Ever since I discovered Bird & Knoll they have been high up on my list of things to not-to-leave New Zealand without. These luxurious cashmere-blend scarves are printed with travel destinations, look fabulous and are worn by the fashion conscious worldwide.
I met Macayla, one half of the Bird & Knoll design duo, a couple of years ago, and since then we’ve bumped into each other at various events and around town. I always love her friendly demeanour and the spark she radiates, which is why I was excited to catch up again to hear about how Bird and Knoll began.
The business set-up is a little different from most; Macayla is based in Auckland and Natalie in Sydney. They manage the trans-Tasman distance well though – I saw an example of this a couple of minutes after my arrival in the Auckland studio. A Skype call from Natalie came through. I waited as they exchanged a few notes and I really got a feel for their connectedness. Macayla told me that they quite often sit at their desks in their purpose-built home studios and work away (side by side) on Skype.
Meeting Macayla, you’d never guess that her working career began very differently from the world of fashion. She was originally an intensive care nurse, and while she loved the adrenaline and pressure of her job, the night shifts messed with her. She left and applied for a job in the sales and marketing department of TVNZ. Macayla laughed as she told me how they’d asked her in the interview how she handled stress? She told them that she did it pretty well, otherwise people might die. She got the job on the spot. This then gave her the confidence to move later towards a career in fashion, where her interests lie. She was offered a job at a teen girl’s magazine, Cream, to set up the fashion and beauty section. From there she worked as sales and marketing PR for the New Zealand, high-end fashion store Workshop, before leaving to have her first child. Not long after that she and her young family moved to Sydney for a number of years, where she met Natalie, returning back to Auckland just in time for her first-born to start school.
It was Natalie who contacted Macayla after the move back to New Zealand to tell her of a business idea. Interestingly, Natalie also came from a completely different background, working in banking before having children. She always had a passion for photography though, and had an archive of travel images that she wanted to do something with. The inspiration of printing her travel images onto scarves came to her while lying on a deck chair in Maui, Hawaii. She instantly thought of Macayla as her business partner. Macayla, who made the decision to stay home while her children were young, thought it would be something fun to do for a couple of hours a week with a friend. Little did she know how quickly the brand would take off, admitting that she wasn’t quite ready for it, but just had to ride the wave.
What an exciting ride it has been. Two friends completely reinventing their careers and combining their skills, Macayla’s fashion background and Natalie’s photography, to create luxurious scarves, which are seen on celebrities around the world. They have had two collaborations with Qantas. The first in 2015 in conjunction with supermodel Jessica Hart, hired by Qantas as their fashion consultant to draw on global trends. Bird and Knoll was one of these and they produced the first scarf in the “feels like home” collection. More recently they teamed up again to run a competition to have a winning travel destination photo printed onto a Bird & Knoll scarf, available for purchase on the Qantas online shop.
Another exciting and recent collaboration is with fellow travel enthusiasts, Zoe & Morgan, who have also been featured in my NZ Month. The two brands jointly designed three super chic and lightweight travel headscarves to coincide with Zoe & Morgan’s latest jewellery collection, “Marrakesh”.
While their immediate success may have taken them both by surprise, their passion, business heads and eye for style will, no doubt, carry them well into the future. The first hint of this comes with their recently released resort collection. Pop over to their site to see their entire collection. But don’t worry; if you’re like me and wonder how to wear a scarf, they’ve got it sorted with their tutorial videos.
Thank you Macayla and Natalie!
In case you missed it, as I make my way to my new life in Sweden, the month of September is my homage to this beautiful country that I called home for over five years. It’s a dedication to its people and talent. Pop back on Monday for more New Zealand Month.
Photos by Mel Chesneau for Styled Canvas