Interview with Designer Olivia Koennecke from Maison Essentiele

Interview with Olivia from Maison Essentiele | The Undone

Hi Liv! We’d love to know more about you. Where did you grow up, what did you study, what life experiences do you think have made the biggest impact on where you are now?

Hi! Thank you so much. 

I grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, where I completed my high school and tertiary education. Looking back, I always had a creative and entrepreneurial streak: I’d do bake sales, jewellery stalls, and had a vintage clothing brand, where I’d upcycle vintage pieces and sell them at fashion markets on the weekends. After this, I got my first full time job in marketing at 19 whilst I was still studying, before moving to Sydney at 21. I worked for ASOS, before moving to a luxury communications agency in fashion here in Sydney. From there, I moved in house for Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, unrolling global communications in the Australian New Zealand market, before leaving to pursue MAISON ESSENTIELE in 2018. 

I’ve always had a passion for the merging of creativity and commerce that fashion brings, and an innate desire to create something where we can really make an impact. Five years later, MAISON ESSENTIELE is now stocked globally in over 25 retailers with an offering of ready to wear and sleep pieces. MAISON ESSENTIELE is built on the idea of creating your home essentials, and to be stocked at The Undone store is such a beautiful synergy we’re really proud of. 

What inspired you to create a brand centered around premium sleep and loungewear?

I’ve always had a really close relationship with my grandmother, and I had gone to stay with my grandparents for the weekend when I realised I’d forgotten to bring my pyjamas. My grandmother had a beautiful collection of vintage nightgowns and robes, and laid out some pieces for me to wear to bed. It was such a luxurious experience, the silk against your skin… when I came back to Sydney, I knew I needed to get myself a set of silk pyjamas, but I couldn’t find any that I liked in that high quality silk I’d experienced, in modern cuts and colours.

That was my aha moment for sure, and not long after, MAISON ESSENTIELE was born. We launched with five pieces – a classic silk shirt & pant, camisole & short, and a feather set. Today, we have grown to offer not only sleep but ready to wear, in classic tailoring, and romantic, vintage inspired designs in the highest quality materials.

Working in PR and communications before starting MAISON ESSENTIELE would have been the ultimate practice run in communicating a brand’s story on a national and global scale. How much of your previous work experience helped with launching your own brand, what were the biggest challenges and learnings you faced?

Working in the industry before was invaluable in not only learning the ropes of communications and marketing, but meeting some really talented people, many whom im lucky enough to call my friends today. They have been instrumental in helping bring MAISON ESSENTIELE to life: whether through advice, feedback, and being the MAISON ESSENTIELE muse. After a decade in the industry, although the communications side is second nature to me, learning to manage this amongst all other elements of the business was definitely a steep learning curve. It comes down to a willingness to learn, to be resourceful, to constantly evolve and grow, and having an innate belief in what you’re building.

Interview with Designer Olivia Koennecke from Maison Essentiele | The Undone

Where do you find inspiration? Can you share with us what’s influencing you right now? We love hearing about the design process, where do you begin designing a collection?

Vintage archival designer lingerie of the 20s-60s, European design, 90s and early 2000s classic shapes, the list goes on…

And, from our customer! What would compliment her existing wardrobe, where she’s travelling, what stage of life she’s in, etc.

In terms of the design process, we usually start with our CORE collection: a foundation of our shirts, pants and key dress shapes sit in black, white and our striped cottons. From here I’ll look at what other colours we’re gravitating towards, what pieces we love but want to update slightly, and what gaps could be filled in the collection, what new shapes we’re loving, etc, and go from there. 

MAISON ESSENTIELE is committed to educating internally and externally on socially and environmentally sustainable business practices and slow fashion. In what ways are you currently working towards a more sustainable design and production process?

MAISON ESSENTIELE roughly translates into house of essentials, and the foundation of our brand is built on this ethos: we create luxury essentials for you to love for seasons to come.

Another pillar of ours is sustainability, something we don’t talk to as much, but are always quietly working on. From the beginning, we’ve been committed to conscious craftsmanship, working with mostly natural, biodegradable fabrics like silk, cotton and linen, using OKEO-TEXT Standard 100 materials, meaning every thread, button and dye used has been tested for harmful substances. Our manufacturers are audited for fair working conditions and our garment bags and post satchels are also plant based and biodegradable.

We’re constantly learning on how we can better our processes, including the new implementation of our core collection: our seasonless, always on offering of our shirting, pants and dresses in key cuts and colourways.

You recently opened your flagship boutique in Paddington, Sydney - a milestone in itself that you must be extremely proud of. What drew you to this particular area and how did you approach the interior of the store?

Thank you! Its so exciting for us, and something my team and I are so proud of. The Intersection Paddington is a fashion destination recognised on a global scale, and we’re honoured to be included in the list of local and global tastemakers in fashion, beauty and design that inhabit the strip.

The interiors, like our collections, were widely influenced by contemporary art deco and mid century modern influences of European design. One of my best friends and talented interior designers, Claire Markwick Smith, helped us bring our ideas to life:Our focus was on warm minimalism, utilising natural materials and paired back lighting and finishes by Henry Wilson Studio to compliment the raw materials of silk and cotton in our collections. Claire also created our custom elements using aluminium, powder coated steel and sotsass wood by Austraian designer Ettore Sottsass.

Our store is an opportunity to continue to extend our community in real life as well as online: offering customers a place to try on our pieces, shop the latest styles before anyone else, and tap into our creative networks in the neighbourhood. We have some exciting collaborations coming up in store in coming months – so watch this space!

Interview with Designer Olivia Koennecke from Maison Essentiele | The Undone

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own brand? 

Its hard work, it takes years, and you will never be ready! Its truly an obsession, you have to live and breathe it, there are no days off – but it is so rewarding. And don’t wait for the perfect moment - there never is one.

How would you describe your personal style?

Classic, modern and a twist of fun. I love playing with accessories and textures, whilst keeping my colour palette relatively neutral.

What are your wardrobe essentials?

Good fitting denim, a tailored black pant and blazer, the MAISON ESSENTIELE Kimono, Vintage Nightgown and bias cut pant in Black silk, and a variety of our silk and cotton basics on rotation.

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