Madeleine Harman and Jessica Grubisa are the design duo behind Harman Grubisa, an emerging label that is dedicated to creating beautiful made-in-New Zealand clothing that makes women feel good.
Two university friends with very different style aesthetics but a shared vision, teamed up at the end of 2013 to launch Harman Grubisa. Madeleine Harman, who spent time living and working in New York as a designer and a fashion forecaster, and Jessica Grubisa, who was the former fashion editor at Black magazine and assistant designer at World, are the design duo behind the label. The young women had the idea to start their own brand when they were studying, but after university each went their separate ways for a few years. They rejoined forces after Harman returned from New York and Grubisa turned down a design job at Alice McCall based in Bali. “I’ve wanted to have my own brand since I was born, so it was a hard decision because of the money and sacrifice and things like that. But it was a ‘if you don’t do it now you’re never going to do it’ scenario”, says Grubisa. The partnership is a true melding of skills and influences. “The whole brand and everything design-wise we do basically as a collaboration between Jess’ styles and my style and they are both very different,” says Harman. “It’s the harmony of those two quite different things.”
Everything is split 50/50, with Grubisa focusing more on the production side of the business and Harman on the details and marketing side of the brand. They are determined to make beautiful made-in-New Zealand clothing and stay as far away from throwaway fashion as possible. This means their clothes are aimed at a slightly older market and young professionals. “These women are sure of themselves and know what they want and it’s details like full silk and it’s lined,” says Grubisa. Their first collection was for spring/summer 2014 and this autumn they launch their second collection, which is a lot bolder. They have a retail space at the Dressing Room in The Department Store and also an online store.
All the garments are made in New Zealand except the shoes, which are manufactured in Australia and have garnered a lot of media coverage. “I think there’s been a lot of interest because it’s kind of unheard of, really, to start footwear right off the bat,” explains Grubisa. In terms of what inspires the fledging designers, it’s everything – and it’s each other. “Jess has an editor background and I lived in New York for a year and a bit – so we always look at runways and we have an international outlook,“ says Harman, adding that retail outside of New Zealand is a distinct possibility.“Can I be romantic? You inspire me,” Grubisa says, looking at Harman. “Obviously that’s why I hitched my wagon to hers.” Harman and Grubisa, both 25, have different body shapes so their garments are designed to cater for all sizes. “We are really driven by who we dress. It’s really important to make the women feel good – especially the larger ladies. You want to make them feel thin every day of their lives. Why would you not want to?” says Grubisa.
Words: Rosie Kelway
Photography: Heather Liddell