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Meet the Maker - Valeria & Stewart - Monkind Berlin

Posted on October 05 2017

 'We think the whole world – particularly considering the current global socio-political issues with racism and bigotry – can learn a lot from just observing how children, when raised to be confident and open, deal with daily situations'

 
Tell us your start up story? How and when did you begin?
Valeria is a fashion designer born in the USSR, I’m a musician born in England. She had a DOB label for a few years after finishing studying in Berlin whilst I was jobbing around and playing music. Then we got pregnant and had our first. At the time (2011, 6 years ago) the organic fashion in Germany was pretty awful. Old-fashioned, provincial and very twee, so V started to create her own designs, which were seen on playgrounds, etc. where she was constantly asked about them. She then decided to start making single pieces for friends from the remainders of fabrics. This grew into a market stand, which then grew - after I quit my job in wholesale coffee in 2014 to join her - into a small atelier and now global retail/wholesale!

What does your brand stand for / what is important to you?
Obviously organic/sustainability but clean, simple design which is functional yet interesting and modern. We aim to be transparent and even though we’re getting much bigger as a company, we’re still trying to give everything a personal touch and not turn into just another faceless company focused on profits!

How did you come up with your name?
After long deliberations, Valeria came up with MONKIND. It’s a play on “mankind” and “mon” (French - my) “Kind” (German – child) to symbolise the human aspect of our brand and our international background and future.

What do you love most about running your own business?
The freedom - even though we work incredibly more than we’ve ever worked in “standard” jobs before - and the satisfaction when a customer is happy or we hear a positive comment about our clothes. It still brings a smile every time, even now. That’s why it’s a huge benefit that we have our own store in Berlin and get to meet the end customer and receive feedback. It’s also very special that we still have customers who bought from us back in the market days. They still come and pick pieces from new collections and we often chat about the early days. They’re very proud to have known us and seen us grow from those bleary-eyed, cold Sunday winter mornings to where we are now.

What keeps you motivated?
Ourselves! That there’s always something to do, always another pattern to create, always another email to answer, always another customer to serve, always another order to send off. We chip away at a never-ending mountain of “work”, though every time it gets a little bit easier and we’re constantly improving ourselves, our products and our business. Creating and selling a collection is kind of like those mandalas made of sand. So much time, energy, patience, sometimes frustration and disappointment goes into it until a time comes when it’s released and it gradually is swept or blows away into nothingness. All that is left is a memory - and some cool photos ;)

What inspires you?
We’re inspired a lot by our children. They’re so smart and self-sufficient and surprise us everyday. They give us feedback on pieces “no, I wouldn’t wear that means it doesn’t make it into a collection” and “I love that” means it does! They make us laugh and surprise us every day. We also try to adopt their openness, positivity and ability to live in the moment. We think the whole world – particularly considering the current global socio-political issues with racism and bigotry – can learn a lot from just observing how children, when raised to be confident and open, deal with daily situations.

Tell us about the theme for AW17?
The collection is called “Depiction”, with the tagline: “a collection about creativity”.

We used quotes from artists, the most poignant being: “Make it simple, but significant”. This is a recurring mantra in the house of MONKIND. We apply it to all aspects of life, be that work, family or recreation. In “Depiction”, this philosophy is observed through sleek and minimal forms, which we combine with high-quality natural materials of consolatory, complimentary colours. Sustainable and organic as ever, made in EU.

How do you keep the balance in your life?
Good question. Sometimes it is hard to switch off in the evening, especially as we’re always together (work and at home). It has it’s pros and cons, pro that we can discuss anything at any time, con because we can – and do - discuss anything at any time. However, we do consciously set times to where we don’t discuss work, rather reminisce over old photographs, plan trips for the future – travel is a passion of ours, and talk about non-children or children’s fashion topics, i.e. politics, the arts, gossip about friends, etc. We also have our own things: Valeria is regularly involved in costume and make-up in contemporary opera/musical theatre, as well as undertakes - often quite high-profile – styling jobs as a freelancer. Stewart occasionally works together with a radio journalist as a soundman/post-production, as well as occasionally performing in music ensembles. Aside from that, we regularly meet

What do you do with your kids when you’re not working?
We be. We try to just be with them and do something together. What we do is less important, the most important is to be and not rush. Be that a museum, a walk in the forest with the dog or a long brunch on the balcony and catching up on the week together, downtime is crucial – we work a lot and the days when we’re slow, stop in the street to inspect interestingly shaped leaves, call on friends, or just sit and watch a film together, are the best days of the week!

What are the key items you have in your handbag that you cannot live without?
Well, we try to travel light: Valeria has her phone and headphones and Stewart doesn’t carry a handbag. Apart from that, we like to leave space for the collected stones, bits of lego, artwork that are kids regularly present us with.

Any busy mum / dad survival tips?
Relax and don’t helicopter parent, give them space to grow and let them become a person on their own. Not that they grow up not being independent and more insecure because they’ve never been allowed to make a mistake. We should always be there to pick them up and support them if they need it, but nobody likes to be smothered!

Top hack: Prepare the packed lunches and get the clothes for Kindergarten/school ready in the evening. It could mean up to an extra 15 minutes in bed!

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