It's been a while since I've been *starstruck*! But when I got an email from Megan Park last week I must admit I may have squealed. I had originally requested an interview via Megan's PR agent... so it was a very lovely surprise to see the actual Megan Park pop up in my inbox! Oooh la la! Thanks Megan!
I have long been a fan of Megan's beautiful work... there is just something so painstaking and polished about each MP design - each piece just seems to strike the perfect effortless balance between traditional Indian embroidery and contemporary colour and pattern. Every Megan Park fabric is designed in house, hand-dyed and intricately embroidered, and finally each garment / home accessory is assembled by hand. It's clear that Megan is super passionate about handcrafted textiles and her treasured family of Indian artisans - I LOVE her heartfelt words in this interview, especially where she describes the 'truth and beauty' of pieces made entirely by hand. :)
Megan originally studied fashion design at RMIT, working as a textile designer in Melbourne when she first graduated. In 1993 she moved to London and began designing textiles for a well-respected agency, creating textiles for the likes of Givenchy, Dries van Noten and Kenzo. In 1997, Megan launched her own label in London with a collection of evening bags and scarves, and these days the Megan Park brand has grown to include womenswear and accessories collections, as well as Megan Park Girl (for girls aged 2-6,) and Megan Park Home. In 2004 Megan followed her heart back to Australia, and she's now based in Fitzroy!
AND she's just opened her very first retail store! OH my it looks SO beautiful!
Uh Ooooh. I feel expenditure coming on....
Megan Park Flagship Store
1039 High St
Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to founding the Megan Park brand and doing what you’re doing now?
I worked for 6 years as a designer for an Indian based textile company developing a range of embroidered textiles that sold to many of the European design houses. For years I worked in India working alongside an embroidery team developing these collections, and also I would then travel through France, Italy and Belgium showing the collection. It was a great training ground as it exposed me to India and its wealth of talented artisans. I was working with such amazing embroidery kurigers - it taught me alot in terms of technique, and I was encouraged to design fabrics which could be used by the best of the best. I did not have the commercial constraints that most designers need to work within. I created embroideries that were sold to the likes of Dries Van Noten, Givenchy, Kenzo and Sonia Rykiel, and as such they were more concerned with ‘the look’ rather than ‘the price’. Having led a gypsy life of designing the collection in London, overseeing the sampling development in India and then travelling to show the collection in Europe, I decided to put all of this effort into creating my own little collection of scarves and bags that were in themselves little embroidered canvases – so not too different to what I had been doing.
You worked for many years in the UK before returning to Melbourne in 2004 – what prompted the move back to home to Australia, and what challenges have you faced moving your business to Melbourne?
I lived and worked in London for 13 years before returning home. It was my family and my need to have a healthier happier life that bought me back. I loved my time in London and ‘did it well’ you could say but each time I returned on my summer holiday to Australia I found it more and more difficult to return to the grey and the stressful energy of London. I was nervous to leave the heart of the fashion scene that London is known to be, however I was also a little relieved. Our collection was already established in International markets and my production solidly founded. The challenge was the sheer logistics of the move. I employed a staff in London and they were fantastic. For 3 years following my move I maintained a London office with Melbourne being the design base. In the end though I needed my office and full staff around me. Having the internet means you can run a business from almost anywhere.
After many years of designing, manufacturing and wholesaling, you have recently taken the plunge and opened a flagship retail store in Melbourne! What inspired the move to retail, and how are you finding it?
I had always resisted going into retail as I felt a little scared of this unknown. In the end however I have given in and am now really happy that I have. Whilst the brand is well established we still have a relatively low key profile. Opening a flagship store will help us to project a complete vision and will allow us to show in one space all that we create – RTW, Accessories, Jewelry, Home and Girl. We have only been open for a month but it has been amazing. It is a real buzz to meet the customers and to hear the responses to the store and the collection. What I feel it will also give to me is an immediate response and connection to our customers. I expect that this will help to keep us in tune and true to the MP ethos.
