ONDINA MONTGOMERY is a woman on a mission to create beautiful resort wear. We talk to her about her business MAH Collection in her heritage black-and-white bungalow, off Grange Road in Singapore.
Tell us about your move to Singapore and the launch of your business.
I came to Singapore from Sydney with my husband 10 years ago, as he’s an international film producer and was setting up an office here. I’m originally from Denmark and I’d been studying design in Australia. When we arrived here, I finished my degree at Lasalle. I’d always liked fabrics and patterns, which led me to study interiors and textiles.
After I finished, I knew I wanted to open a company, so I started making scarves because I didn’t have a lot of knowledge of fashion. But Singapore isn’t really the right market for them – it’s more of a European trend. A couple of friends said I should make kaftans instead. It was a long journey – finding the right manufacturers, in particular, was lots of trial and error – but we got there.
And now you’re working on your sixth collection?
Yes! Last year, I started to do something different, using pleats and folds. We were six months into getting the collection together and nothing was going right! But then one of my customers came into the store and said she could help, as she was a pattern engineer with 20 years’ experience working with European brands. She offered to invest in MAH Collection and we merged three months ago.
Has this partnership changed your business?
Absolutely. She helped to translate my creativity into a language the manufacturers understand. We even have an agent in Australia now, so we can sell there to a wider market; it’s really exciting times. We’re also going to Paris this year to present our collection. So, you are women taking on the world! We want to have a brand that is designed by women, made by women, for women. We’re currently looking into ways we can train and engage unemployed single mothers in the region to help put our garments together.
Your creativity doesn’t stop with your business, does it?
No, everything in the house has been styled by me. We travel a lot as a family and I collect things on my travels. I like to recondition old things and make them look young again. We’ve also done a lot to the house in the last three years – paved the front, added a deck, built my store (which is made from two old shipping containers), replanted the garden and added the pool.
What’s your favourite room?
The dining room – the table, chairs and lounge were all designed by me. They took a year to be made and delivered, as I collaborated with a company in India that only works with interior designers. I really like how it’s custom-made yet still has a vintage feel. Even the leather I used is treated to make it look like it’s aged. We spend a lot of time in here and always eat together with the children at 6pm.
And your favourite piece?
Oh, that’s easy: the Conversation Couch in the hall. It’s 60 to 80 years old. We bought it from the most famous flea market in Paris, the Porte de Clignancourt, then had it shipped here and reconditioned. I also love the Knot Sculpture in the lounge. It’s made from recycled red CocaCola bottle tops! We met the artist when we were in Brazil and loved his work. He is now trying to set a world record for the longest string of Coca-Cola bottle tops!