What began as two friends helping each other photograph weddings bloomed into a glorious collaboration for New Plymouth creatives Brooke Lean and Gina Fabish
This New Plymouth bridal store delivers interior inspiration
Collaboration breeds creative confidence for photographers and kindred spirits Brooke Lean (pictured left) and Gina Fabish (right). Based in New Plymouth, with six children between them and a shared passion for pushing the envelope, the pair began helping each other photograph weddings six years ago. This soon morphed into a creative platform to encompass more of their joint interests – interiors, travel, styling, homeware, design and photography – under the name The Virtue.
Adding yet another string to their bow, Brooke and Gina recently opened their own retail space in New Plymouth, “which places our customers in the engine room of our ideas”. Here you’ll find an eclectic mix of interiors, art and even a bridal space. We asked the pair to share a little more about what makes them tick, together.
How would you describe The Virtue style?
Original, raw, moody, romantic and elegant, with a touch of humour.
Why do you work so well together?
We both have very different personalities and approaches to life and work. This gives us a really unique way of working as we are forced daily to flip our ideas and be totally open to change, keeping our ideas fluid and fresh.
What do you each admire most about the other?
Brooke: On a superficial level, I admire Gina’s fabulous hair and exceptional posture! However, there is far more to the woman than that. Gina has amazing taste and an ability to make any space look elegant and considered no matter how humble the conditions.
Gina: I admire Brooke’s amazing work ethic and ability to think big and outside the box. She has the nous and determination to make ideas and concepts reach their full potential – always.
How does the rugged west coast foster your creativity?
Living in New Plymouth keeps our lives beautifully simple and uncomplicated. A surf before school drop, a five-minute drive to work, and a glorious working environment. Being surrounded by the raw beauty of our region is always an inspiration. It keeps us grounded and focused. Our way of seeing and our creative direction are flavoured by our unique geographical location. It has helped us a great deal; our style is deeply embedded in our proud regional roots. We also both have a lot of family support close by which helps immensely with the motherhood-work juggle.
Was there a light bulb moment which encouraged you to open your store?
We travelled to Cuba in 2016, following on from photographing a wedding in Los Angeles. It was somewhere we had dreamed of travelling to for a long time and we really pushed to make it happen. We left with the idea that we would come home and have a photographic exhibition. Our experience of Cuba and travelling together was both exhilarating and empowering. We returned with our planned exhibition at the ready but decided Cuba was also a catalyst to bring all our other dreams to fruition, which in turn led to the store.
Can you talk about some of the creatives you worked with on the store opening?
Number one would be our good friend Sofie from floral boutique Petal and Prickle. She was there from day one with a cold glass of whisky and an epic work ethic. Taking on board our ideas and translating them into her glorious floral installations brought a refreshing new element to our space, which we are so grateful for. Our favourite addition is a glamorous brass counter designed in collaboration with talented designer and friend Annika Rowson from Rowson Joinery. Mark Lahood from Mark Lahood Films created our launch film which absolutely set the mood for our opening.
How do you balance working across all your creative projects?
Balance is a myth, isn’t it? We are driven by the need to be diverse; it’s this chaos that keeps the creative fires burning. We work hard to be structured in our working week, which is something that’s not natural for either of us. The nature of the business we have created is built on the unpredictable nature of photography. We are used to thinking quickly and working in ever-changing environments. And when we get stuck, we have another person there to take over and help; it really is a blessing.