Re//Store: Interview with Sarah Mac

16-12-2016

On a beautiful sunny morning I met Sarah Mac, the Creative Director of Manuka Life, in one of my favourite local spots, The Alexandra Nurseries. I was naturally delighted to hear that we share the love for this charming spot, as this turned out to be one of her favourite ‘hangs’ too. We chatted over delicious flat whites and fresh mint teas.

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Sarah came to Manuka Life after it was founded over ten years ago by Leonie Ellyatt. Together they create beautifully engineered yoga inspired apparel and accessories to support individuals on their physical and wellbeing journey. They are renowned for their feminine silhouettes, luxurious fabrics – true industry leaders in innovative design.

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How would you describe your personal style?
Somewhere between crazy cat lady, a ballet studio and a 1940s wedding.

How would you describe the style of your brand?
Soft, body conscious and ready to wear anywhere. Impeccably stylish active wear.

Where do you get your inspiration at the start of your new collections?
Colour is everything; I often indulge myself in the luxury of living in London and wander round the Tate musing at old oil paintings and the unique colour palettes.

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What are your favourite elements of your job?
My favourite elements are art directing our seasonal shoots and choosing colours and themes.

Biggest Challenge:
Editing the collection each season, we can’t include everything and the edit is pretty brutal.

What role does yoga play in your life?
For me yoga is a remedy, it calms me down, grounds me and gets rid of any negativity that may have built up in the week.

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Do you practice mindfulness and in what way?
On a very basic level ujjayi breathing has helped me so much. Whether it’s helping a fear of flying or a stressful situation, to thinking before I speak, it gives you that minute to stop and re-group. In a class situation it builds up heat in the body and aids your practise, but in life it’s like a reliable friend.

What’s your favourite daily ritual?
Texting my mum to say good morning and good night.

What is your latest artistic discovery – in terms of music, art or design?
I’ve rediscovered Kate Bush and her lyrics, particularly her latest album, 50 Words for Snow. It’s painting some wonderful imagery for the next collection in my mind. Her lyrics have pointed me in James Joyce’s direction. I’m attempting Ulysses but I don’t hold out much hope, I’ve not even opened the book yet.

What is your favourite indulgence within the world of wellness.
Oils, tinctures and massage.

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For me yoga is a remedy, it calms me down, grounds me and gets rid of any negativity that may have built up in the week.

Where do you live and what do you like about the area?
South East London, I live close to Alexandra Nurseries, which is my secret happy place. It’s a garden centre and coffee shop with eclectic trinkets and antiques, super-duper Monmouth coffee and it’s an amazing family run business.

Where do you go when you want to find inspiration in London?
I often just go and sit by the river and people watch. I find walking along the Southbank, from the BFI to The Globe is really inspiring. The surroundings pull you in two directions, to be very present and thrown into the past all in one.

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Could you recommend an organic / local produce cafe / restaurant in your area?
Does organic / natural wine count? If so, 161 Food + Drink, on Kirkdale in Sydenham.

And your favourite vintage shop?
You used to find me wandering around Portobello in the late 90s at Retro but more recently I’ve ventured out to Hastings, there are some incredible shops there, including an old haberdashery called A G Hendy & CO homestore with some old French workman wear and feather dusters. Think Audrey Tautou as Coco Chanel sitting on a beach with French fisherman.

Who would you like to see on here in the future? (Somebody within the world of wellness / sustainability, all fields)
Mother Amma, you’d also get an incredible healing bosom hug. (Bonus!)

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What is your favourite plant based / Vegetarian recipe?
One of yours please Maaike, I’m loving the @restorekitchen Instagram, especially the plant powered fennel seed and ginger infused Pho soup…

Aw thank you, that is lovely to hear. Ok, hear we go.

Soup is my absolute go-to when it’s cold outside. Today a traditional fennel seed and ginger infused Pho stock with courgette and carrot noodles, toasted sesame seeds, coriander, shiitake and the hero of the day, samphire. This magical ‘sea asparagus’ genuinely deserves the name superfood. It is high in vitamin A, B and C and simultaneously aids in cleansing the liver, kidneys and relieving flatulence. The presence of fucoidans makes this a strong antioxidant and anti inflammatory super sea vegetable. I developed this recipe after getting inspired by the Pho Broth recipe by Sarah Britton of My New Roots. Having lived 14 years near Kingsland Road in East London which is filled with great Vietnamese restaurants, a good Pho noodle bowl was always at hand. Moving to South East London made me very motivated to create the perfect plant powered Pho Noodle bowl that simultaneously is very good for you!

Plant Powered fennel seed and ginger infused Pho Noodle Bowl

Sarah Mac Alexandra Nurseries Maaike Mekking

Serves 2-3
Broth

Ingredients:
2 lbs. / 1 kg onion (whichever you have at hand, white, yellow, red…)
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1.5 oz / 50g fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. fennel seeds
3 Green cardamom pods
1 tsp chilli flakes, or 1/2 finely chopped fresh red chilli (Adjust to your taste and love for spicy-ness)
3 star anise
5 whole cloves
½ tsp. black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. coriander seeds
½ Tbsp. sea salt
6 cups / 1.5 litres water

To add to the broth:

2 carrots julienned or spiralised
1 courgette as above
250 gr Shiitake
150 gr samphire
Optional: Soba noodles or I also love Pearl Barley in here…depending how peckish you are.
1 Hand full of fresh coriander, leaves picked
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds, I always love a mix of white and black
2 Tbsp. Sriracha and Tamari soy to taste

Directions:

1. Peel and roughly chop onions. Wash ginger and slice, leaving the skin on.
2. Peel the garlic and finely chop
3. To the pot of water add all spices, onions, garlic, ginger and salt. Bring to a boil and let simmer for one hour or more with the lid on. You can also boil for thirty minutes, turn off the heat and let the broth steep until you are ready to eat.
4. Strain broth through a sieve into another pot and discard all solids.
5. Meanwhile, if using pearl barley or buckwheat soba noodles cook these according to instructions.
6. After straining the broth and season to taste with himalayan sea salt and fresh black pepper, add the shiitakes, simmer for 5 min then add the noodles and vegetables.
7. Top with the fresh coriander, samphire, toasted sesame seeds.

Serve with the sauces and enjoy!

Interview and photos by Maaike Mekking maaikemekking.com

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