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Madelene Kadziela on Rebranding Morris Motley

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Madelene Kadziela is the Creative Director at Morris Motley. Based in Melbourne, Madelene spent some time talking to us about their recent rebranding.

From visual inspirations to design executions and everything in between, Madelene walks us through her thought process and explains where her head was at throughout it all. 

MW: Hey Madelene. How are you doing? You’re over in Australia, right?

MK: I am. I’m in Melbourne at the moment. I don’t know if you can see, but it’s very grey this morning. Very typical here. But I’m good. It’s quiet.

MW: How long have you been there?

MK: Just a little over 10 years now. I grew up in Mildura, which is a little country town. I ended up moving to Melbourne to study Musical Theater actually.

MW: Does Melbourne feel like Home for you?

MK: Oof. Good question. I think Home is where you make it. Pockets of Melbourne, for example, are deserving of the title. I really enjoy Collingwood, which is where Morris Motley is set up. I live in the CBD. Everyone there mainly keeps to themselves. It’s a hard question to answer. 

MW: I know what you mean. I don’t think anyone actively thinks of their present location as Home. It always feels like something thought of in hindsight. Could you see yourself not living in Australia? Or is that where you need to be right now?

MK: I don’t need to be here. I could definitely see myself overseas. Australia is close to my heart though. It’s where my roots are. 

MW: I’m a firm believer that the physical location of where we’re at informs the work we make. I’m curious as to whether or not you think you’d be doing similar work, or making similar things, if you were in New York or London, as opposed to being in Melbourne.

MK: Yeah, absolutely. I definitely think that Australia informs my work. Big time. But it’s hard to say for sure how my aesthetic would change. I think what you grow up with makes the backbone of your design aesthetic. And you end up pulling from other spheres of influence that you have active control over, but that backbone always comes through in one way or another. It’s hard to escape it. But yeah, definitely what’s coming into your environment will affect what you’re putting out.

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MW: Can you tell me a little bit about how you fell into Creative Direction? And where that all started for you.

MK: So after my degree I went into styling. I worked for French Connection. Was doing VM for them as well as Ecommerce styling. I started doing contract work for other customers, and ended up meeting Rob, the founder of Morris Motley, and started doing lifestyle photography with him. We had aligning visions, and everything just clicked, so I kind of just jumped on board. And that was five years ago almost.

MW: Yeah it’s interesting. How do you describe what you do to people who don’t really understand what creative direction entails?

MK: I feel like I try to explain this to my Grandmother. She doesn’t really understand it all. I’ll show her some of the Morris Motley product as a visual example. And I’ll explain that I’ve designed the packaging with our great team, bouncing ideas off each other to get this finished product. And I work with manufacturers to get the product physically made. I direct photoshoots and come up with the visual concepts and round up the team to help me execute it. Right now I’m putting on my graphic designer hat and designing the website at the moment. Stuff like that. A slight jack of all trades.. But essentially, being the guide for the visual narrative of the brand. What are we communicating, who are we communicating to, how are those channels being established, and why. 

MW: Do you enjoy wearing all those hats? Or would you be better suited to being an expert in a singular field?

MK: You need to be able to wear a few of these hats to be able to direct a team. But being surrounded by experts is a great place to be.

MW: For sure. Being in a position to wear many hats is ideal, I think. Being a specialist sounds really cool, but the ability to be flexible and go into work each day with a new problem to tackle sounds more interesting, personally. 

MK: The versatility of creative direction definitely keeps things from being monotonous, for sure.

MW: Is there any part within creative direction, such as design or photography or video, that you’re more interested in or passionate about? Or do you try and keep all the practices balanced as much as possible?

MK: As a whole, I really enjoy every element of the process. Design feels very exciting to me, just because there are so many facets to it. Redesigning and creating a fragrance bottle from the ground up, coming up with a new logo. Those two things feel pretty different, but live in the same world of design. Creating a visual language through photography, film, product design and interiors all come second nature to me. Essentially I do try to find balance amongst these design practices.

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MW: I was stalking your Instagram a little bit. It seems like you’re pulling from a lot of different inspirations. Do you actively try and pull from different sources, whether that’s design or fashion or architecture? Or are you trying to pull from a smaller pool of resources that is a little more curated and consistent? It’s that conversation between a narrow and deep pool versus a wide and shallow one, you know?

MK: As a brand, we’ve got pillars that we abide by when it comes to choosing what inspires us. It just helps keep everything consistent. We’re heavily influenced by Brutalism. From brand ideals to our aesthetic. It’s a huge cornerstone of Morris Motley. 

MW: Interesting. You’ve explored Brutalism and referenced it on your personal account too. Stuff like the Brutalist watercolors are really interesting. And it shows up in the Morris Motley direction as well: Juxtaposing these hard, Brutalist elements, with soft, hand-designed wood elements, for example. So where’s the interest in Brutalism coming from, and what made you want to put it next to its counterpart?

