Behind Modern Manners

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Modern Manners appeared on the scene much like Summer: out of nowhere. We’d waded through more wintery times simply unaware of our need for it.

It’s growth was inevitable. The way our limbs now sprawl the sand, the Long Sleeve Tee did the length of our Instagram feeds. Composed and comfortable in it’s own skin, there was no desire to impress. The designs seemed natural, a product of instinct. Each piece only manufactured because it felt right. The brand would represent the way we follow our hearts in the hotter season. An epitome of ease embedded in stitching.

Nowadays I’d go further than to describe Modern Manners as a notable summery label. That strong sense of freedom we relate to the season, it certainly lies deep in the newly re-established brand. However, as all good stories go, there’s more. Modern Manners didn’t just wake up one morning lapping the shore of our dress sense – even if it has felt so.

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It was a Monday in December when I arrived at St Kevin’s Arcade to interview Modern Manners brand manager. This, a label much too dull to describe the light and bright, Liam Sharma. Unfortunately, he’s down at Waihi the first day I visit – surely indulging in inspiration, I thought. I took some photos anyway, met some friendly staff members and skimmed the new collection.

The colours sparked thoughts of sand and stones, of the type we’ll skim on sun-kissed lakes in February. I pictured dust collected by 30 degree air on the side of highways. I walked into Modern Manners new store, and as much as I wanted to relax in this chilled haven for the afternoon, I too desired to go road-tripping for a long time.

I came in the following day to see Liam already smiling at the counter. Other than hanging up some new art (the place doubles as a gallery for friends’ Samuel Liu and Tabitha Van Der Westhuizen’s artwork), he welcomes me in, grabs me a seat, even offers his laptop for taking notes. I’m currently organised; I’ve got my own. I’ve got questions too, but conversation flows so easily – as does my interest – so I often find myself skipping them.

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I start at the beginning, because it seems a pretty logical place to start – and plus, I’m still slightly bewildered. We go back 2 years ago, to when the idea of Modern Manners first began.

“A menswear brand,” Liam’s father had proposed. Simple, perhaps obvious – but nonetheless a refreshing thought for the son of Christine Sharma, otherwise, the director of successful womenswear labels, Ruby and (ironically, or not so) Liam.

“I grew up surrounded by it. I was interested in fashion, of course. I also knew there was more to 18 than being hungover on Sundays.” With this in mind, Liam prepared to walk the talk.

Over the next few months, varying designs would be drawn. Modern Manners would find itself stocked in several stores. However, with minimal marketing and Liam’s return to Uni after Summer, the label lay low.

2015 saw the re-launch of Modern Manners as we know it. The brand would be broken down and completely reconstructed. Only the name would remain; the definition, however, would be rewritten by pangs of wanderlust.

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Modern Manners would be gender neutral. Made to depict Generation Z, and the way we revolt against traditional behaviours. More so, it would represent the power of being apart of something.*

*Something: resistance against societal norms to the point where this redefines normality.

“We’re here to see that from little things, bigger things grow.”

The process of creating Modern Manners would be based on collaboration. At 20 years old, Liam was determined to make the most of what he had. Besides his study in marketing and management, he found value in his youth and the ability of his “super talented” friends. The journey of Modern Manners would be anything but individual.

“Brands forget how important it is to have a collaborative process. At the moment, we’re just trying to get out there in a passive, positive way. I want people to love the clothes. Better yet, to resonate with the gender-neutral idea.”

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He stops to shoot a big smile. “I’m babbling, aren’t I? I’m sorry I should stop giving you such long answers.” I assure him otherwise. As I look around the store, I can see the product of his words.

The clothing is as he describes: “a lot of black and white. An industrial but simplistic theme. It’s chill, free..”

“Free-flowing?”

“Yeah, that’s it! I don’t just sell clothes, but a feeling. I want to create something that makes me feel nostalgic. We’ve got a few things we always say. One of them is ‘just don’t stop watching us yet.’”

It needn’t be said. I realise at some stage I’ve stopped typing because I’m absolutely enthralled. I tell you, Liam’s got this vision that makes his face light up; he has a team of the same ability. I don’t doubt for a second that they won’t reach their goal of going global. With a genuine passion for what they’re doing, and an originality that makes them distinct in an outfit as much as on social media, I can assure, this is only the beginning.

I check I’ve got the details I need, though I know I’m inspired enough to write off little facts. I leave feeling oddly uplifted. As if now, I too have invested a little heart in this journey. On the way out of the Arcade, I remember something Liam’s said. “Just watch us fly.” And at this point, I look up at the sky, half expecting to see Modern Manners up there – honestly, I wouldn’t put it past them.

McKenzie xx

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