After 10 years crunching numbers and pushing pencils in the financial sector, Malashnee Naidoo has turned her professional attention — and her pencil — to the drawing board.
A chartered accountant by trade, Naidoo could never quite kick her fashion design fantasies, so she decided to make her daydreams a reality. In March, with the help of her husband and business partner Hamed Emtiaz, she opened Madame Moje, a South Granville boutique where she sells her very own line of women’s apparel designed to accentuate the female form.
“The style is very fiercely feminine, it’s silhouette driven, it’s all about beautiful clothing for women,” the North Vancouver resident says.
Madame Moje (at 2843 Granville St.) specializes in figure-hugging dresses, but also carries playsuits, blouses, knitwear and outerwear. Everything is designed at Naidoo’s in-store studio with the help of fashion students and all garments are made in Vancouver.
Local celebrities Robin Reichman, Ioulia Reynolds and Reiko Mackenzie of The Real Housewives of Vancouver fame have already taken to the new brand. The reality TV stars modelled the garments last week at a fashion show benefiting the SPCA, which took place in the boutique.
Naidoo says she tends to create pieces she would want in her own closet.
“I think my taste and my style is reflected in the clothing,” she says, “and I think that I have a good eye for what looks great on a woman.”
Her style icons include Victoria Beckham and Jackie Onassis for their ability to at once appear both “classy, sophisticated” and “sexy, feminine.”
A mostly self-taught fashion designer, Naidoo has been dreaming up dresses in her head since she was a little girl, so it’s a thrill to finally see her visions come to life, she says.
“I’m not great at drawing, but I know exactly what I want . . . what details I want, how I want it to look, how it should drape, how it should hang.”
When it comes to fabric, she is partial to tweed, chiffon and stretchy knits — in fact, almost any material with some elasticity is all right with her.
“It does wonders to a woman’s curves,” she says. “It shapes to the woman’s body and it has enough stretch that even when she’s a little bloated on a certain day, it has a bit of give.”
Equally important as fabric is the cut of the garment and, when it comes to dresses and skirts, Naidoo’s motto is: not too short, not too long.
“Over the knee is the most flattering length on a woman because it just elongates the body and it gives you that hourglass image.”
Originally from Durban, South Africa, Naidoo lived in Singapore for two years before relocating to the North Shore.
While her current focus is on Madame Moje, she hasn’t completely abandoned her accounting career and takes care of all the bookkeeping for her business. Despite finding her former field “quite boring,” she is grateful for her finance training.
“It gives you that heads up in terms of a lot of things,” she says, explaining the fashion industry isn’t all glitz and glamour. Running a fashion label means analyzing the costs of materials, labour and manufacturing.
In addition to her expenses, Naidoo also scrutinizes current fashion trends and incorporates only fads that flatter, such as the flared peplum found on the waistline of many jackets and dresses the past couple of seasons.
Customers won’t find any droopy-bottomed parachute pants at Madame Moje “because they don’t do much for your figure at all.”
Naidoo says her clothing is not just for women with a natural hourglass figure, but will flatter many different shapes and sizes, bringing out the “femme fatale” in everybody.
“I see that characteristic in every woman, I believe every woman can be transformed into that, if they want to be,” she says.
Prices at Madame Moje range from $100 for a knit bolero jacket to $530 for a trench coat. The apparel is currently available exclusively at the South Granville retail store, though Naidoo and her husband are already planning to open up more locations.
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