The Tale of Willa & Mae

Models backstage in Mae by Willa & Mae at NZFW 2015

It's been an exciting year for sleepwear label Willa & Mae who aren't quite a year old yet but have already made a strong debut at this year's New Zealand Fashion Week and introduced a ready-to-wear diffusion line Mae by Willa & Mae. Designers Emma Clark and Rana Reuther recruited stylist Jane Mow and a seasoned hair and makeup team to bring their creative vision to life on the runway in a show that garnered glowing reviews and labelled them as 'ones to watch' in future. FashioNZ wanted to find out more about their stellar NZFW debut, their new diffusion line and what's coming up for their label.

FashioNZ: Congratulations on your successful NZFW debut, what made you decide that this year was the right time for you to do your first show?
Emma & Rana: Thank you so much. We felt our garments needed to be seen on the runway – to have people view the garments in motion, to witness the drape and fluidity of each piece. The silk robes and chemises are gorgeous but it is more difficult to appreciate the quality of the silk or the way it falls from a still image.  We also have complete confidence in our ranges and our amazing team.

FNZ: What was the NZFW experience like for you and how did you feel seeing your collection on the runway for the first time?
E&R: It was amazing.  Seeing our garments walking down the runway was a real thrill.  People’s reaction to the show, the garments, and the styling, has been fantastic. We loved every minute of it.

Mae by Willa & Mae Lookbook

FNZ: How did you find the response to your NZFW showing and what did you learn from the experience?
E&R: The feedback and support we received has been positive beyond belief. We hoped people would enjoy our show but were truly delighted with the packed out venue and huge response we got.

FNZ: Where did the idea for Mae by Willa & Mae come from and how did you go about creating it?
E&R: MAE by Willa and Mae came about the same way Willa & Mae did.  Rana and I couldn’t find the sort of garments we wanted to wear.  The basics, beautifully cut and made out of quality natural fabrics.

Stylist Jane Mow and model Mercy Brewer backstage at NZFW 2015

FNZ: What inspired your fabric choices and colours for your new collections and how/where did you source them?
E&R: For both collections the fabrics and colours were about summer: fresh and relaxed.  Simple colour palettes using quality natural fabrics. The colour palette of black, white, blue, grey marl and stripe for MAE by Willa & Mae was also inspired by the androgyny of Patricia in the Breathless film. We wanted to capture her boyish and effortless sensibility.
FNZ: Do you have a muse for your label and who do you define the Willa & Mae woman as?
E&R: MAE by Willa & Mae – For the debut collection, our muse was Patricia, the female lead played by Jean Seberg, from Jean–Luc Goddard’s iconic 1960 film Breathless.
Willa & Mae – We are continuously inspired by the women in Helmut Newton’s photographs. They exude strength and confidence, yet still have a sensual, feminine appeal. This is something we try to convey in our garments.

Willa & Mae Lookbook

FNZ: What are your essential pieces for spring/summer from your collection?
E&R: For day, our MAE by Willa & Mae wide leg pants with a simple singlet.  For night, we can’t wait to wear our Willa & Mae coral camisole with jeans and sandals – perfect for summer nights!  The aqua short chemise will keep us cool and comfortable to sleep in!
FNZ: What do you love most about being your own boss and deciding the creative direction of your label?
E&R: Being able to create garments we want to wear.  Having the freedom to create new looks and direction each season, and being surrounded by fabric!

Designers Rana Reuther and Emma Clark

FNZ: Which overseas labels do you admire and is there anyone you look to for inspiration when thinking about your collections?
E&R: Lemlem is an amazing label that ticks all our beach needs – sustainably produced from gorgeous natural fibres, muted colour palette and very cool, ultra-relaxed designs.  We can’t think of summer without thinking of iconic Australian label Zimmermann.  Bikinis, dresses and cover-ups to die for!  And finally the label that always makes it to our top three is Isabel Marant – great blazers, pants, shirts and shoes!
FNZ:  You've had a huge year so far but do you have anything else exciting planned which you can share with us?
E&R: This has been a huge year.  In December, Willa & Mae turns 1!  We are excited about that milestone and the launch of MAE by Willa & Mae online and in store on 1 November.  Both Willa & Mae and MAE by Willa & Mae are new brands finding their feet.  It is so exciting watching the brands develop and take on strong, individual identities. Willa & Mae will continue to offer luxury sleepwear using beautiful natural fabrics, while MAE by Willa & Mae will continue to develop as ready-to-wear.

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