Featured Designer: Mookah

FK chats to the lovely sisters Nicole and Leisa from textiles label Mookah

Can you introduce us to your handmade label, Mookah and where the name originates from?
Mookah is made up of sister team Nicole and Leisa, and is a small independent handmade label offering a range of stylish, contemporary, and eco friendly home wares, accessories, and a collection of quirky animals. Where does the name Mookah originate from? Excellent question, and 2 years down the track you’d think we’d have a nice succinct answer wouldn’t you? The truth is that we sat down with a spiral notebook, and my favourite pen and jotted down a couple of pages of words and names that we liked or meant something to us, and when we came up with Mookah, it just felt right.  In part, the brand name incorporates a pet name for Nicole’s son and my nephew when he was little,  Moo Moo, who played a pivotal role in the creation of Mookah.

What do you love about working with fabrics?
Working with fabrics for us is a little like working with paint in the home.  You can completely change the look and feel of a space with little cost and just a little bit of effort, just by adding a splash of colour on the walls with a paintbrush or a few cushions scattered here and there.  It doesn’t have to be a huge financial investment, but rather just a few stylish pieces that coordinate with each other to tell a story or create a look and feel. Fabric isn’t just about the visual appeal of colours though, it’s also about the design of the prints and the texture of the fabrics themselves that weave together to reflect your personality, or a vision of an image you are working to create.

What are your individual backgrounds and when did you decide to team up and create Mookah?
In many ways we are the unlikeliest of people to launch such a brand, but in other ways we always both had a creative streak, Nicole in an arts field and me more in a structured drawing or design area.  We have always joked about starting a business together, but honestly probably never thought it would happen. While still at school, my dream was to be a Landscape Designer, which would have combined my love of horticulture and structured drawing/design, but I lacked belief in myself and studied business at university.  Nicole on the other hand was a creative soul that enjoyed arts, or drawing and painting and loved making her own clothes, and dreamt of being a fashion designer or a graphic artist, but also went on to study business at university. After Nicole spending many years in retail management and then teaching young adults with disabilities, and me working in the horticultural field for longer than I should have, I decided to have a sea change and take some time off to renovate a house.  At this same time, Nicole and her partner had their son Cooper and decided to also do the sea change thing to be closer to family and to raise their son in the country. The circumstances of both of us at this time in 2009, gave us the opportunity start our business together.  The complete Mookah range is now designed and made the old fashioned way by hand in our home based studio, located in Inverloch.

Where do you go to find inspiration?
Inspiration isn’t something we generally go looking for, it is something that usually comes to us while going about our everyday lives.  Predominantly it comes from nature, or more specifically the environment that we live in, which is a victorian coastal bushland area. We think ourselves very lucky to have a studio that looks across to natural bushland, where we can smell the gum trees and the ocean, and hear the birds chirping and the frogs croaking.  This environment provides an endless source of inspiration.

What do you love about living in Victoria’s coastal bushland and how does this influence your making?
Living in Inverloch in Victoria’s coastal bushland was all about making a lifestyle change.  A choice to lead a simpler, quieter life in the fresh country sea air, and to spend more quality time with family and friends. What’s not to love? Mookah is really about more than Nicole and I, as the rest of the family plays a part too.  Mum  will come and spend a few hours in the studio here and there, helping us to mark and cut fabric, Dad helps to bring life to some of our ideas for market props/displays, and Nicole’s partner Darrel is the one that makes our rocket lamps.  All this while Nicole gets to be a stay at home Mum, and I get to spend time with my nephew Cooper and play a large part in his life. You know what one of the best bits is though?  If we’ve had enough and need a break, or we’ve had a really productive day, we can make the decision to call it quits for the day and head down the beach to meet some friends.  It’s all about finding a balance.

What plans do you have for this year?
Plans? Well there is a whiteboard full of ideas, designs and products to be developed in the studio, but only time will tell how many come to fruition this year.  I can tell you though, that for Mookah, 2011 will be about growing and developing a unique brand, and being a little more creative. There will be new fabric designs, including one that was released a couple of weeks ago at Finders Keepers in Melbourne, the introduction of a range of womens funky skirts using screen printed fabrics, as well as some new designs that we will be screen printing ourselves onto fabric panels to be used in cushions, tea towels and panels for women’s skirts.



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