Bring It Home: Martha Craigs geheime identiteitssleutel tot modieus successeptember 18, 2020
Wanda Harland owner Martha Craig says she’d “never really” been that into clothes.
Two stores and a bustling family life later, however, her Wellington-based business has successfully made the leap from homeware to body wear, providing crucial retail therapy to fashionable urban groovers, both in person and online. Kylie Klein-Nixon caught up with her old university pal to find out what inspired the move.
KKN: That was an interesting pivot, from homeware to fashion.
MARTHA: The homeware business has changed substantially from back then [when I opened the shop].
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MARTHA: When we first opened, there was that whole craft movement, a real appreciation for that sort of handmade aesthetic.
But over the years those big box stores are filling a niche that we were providing to some extent. Maybe we helped that happen?
But also my house got renovated and my kids grew up and so my interest in homewares and kids stuff waned anyway. I became interested in clothes, which I never really have been much in my life at all.
I got approached by some really lovely brands, Kowtow and Elk, some good, solid ethical brands, so I thought, yeah, let’s roll with this and see how it plays out.
Your clothes are really beautiful, I don’t really see the sorts of things you offer anywhere else.
I didn’t have the money, when I had little kids, to buy nice clothes – it is somewhat of a luxury item – but I’m more interested in ethical brands and supporting New Zealand-made.
I’ve got quite a lot of New Zealand brands but I also have a few from Melbourne – pre-Covid I used to go over there frequently – and we have a few European brands because about four years ago we went to Denmark for a holiday and I just fell in love with their aesthetic.
The Wanda Harland style seems to be very modern, unfussy… there’s something almost architectural about the clothes.
My only strategy in terms of supplying the shop is would I wear them? I might not necessarily fit them, they’re not necessarily all suited to my form, but every single item here I would happily have in my wardrobe.
I admit that I’m really quite selfishly just catering to my own taste.
You mentioned Covid, how have you weathered that?
It was incredibly shocking. I just had no idea what it meant at the beginning – it was freaky. But as soon as that government support package came in, and we started to see time frames, it was all workable.
We got lovely, lovely support when we reopened, people really flooded in. So, it’s been fine. We’re still here.
Let’s talk about your house. You’ve got quite a distinctive style.
It’s designed for us. I get obsessed with getting the house ready as if we socialise a lot, but really we don’t, we just live very intensively at home ourselves.
We don’t go out a huge amount and the kids hang out at home, so we’ve just catered to our own tastes.
[My husband] Glen works at Tilt Architecture in Wellington, so he works in the CBD, but I probably work from home a couple of days a week, and I’m always home with [my daughter] Lucie, who’s 11, after school. So, I think I’m at home a lot.
How would you describe your style, and one caveat, you’re not allowed to use a word eclectic.
My friend Evie Kemp says my style is “modern vintage”, so make of that what you will.
Oh, I like that.
I don’t know, I don’t really see myself as vintage, it sounds a little bit cottagey and cute. I definitely love good materials. I realised that anything in the house that isn’t a good wood or leather, or something nice and tactile I’ll end up hating.
You get those MDF shelves and things when you’ve got little kids and just loathe them more and more as time goes on.
In the lounge we’ve got some old library shelves that Glen’s work was hiffing out, so it’s not like we spend a fortune, he pulled them out of a skip, but they are metal and wood. I think it’s just the materials, like, I like wool carpet, because I like the feel of it.
I like how natural materials wear, as well.
It’s honest, you’re allowed to see that underneath the scratches there’s more wood.
I’m not minimalist, I’m not maximalist, I just like what I like. And we do have quite a lot of art, so it can’t get too chaotic, the art needs to stand on its own a bit. I don’t want it to be lost.
Would you consider yourself a collector?
We do have an art group, we’ve been meeting now for almost 20 years.
We meet every two to three months, and each year we buy a piece each.
Is this an informal group of pals, or something more organised? It sounds like an incredible idea!
When it first started, a friend from university, who’s a lawyer, drew up a charter. But it’s incredibly casual.
It’s just a lovely opportunity to meet up. There are five groups of people in the whole art group, and whoever’s hosting [that quarter] buys the piece, then everyone just swaps them around.
There’s no orderly way of passing the art around, you just say, ‘Oh, I haven’t had that one yet,’ and we all take home something different each time. Then, at the end of the year, whatever piece you put in comes back to live at your house forever.
OK, one last question, who actually is Wanda Harland?
Wanda was the name of my tooth fairy when I was a child, and Harland was the name my father wanted to call me if I’d been born a boy.
At university, some friends and I would make up fake names when we went to the pub, I used Wanda Harland and I just kept it as a blog name.
When it came time to name the shop, I was trying to come up with one of those designery names like ‘the white space’, or whatever, but then I thought, nah, Wanda Harland.