In the Karangahape Road neighbourhood with Mina’s Natalie Procter

The Auckland fashion designer is big on community as a tool to change how we view our wardrobes.

After finishing her fashion degree at Massey University in Wellington, designer Natalie Procter went on a six-week trip to rural India, where she charted a ‘seed to garment’ course and became deeply interested in the people making our clothes. The experience sparked in her the desire to create a brand that’s invested in its community of makers and local businesses. The upshot is Mina.

BEHIND THE SCENES Natalie works with a core neutral colour palette, then chooses a few additional hues each season based on what she’s personally drawn to, and the feel and fall of the fabrics. She says something she’d like to see change in the fashion industry is the lack of transparency around how garments are made. “If more people understood all the hands involved in making their clothing, it might change the way they buy and value it.”

Natalie, what makes Mina tick? The brand is based in Auckland and run by me and my mum, Michelle Procter, and our ethos is about being thoughtful in your choices and investing in good-quality pieces that will last for years.
It was important for us to be New Zealand-made so we could really get to know our makers and support the local industry. We have a community around us of fabric wholesalers, pattern makers, sewers, buttonhole machinists, pressers… The relationships we’ve made with our supply chain are incredibly important to us, and being able to discuss things face to face has been key to ensuring the quality and tailoring we deliver each season.

How would you describe your aesthetic? Understated and ageless, and designed with intention. I design for the way modern women live and work, balancing feminine and contemporary with soft tailoring and clean lines.

Where do you find your fabrics? We source only natural fabrics from wholesalers here in Auckland. Being a small brand that doesn’t produce hundreds of each garment, we’re lucky to be able to use fabrics the industry refers to as ‘deadstock’ — the 100 or so metres left over after a big fashion label has produced in bulk. Essentially, we don’t have to use more of our planet’s resources to produce fabric — we’re able to use what’s already been created.

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED As well as a two-bedroom apartment, the three-storey building houses six other small businesses in a shared workspace alongside Mina’s showroom/meeting room (above, decorated with pieces from Babelogue down the road, including a candelabra by Ghastly Studios), where customers can try on the range. The Caker is on the ground floor, and fellow fashion labels Lela Jacobs, Jimmy D and Lost & Led Astray are nearby. Natalie also loves her mid-morning ritual of popping downstairs to Daily Daily or Fort Green for a coffee.

What shapes the mood of each collection? I’m heavily driven and inspired by fabrics and will always check out fabric stores before even starting to think about a collection. Once I’ve found the right fabrics, I create a textural palette and a colour palette and design from there, steering clear of trends. As for shape and silhouette, I design for a woman’s shape. I look at the curves of her figure and work with fabrics that best fall off and softly shape the body.

What was the theme for A/W 2020? This season’s collection, Walking the Bushveld, is inspired by a recent trip I took to South Africa to visit family. It draws on the tone and texture of the Bushveld landscape in a sub-tropical woodland region. We’ve focused on creating a seasonless range as a way for people to buy less and get more out of their wardrobe. In the past, we’ve used a lot of wool for winter, but this time we’ve chosen fabrics in a wider variety of weights that can be layered in the cooler months and also worn when it’s warmer.

What pieces will you be wearing? I’ll definitely be living in our new denim. Both Mum and I have always struggled to find pants that fit our curves right, so now we’ve mastered classic, high-waisted, tailored pants, we’re launching stretch denim in both full-length and cropped styles. I’ll be paring it with our merino Sky jumper in crisp white with a blue asymmetric stripe down one sleeve.
Another of my favourite pieces is our full-length Stone coat, which comes in a lightweight charcoal wool and a chocolate wool-cashmere finish. For an occasion look, I’m looking forward to wearing our Black Rise jumpsuit with one of our tailored blazers. 

You’ve been working and living in a brick character building on Karangahape Road for the past two years. What attracted you to this space? A friend of mine was living in the apartment on the top floor and offered me a bedroom, plus a desk in the shared workspace downstairs. It came at the perfect time as I’d just decided to quit my retail job and go full-time at Mina. I began running my showroom from the space and using it as design/dispatch/HQ.
We’re based at the ‘fashion district’ end of K’ Road. It’s such a creative area with a great sense of community. I have my local coffee shops, lunch spots and places to go for after-work drinks, and I’m also within a few minutes’ walk or drive of most of my supply chain, making communication super easy.

LIFE & STYLE The designer says she has too many favourite local haunts to count. “Gemmayze Street does some of the best Lebanese food and is always buzzing, Uncle Man’s is a regular in winter for a hot chicken laksa, and you can’t go wrong with a drink in the sun at Coco’s Cantina.” The lamp and vase seen here are also from Babelogue.

How do you achieve balance when work and home are in one place? It’s definitely taken a while to create a boundary between the two. I can easily get to the end of the day and realise I haven’t set foot outside, so I’ve put little things into my daily routine to give each day some structure. I always get up early to go to the gym for a sweat session or for a walk to get some fresh air, and I try to head downstairs to the office at the same time every day and only go upstairs for lunch or to make a cup of tea.
I love cooking and find it’s the easiest thing to help me shut off from work at the end of the day. Winding down for me is about being in the kitchen with my flatmates catching up on our days. I often crave a big open space or the beach, too, so when the weather’s good after work, my partner and I go outside to eat our dinner in the park or drive over to Point Chevalier Beach.

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Matt Quérée

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