We talk sustainability, motherhood and strength with the founder of Female Form
Madeleine Chard, the founder of Female Form, creates sustainable and reliable underwear that celebrates the strength and fragility of womanhood.

When do you feel wild? What makes you feel the most alive?

I feel the most alive when immersed in whatever creative scenario I find myself in, whether that’s designing things, dreaming up ideas and bringing my visions to life. Music and movement, my home, art and personal style all make me feel wild. I love op shopping — I get such a thrill out of the hunt!

I also love spending time with my family, going on adventures together and being truly present in the moment. Lastly, it sounds silly, but I feel wild when I’m driving in my car solo blasting something other than the Frozen soundtrack. It takes me back to my teenage years when I first got my licence and gives me a nostalgic sense of freedom and independence during a time of endless possibilities — I feel like I can do anything.

What inspired you to start Female Form?

The concept of Female Form is more than just comfortable undies. I started this project in 2017 during a difficult stint as a young single mum which, in hindsight, has only made me stronger and more resilient. I experienced a bit of an identity crisis during this time; I feel a lot of this was due to brands and society in general depicting an unrealistic, un-relatable and outdated image of motherhood.

My main goal for Female Form is to empower and inspire women — especially mothers — to stay true to who they are, not be afraid to stand out and feel confident in their own skin. The brand gives me an outlet to do just that and although it began with motherhood in mind, it’s about celebrating the strength and fragility of womanhood and all its forms.

I’ve always despised underwear shopping as I have never felt there was anything out there that made me feel like me. I’m a tomboy at heart (which may have something to do with the fact that I have grown up with three brothers) and I enjoy simple yet well-designed clothing in natural materials. When I realised the only maternity underwear options were either lacey or granny with nothing between, I knew something had to be done. The whole process has definitely been a steep learning curve, especially manufacturing locally and sustainably, but it’s something that is really important to me.

What’s one thing that has surprised you about motherhood?

How hard it actually is! Motherhood is definitely an area where I am constantly learning and growing. The minute I think to myself “I’ve got this” it all changes, which can be frustrating at times, however it has really grounded me and taught me patience.

I’ve also gained a much bigger appreciation and respect for mothers and how much we are capable of, despite how much we go through both mentally and physically and the challenges we still face in society. I now understand the weight of my own mum raising four children, as well as all mothers and what they achieve every single day. Mums are multitasking machines.

What is one piece of advice you would share with:

A soon-to-be mum: Stay true to who you are! When you become a mum, you are going to evolve and grow as it’s a huge transition both mentally and physically, but don’t feel pressure to act or dress a certain way. Be confident, be bold and just be you. Take the pressure off by letting go of unrealistic standards. Knowing that things are never permanent helps when things are harder than usual and allows you to appreciate the present moment.

New mum: Look after yourself. Prioritise time to do things that fulfil you outside of motherhood to ensure you are the best version of yourself — not only for you but also for your kids. I think showing your kids that you are following your passions and dreams is really important, but make sure you set clear personal boundaries. Say “no” when you need to. Be authentic and honest with the realities of motherhood — it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows! It’s important to know that no matter how picture-perfect things may seem, most people won’t share their down days so go easy on yourself and try not to compare yourself to others. Know you are not alone; we are all just trying our best.

Mum to many: Embrace the chaos! Some days you’ll nail it, other days it’s absolute mayhem and it feels like nothing is going right and you find yourself hiding in the bathroom just to have two minutes to yourself. That’s perfectly normal. There is no point getting frustrated and upset when things don’t go to plan as it’s just a waste of much-needed energy. Ask for help when you need it and although it’s good to maintain some sort of routine and structure, I have definitely learnt to be more flexible and relaxed in my approach and not to sweat the small stuff. Pick your battles.

What do you love the most about sharing other women’s stories through Female Form?

Story telling is an intrinsic part of who I am. Growing up I would hijack my dad’s video camera and spend every spare second directing movies with my friends on our street. Even now, when it comes to designing pieces, I always start with the story; the clothes are just the decoration for a much deeper narrative.

I have always been inspired by women. Women who write their own rules and pave their own way. Women who play to the strength of being female, celebrating their femininity rather than shying away or downplaying it and this, combined with my desire to share stories, is really the driving force behind Female Form.

Motherhood in particular can be very isolating, so I love that sharing real stories from real women — especially mothers — can provide a much-needed sense of community and connection and hopefully empower and inspire women along the way.

If you could imagine a new world, what would it look like?

One with a greater focus on sustainability and the environment, and where mothers are prioritised and supported and never judged or questioned.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I wake up early to breastfeed my nine-month-old Dot in bed, followed by cuddles. My partner Jake usually sorts breakfast for the two girls and gets them ready, leaving me to rest a little more in bed as I’m usually tired from being up with the baby. I use this time to plan out my day and attend to any immediate work stuff (in other words, mindlessly scrolling through Instagram). Three days a week, my four-year-old Olive goes to pre-school so I will drop her off, maybe grab a smoothie on my way home and squeeze in a little op shopping — if Dot lets me!

Once back home I will hang out with Dot and depending on my mood either attempt or ignore the housework. I will try (key word “try”) to get some work done while Dot naps. Sometimes my mum will take her so I can smash out some solid work, which is a lifesaver. Before I know it, it’s time to pick up Olive, bath the girls, dinner and bedtime. Jake and I will usually eat dinner together after the chaos has subsided and zone out to some trashy reality TV on the couch. We usually stay up too late as it’s the only time just the two of us have together, then sleep and repeat.

What’s next for you personally?

Just continuing to enjoy this special time with my family while the kids are little. Our goal is to buy a piece of land and build our dream home on it. We are not there yet but hopefully one day! Jake and I are also slowly planning our wedding, which was originally going to be this year but due to COVID-19 has been pushed back. It will be a super-special day when it finally comes around. Oh, and maybe throw another baby or two in the mix!

Where would you like to see Female Form in 10 years?

Like any wardrobe, underwear is the base. You add layers to it. This is how I view Female Form. It is not just one-dimensional. Underwear will always be at the core, however I plan to build on and expand into other sustainable essentials that have purpose and integrity, to create pieces that make you feel both soft and strong at the same time — the two very extremes encompassing us as women.

My dream has always been beyond the clothes. My dream is to see the brand become much more than just a brand, but more an authentic platform and community. I want it to evolve and grow like the modern woman, into whoever and whatever she wants to be.

More at femaleform.com.au