Leonie Fitzgerald - Professional Shot[1].jpg


Courtenay Tyrrell

City: Melbourne

Business: MAUDE Studio

What: Innovative and inspiring accessories using synthetic fabrics crafted into luxury pieces


What was the catalyst for you launching your business?

I am pretty sure that in a past life I was a jellyfish.

Mesmerised by iridescence, sparkly things and constantly taking inspiration from the underwater world. I think I’ve seen David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet’ over 30 times, and cry whenever I watch the killer whale scene!

Prior to establishing MAUDE, I was a Product Designer for a very large clothing company in Europe. The winters were long, dark and freezing. I started buying loads of costume jewellery from the company sample store and begun extracting and collecting all of the gems and stones from these beautiful pieces. I had a sparkle station set up in my apartment showcasing an array of gems and jewels. One winter I spent all my spare time bejewelling a bunch of shoes and clutch bags. This formed a capsule collection coined ‘Glittermare’ due to the terrifying amount of iridescent glitter and shiny sparkles each piece encompassed.

Creating ‘Glittermare’ was the most fun I’d had creatively, and hanging out with sparkles and gems was both relaxing and inspiring at the same time. I decided that I should extend this concept to form the basis of a brand that I had been planning since graduating from my fashion degree a few years earlier. Six months later I moved back to Melbourne and begun developing and refining a handbag range which became ‘The Candy Collection’, the first commercial collection under the brand MAUDE Studio. Each piece was entirely made by hand from start to finish in my own studio, using iridescent, metallic or textured synthetic fabrics.

What do you love most about what you do now?

Quite a few things! Mainly the freedom to transform all of my ‘idea dreams’ into tangible creations. Most of our products are handmade, which gives us the opportunity to create unique small runs, allowing us to try new idea’s with low risk.

It is really awesome to be able to manage and oversee so many of the different components within the brand. This includes product design, sourcing materials, branding, marketing, creative direction, social media, manufacturing as well as everything else which falls in-between.  Although knowing when to handover area’s is also so important! We’ve just signed up with a PR agency which is really exciting, and great to be able to outsource some of the workload to some very talented people who are excellent at what they do.

I also think that one of the best aspects of working for yourself in a creative field is being able to collaborate with other creatives who’s work you admire, to produce something original and exciting together. I have met some really inspiring people through reaching out to do collaborations. It is pretty amazing to come together with like minded people who also love what they do and are excited to work together, to create something visionary.

Describe the biggest setback you faced when establishing your business? How did it affect you and how did you push through?

I have grown up as a pescetarian and something I realised in the initial start up phase of MAUDE was that there was not a great deal of well designed, quality handbags that weren’t made of leather.

Discovering this gap in the market gave me the perfect opportunity to combine my design aesthetic and inspiration to change that. It has been a challenge to influence people’s perception of synthetic fabrics as a valuable alternative to leather, but luckily perseverance has paid off, and we are currently developing our third collection.

Our aim is to create products which are 100% cruelty free and vegan, something that we are working towards achieving. The next step (pardon the pun!) is to launch into shoe’s. It would be a dream to design and create beautiful pieces which celebrate the extensive design possibilities introduced through the use of exciting synthetic fabrications and crafting these into designer wares.  

Everyone has days where they feel flat or uninspired - do you have any tricks or tactics for overcoming these feelings?

I’m lucky enough to have grown up by the beach. The ocean, fresh air and sound of  the breaking waves helps me put things into perspective, and to regain lost motivation and inspiration. There is also a certain energy that the swell and translucency of the water offers. It’s definitely my favourite place to be.

Otherwise, watching youtube clips of Lady Gaga collaborating with Nick Knight, Alexander Mcqueen’s Plato’s Atlantis or Maddie in Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ does the trick.

And then there are also whippets 

What has been your most effective marketing tactic or strategy?

Everything about the evolution of MAUDE has happened really organically – from the name, to the logo, the aesthetic, and the decision to focus on accessories. I believe this contributes to an integrity that has worked really well for us so far, and has attracted some really amazing people to help shape and promote the brand. Whether its bloggers or photographers, stylists or nail artists. So far this has resonated within the marketplace and will hopefully allow us to continue to grow, evolve and innovate for many more seasons to come.

What is the most courageous thing you've done in business?

After graduating from my fashion degree, I knew I needed to get some originative experience if I wanted to form the brand that I envisaged. I wanted to get as far away from everything that I knew in order to gain an innovative approach and to explore and extend my idea’s for the brand.

I was flicking through DANSK magazine one afternoon and came across some beautiful bespoke outfits, their silhouettes undefined, materials so fragile and technical approach was unlike anything I’d seen before. I applied for an internship with that label and relocated to Stockholm, Sweden where I knew no-one and spoke no Swedish. During my first week of the internship, I was asked to re-create an atelier piece, a dress made entirely from men’s shirts-which had no pattern. On the successful completion of the piece it was exhibited in the Gothenburg Museum. I spent six months working alongside an innovative and inspiring designer who taught me that you can make luxury fashion using unconventional methods. I also learnt that there are no rules.

Words of Wisdom / Personal Quote

“It is better to be a flamboyant failure than any kind of benign success”.

-Malcolm Mclaren