Supporting the journey of motherhood, in style
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How Jessica Cognetta Turned Maternity Leave Into A Fashion Brand Launch

Jessica Cognetta is the founder of the Australian fashion brand Solaqua. We sat down with Jessica to talk about all things fashion, motherhood, and starting a business on maternity leave.

At just 20 years old, Jessica Cognetta made her foray into the fashion world with a highly coveted internship at Grazia magazine. “I had no idea what part of the fashion industry I wanted to be in, but I knew at that moment in my life that I was in the right place,” she reflects. 

With one of Australia’s leading publications on her resume, Jessica landed her “dream job” as part of the fashion team at Elle. After three years working under some of the industry’s best stylists, Jessica moved to the world of luxury PR and digital marketing at Max Media Lab, before heading to International Management Group (IMG), where she worked as a talent agent for five years. 

“The position was really eye-opening and taught me the importance and power of influencer relations in fashion,” Jessica recalls. But it was during her first maternity leave that the expectant mother began to feel restless with “a lot of creative energy” that didn’t have an outlet in the corporate world. That’s when Solaqua was born. 

Solaqua, inspired by the Latin words for ‘sun and sea’, came out of necessity during a family holiday to Italy. The couple’s first trip with their six-month-old baby, Franco, meant limited space in the suitcase, so Jessica searched high and low for lightweight, multifunctional, yet stylish clothing and towels. Recognising a gap in the market, inspiration for Solaqua struck.

“Getting dressed in the morning needs to be easy for women,” Jessica says. “We wear so many hats and I want to take the stress out of putting a look together. That’s why I love to design coordinating sets and often repeat fabrics and prints each season so pieces can easily be worn together.”

"I design for myself and others like me, mothers and working women who want to look put together but can still go about their day-to-day tasks with ease. When designing, the most important question I ask myself is: ‘Will this last for seasons to come?’ The ‘wear it once and sell it on Instagram’ concept is not something I'm into."
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With a background in fashion, sharp business acumen, and an innate sense of style, launching her brand was a natural step for Jessica. From signature silk tailoring to breezy cotton dresses, Solaqua is quintessentially Australian. Purposefully considered and easy to wear, silhouettes are classic and uncomplicated for the beach, office, and beyond. Jessica’s experience of pregnancy and motherhood has played a part in the design process too.

“I design for myself and others like me, mothers and working women who want to look put together but can still go about their day-to-day tasks with ease – looking chic while doing it,” she says. “When designing, the most important question I ask myself is: ‘Will this last for seasons to come?’ The ‘wear it once and sell it on Instagram’ concept is not something I’m into.”

“I make sure to design timeless and durable items that all women, mothers included, can wear for years to come without feeling the need to update their wardrobes every season,” Jessica adds. “I also design collections that seamlessly transition into each other – I repeat prints, colours, and fabrics so that you can easily mix and match from past seasons.” 

The brand’s slow approach to fashion is what makes Solaqua stand out in the market with only three collections per year, each line taking nine months to create. “I want the Solaqua woman to hold onto her items for years to come,” she says.

From hand-loomed towelling to the brand’s 100% plastic-free policy, Solaqua encourages its community to shop with quality, craftsmanship, and longevity in mind. And the brand’s environmentally-conscious ethos is something Jessica is particularly proud of. 

“The values that I hold really highly in business, I carry through with my children,” she says. “I make a very conscious effort to instil eco-conscious values in my home. There’s a running joke with my close family and friends that my kids have no ‘fun toys’.”

“I absolutely hate plastic. I invest in high-quality toys and items for my home that are made of wood or other sustainable materials. Not only are they easier on the eye, but they also last much longer, are more durable, and are safer for my children to play with.” 

Over the last few years, Solaqua has evolved from luxury resortwear to ready-to-wear, something Jessica has aspired towards since the brand’s inception. 

“With the support of our sales agency, Catinella, we have successfully grown and adapted the brand into a full ready-to-wear offering while still staying true to our core brand essence,” Jessica explains. “This evolution feels particularly special because of the support we have received from local and global retail partners, who have embraced this new era for the brand.” 

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But juggling motherhood and a business isn’t easy. Since welcoming her two children, Franco (five) and Stella (three), and making Solaqua her full-time job, Jessica has strived to find a balance that works for everyone.

“Being a mother is by far my most important and fulfilling role, but balancing motherhood and running my own company comes with its challenges,” Jessica says. “Every day, I have to remember not to be too hard on myself and to just do what I can. Having my children in childcare is a godsend because it affords me uninterrupted focus time.” 

Returning to work after welcoming her second child, Stella, was especially difficult, as she juggled a newborn, two-year-old son, Franco, and a booming side hustle. “I lost a lot of high-profile clients I had worked on for a long time to a younger staff member upon my return to the office, but I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and this was the universe’s way of telling me it was time to shift my focus to my growing business and my family – and I’ve never looked back!”

“I’m busier than I have ever been in my life, but working for myself allows me to be flexible when balancing priorities,” she says. “There are some days where my time is split 50/50, others where the kids are my entire focus, and times when the business needs my undivided attention.”  

“I do, however, have a window of non-negotiable time with my children. From daycare pick-up until their bedtime, they have my undivided attention while I cook dinner and do the bath and bedtime routine,” Jessica adds. “This is by far my favourite time of the day. Then I’m back into work mode until about 11pm. I send a lot of tea and chocolate-fuelled emails at this time of night!” 

And the business is only set to get busier this year. Jessica tells The Inarra about her plans to grow Solaqua with new headquarters and exciting retail partnerships on the horizon. While at home, the family are preparing for another big milestone, as son Franco heads to primary school. So, how does the mother-of-two find the time for herself?

“I start every day with a coffee in bed. My husband makes my kids breakfast while I get 15-20 minutes of quiet,” Jessica says. “I use this time to reflect on what my day looks like. I quietly meditate or make a list on my notes app of what I want to achieve that day.” 

“When I’m not in mum or work mode, I still like to be creative,” she continues. “I give myself projects to do like sew new curtains, paint pottery or knit and I love to visit the flower and vegetable markets on the weekends. This sort of wholesome simplicity makes me feel at ease in my otherwise chaotic world.”

Visit Solaqua online and follow @solaqua on Instagram.  

Words by Danielle Fowler | Photography by Kaitlyn Bosnjak

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