Interview by Georgina Fitt from Clean Compound store with Jamie Macfarlane from Sweet Caroline Store.

February marks Pride month in Melbourne, and as Jamie MacFarlane, the founder of Sweet Caroline Store, is back in town from Italy to tend to his loyal client following (and co-host a event on the 29th Clean Compound) Georgina asked if he would sit down with her for a candid and insightful conversation on his experiences over the years within the hair industry, his businesses and now living across two countries with contrasting cultures.

(G) You appear to be living the dream! You closed your long-standing salon in South Yarra a few years ago and moved into product development with Sweet Caroline whilst moving to Italy with your husband. You're here in Melbourne right now as you come every 3 months to cut your loyal client list in an intense back-to-back schedule of appointments. Are you living the dream? How has the change been and when did you and your husband get married, and decide on this way of life?

(J) Well yes, I am in many ways! I firmly believe that life is too short to resist an adventure. Stef, my gorgeous husband, and I tied the knot three years ago in Melbourne and decided to relocate to Italy to be closer to his family whilst also launching the Sweet Caroline product range with business partner Kath Edwards who is based in Melbourne. The change has been amazing. Often chaotic and sometimes challenging but it's always great to get out of your comfort zone and culture. Obviously, Italy is not a bad landing place for this haha! Also, get the best of both worlds, still seeing my "loyal clients" (many of them are just amazing friends or my version of Capotes "swans" if you like, albeit a little punkier).

(G) Let's go back a bit. Do you remember one of the first moments you identified as gay? What was it like for you and how did it impact your life?

(J) As the youngest in a large family, one of my much older siblings once asked me, at the age of 10, if I was gay. Their reassurance that it was okay created a supportive and safe environment for me. This experience fostered a special bond between us, making me feel accepted and alleviating any wrongness about myself. And I could also give you some more salacious details but maybe another time!

(G) I would assume (perhaps a very wrong assumption) that the hair industry would have been a somewhat supportive and inclusive industry for a young queer man, is there any truth to this?

(J) Yes of course, hairdressing as a profession was hugely supportive for a 16-year-old boy hailing from a conservative family in the 1980s. When I first started working on Collins Street, the laws concerning homosexuality had been lifted (just six years prior in 1980), so many of the individuals I was working with had boldly confronted prejudice and the danger of living openly as gay, this unveiled a whole new world of the queer community to me.

(G) As someone who has run their own business for most of your working life, what has been your approach and guiding light to inclusivity and supporting your employees and community?

(J) Running my own businesses has always been about embracing a punk ethos rather than adhering to the norms of the champagne elite. Inclusivity isn't an option-it's our backbone. We're a haven for the bold, the unconventional, and the independent. Because, let's face it, it's those who challenge the norm that drive real change and innovation.

(G) Hair can often be such a big part of people's identity; did you find this to be a creative outlet for you in more ways than one?

(J) It served as a catalyst for encountering a diverse array of creatives over many years, akin to a dynamic creative think tank.

(G) What would you say has been the biggest challenge for you on your journey in life so far?

(J) That battle for acceptance is never over in one form or another.

(G) Have there been many differences you've noticed in the approach to the LGBTQIA+ community in Australia compared to now living in Italy?

(J) Being gay in Italy is filled with layers of culture, tradition, and occasionally, controversy. Yet, amid the allure of Italy's romanticism, the LGBTQIA+ experience varies widely depending on location and local attitudes. Compared to growing up with contrasting openness of Melbourne, where being gay is widely accepted.

(G) Will you be celebrating Pride this month? If so, what will your celebrations look like?

(J) Personally, I intend to spend this time reflecting on the enduring importance of Gay Pride, particularly in light of the conservative attitudes prevalent in society today. It's a reminder that in many places around the world, queer communities still endure significant hardships and dangers, realities that we may not fully comprehend here in Australia.

(G) Lastly, tell us your skincare and haircare essentials? No doubt you have gathered some great tips over the years!

(J) Everything Sweet Caroline of course and last but not least, your products are only as good as your application.

(G) This is why we cannot wait for you to join us at our next event on February 29th, sharing all the know how to execute hair rituals at home with the incredible Sweet Caroline range!

Thank you for this honest and insightful conversation Jamie, it's such a pleasure to partner with you and Kath.

Visit our friends at Clean Compound
110 High St, Northcote VIC 3070