Designers Kirsha Whitcher (wearing black) and Kelly Watson (wearing white)
Kirsha (left) and Kelly (right)
We may be a little obsessed with the women behind the brand Salasai.
Kirsha Whitcher and Kelly Watson, the designers behind the unassuming and chic New Zealand-based Salasai, run a successful fashion label from two different cities: Auckland and Perth. Their friendship continues to nurture and build a brand that is truly individual with each design, and print that tells a special story.
Kirsha is based in Perth WA, where she lives with her husband, two children, and Nelson (her dog, a total cutie!). Kirsha started the brand in 2006 in New Zealand, after returning home from Melbourne, with an objective to bring elements of soft tailoring and timeless and relaxed aesthetic into a unisex collection. She was later joined by Kelly, and together they grew the business to include menswear and then to homeware in 2014. Kirsha happens to be one of those rare dimes you will instantly connect with. She is hard working, humble, and has great taste.
Kelly is one of those people you meet and kind of wish you could be a good mate with. She also has impeccable style. Her wardrobe is full of Margiela, Comme, Alexander Wang, and, of course, Salasai. Kelly always looks just as cool in her weekend slouchy jumpers as she does decked out in Salasai for a night out; and her good taste extends into everything else, from fragrances, sunglasses, and art to manicures.
And at Sauce, we’re dishing all the insights into their friendship, creative partnership, and, of course, beauty.
KIRSHA : My love for fashion came from my mum and aunt who used to sew at home (all my clothes were home made) and sell clothing at markets, my aunt was a pattern cutter in Sydney and we would visit her and her little design studio often she would whip me up outfits to wear in Sydney when I visited was always a highlight! I then went on and completed a BA in Fashion 1998 and as a graduate went to work for Mooks Clothing Co. in Melbourne as the senior womenswear designer travelling worldwide and getting accustomed to shows such as Premiere Vision in Paris, researching in London and NYC and having to work at a second office in LA, it was hard work and long hours in a corporate fashion job but an amazing experience that lasted until I had my first son Teankim in 2001 this is when I decided to move back to NZ and started planning my own inception…I had just met Kelly at this point she became such a great support person in my life at that time, we became the best of friends. Im so blessed we are besties and still work and travel together today, as mums as friends as business women.
KELLY : Like many, I started off as a green 15 year old working retail while still at school and navigating the perils of teenage angst. My retail prowess hung wearily on tips I had garnered from movie shopping scene I was not very good. I spent the next five years exploring and learning the design industry compass. I discovered the many facets of the industry that I enjoyed, particularly to do with event management, writing and interior design. Living in Wellington, my study at VIC was cut well short when I fell pregnant with my son Jasper (now 13) but fate had it, that babies and family would bring both Kirsha and I back to Hawkes Bay. It was there that we met and my degree in SALASAI began.
BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN RUNNING A BUSINESS IN FASHION :
KIRSHA : No-one really prepares you for starting a fashion business you learn so much as you go yet the challenge is to make sure you surround yourself with a strong positive support network and a creative team who flow and work well together this can be a huge challenge for a lot of businesses is choosing the right people to be part of your brand and then there is the dreaded cashflow - the biggest challenge, pre paying for manufacturing to delivery to stores who then pay 1-3 months later is a lot of outlay so the cashflow gaps can get crazy sometimes!
KELLY : I’ll leave this answer for Kirsh. Mine is boring…cashflow!!! lol
I’ll just add that managing a business while balancing three children, a household and a semi social lifestyle is a constant challenge. I always picture myself as juggling a maintainable amount of balls most of the time, while always trying to add that one extra in. Eventually one or all of them drop and its a matter of starting over and not sweating the smalls stuff.
BRAND ETHOS AND AESTHETIC :
KIRSHA : Salasai is very visual and concept driven each season - Functional nonchalant everyday clothing for the fashion conscious was where our ethos was early on and over the years developed its own strong handwriting.
Salasai uses volume, texture, colour and textile prints to tell a story and create a range, I work in-house with textile designer Imogen Duxbury and as I unfold the original concept of the season to her we then plan to make that concept visual with space, colour and graphics, its a process that has become signature for Salasai and is our major aesthetic for the rest of the collection.
Ethos is everything and is why I love what I do.
KELLY : Minimalism is essential to me as a person so its only natural to try bring that into the way homeware is designed. As a brand we are aware of our footprint on the planet so we take care to source the best natural fabrics that feel good to wear and are friendly to produce. As a women, I like to wear clothes that match my confidence, have a sense of individuality and are effortless in their attitude. We manage those characters well (I think) with a balance of beautifully wearable silhouettes in well sourced fabrics.
RELATIONSHIP TO BEAUTY & SELF CARE :
KIRSHA : Since my late 20’s I have tried many products trying to find that correct combination for my skin and body and I think its taken me till now to get it right! The right skin products and the right eating habits and supplements that actually benefit me - I’m 42 now and finally I think I have mastered these with some fabulous products and rules for myself. Being vigilant is my goal.
I take triple Theracurmin, D3 and Liver supplements that work well for my body and give my body a little back up when Im run down or simply not getting enough rest.
