The newest campaign from Kiwi shoe retailer Merchant 1948, formerly known as Overland, features its staff at front and centre. The autumn campaign includes images of key staff and stories about their relationships with people close to them. We're sharing a selection of the best stories - this time, it's creative lead Marcel Sparrow and his mother Astrid Sparrow (who, reportedly, disapproves of Marcel's beard).
Starting over, twice
Astrid’s life and that of her family have been defined by big moves. She and her husband immigrated to New Zealand with their young family in tow. “That was a really big thing. No job to come to. We had enough money behind us (which was just as well) otherwise we wouldn't have been able to come in to New Zealand… It took three weeks to find a job.”
They settled in Gisborne, got jobs at the hospital, and poured their heart and soul into their house. Even from a young age, Marcel knew how much they sacrificed to realise their dream. “[They] used to work two to three jobs in Gisborne... So [they] didn't have any debt.”
For Astrid, it was really hard going. “It took us 11 years to get it all done.” But it wasn’t to last. “My husband was made redundant, and we’d just finished the house.” The only option was to relocate. “We had to start all over again when we came to Auckland.” Marcel and his father moved first. “I remember when we came up from Gisborne, I would have to go and stay with people that I really know.” Astrid admits it was hard on him. “Marcel had to go to a whole new school and make new friends… It was a huge change for him coming from Gisborne to a big city like Auckland.”
Astrid’s high standards and determination extended to her home and family; for a young Marcel, this wasn’t easy. “As a child, I found our relationship always hard and challenging. [She] was very strict on me growing up, with extremely high expectations and standards about the way things should be done - from the simple things like how to sit correctly in a chair to, making a bed, manners, dress code and hair styles, through to the way you act when you have friends over.”
He believes this was influenced by his mother’s strict upbringing in Holland, vastly different to the New Zealand Marcel grew up in. “I always found there was a strong contrast between how our family life was and that of my friends.” Nowadays Marcel is more reflective. “It was hard, but I look back now and I can see [she] taught me amazing manners, good morals and good values, and I'm thankful for it.”
Having young children of his own has given him perspective. “I'm experiencing the same things with my kids, and I know now that it's not easy.”
Astrid was also a proud hostess, but as an energetic child Marcel found these things difficult to understand.
“I would get really frustrated… We'd have people coming over, and Mum had it all organized for when the guests came. The table would be set, and I just wanted to eat. I wanted to have fun.” Now he gets to experience it himself. “She is the most considerate and loving person you can imagine, and although it didn’t always come across that way when I was younger, I can now see why she did things the way she did... Now when I come over, there’s a nice wine or beer waiting for me, or a coffee; I'm treated like royalty when I get there – apart from the beard.”
The distance of age
Marcel always looked up to his older brother, and still does. “My brother was my idol, I worshipped him, he was the guy I wanted to be like, and lead me to become a graphic designer like him.” However their large age gap made his childhood difficult. “Growing up, the 15 years separating my brother and I was huge.”
With his brother away at polytech, Marcel was on his own. “It felt like I was an only child. I still remember waiting outside the house for eight hours when I knew he was coming home. He was everything.” Being the only child at home was hard for him in many ways. “Not having the opportunity to socialise a lot with people my age made me quite shy and reserved as a child. This affected me through to my late teens, when I finally started to come out of my comfort zone and make friends.” The age gap between her sons wasn’t easy for Astrid either. “[Andrew had] already had left when [Marcel] came along, so it was almost like bringing up a child on its own again.”
Adolescence was also a challenge, for both Marcel and his mother. “In my teenage years I was quite a handful and caused a lot of grief for parents. I got lippy and rebelled a lot, which caused a lot of issues. I had confidence issues and anxieties that were behind my acting out. Mum and dad saw these and helped; they put me in acting classes to build my confidence, and got me into sport to burn energy and make friends. These were the foundations that helped lead me on the right path as an adult.”
The creative streak Marcel inherited from Astrid helped them find common ground. “In my later teenage years, we became a lot closer as our interests and passions for design and nice things aligned. Moo (his nickname for his mother) has the most insane talent for interior design… I share that passion and taste, which has allowed us to bond over the years.” Marcel admits that it wasn’t until he became an adult that he really appreciated his parents. “I took family for granted. You actually realise later on how important family are. Like when you have your ups and downs, when you're on your own… Your parents are the ones that are always there.”
Agreeing to disagree
However, Marcel admits there’s one thing that they still disagree on. “While we share similar design taste it all ends there when it comes to fashion. [Mum’s] ideal look for me would be clean shaven, well-groomed… But I hate the thought of looking like the norm, and since I cannot have a cool hair style due to being hair handicapped I have taken on a beard.” In fact, his mother brings it up every time they talk. “It's the only thing which really does annoy me.”
Other than that, Marcel thinks their relationship is the most solid it’s ever been. “Our relationship has changed and grown stronger as I have gotten older. Obviously, I have matured and become a tiny bit less immature, but also able to understand that as a parent it’s not as easy you think to bring up kids and tackle the challenges that come with it.” His integrity and self awareness are things Astrid’s particularly proud of.
“Marcel understands now the values we taught him when he was growing up.”