January 28, 2014

After Losing My Dad, I Set Myself Free. ~ Maree MacLean

To say I was a “daddy’s girl” is an understatement.

He still referred to me as his baby girl right up until the day he died after losing a brutal six-week battle to primary liver cancer.

This year, after my dad died, has been the most productive of my life.

Don’t get me wrong—I worshiped the ground he walked on, and I still do, but I’m not living my life for him anymore.

Instead, I’m living it for me, and it’s made all the difference.

Much to my surprise, while grieving this incredible 58 year old’s life, I realized his sage advice had actually been holding me back.

It wasn’t my dad that insisted I check in with him before I made any major life decisions; I just did it because I’d always done it and his advice was realistic, pragmatic and always balanced.

Faced with my own mortality, I realized I had been holding myself back both by asking for his advice, and taking it, when I really needed to do precisely the opposite.

Instead, I needed to take a giant step outside my comfort zone. I needed to be unrealistic, unpractical, and to pursue my wildest dreams, (but retain his Buddhist values).

Humph. This is not what I was expecting and it required a real turn around in my thinking.

So, these are the ten things I’ve learnt since dad died:

1. Stop knocking every unrealistic thought you have on the head before it has even the remotest chance to blossom.

When a 21 year old French fashion student moved in to my flat, against all the odds, a Maori Parisian fashion collection was born. I managed to cobble together the money for the materials from my meager government artist allowance and Angela borrowed my deceased grandmother’s sewing machine. Despite our tiny living space, the patterns were completed and a sample range pulled together.

2. Keep firmly focused on the “what” and let the universe deal with the “how’s” and the naysayers.

That required a huge leap of faith for someone like me, who can become obsessed with the details and gentle reminders to my self to stop getting horribly bogged down in the “what if”:

“You’ll never find the money to pull this together.”

“We’re in a world recession, no-one wants to buy expensive clothing, how’s this going to fly?”

Whenever I got over concerned with the “how’s” I’d gently remind myself in the “to-do” instead. I contacted a manufacturer who obliged to sponsor a special yarn for our collection that they wanted to promote, and we were on our way!

3. Put yourself and your dream out there and let people know about it.

As soon as I stepped out of my comfort zone my courage kept meeting the right people. When I approached a Danish retailer with accessories I’d formerly designed and prototyped, she made an immediate order with a down payment so we could move into production.

4. Help others.

Through volunteering for fashion week, a woman gave me her card, and before I knew it I had been introduced to a fashion designer she mentored that needed a collaboration partner for footwear in 2015.

5. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” ~ Arthur Ashe

Without the money to prototype footwear, a second prototype I’d done at shoe making school was added to the collection. It wasn’t perfect but it was what we had, and much to our surprise its what we’ve had our first order for.

6. Think big.

We decided the best place to photograph the collection would be in France. Musing out loud over how to finance an air ticket, my Mum reminded my collaboration partner and I that my dad had bought me a return ticket back to NZ when he was diagnosed with cancer. I had a flight back to Europe to my husband and the miles I accrued meant on that flight I had just enough miles to fly to Paris for a shoot.

7. Never give up.

When the Chinese factory for our footwear closed for Chinese New Year and couldn’t fulfill our order, another friend jumped in with a contact in Portugal. When another contact offered to translate my questions for the new supplier into Portuguese, and send off an email, I thankfully accepted and a new supplier was found.

8. Be thankful. Focus on the powerful, euphoric, magical synchronistic parts of life and the universe will keep giving them to you.

So happy were we to get our first shoe order, that we offered the retailer the option to co-brand their label with ours on the soles of our shoes, the retailer obliged and the relationship started off on a good footing. When we came with the bad news our supplier had closed for Chinese New Year and the delivery date would be a month late because we had to find a new supplier over the Christmas and New Year period in Europe, there was enough good will there already that they didn’t cancel the order.

9. Start with the end goal in mind.

Why are you really doing what you are doing because knowing this will help keep you focused when the going get’s tough and help you figure out who you want to work with. Are your values, passions and actions aligned? Losing my dad meant a lot of soul searching; yes, I realized that I wanted to design, badly, but I also wanted to leave the world a better place, like he did.

When I met my collaboration partner and she also wanted to create a label that gave away the lion’s share of its profits, I knew I’d found the right person to collaborate with for me. After many nights of sewing and drinking cheap red wine, we finally hashed out the appropriate business structure for us.

We aim to give ten-percent of our profit back to the community in our first year of profitability. When the label is commercially established, we will give back ninety-percent of the profits and keep ten-percent.

10. Take regular mini breaks to refuel: spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically.

When it all get’s too much head for the bush, beach, mountains or backyard, enjoy a sun salutation, practice one of your standing mediation poses, or give someone a massage. You’ll be surprised how solutions to the most complex problems come when you are at rest. Plus your higher-self will thank you for it.


So Dad, if you’re listening, it’s been a whirlwind of a ride for your baby girl this year, learning to live without you, but at the same time, thank you: I’ve finally set myself free.


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Assistant Editor: Kathryn Ashworth/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant media library



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