Max plays happily for the camera with his dad, the pair sporting not entirely dissimilar outfits and hairstyles. As we watch on, his mum describes Max’s recent graduation to a big-kid bed: how her first instinct was to buy him simple, crisp linen from Sheridan. But then she thought, “How could I? Max doesn’t care about white sheets!” And turned back to buy bedding patterned with colourful trucks.
You can be one half of one of Australia’s best-loved fashion labels, famous for its flattering shapes and sleek silhouettes, but if you have a two-year-old whose passion in life is heavy vehicles, well, what are you going to do?
Bec & Bridge’s Bec Cooper lives in a Bondi apartment with Max and her husband Dan Lewinsky, who runs Dan the Man Cooking, a seasonally driven catering company. Cooper and Lewinsky are warm, easy and down-to-earth; Max is sweet natured, spirited and very cute.
Cooper was born in Bondi, Lewinsky came to Australia from South Africa in 2000. They met soon after in 2001, when Cooper was in her first year of studying fashion and textiles at UTS. “We were best friends,” says Cooper. “Inseparable, really,” adds Lewinsky. Cooper was too busy enjoying the creative freedom of university to think about romance; channeling energy into the fledgling brand she was establishing with her classmate Bridget Yorston; which started with customising jeans. “I still remember revamping a pair of Dan’s jeans. We weren’t even dating, and he wore them everywhere!” After a year and a half they realised their relationship was more than platonic. “There were a couple of drunk, late-night pashes that turned the tables,” Lewinsky says with a grin.
By the time Cooper and Lewinsky married in 2012, Bec & Bridge had grown to be one of Australia’s most popular labels and a successful overseas export, with celebrity endorsements from stars including Miranda Kerr, Heidi Klum and Kim Kardashian. Lewinsky was on the brink of starting up his own company. “Dan worked in finance in the city for five years, and didn’t enjoy it,” Cooper says. “He’d come home every night and all he’d want to do is cook.” Lewinsky quit his day job and hasn’t looked back. Through Dan the Man Cooking he approaches event catering with artistic presentation, a predilection for local, seasonal produce and a passion for smoked meats. On the first Friday of every month he runs Up in Smoke – a Texas-style barbeque night at Easts Rugby Club in Bellevue Hill. He’s even got a couple of weddings coming up for which his clients have requested an all-out barbeque wedding. And while you might imagine Cooper gets to eat like royalty all the time, “I ate much better when he was doing finance in the city!” she says, laughing.
The couple remember fondly the early days of Bec & Bridge: cutting fabric on the carpet at Cooper’s mum’s house, Lewinsky running missions to pick up materials from the outskirts of town. For the label’s first fashion week, Lewinsky helped deck out a space above a McDonald’s on George Street. In turn, it has been great for Cooper to watch Lewinsky start a successful business in his thirties. (Incidently, Cooper’s sister, Ilana, is director and brand manager of Dan the Man). She and Yorston were 19 when they started out – naïve and able to indulge their creativity, she says. “I admire Dan because I think I’d find it much harder to do it at this age, because you just have so many more external pressures.” But the shared experience of starting businesses means Cooper understands the passion and energy that goes into it – even when Lewinsky gets up at 3am to smoke meat. And while Cooper no longer pulls all-nighters with Yorston like they did in their student days, her schedule – like Lewinsky’s – is hectic.
“It’s almost impossible!” says Lewinsky about the fine balancing act of their lives. “But we have amazing support from our families,” Cooper says. “My mum’s incredible. But I think every day for us is just a logistical juggle,” she continues. “Both having your own businesses … it’s almost like having two other kids. You just don’t shut off. I think with the disadvantages come the advantages, things like always being able to take Max to his doctors appointments together. And sometimes we will have a random Tuesday where we can all go for lunch. We just appreciate the breaks and try not to get too overwhelmed by it.”
One precious ritual takes place a few hours after Max wakes up at 6am and before Cooper heads to the office, or Lewinsky heads to his nearby kitchen. “It’s the morning coffees,” says Lewinsky. “Every morning we walk down the road and get a coffee together. We sit on a park bench, we drink our coffee and watch” – not the ocean – “the garbage trucks.”