One for mum...
and a little something for me...
then next time I would like...
and one of these.

Monika from nika+mink

Anyone who makes my life easier, I love. Enter Monika Mamrot of nika+mink. She visited the Real Living office a little while ago with her latest products that are available for sale on the Real Shopping website. The problem? Mother's Day. The solution? Gorgeous velvet jewellery rolls... oh, and one for me. After all, I am a mum (nearly!). I had to share this great little company with you, not only because it showcases Australia design but because it gives back to communities in developing countries.

How and why did you start nika+mink? I started nika+mink just over 18 months ago with my first exhibition; however the idea has been floating around my head for a long, long time. I studied fashion design and later graphic design but found I was useless at pattern making and not interested in computer graphics... so I didn’t complete either course but was yearning for a creative outlet. I managed Cambodia House for several years, which gave me the opportunity to source and design beautiful products, to travel extensively, and to experience many cultures intimately. Through my travels I realised there is still so much untapped talent and impressive craft skills in places where many are in need of a source of income, so nika+mink was born.
What has been the response? Fantastic!!! I have had such great feedback and support from my retail clients that I pinch myself on a daily basis when I receive top-up orders after the stock has been in stores for just a few days. I cannot believe it. I have also had wonderful encouragement from Real Living and the orders that have been coming through from the website. It’s nice to see, first hand, the products selling on a wholesale and retail level.
How is having your own business different from what you expected? It’s not so different. I expected it to be hard work and I was slightly frightened by the idea of not having any input or feedback from anyone. At the same time I was looking forward to being my own boss, working my own hours, being creative and spending more time with my cat Tiger (aka the Boss), Kepi (the food-driven Kelpie) and Posie (the highly strung Border Collie). I now LOVE IT. I enjoy my space and my four-legged colleagues. I have developed a good routine and stick to it... and thankfully I have great friends ready to lend a helping hand. As all my products are handmade in small workshops scattered on the outskirts of Hanoi, Saigon and Bangkok, by far my biggest challenges have been in production planning. I work around harvesting seasons and religious holidays, often facing fabric shortages, electricity black-out periods and currency fluctuations... but I wouldn’t swap it for anything else.
What has been a highlight? Being discovered by Real Living in August 2007. I could not believe how excited Caroline, the Advertising Creative Director from Real Living, was about my products. I later found out that I was one of only 10 designers/suppliers to be picked for the launch of their online shop. I was so happy to have been approached and lucky to have had my products featured extensively throughout the magazine since.
Where do you look for inspiration? EVERYWHERE. Actually, a friend and I were seeing a performance at the Opera House a few nights ago and when one of the performers came out in this amazing, dip-dyed, flowing silk gown, I turned to my friend announcing I'm going to introduce dip-dyed silk scarves into my next range. Her response wasn’t encouraging, nevertheless, I will do gorgeous, dip-dyed silk scarves next summer... oh, the beauty of having creative freedom. I am also inspired, endlessly, through my travels, some very creative friends, books and magazines.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned? Not to take things too personally. I create pieces that I love and hope clients will love them as well but there are always those that need convincing. If it’s a hard sell I don’t bother!!! I feel the product speaks for itself and retailers have to appreciate it in order to sell it well.
What are you passionate about right now? Food and travel... did I mention food? I really love to eat delicious, sensual food – whether home cooked or done by the experts. Cooking is very much “my” time; it’s meditative and creative. I love trying new recipes, particularly anything full and hearty by Jamie Oliver. I have also been very lucky to be able to travel extensively, both interstate and overseas, for work and pleasure. That is when you realise that, in a Ben Lee moment “we‘re all in this together”. It doesn’t matter which culture, religion or climate we are from, we all have the same need to love and be loved, to protect and care for those that are closest to us and to simply be happy. I am constantly reminded that our similarities are much greater than our differences.
If you could meet one person, living or dead, who would it be? Hmm, this is going to sound shallow and girly but I would LOVE to meet Johnny Depp. Besides the obvious, he actually comes across like a really interesting, really off-beat kinda guy.
What are you looking forward to? A short trip to Vietnam in a few days. I love getting off the flight and just feeling transformed, the humidity, the noise, the smell and the crowds, I love it, it is all so energising and exciting... even dodging the traffic. I am also heading back home, to Poland, in December. I haven’t had a white Christmas since I left when I was 12. I can hardly wait, and of course I am really looking forward to the traditional Polish Christmas fare.
What are you reading? I am “trying” to read a few books. Paulo Coelho's Life, containing quotations from several of his books. I really find him inspiring and thought-provoking, and his writing spiritual and universal. The second book, which I hope to finish on the flight to Vietnam, is Insatiable Critic by Gael Greene, who was a restaurant critic for New York magazine; it is a feast for “all” the senses. Alain De Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness, is the third book I am trying to get through. De Botton looks at how our private homes and public places influence how we feel, and considers how architects could build in ways that would perhaps increase our happiness. I really enjoy all his work.

Images courtesy of nika+mink