MK: I think what’s really important with good design is balance. If everything is super strong, it’s going to feel off. People won’t really connect with it. Whether they actively know it or not, it’s a feeling really. For us, we were exploring concepts of masculinity, and how we can express that visually. And obviously there are so many different interpretations of masculinity out there. But we were looking for something that resonated with us as a team. We loved how confident and stripped back Brutalism is, and we gravitated towards it pretty quickly. Alongside that is the artisanal nature of Morris Motley. We’re making all the formulas, it’s all very raw- it’s about craftsmanship. We ended up describing the aesthetic as German Brutalism versus Japanese Artistry. 

MW: That’s amazing. So you’re coming up with the rebranding of Morris Motley, planning the design and execution of this product around this idea of masculinity. After seeing it now, did you guys land exactly where you wanted to? Or did you land somewhere unexpected? 

MK: Our expectations were definitely met. We’re where we want to be, but I think we actually landed slightly left-field from what we were expecting. And I love it. I think you have to be open to that, especially when you’re working with other people. It’s never going to be exactly what’s in your mind. And it’s for the better. That collaboration is better.

MW: I love that. What you guys are doing over there is definitely artistically-driven. And I think that comes from a really true place. It’s clear to see you guys have good taste. Do you think you are breaking into the mainstream yet, or are you still in this niche sub-following?

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MK: We’re definitely still in a niche market. Do we want to be commercialized? I mean, it would probably be more profitable, but it’s not really a focus of ours right now. If it was, we’d probably have better luck going with the “Sex Sells” model. And that just doesn’t feel like what we want to be doing.

MW: I want to shift a little bit and talk about the other project you’re working on which is LEGHSTER. Am I pronouncing that right?

MK: Yeah, you nailed it. I love that. LEGHSTER is our female brand that we’re developing. It’s surrounded by feminine sensibilities and ideals. To me it’s very romantic, but I love that the word leghster looks quite brutalist if you look at it. It goes back to the whole notion of balance.

MW: 100%. I thought about that when I was looking at the photos you guys took for the first launch. They’re gorgeous by the way. I’m interested to hear about the direction behind them and what you were going for. They feel very Baroque.

MK: You hit the nail on the head actually. They were inspired by three paintings by french artist Jules Joseph Lefebvre, around 1874. The subject matter is romantic and the color palette, very Baroque like you mentioned. I wanted to recreate them. We used this incredible Russian photographer, Anastasia, and shot it all in Russia. The lighting there was next level, it’s beautiful. The campaign ended up being a minimalist mirroring of these paintings. There’s an intimacy and an exploration of sensuality. The models were amazing as well. They gave this emotional pull to the photography that surpassed the stereotypical depiction of beauty.

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MW: It was amazing. Using wrinkles and curves and different skin tones. It was all very intentional and fantastic to see. So over at Morris Motley, you’re exploring the boundaries of masculinity, and defining what that looks like for your brand. And then with LEGHSTER, it’s the opposite side of the coin, and doing the same thing with femininity. Do you see those explorations overlap, or do they feel very individual in their pursuits?

MK: Both. They feel very individual, but are both unified by the fact that both feel very raw and realistic. They’re both very stripped back.

MW: So that then brings up this point about advertising and the role it plays within the depiction of beauty. Do you think the same standards of advertising beauty products for women apply to men? Or are they entirely different?

MK: I had this conversation not too long ago. I shared the thesis I did six years ago pretty recently. Positive female advertising practically didn’t exist. Women were hyper-sexualized and very submissive. Focus on their flaws. Now you see that marketing and advertising firms have flipped that agenda. Let’s raise women up and empower them. And while that’s fantastic, I feel like the advertising space for males has actually taken a step back. I see what other companies are doing, and it’s bordering on submissive, hyper-sexualized, and focusing on the flaws of the subject, instead of a positive marketing message. So for me, I really want to see a consistent positive messaging between both male and female beauty advertising. We as humans are wonderfully flawed and full of expression and individuality. Beauty brands should be here to support your individuality, not change you to fit stereotypical ideals. 

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MW: As we start to wrap this up, do you have any inspirations that you consistently go back to? Ones that really helped develop you as an artist and creator.

MK: Film is a really big inspiration for me. I’ll go back to different films all the time. It’s a very visceral feeling for me. The music, the acting, cinematography. If I ever want to get into the headspace of a project I’ll put on a film.

MW: That’s so interesting. Do you have a few favorites that you can bless our readers with?

MK: There’s a beautiful French film called La Danseuse, or The Dancer, in English. The film score is Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by Max Ritcher. It’s amazing. Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is another one. There’s a lovely juxtaposition between the music and visuals. 

MW: Those are two good ones. I’ve never seen La Danseuse. I’ll have to give it an eye for sure.

MK: Let me know what you think of it once you do. We’ll have to have another conversation just for that.

Madelene Kadziela on Rebranding Morris Motley

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