History has a funny habit of repeating itself. Just ask the sister duo at the helm of Remuera store Maman – Kate Boyden and Emma Main – whose late mother Debra Dixon had a store called The Camomile Lawn in Remuera decades earlier. The girls decided to open up the boutique in tribute to the stylish woman who raised them. It’s in the blood, Boyden told Elly Strang.
“We always wanted to open a store with our dear mother,” Boyden, 38, says.
“We always talked about the three of us doing something together. She would’ve been fantastic with the homeware, while Emma’s creative with her art and styling and my background’s in fashion.”
Dixon passed away in 2013. The loss is still fresh for Main and Boyden, who were exceptionally close to their mother.
But it inspired the sisters to chase their dream and do something they could put their heart and soul into.
“With Mum, it showed us that fragility of life,” Main, 35, says. “She really lived and she instilled that in us – to be brave and passionate and commit to it.”
The two made the decision in October last year to open a store.
They’d been warned not to mix family and business, but the decision made sense to them.
Their father, Olympic bronze medallist and New York marathon winner Rod Dixon, is now overseas, so they’re the closest family they have.
Being so close in age, the two grew up playing shopkeeper together and stealing each other’s clothes.
They’re best friends who quite literally, finish each other’s sentences.
They’ve also been known to turn up in the same outfit to work, so have to text each other prior to check.
Main says the way they communicate is key to a good working relationship.
“We’re very honest and I think that’s where family can work to your advantage,” Main says.
“One morning Kate and I had a disagreement and then I said lets have a hug, then we moved on and were laughing about it two minutes later.”
The store’s name is French for mother as a tribute to Dixon, who taught the art of dressing well to her daughters.
They chose Remuera as the place to have a shop front as the two grew up there and live there currently.
It was also very much needed in the area, says Boyden.
“It’s a beautiful suburb, but it’s an older suburb. We were always going further afield to buy our clothing, so we wanted to localise it with a really special store.”
The store was formerly an optometrist that was transformed in an eight-week fit out process with the help of architecture firm Young & Richards.
Maman is very much Parisian-inspired – something that happened organically, Main says, as the clothing labels they chose either had a French vibe or were a French label.
Both Main and Boyden love the whole French aesthetic, citing the book How to be Parisian as a style bible.
Boyden says she sometimes even dreams in French.
“It’s effortless chic – a French woman gets up in the morning and her bed hair looks like she’s already done it, she’s got a liquid lipstick and a little perfume on and she’s impeccably dressed. It just works, everything is so well put together,” she says.
French labels at the store include Equipment, Celine Eyewear and Spring Court Trainers, alongside New Zealand lingerie brand Lonely Hearts and Italian shoe brand Meandher.
There’s also homewares, art and tea for sale, making the store a one-stop shop.
Maman’s point of difference is it’s a very personalised shopping experience.
Instead of the huge, encompassing chain store experience that customers can get lost in, the store is modest in size with carefully curated products and highly attentive staff.
Both Boyden and Main are in the shop, day in, day out, interacting with customers.
“With my wholesaling experience, I’ve seen too many times people starting up a shop and putting someone else on the job and let it run,” Boyden says.
“It’s about knowing your shop. We do all of the buying, so we know the brands and the stories behind them.”
This will help them with their buying, she says, as they can think of what regular customers like and buy pieces with them in mind.
They’re also keen to offer more value to customers than just shopping.
They want to engage shoppers with styling nights, where customers bring in their favourite item that they don’t know how to wear and they’ll show them how to style it.
Other event ideas include customer VIP nights with make up brand Bobbi Brown and partnering up with Laneway, the shop’s neighbouring bar and restaurant, to host co-events such as runway shows and cocktail nights.
Main says they’re making sure they don’t do everything too quickly.
They’re keen to get phase two of their website underway and launch an ecommerce site, but for now, she says they’re concentrating on getting their buying right.
Both Main and Boyden say they love the localised experience of a running a shop where they grew up.
“People might say its so boring you’ve come back to where you started, but it’s lovely,” Main says.
“I felt like I knew a lot of Remuera people before, but since opening the shop we’ve met even more. It’s bringing people out of the woodwork a bit more and I now feel a part of the community. I feel like a local,” She says.
As for the highlight of the entire experience, Main recalls the first day Maman opened on 25 August.
“When Kate and I ended that first day, we shut the doors and I remember bursting into tears and thinking, ‘we’ve done it. I’m just so happy. We never have to work for anyone again, we’re doing what we love’,” she says.
“It was quite a personal story too, honouring our mum. I think she’d be really proud of what we’ve done. I’m proud of what we’ve done.”