Mind your manners.
Miss FQ talks to Auckland based brand manager of Modern Manners, Liam Sharma, about the gender-neutral clothing market, the importance of a social media presence in the fashion industry and how supporting local talent enriches his own label.
FQ: When did you start Modern Manners?
Liam Sharma: Ewan and I launched Modern Manners as a gender-neutral clothing brand in mid-May last year. We are about to hit our one-year anniversary very soon so that’s incredibly exciting for us!
What qualities define Modern Manners as a brand?
Modern Manners is a very realistic, gender-neutral clothing brand. We create clothes that we can envisage both females and males feeling comfortable wearing while including unique prints and fine cuts. We believe we have a great eye for detail and know what our market is currently vibing with. Modern Manners is based off our own clothes, however we are always looking to create a community around our brand as we want to be a movement and for our styles to be known and recognized as much as possible! We are streetwear, with a touch of high fashion class.
Who embodies these qualities that you would like to see wear your clothing?
I would love to see A$AP Rocky wearing our clothes, that would be so cool. His style is so on point and his appreciation for detailed streetwear really suits our aesthetic. Other people I would love to see running with our brand are Ian Connor, Rihanna, the Olsen twins and Lorde.
Modern Manners is a joint venture between yourself and Ewan Prathan. How has this relationship influenced your views on the importance of collaboration?
Modern Manners has always been about collaboration, because we do everything between ourselves [Ewan & I]. It has taught us both so much about flexibility and points of view. Sometimes we don’t agree with each other’s ideas, but we have to work around each other and that is fundamentally how we design for Modern Manners. We are both such team players and we have the highest respect for one other. We fill the holes in each other’s skillsets and it’s always so nice being able to bounce ideas around at any time of the day or night.
Gender-neutral clothing is a relatively new frontier yet is rapidly gaining momentum, with retail superpower Zara releasing their first gender neutral range in March. Do you think a non-gender specific way of dressing is something we will see more of in the future?
100% – I think gender-neutral clothing will become a predominant feature within most fashion brands in the future. We feel like social norms of what males or females can and cannot wear are going down the drain and it’s so pleasing for us, as a gender-neutral brand, to watch.
Over the last year you’ve gained an incredibly large and loyal customer base. How important was the role of social media in creating this following?
Social media is vital for Modern Manners. Because of Instagram (@modernmanners) and all the other platforms we are on, it gives us the ability to reach our customer base 24/7. We are so active on these forums because we are really trying to create a personal touch with our followers and customers. We want to show them what we find inspiring and who we love wearing our clothes! It creates an online community which is so key, as the people who connect with us on our social media platforms can understand another layer of our brand and communicate with us on a deeper level.
Your St Kevin’s Arcade store on K Road showcases the work of dozens of young, local artists; do you find that supporting local talent enriches your own brand?
It was so important for our brand to support young local artists. I feel like sometimes younger artists are self-conscious about their art and approaching spaces to display and sell their work. What we wanted to do was create an approachable, open environment for the younger generation of artists to come in and speak to us about selling their work – a collaboration of sorts – with artists who identify with our brand. It has worked so well and we now have work from over 30 artists that we sell on behalf of almost every day! It’s just another part of creating a community around our brand.
What would your advice be to other young creatives looking to start something of their own?
Whenever I read the answer to this question from other people in interviews, they always say not to listen to the criticism and to just do your own thing regardless of what anyone says. I think my main piece of advice is to listen to everyone’s opinions – take them in whether they are negative or not and learn from them! Know when to discard the rubbish comments and learn from every step you make. Sometimes mistakes are the most valuable stepping stones. Our brand’s motto has always been ‘from little things, bigger things grow’.
Tell us what the next year will look like for Modern Manners… what can we look forward to seeing from you?
Well, we are doing NZFW this year, which is really cool for us! I legit can’t wait to show the collection that Ewan and I have been creating. All I can say is we are both eternal romantics, so expect some nostalgic feelings. I’m going to New York at the end of September this year for 12 months – I will be continuing to run Modern Manners from over there and figuring out how we fit in within the Big Apple. I want to see what New York thinks of Modern Manners and how we can upgrade our brand in the city that never sleeps. We have some incredibly cool collaborations coming up, especially one with one of our favourite rappers in the world, but I really can’t say much about that just yet… stay tuned.
St. Kevin’s Arcade, Shop 5
183 Karangahape Road