Mushama & me

It’s raining, it’s pouring… but Sharn Blackwell is making raincoats worth getting out of bed for.

How did you come to be making recycled raincoats? I’ve always loved working with recycled fabrics – not only for the environmental factor, but also for the stories they hold. The idea of applying that in this way came about while I was living in one of the wettest cities in Europe, Amsterdam. The biking culture coupled with the constant rain was all the inspiration I needed.

Why did you name the business ‘Mushama & Me’? The word “mushama” literally means raincoat in Albanian – I was in Albania before moving to Amsterdam. I love the sound of the word “mushama”, and together with “me”, it’s saying, “just me and my raincoat”.

How do you create your raincoats? It all starts at the op shop. When I decided to re-launch Mushama & Me in New Zealand the first thing I did was go on a bed-sheet shopping spree, to all my favourite small-town op shops. From there the sheets are washed in Napisan, dried, cut to the same width and stitched together, creating one continuous length of fabric. Then I waterproof by bonding a soft, micro-thin layer of PVC to the surface of the fabric, before hand-cutting each garment. The cutting is crucial. I have to cut around stains and inconsistencies – such as cigarette holes from the days when it was normal to smoke in bed – as well as ensuring that the print placement is perfect. Being one-off garments, this can take some time. To minimise as much waste as possible I then cut smaller products from the scraps, such as babies’ bibs and bike seat covers. Lastly, the cut raincoats head 8km down the road to be made up.

Who are your coats designed for? I have to think about the urban commuter, the walker, the public transport user and the biker. But, as a lover of the biking culture and lifestyle, I give extra consideration to the urban biker. I’ve designed a raincoat with discrete strap clips around the back and out and around the legs to keep the knees dry. This was something I came up with after many days working with wet jean legs till lunchtime. I’ll be launching coats for men next. They’ve been a bit left out till now.

Photography Matt Queree

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