At the age of 13, I announced to my mother that I would be a fashion designer. “You’re too nice,” she responded. “Maybe the industry needs more nice,” I replied.
When I was a child, I would spend hours playing dress ups and creating outfits from fabrics I found around my mother’s house. I would model my own creations, looking in the mirror to see how each outfit moved, critiquing every detail before discarding them so I could curate my next look.
I saw the world around me as an ever-changing set of environments, each demanding a corresponding outfit. Time would disappear as I lost myself in the process of creation, my happy place.
I am one of eight siblings, and from my earliest memory my mother was extremely busy around the house. In consequence, I spent many long hours in the company of my older sister. A gifted seamstress, she patiently taught me how to sew as I watched her work.
By the age of 10, I was sewing my own tailored clothing. As I gained confidence, my three little sisters became my muses. I loved to create looks for them, not realising at the time I was already a designer.
Growing up, home life was challenging. As a child, I did not always feel safe or like I belonged in my family. I am certain that there were times when my mother would have immediately removed us from the impossible situation we were in if she had had the means and was empowered to do so.
As I watched my mother struggle to create a bearable life for herself and her children, I developed an unshakeable certainty that I wanted to be financially independent when I grew up. Though I was just a child, I promised myself that I would have freedom and choices in my life.
In retrospect, I know that the hardships I had faced at home were really gifts in disguise. Eventually, they would lead me down a path of healing, self love, and empathy.
Nevertheless, at the age of 13, I announced to my mother that I would be a fashion designer. “You’re too nice,” she responded. “Maybe the industry needs more nice,” I replied.
As I moved through high school, I kept my vision fixed firmly in my mind. I entered every national design competition I could, always placing in the top three. In my final year, I won the fashion division of the NZ Young Designer of the Year award, earning a scholarship to study fashion design at university.
Utterly convinced that I had secured my calling, I planned it all out. I would complete university, move to Milan, work in a fashion house, travel the world, then return to New Zealand to start my own label.
However, I quickly realised that my dreams were not supported by my family. University wasn’t allowed, and it wasn’t long before I had to leave home. Life felt uncertain. I suffered from anxiety, depression, and a crippling lack of self worth.
Then, miraculously, I was thrown a lifeline. I was befriended by a woman who gave me a place to call home. Under the safety of her roof, I was able to take the time to make sense of my childhood, to heal, and to rediscover myself.
My task was to find forgiveness of others and myself, and it was in those early months out of home that my journey of self love began. The more I understood, the more I could forgive. I love this quote from Albert Einstein: “Love is able to transcend everything and anything. It is the quintessence of life.”
Year after year, as life’s slow-winding cycles turned over, my dream lay dormant within me. Independence was always my goal, but the timing was never right to strike out on my own. I was 28 years old when the fates finally conspired to give me the opportunity I’d been waiting for — there and then, I left my job to start my own label, MONNI.
As I stood on the threshold of everything I’d ever dreamed, I made a vow to myself: I wanted MONNI to stand for everything I had learned on my journey. The years I had passed through on the way to my goal only meant that I wanted it more, and that my vision was more defined. I knew my why!
My why is love — love for myself and the world around me.
What does that mean? Living through love means living consciously — understanding how our thoughts and feelings drive our actions, and appreciating that every action has an effect. As I laid the first foundations for my new label, I asked myself: “How am I making my world a better place?”
I am with MONNI. MONNI is a label inspired by love for me and you. One that empowers women and leaves the world better than it was before.