The idea for Bird & Knoll came to co-founder Natalie Knoll as all good ideas should – while relaxing on a sun lounger in Hawaii. As a photographer, Knoll had been mulling over what to do with her vast collection of travel images and as she considered the concept of ‘wearable art’ she immediately thought of her friend – ex-magazine editor and fashion industry professional Macayla ‘Bird’ Chapman. That moment on the sun-lounger was only four years ago, yet since then this dynamic duo has collaborated with Qantas, launched a resort wear collection and been hand-selected as part of lifestyle guru India Hicks’ Curated Collections.
Bird & Knoll scarves are loved by high-profile women such as Emily Blunt, Elizabeth Banks and Jess Hart and have been featured on the pages of countless magazines including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Collective Hub. With Knoll in Sydney and Chapman in Auckland, they have mastered the skill of long-distance, flexible working and as they continue to soar, with upcoming collaborations with Audi as well as a yet un-divulged luxury hotel brand, there is no doubt that Bird & Knoll is one of Australia’s leading luxury brands.
5 MINUTES WITH NATALIE & MACAYLA
Country of Origin… Natalie: South Africa. Macayla: New Zealand. Currently living… N: Sydney, Australia. M: Auckland, NZ. Friends describe me as… N: driven, loyal and focused. M: fun, loyal, organised and busy. Guilty pleasure… N: chocolate, cheese and Netflix. M: shopping. Dreaming of… N: the upcoming trip to New York to launch our collaboration with India Hicks. M: ski-trip to Wanaka. Finding inspiration in… N: Travel. Always. M: So much. Places, spaces, colours, textures, smells and of course travel.
Your careers have been quite diverse, tell us how you got here.
N: I did a business degree in South Africa followed by a postgraduate degree in law. I then worked for seven years in banking as an analyst in both London and New York. I was always passionate about photography and so when I moved to Australia with my husband, it seemed like the ideal time to start my photography business.
M: I was originally an Intensive Care Nurse and worked in NZ and the UK. On moving home to NZ, I got a job as a fashion and beauty editor for a teenage girls magazine called Creme. I moved into fashion sales, pr and marketing before moving to Sydney, meeting Nat and starting Bird & Knoll.
You met in Sydney at your children’s swimming lessons, what first got you chatting?
N: It was a one-week intensive and I first noticed Macayla because she was always so stylish! We got chatting and I quickly learned that she was really funny and engaging and the friendship grew from there.
M: We bonded over fashion and then got chatting about travel and photography and just got on so well. When I left Sydney and moved back to New Zealand we would speak regularly, and then Nat approached me with the idea of travel images on gorgeous cashmere scarves and Bird & Knoll was born.
Do you have an inspirational quote you find yourself going back to?
N: ‘There are no mistakes, only lessons to be learned.’ I tell this one to my girls, too.
M: ‘You never regret doing things, it’s not doing them that you regret.’ I think this resonates as I’m a real doer and I always say ‘yes’ to things, which is a good attribute to have.
What has been your proudest Bird & Knoll moment so far?
N: Our collaboration with Qantas. We’re now on our third collaboration with them but they recognised our brand alignment right from the start. I also love seeing customers wearing our scarves, and I will always approach them and tell them how beautiful they look.
M: All the firsts we’ve achieved – our first stockist, our first collaboration, the first time we were featured in Vogue and Harpers Bazaar ... They’re all equally exciting to me.
Why do you think you work so well together?
N: We both do very different things in the business. I’m the business brain, the finances and the strategy and Macayla is an amazing creative and an incredible sales woman. She also keeps me grounded, she’s so special and I couldn’t do this without her.
M: I love fashion and take care of the creative side of things. I love to know what is trending, what colours are in. I do not particularly enjoy the business side of things. It’s not to say I can’t do it but this is definitely Nat’s strength so I choose to spend my time doing more creative things. We definitely like to stick to what we do best.
Which part of the creative process do you most enjoy?
N: The beginning and the end!
M: I love when I get Nat’s image and I can take over and get going on our creative content, moodboards, photoshoots and campaigns. I focus on the bit in the middle, which is why Nat and I work so well together. We are definitely yin and yang.
What connection do you think people make with your scarves?
Both: It’s the emotional connection they might have to the image or the destination.
At Palas, we’re getting excited about launching our new Lake Como collection, have Bird & Knoll been inspired by Italy?
N: I love Italy and I really think I should’ve been born Italian! I’ve never made it to Como but I will. I’ve spent time in Venice as well as having an incredible family holiday in a small village between Amalfi and Positano. Italy is such an incredible country and Venice has inspired a few Bird & Knoll designs.
M: I have been to Lake Como. It was absolutely beautiful and Italy will always be a country that continues to inspire Bird & Knoll, particularly with its fabrics. We have recently started to work with an Italian manufacturer who creates a more cashmere rich fabric for us – perfect for our winter scarf offering alongside our signature blend scarves.
