple and natural but it’s a super fabric.  I can’t understand why everybody doesn’t dress their baby in merino!

What’s the best part of running a small business?
In my case, the best part of running a small business is that I can have a life of flexibility.  My business can fit around my life, especially my rehab.

The world of kids clothing is incredible.  There is so much beautiful choice out there for any budget and taste.  Apart from your own, who are your favourite kids clothing designers?  High-end and high-street?
There’s so many great brands that I love –  Gray Label, Moi, Mini Rodini, Oeuf… the list goes on!

inspiring entrepreneur stories

What’s your best piece of advice to anyone who has suffered a really big setback in life?
A cliché I know but ‘your past cannot be changed, forgotten, edited or erased; it can only be accepted’ – you have to move on and make the best of what you have today!

Would you change your past if you could?
Normally people would say ‘I would change nothing’ but I would say if I was to go back in time I would STRESS LESS!

inspiring women interviews

What’s next for you – both professionally and personally?
All though my recovery I had to learn to do everything in a different way than I had always known so I have started a blog of my creative adventures from a one handed person’s point of view.  It’s called one handed crafter.  Hopefully I can inspire other young people who may be in the same or similar position and show them that you can have a creative life even if you are one handed (or indeed have any other struggles).  And as for Asolon the opportunities are endless, watch this space!

Thank you Allison for sharing your incredible and truly inspiring story with us.  It really puts things in perspective, at least for me.  They often say ‘where there is a will, there is a way’ and Allison has shown us just how true that is.  What I loved most about getting to know Allison was the incredible lack of self pity – there was not a hint of it.  As she explains, you have to get that out of the way quickly and look forward to making the most of what you do have.  So she has completely accepted her fate and despite her big setbacks has achieved her goals.  Do take a look at the gorgeous baby clothes that Allison makes – very classic, very practical and very stylish.  There are lots of stripes in the collection but also some brighter pieces that perfectly compliment the stripes.  Some of my favourites include the deer print leggings and the orange poppy print ones. 

P.S. If you have a story of overcoming a set-back (of any kind) and would like to share it, please get in touch – I’d love to hear from you (only requirements are that you are a parent with or without a business but if not you have a baby/kids related business).  You can get in touch privately through the contact page or send me a private facebook message and we can chat more to see if it’s something you would like to share.

*I’ve linked up to Honest Mum’s brilliant blog posts.

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  • HonestMum

    Oh my gosh, an incredible story, Alison is an inspiration, to overcome such adversity and to shine and create a business, a beautiful business is awe-inspiring. A close family member had a similar experience and seeing him rise again as it were to be stronger than before, is incredible and humbling, thank you for sharing this Nomita and Alison too x

    • ebabee likes

      Thank you lovely – I too am incredibly inspired by Allison’s story – she is one incredible lady who has fab taste too – going by those classic yet contemporary baby clothes.

  • Mirka Moore @Fitness4Mamas

    This is such an inspirational story. I have no idea how I would cope with all that! Well done for starting your business, and wish you all of luck. Thanks for sharing lovely Nomita!

    • ebabee likes

      Thanks and I agree Mirka – I honestly don’t think I would have been nearly as strong and determined as Allison.

  • Babes about Town

    Wow, what a beautiful interview, so filled with courage and inspiration — really moved by her story as my father suffered multiple strokes so I know how hard that journey is. I love that she’s following in her mum’s footsteps in a way with tailoring and at the same time branching out to create something of her own. Really glad you’ve launched this series, can’t wait to read more x

  • Mel

    What an inspiring story! Nomita, I love the fact you are raising awareness about such a beautiful brand with a personality. I have just ordered a couple of T-shirts for Wriggly. So many people would have given up or wallowed in self-pity when Allison fought / worked really hard. Lovely post. x

    • ebabee likes

      Thank you Mel – I wanted to do some interviews but they had to be truly inspiring and I don’t think you get much more inspiring than Allison. Her clothes are lovely too – classic and stylish. x

  • thefolia

    So inspiring! I love this and look forward to more stories…also I will be on the hunt for merino.

  • International Elf Service

    A really inspiring and amazing post – thank you so much for sharing! It just goes to show that where there’s a will there’s a way and we should all take the path that suits us best. Very well done on your amazing success xxxx

    • ebabee likes

      Allison really does show us that nothing is impossible. And she does it all with a smile and such a positive attitude. Very inspiring.

  • Nikki Frank-Hamilton

    Nomita, thank you so much for featuring Alison and her story. I checked out her site and the clothing is adorable! Love it. I had a stroke at 45, luckily I am able to use my whole body, but my right side is weaker. The stroke came with a disease, APS or Hughes Syndrome. So, I had to rearrange my entire life, I am still working on it. Alison gives me hope, and makes me have courage, thank you so much for bringing this story to our attention. I am excited to see more stories from you.

    • ebabee likes

      Thank you for stopping by Nikki and for sharing your story. I’ve enjoyed checking out your blog and will email you soon as I’d like to chat further. I hope your recovery progresses as quickly as possible.

  • Mummy Tries

    Oh my word it sent a little shiver down my spine reading the words 25 and stroke in such close proximity! Amazing awe inspiring story – my favourite kind! Gorgeous clothes too #brilliantblogposts

    • ebabee likes

      Thank you and yes it is in incredible story. The determination that Allison has is quite inspiring and amazing.

  • Dominique Simpson

    I love reading the story of the people behind brands and their picture and such an inspirational story too. These are the type of stories that bring the internet to life for me. Thank you so much for sharing with your readers.

  • Elizabeth (Wander Mum)

    An incredibly inspiring story! I love Alison’s attitude and how she hasn’t let what happened own who she is and her life. For something to happen so young must have been especially hard. I’m a big believer in the power of positivity and having a great support network willing Alison on must have helped enormously. My husband was seriously ill very recently and I hope I have been able to help him in that way. He too is a very determined person… What doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger – but that strength also has to come from within. #brillblogposts

    • ebabee likes

      Thank you for stopping by and yes Allison’s story is so inspiring – she is one incredible lady. I have so enjoyed looking around your blog and I have to say your positive outlook is so inspiring too. I hope your husband is doing better and I hope you get to take that amazing sounding holiday soon 🙂

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