MUSE MOMENT | Elle Belushi
Your home is beautiful! How long have you been here? Where do you primarily source your decor?
EB | Thank you! We live in the curators apartment of the old BNZ bank. We love the lifestyle and convenience that inner city living offers. It’s funny, originally we had planned to live here for 6 months until we found a home to buy, 15 months on we are still here and cant see ourselves moving. We moved back to New Plymouth when we were expecting our first child to be closer to family, the apartment has so much natural light, we have slowly begun doing work to it, we needed a new roof and to fix a few walls and ceilings. Now we have big visions to convert the roof top deck into alfresco dining and garden, open up the kitchen and lounge area and get a new bathroom/ kitchen and laundry. I think my ideas far exceed our budget at the moment so I’m just trying to enjoy the process.
When my partner Adnan and I first moved in together we literally only had a suitcase of clothing each, both coming from furnished places so we had to buy everything. We moved into a beautiful apartment in Ponsonby, it was tiny so we didn’t need to buy too much which was lucky as we had a pretty tight budget. I purchased the main items like dining table, chairs and coffee table from freedom, I still love the pieces we chose and think freedom has a great range when you are first starting out. To create a more homely vibe we went to the design store in Auckland, I brought lots of cane baskets and filled them with potted plants, rugs created warmth, and my absolute favourite buy was a floor to ceiling baroque mirror which made the lounge appear a lot bigger than it was.
When we moved to New Plymouth all the furnishings came with us and since then I have been adding to our more modern furnishings with vintage pieces I find at op-shops. I am a huge op-shop fan, I love the excitement of what you might discover and bring home and the idea and story of who owned it before, we have a gorgeous velvet green sofa that I scored for only $30, I have accumulated quite an amazing crystal collection and love collecting pottery, my home is always evolving and I often rotate my collections and have different pieces on display.
It’s important that our place feels homely and is fun, in the future we want to add really creative and fun wallpaper and art, crazy and colourful furniture, I’m not precious about things getting broken or that it should look like an instahome all the time, it should feel lived in and loved and open to whoever wants to visit.
"I’m not precious about things getting broken or that it should look like an instahome all the time, it should feel lived in and loved and open to whoever wants to visit."
Tell us about the different places you have lived prior to settling back in New Plymouth?
EB | After studying fashion in Taranaki I moved to Wellington for a year, it was always my dream to work in fashion or start something on my own. It was hard to break into the industry, I absolutely love Wellington, but the reality of living there and working in retail was a lot different to what I imagined.
After struggling with my mental illness and depression I basically had a breakdown at work and knew that I needed to move on. The opportunity came up to live rent free in Bali for 6months, while focusing on my health and looking into business opportunities. 6 months turned into 5 years, I was incredibly lucky to live in such a beautiful place while starting my first business, a boutique shoe line called ‘Mrs Johnson’ named after my fashion muse and Grandmother. It was a huge learning curve and I feel incredibly blessed to have experienced such a beautiful culture and met so many amazing people.
Sadly my health still wasn’t great which meant I couldn’t carry on in Bali and after a short stint in Australia I ended up back in New Plymouth needing to be around family. I’m very open about the struggles I had with mental illness and I ended up in Rehab down in Dunedin. This was really the start to the healing journey and who I am today. Post rehab I moved to the coromandel and lived in a Buddhist community for 6 months. It was while living here and gaining my confidence back in the real world that I met my husband to be online. This encouraged me to move to Auckland to be closer to him, 2 months later we were living together and 6 months later we were expecting our first child. My husband is from the UAE so it made sense that we settle in New Plymouth to be closer to family and create a secure community where we could raise our son Arlo.
"..I moved to the Coromandel and lived in a Buddhist community for 6 months. It was while living here and gaining my confidence back in the real world that I met my husband to be.."
Looking back at what you’ve accomplished through your journey so far, what moments are you most proud of?
EB | It would have to be more of my personal journey rather than anything career wise. I feel blessed to be the women I have become and I wouldn’t have the deep understanding and knowledge of myself if I hadn’t been through all those years of mental illness. I am still working on bettering myself, gaining my confidence back after 14 years of being unwell and becoming that beautiful, compassionate, caring and understanding person my soul seeks to be.
But I am proud of where I am today, that I can speak openly of my struggles without shame, hurt and embarrassment, that I can take ownership but most of all have the understanding and compassion knowing we all suffer, we all have a story and by sharing and connecting we can help ease the suffering of others. The healing process has enabled the light to come into my life again, it has given me back my friends and family, I love and am loved, I have a husband and the most beautiful 1 year old son, for me this is what I am most proud of.