Where’s your favourite destination when you’re in need of a break?
N: It’s hard to choose as I’ve travelled since I was 21 and have visited over 50 countries. I have to say that I really loved our recent trip to Israel and would love to go back there.
M: Mexico. I love it, the people, the food, the colours – everything. In an ideal world, I would probably live on some picture perfect coastal town in Mexico like Tulum! My time in Tulum is what inspired our new Bird & Knoll Resort collection.
Where are you both heading next?
N: We’re off on an exciting work trip to New York and LA to talk about our part in lifestyle guru, India Hicks’ Curated Collections. I’m then meeting with Macayla in LA, which will be a lot of fun.
M: After our work trip to LA, I’m off to Wanaka with my family for a ski-trip and can’t wait.
How would you describe your family? What makes you most proud of your tribe?
N: They’re all just gorgeous and my rocks. I’m so grateful for their support and their love. My mum lives with us, too, and she’s my village. Without her I couldn’t do anything.
M: Definitely not wallflowers! My son has a wicked sense of humour and my daughter is very much the boss! I’m really just so proud that they’re mine and that the kids get on so well with each other.
What’s been your most memorable moment when travelling with your family?
N: We recently went to Israel for two-and-a-half weeks and it was so special. A family friend was celebrating a bat mitzvah so we headed over and travelled from the top of the country to the bottom. It was incredible.
M: We went to Thailand for my wonderful friend Nikki’s 40th birthday a few years ago. There were three families of close friends and we just loved the dynamic of a big extended family - all the kids had so much fun, it was an awesome trip. When we were still at school, Nikki and I gave each other the nickname ‘bird’, hence where the bird in Bird & Knoll comes from.
How would you describe your personal style?
N: I like feminine pieces with a twist so would always rough up a floaty dress with a leather jacket. I’m lucky that I don’t have to go to corporate meetings so I’m generally in jeans, boots, blazer and, of course, a beautiful scarf.
M: I think my style is pretty uncomplicated and maybe slightly bohemian. I love dresses, they are effortless and simplify putting an outfit together.
Bird & Knoll is described as ‘accessories that are a final edit’. What do you include in your final edit?
N: A handbag or a scarf. I think that once you’ve got the basics right, these two accessories can really finish an outfit off.
M: For me it’s a scarf, a nice bag, perfume and a dash of lip-gloss.
Whose style do you most admire?
N: French women – all of them! But if I had to pick one it would photographer, illustrator and blogger Garance Doré.
M: Maybe Jane Birkin - uncomplicated style that is classic and lasts the test of time.
OUR PALAS COLLECTIONS
- Hamsa Hand of Protection > I wear a tiny little hamsa charm on a necklace I bought in Israel recently. I often get comments on it and it always makes me feel special. I thought wearing one on my wrist would mirror this beautifully.
- Moroccan Outline Charm > This reminds me of the stunning pattern on a gateway I photographed in Marrakesh. It will actually be featured in one of our upcoming collections.
- Wing Cut Out Charm > Seems just so right for our brand, doesn’t it? ‘Bird’ and Knoll!
- Blessed charm > I truly do feel blessed every day – for my beautiful family, my health, and to be doing what I love doing – building this amazing business with Macayla.
- Petite Initial Charm > M for Macayla. As a child I thought my parents were so cruel for giving me a name that everybody struggles to pronounce or spell. As I reached my teens I began to love my ‘strange’ name. It gave me a real sense of individuality.
- Moroccan Outline Charm > There’s always a new destination on my wanderlust list and Morocco is one of them. I’m not sure when it will be but I can’t wait to experience the colour, beauty, culture and adventure of this country.
- Skull of Protection Charm > Mexico is my 'spirit land’ and I feel that I have a massive connection with all things Mexican. I never get sick of travelling to this amazing country and want to do it a lot more.
- Birds of a Feather charm > Only seems fitting for ‘Bird,’ right?!
- Accept What Is Charm > Growing up my parents would always say to me ‘It is what it is, so accept it, make the most of it and move on!” It’s now something I hear myself saying to my own children. We all have the choice to perceive things a certain way and I choose to 'accept what is’ learn from it and move forward in a positive way.
- Stars Cut Out Charm > This charm is a nice little reminder to ‘reach for the stars.’ To me, it represents the fact that anything is possible and you are capable of more than you know.
ONE MORE THING...
Who would you be charmed to meet, and why?
N: Diane Von Furstenberg to ask her how she has lasted the distance, and Arianne Huffington because I’m so impressed with her and how she built an empire, and then she shifted gears to change her life.
M: Fashion designer Phoebe Philo, who was head designer for Chloè and now currently at Celine – she is such a genius and a bit of an icon to me. I adore her style and would love to know where she gets her inspiration and her design thought process.