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SHOP STORIES: ÄMMÄ
We’re inaugurating our ‘Shop Stories’ with Marta, the wonderful woman behind the project ämmä, This fantastic shop in Bilbao’s historic quarter was one of the first shops to stock Naguisa. Ever since then, Marta has been a special person to us, a friend and a reference point. Today she opens the doors to her shop to welcome us in.
N.: Who is Marta? How would you define yourself? (Or give us a brief explanation of something about yourself.)
M.: I really like the word ‘equilibrist’. I really identify with it. I’ve always had that sense of searching for balance and beauty. My interest in aesthetics and art took me to the Faculty of Fine Arts and I did a degree in Graphic Techniques, perhaps the specialisation that gives greatest importance to the creative process. I think the enjoyment of processes is something I apply to everything in my life, from cooking lentils to changing a window display. I’m a bit obsessed with composition, colours and the little details. Until I was six, I spent a lot of time in a local hairdresser’s, enveloped in the women’s conversations. Add to that the voyeuristic vein that came out in my adolescence with fashion magazines, my studies of the Fine Arts and the interest I’ve always had in how we present ourselves to the world and there’s no option but to dedicate yourself to offering fantastic products to wonderful women who feel like enjoying a shopping experience.
N.: When did you open ämmä? Could you give us a brief history of your shop? What prompted you to take the step of setting up your own business?
M.: In 2001 I came back from one of those long, long trips and set to work wrapping gifts in a shop. That’s where it all began. Two years later my partner and I opened LULA, a little shop in a little street in Bilbao’s old quarter. The first years were very exciting. We sold clothes and accessories from national and international firms as well as the odd random item (we even sold toasters!). After two shops, three children and the occasional bump in the road, I started afresh with my most personal project, ämmä. The word ämmä comes from arcane Finnish and means ‘woman’. It is also ‘mother’ in Basque and the imperative of the verb ‘to love’. It’s one of the words I’ve heard most often since twelve years ago and the one that melts my soul the most. Finding it to use for my new space was a complete triumph!
N.: A moment you’ll always remember.
M.: I’ve got so many memories! Life goes on! Being part of my clients’ lives is a gift. Together, we sometimes remember that item of clothing they bought years ago and still use, a dress for the day of the wedding, a change of sandals because her sister had just bought the very same pair, the grandma, the mum and the granddaughter all together in the changing room, that Christmas when there was a power cut and we worked by candlelight. There’s another part of my work that I really enjoy as well! The fashion shows are my funfairs. My travelling companions tell me that my face lights up as soon as I enter a fashion show! And meeting Claudia at the show in New York and chatting about sandals, daughters and life in general for a while is one of those great moments to remember. There have been tough times as well, like the day they call you from customs and tell you that before they can deliver the shipment from your new Korean brand you have to pay tariffs of 1800 euros and your steak is burning while you’re holding the phone. Or that moment when you have to disguise the fact your breasts are leaking while you’re selling some shoes and listening to your daughter wailing from hunger at the door. Self-employed mums have enough stories of balancing work and home life to make a hit series on Netflix! And the pandemic of course. The day I came down from my home to cover the window displays with plastic and pull down the shutters without knowing when I’d be back, the exciting return we’re experiencing…
N.: What do you think our philosophy contributes to ämmä? And to your clients?
M.: I love the meaning of Naguisa, it’s almost like poetry! It contributes emotion and authenticity. My clients appreciate the comfort and the designs. They are aware when they consume a product of who they are buying this product from; they ask for all the information and I feel calm and confident that what I’m offering is a quality product that they’re going to enjoy.
N.: How would you define working with the Naguisa team? To you, what is it that makes us different?
M.: I’ve seen the firm evolve since its beginnings and it still maintains the same essence, even designing winter footwear! I love the inspirations related to nature and the fact that I’m here telling you these things in a corner of Naguisa makes this project more human. With my little shop, I love being connected and feeling like we belong to such a special project.
N.: Of all our designs to date, which is your favourite?
M.: The Soc model was my first pair of Naguisa shoes. They’ve accompanied me every summer since then. Perhaps the love I have for Mediterranean is to blame. Enjoying a sunset on Menorca this summer, with my children flitting around me while I’m wearing them, cherishing that memory. I want that.