Freya and I both grew up in Ballarat, and she is among the many women I’ve watched hit her stride and start to gain recognition for her work in recent years. After taking a hiatus while pregnant and caring for her little girl Opal, Freya recorded “The Unceremonious Junking of Me”, a dark but tender expedition through a failed relationship, tempered by the birth of her child. Received with unanimous industry praise, Freya is one of the growing darlings of the country and folk scene.
I meet Freya in her adorable little country cottage, tucked away in a quiet Ballarat street. It’s decorated with 70s furniture, furry rugs, and folksy artwork. She’s wearing tan boot cut corduroy, a silky burgundy shirt and a pair of vintage western boots - a casually on-point ensemble for a day out running errands.
As long as I have known Freya - she has literally lived her music - the things she listens to, talks about, fills her house with, and her sense of style. Her style is heavily interpreted through the lens of music movements. “I did Mod for a long-time. I used to love the 60s short skirts and wildly patterned stuff, and I still like to wear a bit of polyester 70s disco gear. But mostly I like Western wear these days.”
We get chatting about the pieces from the Rise collection I’ve brought along – tailored pieces made for block coloured layering. She is excited as she sifts through the pieces to choose her favourites – the Fink vest. “I love the colour, and the buttons.” I tell her about the petrified wood forests the neat rounded buttons are made from - “ancient trees on a vest – that’s so awesome”, I’m grinning happily, as there is nothing quite like the gleeful reaction to the clothes we work so hard to make.
Freya also loves the Cowan jacket (my personal favourite) - “I am all about tailored suits in block colours. You get so much more respect, and I feel more powerful onstage.” She recalls the Gunne Sax frocks she used to wear to a lot of gigs - famous dresses that have been worn by country singers since the 70s. "I found people would basically treat me like an idiot - so I don’t wear them anymore. I need more boss tailored stuff like this. Well constructed, natural fabric. Love it.”
Which is a perfect segue to some hard questions about life as women in a boys’ club industry, a conversation that is so real it occupies the rest of the afternoon. “A lot of the festivals are run by men. The booking agents for the festivals are often men and the line ups of shows and festivals seem to be fairly male dominated.”
We chat about the recent ‘thing to go viral’ featuring a man who accidentally, then on purpose, used his female colleague's email sign-off, getting a small window into a woman’s world. “As a self managed artist, and one who has also worked with a booking agent, it can be very hard to get things done with a woman's name at the end of an email. I've been man-splained (or as I like to call it, sassed) by male venue bookers who would have equal to or less experience in the field than me about crowds, advertising, line ups, you name it, to the point where I just say no to playing their venues now.”
And this is the crux for a female artist trying to find her power – being treated like a pretty little idiot - constantly wondering if being hit on by industry bros is just par for the course.
I tell her about the concept for the collection – women who Rise. It is an ode to the women who will wear it, and to those made it – a Myanmar based social enterprise of all women, who are leading the way for just economic development and rising above some hard conditions – climate change, economic isolation, just being a woman in a man's world.
So I put the question – ‘how to do you Rise above, as a woman in your work?’ – the answer isn’t an easy one. “This is where it gets hard, despite having the 'fuck the patriarchy I win' moments, you still feel silenced. My 'fuck you' moments have led me to being self managed and booked again, which will work just dandy until the right person comes along. I'd certainly like to surround myself with women for sure. Sisterhood is such a safe place”
We wind up the afternoon styling the Cowan and Fink in Freya’s distinct Western chic – because sometimes there’s no better tonic for the real world of sexism than to power-dress some boss tailored pieces in the setting Autumn sun.
Sharna is the Co-Founder of The Fabric Social, a social enterprise working with conflict-affected women. The Fabric Social work to transform one of the greatest causes of poverty: armed conflict. You can shop, donate, or get involved here.