Meet The “Badass” Babes Using Fashion To Help Kiwi Mums

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A large hand with the middle finger extended may not be an illustration you’d expect to see emblazoned on a gorgeous new mama’s tank top but the meaning behind this controversial hand gesture is what helped ignite a fab new Kiwi fashion business.

Ashleigh Turley and Marnie Hillier recently launched their new Eskimo Nell tee-shirt label, with tees and tanks proudly sporting graphic illustrations of a hand flipping the bird with a tiny crown tattooed on the offending finger. What prompted this design runs much deeper than a simple rude gesture. To Ash and Marnie the illustration represents the struggle of new motherhood and how “sometimes you’ve just to to flip the bird to the world of judgement, being perfect and all that b.s”. 

When I first discovered this cool new label, not only did I jump online and buy myself one of these irreverent tanks, but I decided to find out a little more about the duo who’s motto is: “The fearless badass goodess in me salutes the fearless badass goddess in you.”


Above: Eskimo Nell’s Ashleigh Turley.


How did Eskimo Nell start?

Marnie: As River was about to turn one I really wanted to do something for my mama gang to mark surviving the first year of motherhood. I had recently discovered the Australian mummy blogger Constance Hall and loved her message, that all women are Queens and that sometimes you’ve just got to flip the bird to the world of judgement, being perfect and all that b.s! So I drew up a little sketch of the finger with the crown on it and sent it to an incredibly talented babe I used to work with who turned it into the badass design we have today. I got t-shirts made for my girlfriends (including Ash) and we all started getting comments on how much ladies loved the tees and where could they could get one. Then one day Ash and I were having a wine and thought you know what – we should start a brand selling tees for badass babes and so we did!

How did you both meet?

Ash: It was almost like a Mama blind date haha. We had met briefly at the wedding of Marnie’s brother-in-law but it wasn’t until a year or so later when Marnie had her son that we became soul sisters. I had heard that she was having a rough time with mamahood, her wee man not sleeping so well and adjusting to everything that being a new mum brings about. I had been through a similar thing with my own son and I hated the idea that another mama was struggling so I reached out to her and we immediately bonded.  Now here we are – attached at the hip and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. She is the best friend a gal could have and a huge inspiration.

Any negativity towards the “flipping the bird” top and what does this symbol represent to you guys?

Ash: We actually haven’t (touch wood) had any negativity towards our tanks, quite the opposite actually BUT poor Constance Hall copped a lot of flack on our behalf when she posted a picture of Marnie and herself on her IG page. Sorry Constance! Our “H’oh Sh*t, I’m a Queen tank” represents, to us, empowerment and equality. We created the tank as a reminder to take off your judgmental hat and put on your crown instead and flip the bird to the critical B.S. because we are all in this together, we are all doing our best, we are all trying to survive and we are all equally amazing, in our own right and in our own way.


Above: Eskimo Nell’s Marnie Hillier.


What does Eskimo Nell mean?

Marnie: Eskimo Nell was actually my Mum’s Skiwear label from the 1970s – we still have some of her incredibly awesome (and a bit hilarious) jackets as well as one of her original posters. The origin of it is actually a bit naughty as it’s from a very saucy bar ballad about a legendary prostitute called Eskimo Nell. I have always wanted to bring the brand back to life, to pay homage to my Mum, and I also loved the idea of this super badass woman who had the men shaking in their boots (well that’s the PG take on it!) 

How has becoming mums changed your lives?

Marnie: Haha how has it not! My mum used to always say that you never get a moment where it’s just about you ever again after having kids and I could always intellectually understand that but experiencing it is a whole different ballgame!

Ash: It’s hard to pinpoint how I’ve changed since becoming a mum seeing as I became a mum so young and essentially did most of my growing up alongside parenting my oldest daughter. But, I think I’ve noticed the most change since having my son, Miller. I have become a lot more mindful in my approach to motherhood but more importantly I have become so much more confident and comfortable in my own skin and with my abilities as a mother and a women. 

What’s the hardest thing about being a mum?

Marnie: For me it’s definitely the self-doubt and trying to live up to this idea of the mum-who-can-do-it-all that seems to be stubbornly cemented in our psyches! I had a really hard time with River for the first 10 months as he had an undiagnosed tongue tie which meant he NEVER slept, stopped gaining weight and all that fun stuff. I ended up being so brain-washed by what everyone else thought was ‘wrong with him’ that I totally lost touch with my intuition and spent my life second guessing everything I did. It sucked big time and I think the process back to believing in myself and my ability as a mum will be an ongoing journey.

Ash: The constant judgement. You are scrutinised for absolutely everything and I find that so sad. Rather than tearing each other down we should be empowering one another. We are all doing the best we can and trying to make the best choices we have available to raise our kids. That should be enough, but sadly it isn’t.  It seems there is this culture with mothers where judging each other has almost become part of the job description. How is it anyone else’s business how or where you give birth or whether or not you sometimes drink wine at 10am.  Aside from that, I find the balance thing really hard. Trying to be a good mum, wife, friend, sister, businesswomen etc as well as nurture my own self is really, really hard and I feel like someone is always being let down because I don’t have enough time in my day.  

What’s next for Eskimo Nell?

Ash: Well new tshirt designs for a start – for International Women’s Day next month and then in time for Mother’s Day. Buuuut our HUGE, hairy, audacious goal is to connect mamas all over the world and to play our part in the global sisterhood movement. We want to set up a home base here in New Zealand with a women’s space – hosting events, mindful mama workshops and lots of support for mums – old, young, new mamas or old veterans. We are actually in the process of setting up our very first event which is SUPER exciting and daunting. If we can pull it off it is going to be absolutely epic!! Watch this space.

You can take a look at all of the Eskimo Nell products HERE and follow Eskimo Nell on Facebook and Instagram