This week we sat down with the amazing new duo in New Zealand fashion, the hej hej girls - founders Alice and Kiki. Both #linenlovers and colour enthusiasts, their brand hej hej brings new life, fun and colour to the neutral beige linens of our past. Their mission - to revive linen, giving It an injection of fun, making it a ‘jazzy’, affordable option for everyday comfort and wear. Over tea and danishes we discussed all things hej hej – What inspires them, how hej hej came about and what it’s like to be the new kid on the block.
Alice and Kiki met in their first year of university and have carried a seed in their mind that they would someday create and start a business together. This seed came to full bloom when they fell in love with Asia, Alice was in Hong Kong and Kiki in Taipei. ‘There was a feeling of anything is possible’.
Launching their business in January this year, Alice says ‘they have experienced the most amazing highs on this new venture, it is so satisfying, yet at the same time it can really kick you in the gut!’
These days you will find one half of hej hej here in Auckland, New Zealand. Alice currently works at Icon Textiles (loves being surrounded by fabric), is a mother to two-year-old twin girls, all while running the business. When we first met Alice, we were inspired by how open she was with the juggle and the huge amount of hard work that goes with starting a new business venture. Both Alice and Kiki’s passion, drive and dedication is admirable. The goal for both of them, for hej hej to be full time, doing what they love every day.
The linen garments are made in China, where you will find the other half of hej hej, Kiki. Kiki currently resides in Shanghai. She speaks fluent mandarin and is on the ground visiting the factories, running things from the other side of the world.
Fifteen questions with hej hej
Where does the name ‘hej hej’ come from?
hej hej (pronounced "hey hey") is a Swedish greeting. When we were looking for a name we wanted something that represented our brand - something distinctive, approachable, friendly and fun.
Where is your favourite place to eat in Shanghai and what would you be ordering?
Liu Dao Men for Sichuan noodles and wontons. Liu Dao Men is run by an old rocker from Chengdu and their noodles will blow your socks off. Dinner is always followed with a gin cocktail at the Peddlers Gin bar.
Where is your favourite spot/place in Shanghai?
We love cycling through the Former French Concession, especially the Anfu Rd / Wulumuluqi Road / Changle Rd areas where there are lots of great cafes, shops and interesting sights. Alice and Kiki also talk of the China fabric markets with bright eyes, Alice said she is ‘like a kid in a candy shop!’
Favourite memory from hej hej so far?
NZFW, presenting The Cruise Control Collection on the Pacific Eagle yacht is our biggest achievement so far.
They have just made their debut in New Zealand’s Fashion week, in which they set sail on Auckland’s waterfront showcasing their new collection ‘cruise control’. They describe the new collection as ‘super relaxed, easy to wear, giving you that on holiday feel.’ Their fashion week event included sunshine, cocktails, custom ‘hej hej’ slippers, fun and of course an array of beautiful linens.
What is the Soundtrack to your new collection ‘Cruise Control’ – If the collection was a song, what song would it be?
We literally have a soundtrack for The Cruise Control Collection! Check it out on Spotify (and shout out to the soundtrack master Phil Cockrell):
Do You two have a favourite place to go in New Zealand when Kiki is back visiting?
Tiger Burger in Grey Lynn!
Do you have a favourite Nodi Rug?
The Looped Jute Rug of course! (featured in their new collection look book)
hej hej 'Brunch Pants' in White with 'Good Day Barclay' in Grey, styled on our Nodi Looped Jute Rug in natural
How often Alice do you go and visit Kiki in Shanghai?
Twice a year! We all spoke of the inspiration that ignites within us when we travel. Alice explains that feeling of ‘I want to know your life – such a different world to what we live in. Shanghai is so exciting, constantly buzzing and so full of life, it’s a balance in New Zealand of how lucky we are, I love living here and also love getting out of here’.
What are your favourite pieces from the new collection?
Alice – Red Mini Dress, ‘Mini Break’.
Kiki – The wide legged Jumpsuit ‘Sunday Suit’ (so comfy!)
hej hej 'Mini Break' Dress and 'Sunday Suit', styled on our Nodi Looped Jute Rug in Natural
What’s your favourite colour?
hej hej 'Now You See Her In Pink', styled on our Nodi Looped Jute Rug in Natural
What’s next for hej hej?
Other than working on expanding the business Alice and Kiki spoke of eventually. . . maybe. . ..would love to do Menswear, homeware, maybe even children’s wear! For now, they are nailing womenswear.
Where do you go for inspiration when designing a new collection?
Shanghai! Every collection begins with colour, colour is a huge inspiration to them both. ‘The use of colour in Shanghai is so clever, you can’t not be inspired.’
We like that you designed fashion that doesn’t ‘have a negative impact on the world’, how important is this to you?
'Very Important! We try to make small conscious decisions. We all know fashion isn’t the best for the environment. We are working as we expand on getting systems in place. Our designs aren’t too ‘trendy – in the now’ also being linen and cashmere we have designed these pieces to last, to carry with you over the seasons, staples and classics to add to your wardrobe. It is the lifeline of fashion pieces that is unsustainable, we need to create pieces that are going to last. '
You seem to be getting a great following in New Zealand while still being such a young and fresh business?
‘New Zealand is a great platform and testing ground for a small business. You feel a support network within New Zealand for local and small businesses, plenty of opportunity. We think people have responded well to the brand so far because it is relatable, you can mix pieces, day to night, work to weekend. Easy for people to understand while being interesting and colourful.’
What is your design process like?
Other than beginning with colour, Alice has worked in the fashion industry since she was 22 and does all the sketching to hand to the pattern makers. Kiki and Alice constantly bounce of each other, sending images of neck, sleeve details etc. Other than that, you will find them at Kiki’s home in Shanghai surrounded by patterns, linens and in their pyjamas trying on new designs – the giggles if you were to find them trialling their new collections, half in their Pyjama bottoms half in a new hej hej top.
Thank you for your time Alice and Kiki, we loved getting to know more about hej hej and being part of your new collection look book with our Looped Jute rug. Explore more of hej hej here.