Finding Ikigai with designer and retailer ALASDAIR MACKINNON

Finding Ikigai with designer and retailer ALASDAIR MACKINNON

Alasdair Mackinnon has worked in all facets of garment making and production. Beginning with his own label, he went on to work with Independent designers, International brands, mainstream companies and local industry.
For a decade he ran a design store with its focus on locally made, small batch, enduring goods. And now we find him co piloting Western Port Supply Co. 


There are many components to running a small business and a big step to move away from bricks and mortar to an online venture with pop up potential. The list could go on endlessly but ultimately this is an interview about taking all you know into a different direction and maintaining the drive.



So let’s talk about doing what you love and the Japanese concept of 'ikigai'
with Alasdair Mackinnon and find out how he operates.  


W.P.S.C:  Ahoy Alasdair! Welcome to the W.P.S.C journal, I know you were not expecting this interview but we like to keep each other on our toes, so here goes....
Tell us about your history and indeed present with Warn Marin/Western Port Bay. 


A.M:  I was not expecting to be included in the Journal it's true, but I see where you are going. I'm all in!

Western Port Bay has been a vivid part of my life since the age of about 11 when I came to stay at the Shoreham camping ground with family friends.
The following year my Mum decided to take a campsite so we could stay longer, we borrowed a Bonwood caravan from a relative and so began a tradition of spending our summers at Shoreham.
It was my alternative reality away from the pressures of our everyday existence. 
I did lose touch with Western Port for a period of time.
I regained connection in my 40s, visiting regularly to surf. 
It was always a place I wanted to live, but it seemed to be out of reach.
Living here now is a kind of circle of completion.
I love the combination of bush and sea, the variations, between the wooded hills along the ridge with their fern gullies and the tea tree scrub along the beaches, the strange and wonderful mangroves, this an area of great diversity.
I am genuinely in awe of the landscape I now live in and the calm it bestows on me. 




W.P.S.C: I know you as someone with an eye for detail in design. You are very tactile with material for instance and tactile people love to pick up objects.
What challenges do you find with starting an online venture and how do you want to do things differently?


A.M: The challenge for me with an online venture is expressing how much I believe in the product we represent, the details are really important to me because I dig deep into each piece and try to imbue them with everything I know and would want to find if I was the consumer. In-store I can talk the legs off a table about the benefits of our sweatshirt over another, it's much harder to evangelise about our
product and would no doubt come over as a dreadfully long rant!


W.P.S.C: Travelling to Japan and Japanese craft philosophy has quite an influence on how you approach the way you do things. Can you share something about what it is that inspires you so much?


A.M:  I am constantly inspired by the attention to detail, reverence for history, and the ongoing quest for continuous improvement.



       W.P.S.C: Let’s break down what Ikigai is. The Japanese word Ikigai basically    means; ' a sense of purpose '. To put it in the most basic of terms, there are four rules of ikigai : 
  1. Do what you love.
  2. Do what you are good at.
  3. Do what the world needs.
  4. Do what you can be paid for.


  How you implement Ikigai into your routine. Starting with rule number 1
What do you love about what you do?


A.M:  Firstly, I get to work with you everyday so I'm growing and learning continuously. Secondly, I love the freedom to create and inspire myself and hopefully others. 


W.P.S.C: Ha! Good answer! You have a knack at taking yourself out of your comfort zone and finding what you are good at, can you share something about that?

A.M:  On the tail end of making changes with great hesitation and ( sometimes) fear I try to remain open and that has allowed me to switch direction and survive.
At the same time I always learn something new and try to master that new thing. 





W.P.S.C:  We talk together about circular design, sustainable design, about the provenance of things. Sometimes we talk ourselves into a circle!!

How can design save the world?

 A.M:  If we work with what we already have and I have to say, sometimes I'm not always good at that, although it really is the best place to start.
Looking for ways to make a products that look great and function well, have humour and make people enjoy life more is a great well being outcome.
To do this and have the least impact on the planet, it's animals and people, is the goal. I am always aware of this intention while I'm working.
For example, this is why I opt for small batches of locally printed labels that I sew onto a garment myself. A very small step to reduce the use of energy and material inputs. Hopefully, little by little, these considerations add up to being more circular and sustainable.


W.P.S.C:  Doing what you can be paid for, the Ikigai rule number 4 seems so obvious doesn’t it ?! I hear you say quite often, ' you have to give to get,' which takes a bit of trust that things will work out. Can you talk to that?


A.M:  If we don't enter into all the parts of our lives with a positive attitude then we can't expect to receive any benefit back.
Approaching a new business venture without confidence doesn't seem to me to be healthy, it's like you've placed an obstacle in your way. This attitude has to be balanced with research, knowledge, experience and care.
I always remember working with a group of young marketing professionals who when presented with information about difficult new market conditions,
they looked at the " problem" as an opportunity.
I try to hold onto that thought when things seem tough. 


W.P.S.C:  I would love to talk about the concept of ‘ Shinrin-yoku ‘ or  Forest Bathing, which is the notion that spending more time in nature.

Forest Bathing is way of reviving oneself, clearing your mind and connecting with a greater entity that we call ‘ Nature ‘.

We are here on Western Port Bay able to bathe in the good air often, which is something I know you love to share. Where would you send someone for some Shinrin-yoku for a transporting moment that they may not know about?

A.M:  I want to share the unique, quiet beauty of Western Pot. There are a couple places I would send someone. I would take them to stand on the hill at the Pines in the heady summer air, a mix of pine oil, dry grass, and petrichor this a scent combination that relaxes me. From here you can gaze out to the Bass Strait horizon or Phillip Island and let your mind go. 

 W.P.S.C: Ha! Well I know that to be true as you took me there when we first met.

A.W:  A walk through Lorna's triangle on South Beach Road in Bittern is a special experience of total bush immersion. It's like going back in time to pre settlement, being there feels like nothing else exists and is very transporting.




W.P.S.C:  We do love the quiet calm nature of this side of the peninsula. It is worth preservation that is for sure. Thank you Alasdair for your participation in what truly was an impromptu request for some insight.
I guess we could file this interview under the label ' Transparency ' ;)
I love that you love what I love and I hope that your joy is spread wide.


 You can find out more about Alasdair here and on the pages of W.P.S.C. ;)