“I like what I consider beautiful and quirky things, eccentric and old.”
Ami Lowman is not exactly a true ingénue in the field of fashion, illustration and jewellery, as she has been running Mia Mai for over five years now. However, when she was graduating in Fashion and Textile Design at Portsmouth University in 2006 she surely was. She had the initiative, however, to create a business plan in her final year and submit it to the Enterprise Challenge, a two stage competition run by the Portsmouth Centre for Enterprise (PCE), inviting all Portsmouth students to identify and develop an idea or different ideas which have commercial potential. She had to give a presentation accompanying her business plan and must have been quite impressive as she won the design category, which enabled her not only to receive some mentoring to help her launch the business, but also some cash to help start it up. So Mia Mai was born.
Mia Mai by the way is simply two anagrams of Ami – not as I originally imagined; I had thought it was perhaps a reworking of some enigmatic Japanese or Far Eastern phrase or saying. Just goes to show, never assume anything!
Ami has avoided the concept of securing a large business loan, preferring instead to work hard and grow as an artist along the journey. It’s a struggle at times, but she enjoys it immensely especially when she perceives herself evolving as an artist. She is a great fan of all things vintage, which is reflected all throughout her work. Her jewellery for instance she terms ‘reclaimed jewellery’. She finds second hand components, old broken pieces, things people are throwing away and deconstructs them into new, attractive pieces. “I am inspired by so many things” she says “and generally these change all the time, but a few of the themes that always seem to recur time and time again within my work are traditional tattooing, vintage lingerie and anything old, broken and/or forgotten. I like anything that looks like it’s had a past and got some history to it… that intrigues and inspires me. And generally, I like what I consider beautiful and quirky things, eccentric and old.”
Her illustrations also are influenced by the vintage theme. She held her first solo illustration exhibition last year in Southsea entitled ‘Ink’, selling originals and prints. One fascinating angle on this is that Ami offers a bespoke illustration service where one can have a posed pin-up style portrait of oneself themed on something the person is interested in. For example a wife or sweetheart might commission a pin-up portrait for her loved one themed on a particular aspect of their life together. Ami tells me she can turn her hand to most ideas people come up with. She can also print her illustrations onto fabrics and garments as needed. As regards fashion Ami designs and creates using vintage fabrics and also customises modern and vintage garments into her own unique style. She has a refreshing opinion on fashion in general, saying “I respect people who have the confidence to wear what they want. It’s refreshing to see someone embracing what they love and not just following the current trends. I think it’s important that parents encourage their children to think for themselves and not feel they need to be the same as everyone else and follow the crowds. If you like something go with it, wear it and you will feel good in it. It’s sad to see people who haven’t got the confidence to do things their own way and just do what they’re told to do by fashion magazines and what the shops are selling. If I could give any advice I would encourage people to mix their wardrobe up with classic garments, vintage pieces and the odd thing from the current market you just ‘need to have’ and to have fun with fashion.” Last year Ami created a lingerie collection that was debuted at Southsea Fashion Week. The event was delivered with an insouciant panache that suited the vintage feel of the event and went down extremely well with the audience.
Asked what it is it about the “vintage era” that particularly attracts her, Ami had this to say; “Everything just was so much more glamorous back then… you would have never seen a lady head out in a tracksuit and a pair of Uggs that’s for sure. I like the details and luxury of it. I like how women were made to look feminine and men masculine. And as regards vintage lingerie, which has a particular hold on me, I adore the lace trims, the flattering lines and the indulgent materials.”
And where does she see Mia Mai in five to ten years time? “I would adore for Mia Mai to be a name that people know and love. I would love to have my lingerie designs being sold in up-market independent boutiques and my artwork to be featured in various galleries and basically be a brand that people love and want to buy. One day I would also love my own little boutique with a quirky studio out the back.”
To find out more about Amy and her work visit www.miamai.co.uk Her contact details are firstname.lastname@example.org or 07896 818806.