KELLY : My self care is one from the ages; drink water, exercise, sleep, eat well- all easier said than done! I was never a heavy skincare enthusiast. I think I went through the same trials as most, Nivea in my teens or any product that advertised the fight against acne and Dermalogica or Osmosis in my twenties. Now in my 30’s, I am thoughtful of what steps I take to ensure the best results for my skin. I use a mixture of Arbonne and World Organics, products that are largely organic and friendlier on the environment. I always wash my face before bed and use a night cream or night mask (these I have discovered to be the most rewarding skin treatment). My make up is light and minimal most days but I love to have a play on occasion. My go to is a red lip!
SKINCARE DIY HACK :
KRISHA : I still put a towel over my head and steam out impurities before face cleansing (something I’ve done since high school boarding school.) The opens pores and then gives your face a chance to really clean out, it also helps with fine lines. If you have a cold just add little vicks and it really clears your system. For the body I make my own Doterra body oils which are pure essential oils extracted from plants, so many different compounds combined for your own heath needs this is mixed with fractionated coconut oil to give you your DIY home made body oil.
KELLY : Because I spend a ridiculous amount of time in front of the screen and sometimes late into the night, I use damp cotton pads on my eyes in the morning to take away the burn and puffiness.
Every Sunday I like to spend more time using the carious scrubs, masks and treatments I have in my cabinet. World Organics have an amazing face oil that can be used as a base for a scrub or as a major moisture boost.
MORNING SKINCARE ROUTINE :
KIRSHA : Morning routine is up at 5.50am to walk my staffy boy, once I am home, 7am shower, in the shower I cleanse with the River Veda range ‘ Everyday Carefree Cleansing milk, once out of the shower I use River Veda Everyday Toner. Afterward, once dried, I moisturise with Aēsop Oil Free Hydrating Serum which is light and fresh and doesn't clog up my pores. The best product hands down! Sometimes if my skin is extra dry I have to resort to using River Veda Honeysuckle Moisturiser (little more supportive.)
Then religiously I put the jug on and have a green tea with lemon squeezed and if I am lucky there is a cold ruby red grapefruit in the fridge that I can cut in half and eat with a teaspoon while going through my emails.
KELLY : Up at 6.30am every day, I drink my lemon water, check emails and get the kids ready. If I can, I get a work out in, box fit or stairs. My skincare starts with one of my World Organic cleansers (I have three depending on how my skin is feeling) followed by a ritual of using the Wonderlift Serum, Turmeric Cream for trouble spots and lastly Arbonnes Daily SPF moisturiser. I use a little concealer, a light primer and if in the mood a little powder over top. A lick of mascara and a dab of rouge and I’m out the door.
NIGHTTIME ROUTINE :
KIRSHA : My nighttime routine is much different than my mornings! Every second night I wash my face with River Veda Everyday Cleansing Milk. I then use NuCerity Eye Effects Roller Ball around my eye sockets - this tightens skin. I then add River Veda Replenish Rose Attar Elixir Face Oil to the rest of my face. To the areas of my face that have the most wear and tear (forehead, laugh lines, side of eyes) I add River Veda Replenish Wonder Lift Serum. Then lastly over the top I lock in the products by adding Skincerty Renew (collagen activation mask) this locks in the products you have used and holds them tightly in your skin while you sleep, when I wake I peel it off and leaves you feeling so soft, I use this product 3 times a week - its like magic and helps immensely with anti ageing - huge benefits to my skin since starting this product.
KELLY : I wash my face at night with a light daily milk cleanser. I alternate my night routine between either Arbonne Night Repair Cream or the Smoothing Night Mask.
Arbonne Night Repair Cream and Smoothing overnight mask are as essential to me now as brushing teeth!
HAIRCARE ROUTINE :
KIRSHA : I wash twice a week as I have to use 3 products each time:
1. Redken Extreme Shampoo (for bleached hair)
2. Violet Toning agent (leave on 4 minutes)
3. Redken extreme megamask (for bleached hair)
This keeps my hair healthy and soft!
KELLY : I use all Redken products which feel so luxurious and smell amazing! My shampoo is half moisture, half protein which is repairing my hair while giving it the moisture it needs in New Zealand harsh conditions. I use a mask one a week too. I use a light oil in my hair for shine and frizz defence as well as a curl cream to encourage and define my natural curls.
ON FRAGRANCE :
KRISHA : Floriental by Comme des Garçons is the most feminine yet unusual perfume I own - A disrupted floral fragrance to imagine a flower that has no scent - Enigmatic and intense.
KELLY : Margiela "untitled" - The fragrance reinterprets aromas of greenery after rain. Characterised by floral-woody-musky and accentuated green accords. This perfume transports me somewhere dreamy every time I used it....sparingly!
BEST KEPT SECRETS :
KIRSHA : Bivouac Canteen in Perth, is hands down Perth's best kept secret and fav spot to eat, fresh organic local produce and innovative menu to keep you feeling at your best! It's always nice to find a food spot that you know whatever you order will be so good for you as all ingredients are sourced locally and everything made fresh from scratch on location, best shared with your girlfriends so you can sample more flavours!
KELLY : Beach Haven Yoga on a Tuesday night is my hidden gem! Inside a community hall and very cosy in Winter. I also love Woodside Cafe on Hinemoa Street. Their cheese scone is my staple diet and they make the best coffee.
Images | Wono Kim for Sauce
Interview | Zeenat Wilkinson
Thank you Kelly & Kirsha xx