Shiana Backstage at WFW2013
Photo by Penny Pender
In a venture to create the ‘perfect tee’ Mardle designer Shiana Weir launched her first product in summer 2009.
Three years on after a few mini collections, Mardle was re-launched for Spring/Summer 2013/14 boasting the brands first season to offer a full seasonal collection.
Since that launch, Mardle debuted at New Zealand Fashion Week 2013, Shiana became a mum and also found the time to put together Spring/Summer 14/15 collection which is due to be launched in mid May- woah!
We caught up with Shiana recently to chat about her latest collection, inspiration and of course what she would never be caught wearing.
Tell us about your brand?
Mardle is my maiden name and I wanted it to live on, attached to something that I loved. [note: Mardle pronounced [mahr-duhl] like marble with a d. And now popularised and pronounced correctly on TV show Mr Selfridge!]
Designing with myself in mind, I have a focus on fuss-free, wearable clothes, with an intriguing twist. Heavily influenced by eye-catching & easy to wear fabrics, I always strive for a charming, casual elegance to all that Mardle offers. Whether it’s ready to wear modern office attire or a show-stopping dress for an event, I want to create great pieces that my clients can throw on and feel fantastic in, with minimal effort & maximum impact.
Tell us about your latest collections?
AW14 – Way of the Saint
Mardle’s Autumn/Winter 2014 collection ‘Way of the Saint’ – the fourth full collection from the Wellington based label; debuted at NZFW 2013. A juxtapositioning of the fantastical styling of Japanese Onna-Bugeisha – female warriors of the upper social classes in feudal Japan; and French saint & warrior of her own time, Joan of Arc.
Medieval France meets Feudal Japan as two strong female characters of history clash and intertwine through this collection. Avoiding a costumed runway, the collection makes stylistic references whilst keeping that cool, casual elegance that the Mardle client keeps coming back for.
Graphic brocades & heavy wools play against Crysanthemum printed chiffon and more traditional japanese fabrications. Throw in a little velveteen, lace and merino for winter luxe and topped off with statement copper jewellery made in collaboration with local Wellington artist, Sam Keer.
The collection features a mix of big silhouetted coats, structured skirts and relaxed trousers, and slim tailored pieces, giving the Mardle client plenty to play with for any sartorial situation. Full of great statement pieces and beautifully cut staples in an eclectic mix of eye-catching fabric, the ‘Way of the Saint’ collection is something special for everyday dressing.
SS13/14 – Bisou, Bisou
The ‘Bisou, Bisou’ collection – French translation ‘Kiss, Kiss’, with all its pieces named after Kiss songs; debuted at Wellington Fashion Week 2012. It had a beautiful mix of graphic prints, soft neutral colours, and a juxtapositioning of tailoring and softer lines…with a good helping of head turning sparkle, of course.
Our Crane print items sold out in all styles and our Crazy, Crazy Nights dress (a beautiful Blush and Gold dress with a scalloped sequined sleeve) only just went through it’s last run of production and due to its popularity, was released in an all Black version as well which will sell into Winter.
What do you love most about being a designer?
The blank page. The freedom to create whatever I please and sourcing the right fabrics to make my dreams come to life and be spotted in the street.
What inspires you (in your work or otherwise)?
In my design work I’m mostly inspired by fabrics. That is usually where a collection starts for me – the fabrics that catch my eye i amongst the hundreds of swatches I run through with my suppliers each season.
There will always be one or two feature fabrics that I’ll latch on to to build the collection around. Sometimes it inspires a story and theme for the collection, but mostly, I just love to create beautiful pieces that I know my Clients will love. My other inspirations come from the practical needs for clothes that fill a gap in my wardrobe.
I often come across something that’s missing and I just have to create, as it’s either not available in the market already, or I simply cannot survive the season without that one thing I desperately need to wear right now.
For the rest of life, I’m inspired by other people who are striving to become the very best versions of themselves. That may sound a little left field, but I have come across so many people in the last few years that are taking whatever lot they were given in life and making the most of it and in most cases exceeding the expectations they have of themselves and the expectations placed on them by their peers, family and society in general.
I’m a sucker for a good underdog story, but it’s not always the overcoming of adversity that’s necessary to build a great life, grow a healthy self-image and seek out the opportunities available to you.. sometimes all it take is a change in attitude and a willingness to keep trying when you fall. That’s inspirational on any scale.
Describe your personal style?
Casual Elegance… with a dash of tomboy. I’m currently adjusting to my post-baby body but my wardrobe choices didn’t really changed throughout my pregnancy..I may just avoid the stretchy figure hugging Maxi dresses that showed off that precious bump for a few months til I’m back to working out and regaining my core strength & tone.
