Mahsa at Poepke

January 10th, 2020

Mahsa Willis definitely knows how to dress a woman of many guises. She wants something utilitarian, but still playful. Something she doesn’t have to think too hard about, but at the same time looks like she does. Having come from the film and television industry and nurturing a growing family, for Mahsa this has meant redefining the classic shirt, adding bows and billowing sleeves, or choosing striking colours – think of a jungle green matching the Titirangi bush surrounding her Auckland home.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Mahsa to talk about how her label began, her mood boards and how she is writing her own story through her clothes.

You started Mahsa just four years ago in 2015. Tell us the impetus for beginning your own label, and the point you were at in your life that drew you to make this move?

I started Mahsa when my children were young and I could no longer sustain my career in film and advertising. The demands of the industry did not work around my growing family, and at that time my partner also founded a start-up, working very long and unpredictable hours. Two kids and an advertising start-up was the premise for my career shift.

I have always been inspired by fashion, and for me, it’s the way I make sense of the world and explore my creativity. Film production and advertising have been relevant for me in terms of building a brand, and without this background I would not have been able to intuitively build an authentic brand story. I started designing my label from my Mid-Century home. Here, the lovely interplay between fashion, interiors and architecture were born. I like to see Mahsa as a lifestyle, it’s very autobiographical. I make what I want to wear and if a garment doesn’t work for me and my friends, I won’t make it. Timeless utility is what inspires me. My children continue to be a part of my business and I feel so blessed that they get to see me work at something I love and can celebrate with me.

Each of your collections are based on moods; Mood 1 is Beautiful Imperfection, Mood 2; Yesterday Modern and Mood 3; A single woman. How do you come to articulate these moods? Are they reflective of fragments of your own life? And how do they infiltrate your clothes?

Yes, essentially, I am writing my own story, reflecting on my life and its journey. Specifically, the need to feel romantic, to feel love, to feel freedom, to feel strong, to feel a part of a tribe of likeminded women and people. My aim with Mahsa is to gently encourage those engaged to consume mindfully and collect pieces that are timeless and that you can build on.

It feels like you’ve redefined the shirt for women. What is it that attracts you to this garment?

Jane Birkin defies trend, doesn’t she? A shirt or beautiful blouse simplifies your day. It’s a metaphor for our time: simplicity, utility, femininity. Furthermore, a shirt or a blouse fits any mood, day or night. The fabrication and fit also play a huge part in making the experience, of wearing a simple garment such as the shirt, evocative and special.

Architecture and landscape inspire you also; particularly modernist houses and the Auckland suburb of Titirangi, known for its proximity to wild bush full of kauri and to black sand beaches with savage waves. Tell us how this makes its way into the way you design?

The natural light, crafted modernism, nature and design of my home and its surrounding area provide me with a unique canvas and lens to draw from. Home is the first experience I have every day, it allows me to escape, breathe and dream. I want to share this mood. My aim when designing is that a woman from Brooklyn, wearing my jungle green preacher, on her way to work can sense this feeling when she’s negotiating another reality. My palette, design and fabrication also tell a unique story, both locally and globally.  I think now, more than ever, we all yearn for simplicity, authenticity and freedom.

To view our collection of Mahsa in store, visit here.

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