Your work is so so beautiful – you’ve built a label that so many of us admire and covet! What do you think it is about Megan Park that has captured the imagination of so many?
Thank you for the lovely praise! A woman loves beautiful things no matter the season or the trend. I try to create pieces that will remain beautiful for years to come. I think when something is created entirely by hand it has a truth and beauty for this fact. I work with an amazing group of embroidery artisans ( kurigers ) and a factory that I have worked exclusively with since the beginning of my label. It is a unique relationship. The factory and the people I work with in India are like family. They are incredibly proud and driven to produce a collection of quality. I design firstly what I love and then think about all else later.. Sometimes it might take 1 month to embroider one of our pieces.
What is one (or two?!) of your favourite Megan Park pieces and why?
My favourite piece is a dress that I designed 6 -7 years ago. The embroidery is incredible as it is extremely fine and detailed yet being cream threadwork on cream color fabric is also relaxed and subtle. The fabric is hand loomed silk cotton khadi. It would have taken 3 months to embroidery and as such I was one of the few to enjoy this design. It is timeless and I have been wearing it for years now. People always remark when I am wearing this piece. When you wear something like this you can set your own statement rather than feeling as if you are stepping in line with a trend. (Megan wears her favourite piece in the portrait from Vogue Australia, pictured above)
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
This depends entirely on the day and where in the season it falls. Some days I am completely design focused and other times of the calendar I am concentrating on the business aspect of my work. Generally I spend at least ½ of my day on email as I am still very connected to the people I work with be it our agents based in New York, Milan and Tokyo or our factory based in Delhi. For the other ½ I work with my small design team (there are 3 of us) on one of the collections we are preparing. As we are still a small business I am very much involved in each step and decision that we take.
Where do you turn for creative inspiration – nature, travel, books, the web etc?
I have a large library and I also love trawling through vintage and antique markets. The markets are what I miss most about London! To be honest inspiration can come from the most surprising places. I see colours and blocks of colours all around me and I think that this subliminally guides me. I also feel that design is a natural evolution. I don’t tend to be too aware of what others are doing but do try to evolve and push forward with a fresh perspective each season.
Which other artists / designers / creative people do you admire?
Lisa Gorman is one of my closest friends – I love her commitment to making a collection that is cool, wearable and is as friendly to the environment as fashion can be.
Suzie Stanford – I had the privilege of working with Suzie on our store and she is completely incredible to be around. She designs jewelry for Paul Smith, she supplies the most exclusive stores internationally with her lighting and furniture, and she works on incredible interior revamps world wide - yet she still finds time to hunt down a menagerie of brass creatures to add some of her magic to our first store. She is a fearless creative with an amazing sense of style.
Geoffrey Nees is a friend whose work hangs in our store. What I love about Geoff’s work is that it is so perfect and yet it has been created hand. His work is full of thousands of precise papercuts and as such it makes you look at it and just wonder how it was possible. Again it is the hand element that I love about Geoff’s work – it is all the more beautiful when you know how it has been created.
The list could go on and on and on.............
What are you looking forward to?
Our wedding next February – a fabulous reason to get all of our friends out from the UK to experience a true Australian summertime rural wedding.
Your favourite neighbourhood in Melbourne and why?
Fitzroy – where we live. We are lucky enough to live on the same street and around the block from our closest friends, and so even in the middle of the city it still feels local and small town in a funny way. I also love the cultural and alternative mix of Fitzroy.
What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
Cumulus inc – no surprises here! It is a favourite that never disappoints.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Cavellero on Smith st, Collingwood with my partner and our twins. They have known me since I was heavily pregnant and so I always feel comfortable here having a quick breakfast on hop as it now days seems to be with 2 active 3 year olds.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
Kazari in the back streets of Richmond for the most beautifully inspiring Kimonos prints and the odd pieces of object that hide beneath all else there.
Huge thanks to Megan for her time and such thoughtful, heartfelt answers! Thanks also to Emma and Sophia at EVH PR for faciliating this beautiful interview!