I have found my Mardle Sheer Back shell tees have been a go-to item – as they belted beautifully pre-bump, accommodated for the growing bump throughout the pregnancy due to the extra fabric through the back and relaxed fit front, and now post-bump, and once again – belted; they nicely disguise the leftover belly whilst showing off my back and ticking that all-important ‘Elegant’ box.
What is your all-time favourite fashion purchase?
Just one?… too hard. Top four?
I did most of my Maternity shopping at Recycle Boutique, mostly buying regular clothes a couple of sizes bigger than usual.. it was a good day when I came across a light grey, pleated dress by Juliette Hogan in a 12 for $60! I saved it to wear for Weir Family Christmas belted with my Mardle ‘Lizzie Leather’ gold belt.
Number two has got to be my sheen-finished Black wool blazer by Zambesi that I happened upon at Hunters &Collectors – it’s the perfect finisher to a casual outfit to polish it up to leave the house.
I’m more recently loving my custom made Chuck Taylors. I got my US-based cousin to place the order and they arrived in time for my husband to give to me for Christmas… how did he know exactly what I wanted?! 😉 They were perfect in all their white and grey leathery goodness, finished off with a paintbox yellow lining – my fave colour.
And last but not least, I bought myself a beautiful Meadowlark Peony ring – custom fitted with Rose quartz and gold plated – a special piece to remember my late-great-grandmother by.
What wardrobe item should every woman invest in?
That’s an easy one… Good tees. They get called a ‘basic’ but the better word is definitely ‘staple’. A well cut, well made tee, in a beautifully soft high-quality fabric is worth spending the money on. I have a loyal customer base who buy several of Mardle’s ‘New Favourite Tee’ and ‘Just Relax(ed) Tee’ each season in the new colours, and have certain clients who will buy five black ones in a single order, as they can’t bear to be without their fave tee whilst it’s in the wash.
Do you have a style rule you always obey?
Fashion must be easy and comfortable… but elegant at the same time. You want to be able to utter that coveted response “Oh, this? I just threw this on”, as often as possible, and really mean it. I don’t want to have to think and/or agonise over what to wear in the mornings. I didn’t have time for it when running a business as well as working a full time job, and I certainly don’t have time for it now that I’m a Mum/Designer full time!
What made you become a designer?
A love of fabric and the desire to create what I wanted to wear. My Mum taught me to sew at age 9. We’d often have projects for a new outfit that I would design and then hunt down a pattern in store that would work the best for what I wanted. I always loved the process of picking out fabrics for my outfits and would spend what seemed like hours in the fabric store, or rummaging through Mum’s fabric stash; pouring over the choices.
We would also design & Mum would create costumes for my ballet & jazz competitions from around the same age. We were a great team… and I swear that my Mum’s fabric stash has only recently been outdone by mine due to me having a fashion business!
What piece of advice would you give someone starting out?
Just start. Try some stuff. See what happens. Don’t be afraid to change and discard ideas that don’t work.. that’s part of the learning. Make connections with other people in the industry. Intern here and there if you can – it’ll open your eyes to what is really required to run a business day to day – ie.. not all design and glamour – loads of admin, running errands, and hard work.
The people I’ve had intern for me over the last few years have walked away with a very different view of what it takes to be a Designer & Small business owner than when they first arrived in the workroom, and as far as they tell me, they all enjoyed their experience! It wasn’t all button-counting and making tea at Mardle.
What is this season’s ‘must have’ item?
A great Coat is always my Autumn/Winter go to. It’s what you face the public in for the majority of the cooler months, which in Wellington is a sizeable chunk of the year, so having something you love; a piece that is comfortable, warm, and roomy for all those layers you’ll be wearing under it, & most importantly a piece that makes you look & feel like a million bucks in the miserable weather is a top priority when choosing THE ONE for you. I can’t wait for the temperature to drop so I finally have the excuse to wear Mardle’s Way of the Saint collection ‘Boxy Coat’ – I’m making myself one in both the Navy and the Black, so that when one is at the Drycleaners I can still be toasty and happy in the other!
Finish this sentence – You would never catch me wearing… Lolly Pink. Blush I love, and the tasteful & very scarce use of Fuchsia, or neon Pink are palatable, but I think I’m allergic to Pink in general. I just gave birth to a little girl, so I know that I may have to swallow the odd bitter pink pill in the future… but hopefully I can instill a great appreciation for neutrals, prints & sparkles in my little girl’s fashion choices instead!