Say hello to Tahnee :
Where are you from? Where have you been?
I am from the Sunshine Coast originally but have resided on the Gold Coast QLD for around 12 years with a gap of two years living on the Central Coast of NSW. I am now back to expand my brand, Mahala Drift.
What’s your favorite place in the world?
My favourite place in the world so far would have to be The North Shore of Hawaii. The people, the scenery, the purity of the natural ways is something that is very meaningful to me; it’s also where I founded the name Mahala to pursue my dreams, so the place is always going to hold a special place in my heart.
What’s on your “bucket list” of ideas to create? –
Definitely children’s swimwear, plus-size swimwear for women who like the extra coverage, and something really for all women of all shapes and sizes, so we can all enjoy the amazing Mahala Drift lifestyle.
How do you define style?
Style to me is a feeling. I believe that you feel style when you put something on, how you wear your hair a certain way, how you apply your lipstick – style is a feeling of confidence that shouts out, “I love myself.” It’s the way you walk, the way we carry ourselves as women, the way we talk to other women and inspire one another through setting great examples.
What was the inspiration behind starting your brand?
I really wanted to start working toward something that I knew I could do from home, originally. I was 28 years old and coming into my 30s; I was wanting to put myself in such a position so that I could still become a wife and a mother and contribute to my partner without having to put my children in daycare. I am still child-free, however, it is something that I want, so I am working towards being in that position.
Tell us the significance behind the name, Mahala Drift.
Mahala Drift came about as I was visiting Hawaii on a one month holiday. I was sitting on the beach, talking to an elderly lady. We shared a very strong connection – I am a very soulful woman and I have a tendency to feed off other people’s energy. I felt like this woman was meant to cross my path. Her name was “ Mahala,” which is of Indian American origin; however, she was born and raised in Hawaii. I later got home and realised her name meant “ woman,” and a light bulb hit me. I always wanted to establish a brand to satiate my need for creative expression while also setting a positive example for women everywhere. Also, being a bit of a gypsy myself – never being held down and always free-spirited, open-minded and kind, I feel as though I’m “drifting” through life most of the time. I wanted to combine those two important factors and incorporate them into my brand as one – the woman I met on the beach that day who encouraged me to chase my dreams, and my journey. Hence, Mahala Drift was born.
How do you find inspiration for your designs?
Mahala Drift is a brand built on all the different stages of a woman’s life, so we try and bring in elements to cater to all kinds of women.
Who is the Mahala Drift wearer?
The Mahala Drift wearer is well, everyone. We do cater for to young girls, teenagers, and adult women at this stage. We are now bringing in larger sizing so that our plus-size beauties can also experience that Mahala lifestyle and be a part of a movement so big, it changes the way the world thinks.
Tell us about your career. How did you get into it?
I actually started out as a personal trainer when I was 18 – I have always been heavily involved in the fitness and health industry and I am still in that world today. I absolutely LOVE the human body – it fascinates me a lot. I got into design work because I am a very tall, curvy and fuller-figured woman, and I always struggled to find a swimsuit that fit my body shape, and clothing for that matter. I wanted to be the voice for the women who have the potential to look amazing everyday, but no one makes the clothing to fit their body types. Being a very business-minded woman, it was exciting for me to start a new venture.
What are your favorite photos thus far from the lookbooks?
I am also a self-taught photographer and I take the majority of all the photos you will see. I honestly can’t say I have a favourite lot. But definitely anything beachy, natural and that represents the natural curve/shape of a woman’s body.
How does Mahala Drift stand out from other swimwear and fit brands?
I think we stand out because we aren’t just a label. We are a movement, a sisterhood of like-minded women trying to create the best versions of ourselves and create the life we love. Piece by piece, we are changing the way women think about themselves in hopes to build their confidence so that the stigma for that “perfect body” is replaced with believing in themselves, living a healthy lifestyle, and falling in love with their bodies all over again, no matter what society tells us is the “norm.”
