Visiting Mondegreen was not at all what I expected! From the outside it is a fun, feminine corner of the internet where quirky internationally sourced homewares and accessories get to hang out with locally designed clothing. A great recipe that has found its niche. But on arriving at the Mondegreen HQ I realised that we were dealing with a much bigger beast.
Mondegreen is the design focused label of one of New Zealands oldest corporate wear companies; Booker-Spalding. Originally two businesses, owned by T.R Booker and W.E Spalding, they produced army uniforms, mens wear and womens car coats respectively. Having been around since the 1920’s, both were also heavily family owned and run which has continued with the current form of the company today.
In March 2011, head designer and employee of 23 years; Nicky Cameron saw a window of opportunity to make use of the online orders system which was already in place for corporate clients. Nicky and her (very awesome!) team had design skills to offer that extended beyond bank uniforms, so with the help of Di Fuller they poured these into a new brand identity and got indulging their creative side.
Wanting to round out their clothing range they they hunted high and low for homewares that were unique and new to the NZ market – which included ceramics from one of my all time creative hero’s; Jonathon Adler.
With the orders system already in place, the Mondegreen sales seamlessly merge into the day to day order preparation of this large and busy company. I was quite honestly gobsmacked at the size of Booker – Spalding and pleasantly surprised that this old Wellington business has been able to survive in the age of mass production off shore. There were people packing orders, cutting fabric, sewing, steaming and working away in their offices. It felt highly productive and with the smiles that met me in every room – like a large and happy team.
The design team have their own light and open plan hideaway where they can easily work together but with easy access to meet with their pattern makers and sewing extraordinaires. Mondegreen is treated as as another client of the business meaning they have to schedule their time on the projects needs around those of their current customers.
At the time of my visit (and wrapping up this Wednesday 29th!) the Mondegreen were also sharing the running of a winter pop up shop down the road in Petone. Jonathon Adler ceramics and Kate of Arcadia bags sit side by side their Mondegreen clothing range and fun home finds for the home. The opening and closing of the store has been shared by the team, who all have the same passion and excitement to see their in house brand continue to grow.
It was very obvious to me that this small team shared a very cool and close knit camaraderie. It was such an eye opener really. While they aren’t able to spend each work day concentrating on their own brand (which must be frustrating in itself) they seem to be able to switch between the quite specific needs of corporate wear to the development of their own style very easily and with super professional results.
All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
WHAT I LEARNT FROM THE MONDEGREEN TEAM:
Creativity doesn’t live solely with what is perceived as cool. It’s important to realise that there are clever, creative brains and hands behind most products in our everyday life – I think that it takes the most clever to design for functional living.
Visit the Pop Up shop at 194 Jackson Street, Petone until Wednesday the 29th of May.