Can you describe your creative path and what brings you to where to you are today?
EB | My creative path I see as seeking to find the passion and purpose in life. Creativity has always been the way I express myself, it gives me that outlet of what ignites me inside. My path was not by accident, as a teen I was always horribly sewing up outfits to wear, altering clothing I found at op-shops, expressing myself through fashion. At high school I took as many design and art classes as I could, it only felt right to move onto studying fashion, which led me to start my first business ‘Mrs Johnson’. When I was unwell my creativity died, when the soul is not doing what it loves, you lose all sense of who you are.
This past year has seen my passion for creativity ignite again, following my sons birth I got my old sewing machine out from 8 years before, becoming a mother empowered me, I became a women warrior and I needed to release the energy and emotions I was feeling. I frantically sewed, creating all my sons outfits, as well as selling baby clothes through social media and the markets. The sewing became meditative for me, but also gave me a sense of purpose, I understood then, that to be me, I needed a creative outlet in my life. I was open to ideas and business opportunities. Adnan and I married this year, the planning , designing and styling process evoked all those feelings in me that made me feel alive, this was when the idea for my newest business was born.
I now offer wedding hire, styling, design and planning through Elle Belushi Events, being apart of two people coming together and making their day truely special is so beautiful, I feel very blessed to predominately be a stay at home mum, while also having the creative outlet that feeds my love and passion.
"This past year has seen my passion for creativity ignite again, following my sons birth I got my old sewing machine out from 8 years before, becoming a mother empowered me, I became a women warrior and I needed to release the energy and emotions I was feeling."
Tell us a bit more about your previous brand Mrs Johnson and how this relates to your new business ventures?
EB | I started Mrs Johnson after working as a production manager for a company making leather shoes, this is how I learnt the design and making process as well as gain connections within the industry. Mrs Johnson was a bespoke shoe line that enabled the customer to personalise and create their own design. We kept the shoe limited to 5 classic styles, the client could then customise the design details, colour, leather, pattern and sole as well as have them made to measure. We had a few stockists in New Zealand, but the whole idea was to create one off, bespoke items that were made to order. I was quite young and naive when I first started out in business and I didn’t have the support network around me to push it further, I’m a creative and I lacked in the marketing and business side, I’m still proud to this day of what I created, I gained invaluable knowledge through the process.
Today my partner and I are venturing out in business together, our co-working hub will be open to the community in around 6 weeks time ‘Johnson corner’ entirely unrelated to my first business but carrying on the family name and lineage of entrepreneurs. We want to create communities of connectivity, our pilot hub is opening in New Plymouth, with the vision to expand into regions around New Zealand.
What is your relationship to fashion? Do you have a sense of daily uniform?
EB | To me fashion has always been a way that I express myself. When I am feeling confident my outfit often reflects this in a wild way. In my unwell years I dressed less colourful, but had fun with the design and shapes of the outfit. I often wore matching twinset mini shorts and boxy t-shirts made from leather and suede I would get tailored in Bali, I was always very OCD about the way I presented myself in public, I felt I couldn’t leave the house unless I looked perfect.
Nowadays I understand there is no such thing as perfection and I dress in a much more carefree way. I am always evolving and so is my wardrobe, but I am always drawn to one off vintage pieces. I love bold patterns and long floral dresses in the summer. To be honest becoming a mother has me dressing down and much more practical, my daily uniform is often rip jeans and a soft jumper in winter, dressed up with heels if I have a meeting. I am much more comfortable in the summer, wearing brighter colours, long dresses or shorts with beautiful flowing tops. Given a night out or dinner date I jump at the dance to get dressed up in one of my vintage pieces, with big costume earrings and I imagine dressing more like this on a daily basis when I’m not having to run after my son every second.
"Nowadays I understand there is no such thing as perfection and I dress in a much more carefree way."
5 things you couldn’t live without?
EB | We were talking about this the other day and the art of non-attachment. I like to think that materialistic things don’t have a hold on me, and I know that if everything was taken away from me, I would be ok. But I would struggle living without op-shops, my vintage collection, makeup, costume jewellery and my beautiful home.
In a non- materialistic sense I know that living without love, purpose and community is not living any all, and that experiences and time spent with family and friends far outweigh anything materialistic, I definitely could not live without these. Wine is always good too :)