By Enrico Fragale Esposito
We have known Maja for many years, she won us over from the start with her kindness, her smile and the fruit jellies she’s been offering us at every fair. Over time, her brand, minimalisma, has given high-quality basics the importance they deserve. Alpaca, silk, merino wool and cashmere are some of the ingredients Maja builds her collections with; the latest of which, called Harmony, draws inspiration from that remote archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, which is home to the designer’s childhood memories. The green of the forests, the blue of the ocean, the pink of the sunsets: these are the colours with which Maja invites us to enter that poetic place where time stands still enough to allow us to grasp the present and enjoy it in the rhythm of nature: the Faroe Islands.
What are some of your fondest childhood memories linked to Fær Øer?
Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around playing outside, no matter the weather. Another cherished memory is our summer holidays with my grandparents in the Southern Islands, a yearly highlight. Each summer, we would pack up the car, even our cat, and board the ferry for a two-hour journey to the Southern Island. Upon arrival in the small narrow village, my grandmother would warmly welcome us at the door, and the house would be filled with the delightful smell of freshly baked cakes and buns. The entire family would gather there, around ten adults and 10-15 kids. We’d sleep closely together in the cozy little rooms, on every sofa, and even with the neighbours.
The house was the last one in the village, with the ocean just a few steps away on one side and a towering mountain on the other. During our stay, we would help my grandparents with haying and tending the sheep and geese, creating memories that still bring a smile to my face.
Is there a specific Faroese tradition, ritual or celebration that you hold dear or that has inspired your creativity?
In the Faroe Islands basically everybody knits. All the time. It was a significant part of my upbringing, and I, too, learned the art of knitting. However, my youthful impatience prevented me from ever completing a full sweater. Instead, I channeled my creativity into designing my own pieces, leaving my mom to bring these creations to life with her knitting experience.
My passion for fashion also drew inspiration from my grandmother’s wardrobe. My grandfather used to bring back interesting dresses for her from his travels as a sailor. I would experiment with those dresses, styling them on my friends and staging photoshoots with my trusty pink camera. And I loved to draw, constantly sketching.
Other than that, I guess playing freely in nature was probably the biggest inspiration back then, just as it remains today. Without many toys, but lots of kids to play with, a secure neighbourhood and a vast meadow just across the street, I was fortunate to have the perfect playground for fostering my imagination and creativity.
You define your design as “timeless essentials made with love, in kindness to the earth and in symbiosis with nature”. How do you balance these qualities while ensuring your collection remains relevant and appealing to parents and kids?
When I founded minimalisma in 2012, our focus was on offering pure, natural qualities and organic cotton. Our mission was clear: to create collections that parents would love to purchase and that kids would adore wearing. Back then, there were not many options for merino basics, and even when searching for a ‘cashmere’ sweater online, they often contained just a mere 5% cashmere.
Our initial collection consisted of signature silk seamless pieces, followed by our merino wool essential, a delightful silk-cashmere blend, and the hand-knitted 100% cashmere cardigans that my mom lovingly crafted for our first autumn collection.
Over time, we’ve witnessed a growing demand for pure, high-quality fabrics, which is still on the rise today. This makes our approach more relevant than ever, echoing Coco Chanel’s timeless wisdom: ‘Good quality never goes out of fashion.’
From a sustainability perspective, it is crucial to consider the importance of durable, high-quality items that can be passed on to siblings and future generations. That they are biodegradable and can be returned to the earth at the end of their lifecycle, leaving no harm to Mother Earth.
The name “Harmony Collection” implies a sense of balance and inner piece. In what place are you able to reach this sensation?
In nature! I love to walk or bike and it’s on these trips that I sense it the most. As a family, we like to do long hikes. It gives us time to find our own phase, but also to just be there with one another, and it also helps me balance. This summer, we did a 7-day hike from hut to hut, the Bernina Trek here in Switzerland. It was amazing. But a long walk by the ocean or in a forest can be equally rewarding.
The Faroe Islands are undoubtedly a unique and distant place. Have you ever experienced traveling to even more faraway and remote destinations?
Growing up in the Faroe Islands, where seafaring is in our blood, leaving always means going a long way. For me, the most remote places are the ones that took the longest to reach. That would be Argentina, where we traveled extensively by bus, experiencing the vastness of the country.
And in 2005, when I moved to China, leaving Europe behind for the very first time. I worked for a Danish fashion house in their Shanghai office. I got to travel a lot, both when we conducted production inspections in various factories in different Chinese provinces and during the weekends, which allowed me to discover some of the more remote corners of China.
Share a to-do list with us for a visit of the Faroe Islands.
Oh, there is so much to explore on the Faroe Islands! But it is essential to keep your plans flexible due to the ever-changing weather. The sun can shine in one village while rain or fog blankets the rest of the island, so my advice is to ‘follow the sun.’ On a clear day, hike up to Slaettaratindur, our highest mountain, for breathtaking views. Take a boat or helicopter ride to Mikines, where you can get up close to adorable puffins or witness the majestic Northern Gannet (only there during the summer months). Don’t forget to savor some delicious fish ‘n’ chips outdoors in Torshavn city center. And remember to just enjoy breathing in the crisp, salty air and enjoy the island’s unhurried pace of life.
Your collections often feature basic and monochrome pieces, made from top-quality materials. Can you name other children’s brands that you like and that match well with minimalisma’s pieces?
I would say that minimalisma effortlessly complements a wide array of children’s wear brands. Our versatile styles and extensive color range seamlessly harmonize with a variety of prints and designs. Personally, I’m particularly fond of Christina Rohde’s designs and the exquisite knits crafted by Misha & Puff.
If you were to choose only one piece from your current collection to bring with you to a remote destination, which one would that be and why?
I will be heading to my remote Faroe Islands to celebrate Christmas with my family. For myself, I will surely be packing the new Snow sweater for women, made from the softest and most luxurious undyed Suri alpaca yarn, ensuring both warmth and elegance. My daughters will bring their must-have Bui turtlenecks and the new cashmere sets knitted in Nepal. And for my husband, I’m excited to have him trying out our latest merino essential for men – available from AW24.