What’s been the most challenging aspect of this venture?
The hardest era I have faced would be saving all my money, working 80 hours a week from a full-time job, coming home and drawing, learning the international rag trade, and learning how to sew. Though challenging, I think it’s also a very inspiring story and one that has already given most women the confidence boost to chase a dream no matter how hard we think it is.
What types of models do you look for when shooting adverts?
Always natural, limited makeup, women with curves, and all natural elements – no fake breasts, lips or work done at all. Someone with a massive smile, who is generally a happy girl and shines with pure energy and positivity. A real life average woman with eyes that shine happiness.
How do you stay current on design trends and integrate them into your line?
Obviously, swim wear is a hard one to try and stay very unique. You need to ensure that what you’re making will appeal to the average woman, which is really what we are all about. We generally like to listen to our loyal customers and followers – we hear what they have to say and follow through on that.
What are the top 3 tips you have for aspiring designers wanting to start their own line?
Save. Don’t get a loan. Be original, be daring and think outside the box. Don’t be afraid of the unknown because as much as it scares you, it excites you more. Take a leap of faith and if you fall, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes, and attack it at a new angle and way of thinking.
What are the top 3 tips you have for models looking to book shoots for e-commerce?
Be authentic. Be professional. A very unattractive trait for me to see is girls who are tacky in approaching a business about the possibility of a “collaboration.” Be informative about how you are going to help that brand grow, make sales, and expose themselves to people they aren’t already exposed to. How are you going to help them? As a business, we are giving away stock, which is in turn, a cost to us. We need to know what we are going to get out of it.
Who’s your biggest hero in your life?
My mum – she has been through hell and back with her career, her health, and many other hurdles in life. Despite that, she still wakes up and is there for everyone. She is the strongest human being I know, and I definitely aspire to have her mental strength.
What’s one of your biggest fears?
Death and insects.
What’s something nobody knows about you that you’d like to share?
I suffer from mild anxiety and often have to retreat from the world to regroup before I can come out.
Who do you want to give a shoutout to?
A huge thank you to all my models who have helped me out in the startup phase of Mahala Drift. One in particular – Jasmine Backach, who is the current fact of Mahala Drift. She is such a beautiful soul and has become a wonderful friend – we have a very close bond and I don’t know where I would be without her. Also, my in-house makeup artist, Kym Robinson, who in my opinion is one of the most talented women in her field.
What fashion trend do you wish would come back?
I’m a huge fan of basics – I don’t think they ever go out of style. Black, white, and grey. Staple pieces – jeans and heels with singlets, head bands, and natural lips.
Which current fashion trend do you wish was gone forever?
What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?
I have always wanted to travel Europe, Italy, France, Croatia, Greece, Holland – you name it. I haven’t in the past because circumstances just never really allowed me to.
What are some struggles you’ve overcome?
Where do I start? My main ones would have to be overcoming a diagnosis of chronic fatigue at the age of 19 and trying to strive in the fitness industry, going through depression, and being severely overweight.
What is the most life-changing event that you’ve experienced?
I would have to say falling in love with my current partner – he makes my life complete. He is the man who makes it very clear why all the others didn’t work out. I am a very lucky woman to have him.
What’s your greatest failure, and how did you overcome it?
There are many things I have failed at, however, I don’t believe in failure to be a bad thing at all. I think that every experience is a lesson to learn – as long as we learn from it, it’s not failing.
What’s your greatest achievement, and how has it shaped you?
Most certainly founding Mahala Drift and watching it grow and evolve into such an amazing, positive movement, inspiring women all over the world.
What was the happiest day of your life?
I would have to say when I got to meet my big sister after 21 years of not knowing her. It was a very surreal feeling.
For anyone that wants to get in touch with Tahnee, here’s some contact information:
Tahnee, thanks for taking the time to interview with us!
If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.