Meet globetrotter, designer and model Maria Agnes. Photo: Blamo.
Name, rank and serial number please . . .
I’m Maria Agnes. My rank . . . well, that’s Private. I don’t have a number, but if I had to choose a serial … Modern Family.
Tell us about your younger days.
I was a bit of a tomboy. I spent a lot of time with my brother – biking around our neighbourhood in Jakarta, climbing trees, getting into trouble and laughing a lot. I loved ballet too – that was my girly thing … hair in pigtails, rocking my tutu, and trying to master the five positions.
Who was the biggest influence in your life as a child?
My mother. I love her liveliness and her fondness for travel – she took me all over Europe, Australia, Asia and the States. I get my wanderlust from her. Also her sense of humour and her perseverance. She taught me to be independent and to stand on my own two feet from a very young age. So yeah, she kind of made me who I am today.
What was your nickname at school?
People call me Anyes (like how you pronounce Agnes in French).
So when you were older you went off to Melbourne to study fashion …
I flew to Melbourne when I was 17 with plans to study architecture/interior design. I did a foundation for six months before realising it was fashion that really made me tick. I was already into collaging – I did it as a hobby growing up. I learned the ropes at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology – both the industry and design side of things. After that, I continued my studies at the Ecole Superieure Des Arts et Techniques de la Mode (ESMOD).
And then you started your label Blckhrt?
I started Blckhrt in 2009. We did our first shows in Berlin and New York. That first season, we got into Topshop in Oxford Circus and ASOS, so that was very exciting for me. And it’s just gotten more and more interesting ever since. It’s a challenging industry, but it’s given me the best times of my life. Creating in Bali, connecting in cities like London, New York and Paris and getting inspiration from all the places I travel to.
Did we see you in the movies at some point?
It’s possible. I did a movie in 2003 right before continuing my fashion studies at ESMOD. And I did another one in 2007 right after I finished school.
And of course you’re a well-known model … is that life all it’s cracked up to be?
I was young, earning good money and travelling to places I’d never been. Yeah, it was fun … it was a gift. I was meeting all these young people, 16 to 22, they were vibrant, eager to see what life could bring, what there was in the world to see. Modelling gave us that opportunity and to do it in style. Some of those guys are still my best friends today. But for me, modelling had its shelf life and I knew when to step out.
So where are you headed now with the label?
There’s a lot going on with the label and I’m also developing a new project that I’m super excited about. But 2015 is going to be a big year for sure. Blckhrt is evolving from this upstart maverick label into something more classic – it’s changing with me as I grow as a designer and as a person. I want to create a look that is subtle, timeless. That’s the direction. The other project is still at the concept stage and will probably take another six months before it materialises … it’s travel related, which is probably why I’m so excited about it.
Right, I’m a young fashion designer. Give me the three most important things to understand about the business . . .
1. Build a strong base. That means both design and business – and stay focused.
2. You have to really trust your gut instinct – make what you love, not what you think everyone else is going to love.
3. Get a good business partner and get everything down on paper.
Who inspires you from the world of fashion?
Too many to mention, but Coco Chanel is definitely on top of the list. The woman is a legend.
Whose photography floats your boat at the moment?
All time favourites are Juergen Teller, Hedi Slimane, Nick Knight.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Silent, still, silly.
When things get tough, what do you reach for?
A place of silence where I can be alone and reconnect with my own self and my truth. The most important relationship that you have is with yourself after all. There’s no such thing as too tough … if you just breathe and embrace the moment you’re in. It’s all in our heads. We can make a prison for ourselves, or set ourselves free. T.S.