Emma Lee got hooked on sneaker culture back in ’08 in Hong Kong. She talks about her first pair of red Adidas hightops like they were some sexy Asian summer romance. The analogy is strengthened by the fact that she spent the next six years searching for a new streetwear thrill back home. Picture a cool chick, forlorn, wandering retail outlets and coming home empty-handed after only finding shoes with too much toe-room and tops with not enough boob-room. Nobody was offering the threads she craved, so in 2015 she decided she’d do something about it—and she’d do it for the ladies. Bri Lee spoke with Emma about the birth of her own streetwear store, Mama Millions.
“I set up Mama Millions to push the streetwear scene for girls. I had always wanted to start a female sneaker store. A limited edition, kicks-for-girls-only website, because there’s nothing like that out there, is there? But I only had limited funds and after sneakers I got into streetwear, so I decided to pursue that,” Emma reflects.
A launch in May at Melbourne’s Juddy Roller shot the shop from an online dream into an IRL party, and Mama Millions has been going strong ever since.
“At every event I’ve hosted, my mates have had my back 100 per cent and are always there with so much support. My stomach clenches at the idea of getting publicly knocked down, and it’s so nerve-wracking to put yourself out there, but there’s been nothing but love for my brand and it gives me so much confidence and determination.”
Without a bricks-and-mortar shopfront, Emma runs Mama Millions predominantly as an online store. The modus operandi is ultra effective—hosting regular pop-ups that are more like parties, and announcing collaborations that are more like celebrations of talented ladies. These events are always great gatherings of girl gangs and their guy friends.
Bringing the conversation back to style, you can hear Emma’s frustration when she talks about the guys having domain over the “rad designs” for so long while if she wanted anything to fit properly she was stuck with “boring, textbook ‘feminine’ stuff”. Now, having already nailed the market for women, she’s producing her own Mama Millions line in unisex cuts too. It turns out the boys want in and she’s selling the goods faster than she can design and produce them.
“I’ve had all the boys wanting a piece of what we’ve got and it’s only fair to keep them freshly dressed as well!”
The event photos from her launch show a mix of sexy men and women, and recently her social media accounts have been full of funny pics of dudes sporting the latest Mama Millions gear. But if you want to see Emma get really excited, ask her what’s next.
“It’s been a rollercoaster since starting the business last year, and I’m working on bigger and better things.”
Apparently it was never her intention to have her own range (which is a surprising considering how successful the venture has proven) but the third product is going up in a couple of weeks—a crewneck collaboration with Martina Martian. The future of the brand seems bankable too, with Mama Millions rolling papers, bodysuits, and bucket hats in the works.
This shoot is another example of the strong female collaborations on the Mama Millions agenda. It’s an interstate affair with Mama Millions in Melbourne, and the team behind boss lady-championing sites Hot Chicks with Big Brains (Bri, Grace, and Anna) and The Push, repped by Bianca Annamie—all based in Brisbane.
Unempire and Bad Luck Zizzy also get shout-outs for jumping on board early. Emma says Haylee, the genius behind Bad Luck Zizzy was a “huge support” in the early days of Mama Millions. Emma also winks and hints towards a cool capsule collection in the works between Mama Millions and Zoe at Unempire, too.
The fame and success haven’t gone to Emma’s head though – her customer comes first, and that means “making girls feel shit hot on the inside and out.” She speaks reverently and with respect about how she admires the sneaker scene, and all she’s trying to do is get in on the action.
“The streetwear movement began decades ago, and Mama Millions is here to cater for girls who are part of that ever growing movement; if you dress good, you feel good.”
Words: Bri Lee (HCwBB)
Model: Grace Bullen (HCwBB)
Photographer: Bri Lee (HCwBB)
Photographer’s Assistant: Anna Apuli (HCwBB)
Styling: Grace Bullen (HCwBB) and Bianca Annamie (The Push)
Clothing: Emma Lee (Mama Millions)