MAHSA’s mood: ENDURING NATURE collection
Adam Bryce interviews Mahsa Willis, designer and founder of Mahsa, on her new collection Enduring Nature — an ode to contemplation in extraordinary times.
Mahsa is built around modern classics. What has changed from 2018’s A Single Woman collection to the new collection, Enduring Nature?
Enduring Nature is more realised than A Single Woman. I’ve evolved as a designer, as a business woman and, more broadly, as a woman. The brand expresses these changes via moods. This mood is more considered, cohesive and grounded. The moods are never trend driven, each one is a progression from the last.
There are new pieces in this collection, the Annie Hall-esque suiting and waistcoat, the ballet blouse, the sailor blouse but there are also classic pieces in new fabrics; soft sheer silk for added romance, the romantic trench in plaid suiting that can be worn as a dress and, coming soon, a new Liberty print.
With Enduring Nature I wanted to somehow connect ‘our natures’ in this story, alongside our natural world, both can be extremely elegant and enduring.
The traditional fashion model creates new collections four to six times a year. Since Mahsa’s inception, you’ve released collections every one and a half to two years. Why?
I wanted to allow time for our design process and I think the work needs longer than six months to live and be understood; I also wanted to monitor costs and debt as it is a high-risk industry, build in a pre-order system which takes time (again, time), factor in sustainability within business processes and address our carbon footprint as we work — these were some key my reasons for not working to seasons — to slow this cycle down.
Otherwise there is huge burn-out on so many levels. Slowing this cycle down feels good. It hopefully has a ripple-on effect so our consumers can feel calmer about their purchase. Timing is everything and our model works for our small team; we are efficient due to our business scale.
Tell us your thoughts, as a brand, on sustainability in the industry?
This is a big question and I am no expert, so my answers are subjective… There is no way my business will sustain if I do not implement sustainability goals and communicate this to consumers. Our slow model, made locally and other practices set us up for a sustainable model.
It is very true that the fashion industry must clean up its act. My brand is committed to focusing on sustainability and this is at the core of our business model, along with looking after my people and manufacturing here in New Zealand.
How has Covid-19 affected your year and what have you had to adjust or change due to the effects of the pandemic?
We dropped late, due to hold-ups and weren’t able to attend our collection shoot in Sydney but I felt confident due to our relationships with the team over there. My stockists were keen to get a collection out and I was encouraged by their enthusiasm.
We knew we needed to really focus on our website and our relationships and nail-down our processes. For me, forging on was crucial, not sitting back waiting or retreating. Due to the online home of Mahsa, along with my small skilled team, we survived without too much turmoil. Furthermore, our focus has been here at home so that, in some ways, made it easier during and post lockdown.
Commutation became very important and the business relationships built. During periods of upheaval, your model and your people are tested; you are only as strong as each other. We are cautiously optimistic.
Why Enduring Nature? Why is nature important to you and how does it relate to the collection?
It’s yet another love letter to evolving women, in the spirit of sisterhood. It’s about the resonance of an enduring nature and, like ‘nature’, we cultivate this in daily life. I’m simply adorning this.
Do you have a person in mind when you’re designing and has this changed since your last collection launch?
No, nothing has changed, they are women just like me — living openly, passionately and as best they can. Wearing a beautiful shirt, a trench coat, a blazer or a modern-day Edwardian dress can be embraced by a broad array of women — we all want to feel beautiful and endure in that sense.
What’s next for Mahsa?
Negotiate Covid, revise goals, have a holiday and endure elegantly. Lots in motion but I like to keep these things under wraps.