In early 1968 John and Wendy Borthwick set out along the hippie trail with India their goal. Two backpacks, a pair of flimsy air mattresses, a couple of hundred dollars and a belief in luck were their only possessions.
They hitchhiked up the east coast of Australia, across to Darwin, and took a lightplane to East Timor. They travelled by jeep across the mountains to Dili and hitched a ride on a fishing junk to Singapore. South-east Asia was traversed cross-country, sleeping on the floor of Buddhist monasteries.
Eventually arriving in India they flew into the teeming, steamy city of Calcutta. The kaleidoscope of colour and life shocked and amazed the travellers; the naked, emaciated beggars wandering the streets,huge Brahmin bulls weaving through traffic and the overwhelming smell of sprice...
It was the beginning of a life long love affair with India. Like countless hippies of the era, Wendy and John were seekers drawn to find a more meaningful existence. After their return to Sydney a friend told them about Meher Baba, a spiritual master who was at that time still alive, and living in India, the place they had just left. With this newfound knowledge their spiritual quest ended, and a life-long belief in Meher Baba began.Find out more about Meher Baba.
A Hippie Cottage Industry
In early 1969 they joined a handcrafts collective and opened a store in Sydney. John handcrafted fringed leather moccasins and Roman sandals, while Wendy sewed calico dresses and strung beads. In this little bohemian haven they sold their first kurta shirt, a classic hippie garment still stocked at Tree of Life today.
Their journey continued through babies and business with the many detours and roundabouts that life brings. Although changes came and went their focus was always on India with a great respect for its people, lasting friendships and an enduring love for the colourful and enchanting treasures to be found there.
TREE OF LIFE IS BORN
In the early 90's the first Tree of Life store opened its doors in Sydney's Balmain. The idea was to engage with free spirits, regardless of age, size, gender or religion. From the start people responded to the carefree hippie ethos of the brand.
Our inspiration has come from afar, sourcing treasures, textiles and handicrafts from across the world. John and Wendy still work in the business, and consider their customers, employees, and workers across the ocean, as family and essential co-contributors. Today, Tree of Life remains the iconic bohemian brand of Australia, celebrating freedom of expression and creativity for starry-eyed dreamers everywhere.