Meet Adele Johnstone from La Madu

With a successful clothing and lifestyle store, La Madu that specialises in resort wear, Adele Johnstone has made her passion for travel part of her business. Beauty director Sarah Simpson steps into her home for a sneak peek of what life looks like for this fashionista.

Johnstone in her home office.

Johnstone in her home office.

La Madu owner Adele Johnstone has made her business work for her lifestyle. Her store is walking distance from her character villa that is surrounded by a leafy green, inner city park. Sarah Simpson discovers a retailer with a wicked sense of humour and a passion for collecting Indonesian art.

What’s a typical working day for you? 
It starts with running down my road to a great little cafe on the corner called Crumb in Grey Lynn, for the very necessary coffee. La Madu is only 200m from home, so I walk to work. The first thing I do once I arrive is fill our online orders. La Madu is very much a destination shop, space is big, light and airy and has a big storeroom where I run the wholesale business. Customers come to us when they are travelling somewhere hot and need something cool. We sell clothes made from natural fibres, and we offer all sizes from small to XL and have a good idea of what suits different body shapes. Our customers appreciate the relaxed atmosphere, and there is no pressure, we want women to love what they buy, and this has led to repeat business.

What do you love most about your career? 
Being my own boss, and the travel that is involved with sourcing and buying. I get to spend two months a year in Bali, and we often combine that with a family holiday.

What has been your career high to date? 
Transforming from being an employee to working for myself. It was a big step setting up my own business, but it’s so rewarding not having to be accountable to anyone.

What advice would you give other business owners? 
Don't sweat the small stuff. I used to be far more fussy around the house with keeping it spotless and fully stocked, but as I've got older I realise how unimportant it is for things to be perfect, and it's so liberating.  

Johnstone's collectables from her travels.

What is the one fashion item you will be buying this summer? 
A new pair of Anne et Valentin hand made French sunglasses. It's the one thing I update annually as I wear prescription glasses all the time now. Her styles are comfortable and just a little different. Grace Lange optometrist in Ponsonby Road has the best selection.

Who are your favourite local and international fashion designers?
Best local designer: I'm a fan of Ingrid Starnes who has beautifully made clothes, made locally. Ideal for all occasions, she will alter to fit and create a bespoke piece for a function. My favourite international designer is Isabel Marant for her quirky organic flavour which is still smart, ageless and does not date.

What is your one beauty indulgence?
My one beauty indulgence is massage and facial at Acajou in Ponsonby it's fabulous. Owner Tania Sharp has the best hands.

What's your skincare routine?
Environ. It works for my skin and does what is says it will do.

And makeup?
My daughter is makeup obsessed, so I generally get help from her when I am going out. Generally its a light coat of foundation and lipstick from Mecca Cosmetica.

What is your wellness philosophy? 
Less is more. One extra hot latte in the morning is a huge part of my wellness. I really do not function until I have had my coffee. I only have one cup a day and don't drink tea. I take Lypospheric Vit C daily and magnesium.

How do you relax and destress?
I’ve always loved the beach. We have a little shack in Whangamata which we get to whenever we can. I’m not a huge fan of exercising! I must enjoy what I'm doing, like riding my bike when we go to the beach or paddle boarding. I enjoy pottering in the garden when we are there and reading. My energy levels change as soon as we get down there and even two days away makes a difference.

Johnstone's favourite room, her beauty products and treasures.

How would your describe your home?

An eclectic mix of our travels. Coming from South Africa, I’ve always appreciated ethnic artefacts and antiques, everything has a little special meaning. It’s an old Grey Lynn villa that we have lived in for 25 years, our kids were raised here. We’ve modernised the back of it. It gets all day sun and has a good feel. We have many visitors and they all feel at home here.

What do you always have on your bedside table?
My iPad - it’s a mix of business and news. I subscribe to the New York Times which keeps me up to date internationally. There’s always a hand-made candle by my friend Barb who uses amazing fragrances.

What is your favourite room?
Our back living area. It’s a great spot to come home to in the afternoon. We get a peek of the back of the harbour and out to the Waitakere Ranges, so there are great sunsets. We have great trees and a green valley all the way down to Cox’s Bay park.

What would you never compromise on?
Cotton sheets - I even take them with me when I travel to Bali.

What are your most treasured possessions?
My children.

What’s the best interior advice you’ve picked up?
Minimise clutter and blend vintage antique with modern new.

Art and collectables in Johnstone's favourite living space.

With so much travel in your job, what are some of your travel tips?

Research destinations, make sure you have insurance. Be flexible, my husband surfs so we do a lot of spontaneous movements. Engage the locals and be adventurous, get out of your comfort zone. Eat local - and never sleep with the air conditioning setting on too cold.

What do you always pack on your trips away?
My destinations are usually hot and humid, so I only wear cotton or silk. I take light pants in black and white, a few tops, usually, a maxi that is versatile for day and night, a couple of sleeveless dresses and a few kaftans for cover up with as I don’t want to be in the sun.  A scarf is essential on the plane and handy as a throw at night. Hamamas Turkish towels are my new favourite thing - they are light and dry quickly and can be used as a wrap too. Havaianas and a pair of bling sandals. Communication is crucial for me, so that iPad and iPhone are essential. A very good sunblock is paramount and I take antihistamine tablets as you never know what's going to bite you.

Photography: Milana Radojcic
Makeup: Kimberly Hill for MAC Cosmetics