Life Instyle sat down with Tamara Kahn, creator of MAINE+MARA, about second chances, limitless possibilities and fabulous jewellery!
What was the spark that inspired you to start your own business?
I worked for 17 years as a Creative Director in the advertising industry, so the creativity has always been there. But I think the spark that started MAINE+MARA came after I had a serious cycling accident that resulted in facial reconstruction. It left me with an acute awareness of how impactful what we wear can be, how those shapes balance our features and can have a positive impact on how we feel and see ourselves. So, I decided to leave my advertising career to pursue a passion to design and create products that promote positive self-expression and perception.
I’ve always loved accessories and design so bringing the two together was so exciting - limitless possibilities! Laser cutting was a natural step into this world as it used the same design tools I’d already mastered.
What were those first steps you took to launch? And what would you say was the scariest part/your biggest fear?
Having always worked in a conceptual way, I started by sketching and designing pieces that had a concept behind them. I love things to have meaning and it seemed the most natural place to start. Turning those sketches into cutting files, choosing materials and refining how to best visualise my concepts through the medium of jewellery was the most amazing feeling. I love the creative high of seeing something through, from vision to reality.
The scariest part for me was being so visible. My whole creative career I was comfortable behind the scenes where I could let my work shine from a distance, so stepping into creating my own brand, doing those very first markets and facing the world as the face of my brand was very daunting...the nerves of waiting to hear directly what people thought...would they connect, would they love my creative babies as much as I did? In a real way this journey has forced me to experience what I truly want my customers to feel - confident enough to stand out, be unique and express themselves through style.
Tell us a bit about how you design/ make your product. Who/where/how/why etc.
Having literally been physically reconstructed after a cycling accident, my designs are a personal exploration and celebration of the fusion of materials, asymmetry, mismatching, standing out and embracing our perfect imperfections, with an edgy, contemporary aesthetic, inspired by 80s fashion, and 90s music and dance.
It’s important to us that our pieces are truly unique, so every piece is designed from scratch by me, Tamara, and the MAINE+MARA team in our Sydney studio. We follow conscious design principles, making sure that from the start we are intentionally turning the negative spaces in our designs into positives; all off-cuts are either pre-designed to be made into other pieces or kept and reused in the making of new creations to ensure minimal waste.
We use plastics in our products because these are made to last and don't tarnish. We love local, using a local laser cutter and locally sourced materials in the making of all our work. Our laser cutter gets all their energy from 100% green power from Powershop who topped the Greenpeace green electricity guide. Keeping things local lets us pick up our deliveries in person, and minimise our footprint.
Describe your customers and the community you have built/embraced.
MAINE+MARA’s inclusive range is designed for those that celebrate uniqueness. What unifies our audience is a desire for positive self-expression, standing out in their everyday environment and looking on the bright side of life.
What is it that you think your customers love about your brand/ product?
A common thread in the reviews we receive from our customers is the uniqueness of the designs and how they receive compliments whenever they wear them.
How do you/ your team stay inspired and authentic?
They all originate from my own visual experiences; from watching dancers and how they move, street artists and costume designers, to the patterns, bold colours and textures found in animals and nature.
Who would be your dream collaborator?
In our first year, we collaborated with well-known Sydney street artist Mulga, who was definitely a dream collaborator. We want to collab with more like-minded, passionately creative and edgy or unexpected creatives or brands. We also want to play more with the concept of wearable art.