Linen has been having a moment for these past few years (read, centuries)  – and for good reason. Durable, luxurious and effortlessly elegant, it’s a textile that can fit in with any interior aesthetic. As a brand at the forefront of the linen resurgence, Hale Mercantile is a local Melbourne business we’ve long admired for their decadent yet practical linens. We recently sat down with the brains behind the brand, Sharon Patsiotis, to learn more about her journey in founding the brand and its incredible growth since.

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Tell us a little bit about your background and where the idea to start Hale Mercantile came from…

Sharon: Quality linen has such a timeless appeal. It is a textile that has been used through the ages. Lavished in culture and tradition. It is hardy and requires little care yet kind and rewarding offering incomparable texture, improvement with age and amazing versatility in its warmth in the winter and breathability in the Summer. I was brought up in natural fibres from head to toe and developed a passion for textiles and fibres, especially those that wore well after washing. I have always had a business background,  but decided to shift the focus from numbers and systems development to something I was truly passionate about.  I’m a strong believer in doing things properly, so it was really important to deliver a quality product produced only in Europe to the Australian market. Not quite three years in and our quality is not only being delivered to stores in Australia but also throughout  Scandinavia, NZ, Canada and the USA.

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What’s changed since then and how has Hale Mercantile evolved?

Sharon:  A lot has changed  over the past three years. In fact when I look back at how far the brand has developed, our systems have evolved and the number of staff  we have added to the team  it feels as though it has been a lot longer. And thats not to mention our international reach and representation now.  Last year we moved out of our little 50sqm meter office into our new 500sqm showroom in Abbotsford. It has been liberating to be able to spread our wings and design a wonderful office environment. I love to renovate, so designing the showroom was great and we are all happy with the outcome. What has changed the most though is our systems management. We have been able to implement great systems into our day to day management which have now evolved and matured.  This has given us great structure which in turn allows us to continue to offer a high standard of service and concentrate on the creative which means introducing new product to our collection, the best part!!

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You are based in Melbourne but your products are spun, dyed and woven in Europe. How do you manage the process from here – we imagine a high level of organisation is a must!

Sharon: Skype, skype and skype. I have an amazing team of people in Europe that look after everything for me from production, quality control, design sampling, and distribution as all of our international orders are shipped from there. We are in contact on a daily basis.  I visit production several times a year, but 3 years in and the team is well versed in what I expect from a quality perspective.

Who are some individuals or brands that inspire you in your work, and why?

Sharon:  The things I gravitate to most in a brand or a designer are simplicity, quality, timelessness and durability. Brands I adore are Guidi (the most divine leather shoe makers) There is nothing like wearing Guidi shoes. The leather is sublime, the comfort is incomparable and the look is simply timeless.  Paul Harnden (favourite fashion designer). The craftsmanship that goes into a Paul Handen piece is simply of a bygon era. There is no age to his design and the fabrics he uses are wonderful. Astier de Vilatte (timesless ceramic artisans) I don’t think there is anything ADV produce that I don’t like. The are the design house of the 21st century.

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Why do you think we have seen such a rise in interest towards linen in the last few years?

Sharon: The working week in Australia has shifted dramatically. There are many more dual income families today which makes little time for the family home. So, embracing a product that looks its best creased and crumpled goes without saying. You don’t need to have ironed sheets anymore to make a statement in your bedroom. And there is no other product that looks as good as linen on an unmade bed. But, in addition, linen is perfect for the Australian climate. We do not experience the harsh cold that Europe does, for here linen still works well in our Winter by retaining the heat. But, linen is the perfect option for the Australian Summer. It’s breathability is insurmountable, keeping you cooler than any other fibre will.

What are some things you want to do with Hale Mercantile that you haven’t yet? 

Sharon: This year we will be introducing numerous new products to the range. Collections within the collection if you like. There will be products that are a big step outside the norm for us, but really compliment what we do. So, our upcoming release this May is an exciting time for us.  The focus now is expanding our International reach and taking HMCo to new Regions.  We have been very selective about who we partner with both here and abroad and this has been crucial to building our brand. We have an amazing group of retailers that represent us here and abroad. As we roll out into a new region it is a process – but dipping our toes into new waters is always exciting.

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And now, a couple of Melbourne questions;

Where do you live in Melbourne and what do you love most about it?

I live in Canterbury – I love Melbournes’  leafy east. I enjoy the period architecture, the family feel and our beautiful parks and trails. I also have a wonderfully old country house in South West Victoria, which I spend a lot of time at.  I’m a country girl at heart, a big fan of  nature, open spaces, rambling gardens and rolling pastures. Most of our design concepts are sprouted in the countryside.

Favourite places to eat: While I love good food in general, flavour, simplicity and freshness are key and Im a creature of habit.  Favourite restaurant to frequent with the family is Japanese – Ocha in Kew,  Special occasions are always worth a trip to St Kilda, we have been going to Di Stasio for years and never tire of it. But, when it comes to really simple honest affair you cannot go past pizza at Silvio’s in Richmond – we’ve been going there for more than 20 years and the pizza is still as good as it always was.

Favourite places to drink: My favourite local coffee haunt is Hello Sailor in Auburn Village. After experiencing substantial damage last year due to fire, they are due to reopen soon and I am salivating at the thought.  Best coffee and best service.

Favourite places to shop: For clothing Eastern Market in the city. For interiors Mondo Piero in Fitzroy.

Weekly local rituals:  When in town Saturday mornings are put aside for a trip to the three o’s – Toscano’s, Monaco’s and Leo’s.  I have two teenage boys who love their food. We frequent Toscano’s for all our fruit and veg, Monaco’s for all our charcuterie and Leo’s is our choice supermarket.

As a family we have always enjoyed being so close to The Rivoli. My eldest son and I are big movie buffs.  The third addition to our family is our divine 10 year old Moodle – Ayrton. He still has the stamina of pup and enjoys his daily walks along the Anniversary Trail and visits for toast in Mailing Rd Village.

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