January 24, 2008
mao & more
Owner John Williams, with one of his many pairs of brightly coloured spectacles.
It's not really fair to call Mao and More a shop. It's more an Aladdin's cave, although one that has treasures from the Far East. And its contents are quite a reflection on the owner, John Williams - colourful, bright, bold... as you'll find out for yourself:
How and why did you start Mao and More? I started it when I was a very young boy - 12 to be exact - the idea not in its current incarnation was and has been there since then to do with a fascination for all things old, new, textures, travel, histories, design, colours, smells, objects and, most of all, people. This leads to exploring periods of times past and present, and having stuff that you can then pass on to others. I also think all these elements make up the palette of people and societies.
How is having your own business different to what you expected? We left Singapore where we were living and returned to Oz. I didn't want the corporate life anymore so it was a very natural and seamless transition to the setting up the Mao and More brand and business concept.
What has been the response? I do not believe these things happen in a vacuum but all people and objects collide at the right times. So after a lot of breathtaking conversations Mao and More opened four years ago. The response has been an interesting journey as we have a great many fab customers and people who think what we are doing and the directions we are going in is for them. I think the retailing environment is a massive animal that is voracious and relentless in its pursuit of attracting consumers and customers. I had worked in the advertising and media/marketing environment in my past life, but it does not prepare you for the retail environment. But, hey, we learn and move on!
What has been the highlight? The highlights have been many both here and throughout the markets we trade in. But I think the singular one would be the acceptance of this concept: pulling and pushing it towards the consumer acceptance. And there are two standouts - two charities that Mao and More supports: Margaret Ward, an ex-Medecins Sans Frontieres nurse, who has set up an orphanage in China called Xinxing Aid for Street Kids which also deals with the trafficking of children. I also feel passionate about people on the land, so we will help support farmers with free labor during times of duress.
Where do you look to for inspiration? I do not look for inspiration as if you look you cannot see it - it's there all the time and it pops up all the time you just have to recognise it and go with it. However, I think there are fab qualities that give you a bit of a different look at yourself. I really love the attitude and vibrancy of Jamie Oliver as he exudes himself; wonderful.
What are you passionate about right now? I have a burning desire to see the farming communities hit by hardship recover; George W Bush to exit the Oval Office and America come to a more real sense of its global position; see my children and all children grow to be the new citizens of tomorrow; and, of course, Mao and More to flourish.
If you could meet one person, living or dead, who would it be? To meet someone or aspire to meet a person does not equate in my sensibilities, as I think you meet lots of fab people. If you do end up meeting someone who has a large profile well and good... it’s meant to be.
What are you looking forward to? Seeing Mao and More become a bigger venture so I can devote more time to giving back to the communities/causes that need help and assistance. I think giving back is as important as getting - it’s the yin and yang balance.
What are you reading? I am currently reading the new Neil Perry cookbook: fab, fab, fab, simple and a great outlook on food and how to do it. Also the book called Museum about the Macleay Collection at the University of Sydney. What an interesting man for his time.
Images courtesy of John Williams @ Mao and More.