Emilie Pullar and Abby van Schreven
Well I am pretty stoked to be kicking off the 2013 HQ series with a visit to the creative engine room of Maaike. Running late and puffing a bit, I was greeted by the very friendly designers Abby Van Schreven and Emilie Pullar. These two immediately struck me with their openness and super relaxed conversation. It was difficult to keep my mind on the task at hand as they so often turned the questions back on me and I found myself wafting through my own life story more than once!
Now at just 28 and 26 years, Emilie and Abby first met fresh out of their respective fashion studies (E at Christchurch Polytech and A at Otago Polytech) when they found themselves working side by side for two years in an Auckland designers workroom. Friendship came easily and they laughed as they told me the quirky coincidences they found between them. Both had family connections to The Netherlands, Abby grew up in Waimate as did Emilie’s Dad and they both have sisters the same age but it was their matching aesthetic and ease at which they worked together that sealed the partnership. Like many design based success stories, they felt frustrated at not being able to find clothing to their taste, so they thought bugger it, lets get making some ourselves!
The first Maaike HQ was Abby’s garage. Emilie would arrive to work, drive her car right in and shuffle two steps to the work table. From this awesome, grass roots base they designed their first collection and took it directly to NZ Fashion Week in 2010. Before their range even hit the run way they had managed to secure 9 stockists nationally.
You’re starting to get an idea of how these girls make things happen aren’t you….(“Inspiring!!!!” yelled my brain through the whole visit!)
When the lofty workroom in K Roads La Gonda Building came up, it seemed obvious. Vacated by Cybele who had taken over the space from Doris Dupont, there are some seriously good fashion vibes ricocheting around up there. With lots of room to move, they now share with another NZ young talent Jimmy D making for a bit of a powerhouse studio in my books! From their base of 1 year they design, sample, pattern make and do all their own cutting. This is what really surprised me. I had assumed that there would be a team of side kicks, fashion hungry interns, a business manager etc but no – Maaike is literally run in all facets by Abby and Emilie….and with the new addition of 4 stores in Japan, they are down right killing it!
So, as if running a successful emerging fashion brand wasn’t enough, they decided to take on the lease of a charming little space in the popular St Kevins Arcade (just down the stairs and round the corner) where they stock not only Maaike but a collection of other kiwi brands that totally compliment their own style. Think Nyne, Kowtow, Nom*D etc AND they run this between them. No shop girls, still just the two of them holding the reins to their own business. You’ve got to respect that.
What I learnt from Maaike:
Truly understand your brand and the market/demographic that it appeals to. It might not be the obvious one but hunt it out, recognise the potential and go hard.
Oh and…..you can be extremely fashionable and edgy while still being extremely friendly and funny.