Emma Mulholland chats Denim with Office Mag

Everybody loves the sunshine. Australia-based label Emma Mulholland on Holiday instills a sense of optimism and youthful whimsy within all of their wearers, by bottling up sunshine and bringing it straight to you. With their 80s and 90s informed patterns and pastel color palette, you don’t need to travel far to get away — just slip into their print-saturated pieces for an all-inclusive trip of your own.

The unisex brand has been hailed for its individualistic prints and staple pieces that integrate effortlessly into any wardrobe, but now, designer and founder, Emma, is venturing into a new space with denim pieces — launching March 10th. office caught up with Emma Mulholland about the new launch, integrating sustainability, and what her ideal escapist holiday consists of, below.

Interview by Kayla Curtis-Evans

Emma Mulholland on Holiday is your namesake brand — can you tell me a bit about who you and the brand are?

Emma Mulholland On Holiday began in 2017. We have a pretty wide range of women's ready-to-wear. We started off really small with one or two styles of pants — which have definitely become what we're most known for. The patterns, especially the checkerboard, are something that really set off our brand. But denim is something I've been wanting to do for a long time. I've done bits and pieces of denim in the past and been quite disappointed. I knew it was something you really need to put time into — just to develop the denim; it's not as easy as a printed fabric. I find the washes and the fit change so much with the techniques that all the manufacturers use. We started working on the denim in the very first lockdown in 2019, on and off. It took a while to find the right manufacturer. I just wanted the product to be the way that I wanted it to be and we weren't in any rush to fit them into any certain collection. So I'm really happy that they're finally ready and they are our two most popular styles of pants, the Kokomo pant and the Vacation pant.

Why did you decide to tackle denim?

I've just always wanted that piece that you can pair easily with more of a crazy-colored top. I didn't want our customers to feel like they had to clash prints all the time. Denim has always been such a big part of my wardrobe, but I found that with vintage denim, they look great for maybe a couple of months and then they'll tear or stretch out in a weird way. So I wanted to make something with a focus on longevity. I think it's a very cool evolution for your brand. It's great to offer some staple pieces that can anchor those busier pieces. We definitely wanted to have that offering for our customers that love the fit and shape of the pants, but maybe aren't super confident in making a huge statement. We started off with the classic blue wash to test how that goes. That's the most versatile, I think. And then we'll start seeing if we can introduce a few different colorways and styles as well.

Nostalgia within fashion has become heavily focused upon, especially after the past few hectic years. Some of your prints and designs are like an instant time machine to the 80s and 90s. Why did you decide to focus on that?

It was something I was always sort of interested in, from a young age. I got into eighties movies, like The Breakfast Club and all John Hughes movies. I had a fascination with it. I just thought their clothes were so much more interesting than what was happening now. Even though I definitely loved the early 2000s. I think when you are living through something, you don't really have as much appreciation for it as maybe you do looking back. It's one of those things where you always think it was cooler back at a different time. That's why it's so interesting now, watching the younger generation becoming so into Y2K trends and things like that — when we were all living through it, we sort of thought it wasn't very cool. But I think the 80s and 90s — there was just something so different about that time. People were so creative and willing to try anything. It was like a big celebration and party. So that definitely has always found its way back into my brand — the movie references, the video clips, all the music, and stuff like that. But I also do think it's interesting to look back on things and then modernize them and give them a new spin. Like the super low pants, which aren't always flattering for everybody's shape — only thinner people would wear them. So our spin was a high-waisted suit, which can suit people with all sorts of body shapes. I think looking back and taking inspiration is good, but we also don't want to make people look like they're going to a costume party. We're always modernizing it and bringing a new take with the brand. We want to make basics that aren't basic.

It's amazing that you're able to integrate your own personal touches into tried and true trends. What is your favorite print you have thought up and how did you conceptualize it?

I love the checkerboard. I thought I would be sick of it by now, but it's still definitely one of my favorite prints. It's just so versatile and easy to wear and easy to mix and match. And then, our next signature print is the Happy Hawaii print, which is the first one we ever launched with. I love that one too. When coming up with prints, for me, it's about thinking of ideas that aren't super digital or detailed. It's very simple — one to two colors. We want to make basics that aren't basic. I want them to be exciting, but I still don't want them to be so difficult for people to wear. Nothing too crazy or out there. All of our collections aren't very seasonal. They're sort of an ongoing project and that's why we'll bring in prints from a few years ago. And then it's just working with what we've got and changing the colors or the scale.

I think the checkerboard print is my favorite too. The brand name “Emma Mulholland on Holiday” alludes to the eternal vacation and your designs surely bring that to life. What is your ideal holiday?

Yeah, the brand definitely was started with the idea of me going on lots of holidays. My ideal holiday would just be somewhere where I can properly switch off, which very rarely happens. Somewhere tropical. I'm learning to surf and my partner's a really good surfer as well. So just somewhere where we could go out the front and into the water — we've done that recently in Hawaii. Just total relaxation. And I love seeing lots about the cultures that we visit and learning about them, and seeing different styles. That's always so inspiring for me — the ways that people dress in different places.

I think that nowadays, we need brands like yours to serve as a beacon of optimism in a world that can be otherwise dark at times. Was this the intention from the start?

Definitely; it was a big part of the intentions. We just never wanted to take ourselves too seriously. And I think part of the brand doing so well during the lockdown was that we had these nice and bright colors in cute prints that people could put on and sort of brighten up their day. I've always loved making people smile with the way they dress — making them feel confident. I feel like a lot of our customers are maybe not super serious high-fashion fans, but they still want something that's exciting and not too far out of reach. That's sort of where the brand stems from. There are so many fashion brands out there — they're amazing brands and so creative, but some are also pretty serious in the sense that it's high fashion and not for everyone. We wanted to have that middle ground where you're excited by it, but not too overwhelmed by price and the level of detail. You don't have to always dry-clean our products or can't ever go out and party in it or anything like that. Our brand ethos is to be a ready-to-wear brand and a very female-run brand. But we do take the fit and the quality and everything else very seriously. We want everything to be really long-lasting and something that you cherish and hold onto for seasons to come.

That seasonal ritual is something that people are starting to shift from because there are so many different sustainable ways that you can produce things and I think people are catching on to these new methods. Can you tell me a bit about how you produce some of your pieces in Bali? Why did you choose that location and how did you connect with people there to run a sustainable textile studio?

We work with all different places. We've worked with Indonesia since I started the brand. They're really close to us in Australia and we've been developing just different techniques with them over a long period of time. This particular manufacturer does our screen printing really well. We're working in Turkey for the denim, and the people we've worked with are so innovative and amazing with the denim. The sustainable practices are wonderful. They invest in renewable energy and environmental protection. As we know, denim can be quite an unsustainable fabric, just due to the cotton, but this factory has some great ways to tread-lightly and not produce a huge amount of waste. We put a lot of research into this process as well. I wanted to make sure we did it right because I feel like when brands say that something's made from recycled materials or something like that — that's great, but if they're still going out and producing 10,000 units of it, then there's still a big waste issue. So our effort has always been to keep the production side small and to only make the demand, not to over produce and be sitting on a lot of stock. Thoughtful production is a huge focus for us. And we're still all learning. But we're really excited to start off with the denim being one-hundred percent organic Indigo wash cotton and made in this really sustainable way, which reduces traditional denim water usage by 90 percent.