Industry Interviews

Tamie Ingham
Co-founder, Mara & Mine

October 15, 2018

Introducing Sydney-born, Los Angeles-based co-founder and designer of shoe label Mara & Mine, Tamie Ingham. Initially a fashion stylist, Tamie alongside best friend and business partner Jasmine Yarbrough established the idea behind Mara & Mine on vacation on the Italian island of Capri. A desire to fulfil a sophisticated woman’s need for practical and chic footwear led to what has now become a must-have shoe label, worn by the likes of Margot Robbie, Cara Delevigne and Kendall Jenner.

 

Describe your title and role.

I am a co-founder and director of Mara & Mine. Because of my background as a stylist, I tend to gravitate towards more of the design side of things, but I’m very hands-on across the whole business and both my business partner, Jasmine Yarbrough, and I wear so many hats. All the hats!

Tell us about your formative years in styling.

Fashion has always been in my bones. My mother had a fashion boutique when I was really young and I loved spending time in there with her, and I was also hugely influenced and inspired by my cousin Robby Ingham’s work with his store as I was growing up. He really was one of Australia’s original fashion retail pioneers and someone I always really looked up to. Growing up surrounded by such great style, I loved to play dress-ups, putting different pieces together and creating little outfits.

I started off interning at Cleo magazine, and from there I started freelancing assisting great stylists who were kind enough to show me the ropes. That led to me starting to book jobs with the likes of RUSSH and (Sydney) Magazine, and well, from there I was off. It’s been a great foundation for Mara & Mine, because I bring that eye, that way of seeing the shoes as part of an entire look, or a mood, into the creative process when we develop new styles, and put together our collections.

The initial idea behind Mara & Mine came to you whilst on vacation in Capri. Tell us more?

Jasmine and I were both together in Capri, and couldn’t help but notice how chic all of the Italian women were in their flats. We both kept talking about how sophisticated their sense of style was, yet how comfortable they looked as they dashed about. That led to a conversation about how we were both on our feet constantly – Jas running from casting to casting, and me being on set – and well, hello Mara & Mine!

It felt like a bolt of inspiration and suddenly we knew what we wanted to do, and that we wanted to do it together. Our initial idea was to create a brand that led away from that dressed-up (and often impractical) aesthetic of stilettos, or pumps.

The design process was organic – it was all about what inspired us from our travels. (In fact, it still is!) By the time we came to designing our first collection, we’d just come back from Mexico. We’d been immersed in the colour and spectacle of the Day of the Dead celebrations – which was where the inspiration for our very first signature style, the Jem Skull Slipper, came from.

Whilst the brand initially found it’s niche and footing in the market (that pun was totally not intended!)because we only did flats, we’ve now expanded into some different heel heights – adding a little kitten style in this season, and bringing in a chunky low heel too. So the brand is evolving and expanding, in response to the demand of both our client base and also international buyers.

How do you share creative, design and business duties with business partner and friend, Jasmine?

Jas and I are very collaborative. Now that Jas is based in Sydney she gets the opportunity to have really great direct feedback from our customers through our retail store there, whilst I’m dealing more with the U.S. market and our buyers, who have very different types of clients.

With the two of us now being on two different continents, we tend to split our roles based on time zones. It’s like getting two days in one, as we can pick up where the other left off for the day – literally, while one of us is sleeping the other is working and so it gives us an almost seamless 24-hour work day for the brand. With operations in both America and Australia, that’s what we’ve found most effective when it comes to sharing the workload.

Since the brand was established, what has been the most fulfilling project or moment?

To single out just one moment is tough! The most recent would have to be having my favorite department store in New York pick up the brand. I can’t say too much yet because we’re just finalizing the order, but I know seeing Mara & Mine out on their shoe floor next season is just going to be amazing.

Also, our involvement in working with charities has been very fulfilling. One of my all-time most rewarding experiences was doing the capsule of vegan styles that we developed with Victoria’s Secret model, Candace Swanepoel. Proceeds from that capsule collection went to an African-based charity called mothers2mothers, which works to combat pediatric AIDS and support HIV-positive mothers-to-be in sub-Saharan African countries.

In an interview with Vogue you shared ‘America is one of the toughest places to do business in the world’. What challenges have you experienced in the US market?

The U.S. fashion industry is just so large, and competition is fierce, so it’s a daunting proposition for any designer, let alone first-time fashion entrepreneurs. Pricing is also very competitive in the footwear market, so positioning, production costs, margins, warehousing, delivery logistics and so on, they all bring their own learning curves.

Did you always feel LA would be the perfect base to herald the brand?

I moved to LA because I wanted to broaden my horizons. I wanted to live in a city that was unfamiliar and exciting, somewhere that would help me grow.LA attracts really creative, free-spirited people and the energy is inspiring. And it is the city of dreams, so it felt like the right place to start the brand too. It’s evolved so much since I first arrived from the fashion, the art and even the coffee!

What advice do you have for emerging designers influenced by your career path?

The best advice I was given was if you don’t ask, the answer is always no. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and have the courage to put yourself out there.

Has partnering in your business allowed you to make bolder commerce decisions?

Definitely. Having an additional sounding board and someone you can brainstorm with always helps in the decision-making process. Jasmine and I have different skill sets, and combining them has gotten us to this point. Differing points of view can help you see things from a completely different perspective, which often creates really clever solutions to problems that you would never have thought of otherwise.

One of your best-selling shoe styles was a collaboration with a Canadian artist, Raif Adelberg. How important are collaborations with other designers?

The unforgettable “F*&k I Love You”slippers! Raif is such a gem. I really loved doing those shoes with him. They’re always going to be one of my favourites. Collaborations add another dimension to the design process, because you are working within the parameters of someone else’s aesthetic and creative process too.

We’re working with [Australian supermodel] Cat McNeil on a capsule of three styles at the moment, which we’ll showcase to buyers in Paris early next year. We’ve got another couple of collaborations in the works with two ready-to-wear brands. Watch this space!

You travel a lot; how do you pack?

Considering how much long distance travel I do, you would think I would be an expert at packing, but I am the worst! I am of the ‘more is more’ mentality, and alwaysoverpack.

It sort of hails back to how I get dressed in the morning. I pick out a few options as I need to think about the possibilities. And then I lay out several options on my bed – always head to toe looks – before deciding on what I’m going to wear. That comes from how I was trained as a fashion assistant and I’ve taken that to everyday life. I’m the opposite of a minimalist – I’m a maximalist!

What are you wearing right now?

Right now I am wearing a lot of Celine. Knowing that this is Phoebe Philo’s swan song at the label, I am trying to wear it all up now, because it will never be the same again. I’ve been a fan of Phoebe for ages. Who can forget that interview she did with Alexandra Shulman, for the Guardian at the time, when she said “I find mediocrity hard.” Hilariously awesome. What a great reminder to stick to your guns when it comes to knowing who you are.

I wear a mix of international brands like The Row and Wardrobe NYC, along with a lot of Aussie labels like Ellery, Bassike and Albus Lumen. I think what Marina Afonina has done with Albus Lumen is just brilliant. And denim! I’m all about a great blue jean.

Keep up with Mara & Mine on Instagram here.

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