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Interview with Mode Sportif Founder Deborah Symond O'Neil

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We're so excited to be partnering with Sydney Boutique, Mode Sportif. Read our interview with Founder Deborah Symond O'Neil talking about what she looks for when bringing new brands into the Mode fold, dressing for a multifaceted life and women in business who inspire her. 


Deborah wears Tabi Blazer with Wallace Trouser.

Tell us about yourself and how you came to found the boutique - it’s become a beacon of design and style for Australasian fashion, what initiated the idea to start Mode Sportif?

I have always loved finding new designers and curating edits from a range of global brands. Having worked in Australian and multi brand retail, I could really see a gap in the local market to deliver a global and contemporary designer edit for the Australian woman. We initially opened as a purely online player, curating a designer edit with an athleisure focus. But as we grew our client base, they wanted more, which gave me the opportunity to expand our offering resulting in Mode growing into the ready to wear fashion focused retailer it is today.

We’re so excited to be partnering with Mode Sportif. What is it that you look for In labels when you bring on a new designers into the Mode Sportif fold, and what drew you to Harris Tapper?

When looking for brands for Mode Sportif we start by listening to what our clients need and love. Felicity Brand, our Head of Buying, and myself are always looking for fresh, new and innovative designers that boast quality and style in their designs. It was Harris Tapper’s modern elegance that we were instantly drawn to, with strong lines, beautiful fabrics and seamless fits. We are very excited to be working with you!

Deborah wears Gala Gown in Ivory.

Harris Tapper is about championing women with a strong sense of self and designing a wardrobe that serves them and their multifaceted lives. Is there a woman in business, who you admire that embodies this?

My Mum Kerrie worked full time during my childhood, amazingly juggling the demands of a family and work. She was (and still is) always impeccably dressed. I always remember mums classic and fabulous suiting of the 90’s, I take inspiration from her wardrobe often!

What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learnt from running a business?

There are so many lessons, but one that stands out for me it’s accepting the things that are simply out of my control. I can work on and change and improve what I can control, but there are certain things we can’t control (Covid is a good example!) and it’s important to accept and understand that.

Best business advice you’ve ever received?

Follow and trust your gut instinct. I use this everyday!

And the worst?

If you don’t take huge risks you don’t believe in your vision. I never agreed with that one.

Deborah wears Gala Gown in Ivory.

Having two physical locations during a global pandemic and multiple lockdowns must have had its challenges, what has been the biggest challenge for you?

Closing our retail stores during lockdown was a huge challenge. It put pressure on our team and the business overall. I was also juggling navigating that landscape with a 6 week old baby at home, which wasn’t easy! But we got through it, I am incredibly proud of how my team worked through those challenges and adjusted to a working from home capacity for a period of time. 

If you’re comfortable sharing them, what are some of your goals for Mode Spotif this year?

We are always aiming to bring our clients more. New designers, exciting new edits, more content! That comes with ensuring we have an exceptional retail experience and growing our marketing and online business! I’m excited for what the year will bring!

Deborah wears Sofie Top and Sofie Skirt.

All of Deborah's looks are available at


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