When Sydney’s growing sisters Peta Heinsen and Ilona Hamer launched the Matteau swimming series in 2015, they quickly built a place for minimalist mix and match. Now, this powerful duo has expanded into vacation apparel and continues to prove that it is really useful to run a company like a sibling.
The eight-year age gap and the fact that they live in different parts of the world – Ilona in New York, while Peta allocates time between the Sunshine Coast hinterland and Sydney – does not hinder their ambitions. Most importantly, the brand’s celebrity fans include actor Phoebe Tonkin and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
Why work together?
Peta: Ilona and I always talk about doing things together; it’s just finding the right thing. I also want to find a way to become a working mom – I have three children, between the ages of 7 and 13. At that time, my husband was ill for a few years and I don’t know what will happen. I want to control my life, this business sounds like a plan.
Ilona: We started researching the swimwear collection around 2012, when we realized that there was a gap in swimming suits for ladies. I have been working at Vogue for six years, seeing a lot of swimwear on fashion shoots, but never found the perfect piece. As sisters, we are at the same wavelength – we came to the industry as equal partners and did not think twice.
How do you work together?
Peta: I live in Australia and I am an operations manager. We are all committed to design and color. I also go to New York several times a year to catch Ilona for work purposes. “I have seen a lot of swimwear on fashion shoots, but I have never found a perfect work.”
Ilona: My strength is at Creative Director of Matteau. I also collaborate with New York and Victoria’s Secret, Mango and Gap brands, and have a fashion magazine called Unconditional. I like to be able to play a variety of roles – I think the headquarters in New York also contributes to the brand.
The advantages of partnership?
Peta: Trust is a major factor. We are family members and I don’t have to consult Ilona for everyday business decisions. She asked me to continue the job. She knew that I would not do anything wrong. I also know what does not bother her.
Ilona: If we have an argument, we will shake it and move on. Our relationship is based on telling the truth. One of the best things is that we are different people – sometimes the opposite of extremes – but we work well in business forms.
Peta: I hope that Ilona can move home, but if she is not in New York City, she will not be satisfied. The benefits she brings in the United States are good for the brand.
Ilona: Distance, sometimes unable to chat with Peta due to time zone issues.
Why is Matteau so popular?
Peta: Our style makes women feel proud and confident. We have a variety of body options – petite girls who are healthy and not good, or DD cup women who want to look sexy but also need support. As a mother, my body doesn’t feel as comfortable as I have children, so we have more full of briefs and various cuts to suit a variety of body shapes and needs.
Ilona: I am always looking for a neat black triangle bikini. We make very simple designs. We stick to a neutral palette so people can mix and match.
Matteau’s new colours for the upcoming summer season include lavender, dark green and yellow-coloured Liberty flowers, all inspired by the photos of their mother’s beach vacation in Spain in the 1970s.