About Us

A long time ago [early 1968] in a world that now seems a long way away, John and Wendy Borthwick set out from Sydney to hitch hike on the overland route [hippie trail] to India. They had a back pack each, two flimsy air mattresses and a few hundred dollars. They believed that luck would lead the way. 

Up the east coast of Australia, across to Alice Springs and then in a container truck carrying paddlepops to Darwin. A light plane ride to East Timor, by jeep across the mountains to Dili [or Kupang?] and then by boat and fishing junk to Singapore. Up through Malaya sleeping on the floor of Thai Buddhist monasteries to Bangkok. A hop by Thai Airways via Rangoon to the teeming, steaming oven of humanity that was Calcutta. Naked, emaciated beggars, lepers with no noses, huge Brahmin bulls wandering the city streets...it was a rude awakening for our two young travellers.

But it was the beginning of a life long love affair with India. Several months and many hair raising adventures later, they found themselves back in Australia where someone told them about Meher Baba, at that time still living in India. Which they had just left. 

In early 1969, now firm believers in Meher Baba, they joined in a partnership to begin a handcrafts store in Edgecliffe, Sydney called Meher Handcrafts. John set about making fringed leather mocassins, belts and sandals while Wendy sewed calico dresses and strung beads. Here they sold their first Lucknowy kurta shirt, a garment which is still going strong in Tree of Life today. 

Their journey continued through babies and business with the many ups and downs and detours and roundabouts which life brings. John and Wendy began their own wholesale business 'White Cloud' in 1979.

Things were changing. But the business was always firmly based in India and its enchanting, colourful handcrafts and romantic, comfortable clothing. 

In the early 90’s, the first Tree of Life store opened its doors in Balmain, Sydney. The idea was to appeal to the Bohemian spirit regardless of age, size, gender, religion etc. Gradually, the number of stores has increased. With the help of a wonderful team, the concept and design of the stores has evolved and been refined. But the product heartland remains India and its ancient tradition of decorative arts and crafts. And the clothing is always meant to reflect romance, to encourage freedom of expression and to provide comfort and self confidence. 

Hence the name Tree of Life...a Tree to provide inspiration and beauty for one and all.