Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The truth is...

When I graduated Uni with a Degree in Fashion something like (gulp) 15 years ago I was under no illusions that creating the career I wanted in Fashion was going to be tough.  We were told all the way through the course that our's was a sunset industry*.

Nevertheless, I was determined, brave and I believed and was told I had the talent to make it.

Fast forward 10 years and after building up my label, having some moderate success, being knocked back, repeat, several times I opened my teeny tiny boutique The Wardrobe in Whangamata.  That summer I got married, then we found out we were expecting, then my husband was made redundant - all this within 6 weeks.  I made the heartbreaking decision to close the boutique.  The timing wasn't right.
My first independent retail venture had a floor plate of just 4 and a half metres!
Somehow I made that work.  Hint: there was lots of mirrors
At this point I was all the things I was when I was 20, but I had learned to make the hard decisions within business fast, and without regret.  I had a family to think of.  My dream could wait.

Now zip forward a little more to 4 years ago.  I was a stay at home Mum with an 8 month old daughter.  I started to make again.  I found a great little retailer in Lyttelton who understood my journey and liked my work.  It was a happy time.  Making made me happy.  Having others delighted to purchase my work is fulfilling. I was encouraged to take a studio in the central city and I began researching expansion.  Maybe this was my time.

Then nature intervened.  My workshop felt down.  My retailer's store fell down.  My machinery, raw materials or intellectual property (i.e. patterns) were inaccessible behind the red zone cordon for 6 months. Even when I did get it out it was another year before I could find premises to work again.  I was undaunted. I had had a taste of making quality pieces that others would wear with pride and I was NOT about to let that go.
Milou, Lyttelton.  Building crumbed in the February 2011 earthquakes
This part of the story you'll already know.  I rebranded and relaunched as Sailor Spy.  I found new premises and spent many many hours with my friends and family creating a space that I am proud of and delight in working in.

And yet this business demands more money and more time than I have to give it.  It means having a lot more 'working capital' in the business than I can possibly lay my hands on.  Making a living also requires committing to it 60+ hours a week.  I have the tenacity and the energy to do that, but not at the expense of my family.  They come first - they always have.

And so friends I made the difficult decision to let the dream go.  The dream that was to pay myself a living wage as a fashion designer.  I am done with that.


I am not done with making.  I am not done with sharing and I am definitely not done with flying the flag for sustainable, locally and ethically produced clothing.

I may be ahead of the Bell curve in terms of Slow Fashion, but I feel within me this is a very important message to share.  Eventually more and more people will come to understand that the consumer has the power to create change, to honor the maker, to support fair trade, fair conditions and fair wages and that cheap does not necessarily equal happiness for anyone involved - least of all you.

Practically speaking, I am looking forward to working for someone else.  For a wage.  During regular hours.  I'm actually, hand on heart looking forward to it.  Why?

Because I have a new dream.  Once I realised that if I divorce the money making component from my work I am free to be more creative.  The pressure to be commercial is a terrible constraint on creativity.  The new dream is to be free to work joyfully in my spare time.  I will make and I will share.  If you want a piece then that's great, but if you don't I'm not going to stress about it.

I apologise that this has been so verbose.  Truly its been in my heart (and my drafts) this post for, oh, say four months.  In the end I just had to rip the plaster off and hit 'Publish".

This post is for Jamie (thanks for the encouragement to be vulnerable and speak my truth!) and follows the reading of a book she recommended 'The Icarus Deception' by Seth Godin

*In a nutshell this means: The New Zealand Government had taking all its tariffs of clothing imports leading the way to wave upon wave of cheaper imported clothes.  The results are with us today.  If you told me 20 years ago you could get a garment for a price of a cup of coffee I wouldn't have believed you, and yet this is what we value a human being's skill at.  Crazy.


  1. Hugs! Love you, your dreams, your determination, your courage, and your adorable family. You have my support no matter what.

  2. awesome. *applause* Good luck for the future! the world is your oyster and all that stuff. ps. I went in your shop many moooooooooons ago in Whangamata!

  3. You are truly an inspiration Nin and I wish you and your family only the best that life can offer, whichever direction that leads xx

  4. I commend your honesty and your perseverance! I also believe that your ethical, beautiful, slow fashion is inspiring and much needed. My husband is a freelancer, so I completely get the need for sustainable, regular work too! I look forward to seeing what creativity may come, and I'd love to have something bespoke made, too! I hope to meet the talented wahine who has made so many of my favourite clothes one day! :)

    1. Hi Kaybee - sadly I can't reply to you direct because your email isn't linked up but I wanted to thank you for your kind and encouraging words. Its hard to be vulnerable, but the truth sets you free!

  5. Thanks for this Nin! It's encouraging in so many ways. I feel like I'm reading my own words 'from the future' when I read your blog. Inspiring, encouraging, but always with the same threads that weave the posts together.

    I hope you find the perfect balance to vent your creativity that you feel fulfilled, accomplished and appreciated.

    God bless!

  6. Good on you for persevering with your dream for so long. I'm on that path myself, and sometimes think I should throw it all in for a 'proper' job. I may still have to do that one day, but in the meantime I'm going to continue trying to make it work, especially while I have my wee boy at home.

    Good luck with your new path, I hope you find (or have found) something that you enjoy doing.

  7. Nin you are such a gem! I'm sure that what ever comes next for you will be fantastic ^-^
    Good luck xxo

  8. Wow Nin, you certainly show the amazing talent of not giving up and giving it everything you have! Well done to choosing your family & a more free lifestyle! Catch up soon

  9. You gave it all you had & more - you are a real inspiration to many. I love your work & I am sure that there are wonderful things ahead for you x x

  10. Oh Nin, I'm so sorry to hear you are having to shut up shop, but i admire you so much and i just feel sure this is just another step onwards and upwards. the best of luck to you xxx

  11. No matter how hard we tried some balloons just would not pop!!!! Even when thrown at a knarly tree trunk they bounced off, many popped in the bushes and a few popped on feet! sadly none on the face [insert wicked laugh here]

    More air, more water, no air, less air, less water? So many combinations produced different results.
    My little one had so much fun with his blue bouncy wobbly balloon, it morphed into different shapes as it bounced on the lawn.

    Dear Nin, you are so brave to make this decision and I know just how it feels. It's been over a year since I slowed down to stop and I tell you, you'll love the freedom & peace you'll have to create without pressure! I hope this break/ change brings a new freshness to your life, a new season filled with new possibilities. I admire you for giving it a go despite all the huge challenges you have faced! Wow! Many hugs & blessings xxx Gill

  12. Big love to you. Yours has been a wonderful journey and sometimes we need to let go before the next great dream presents itself...whatever it is, i am sure it will be great, because you are. (And it is hard the making a living wage out of your own line...i dabbled and i am LOVING the regular paycheck thing. May this year be your year. x

  13. Go Nin! I can't wait to see where the next step of this journey takes you. And when you're ready to get creative, I'm ready for that jacket!

  14. You never know what a new position might lead to, sometimes it's just a matter of right place right time. That might not have clicked for you yet, but all those skills and lessons learned along the way will shape your future! On to a exciting and new beginning! xxxx (I'm so sorry that so much has been working against you!)

  15. Oh Nin, what a hard decision to make but you must be feeling relieved at the same time. Can't wait to see your creativity flourish under freedom! Looking forward to catching up soon xx

  16. Sometimes we just have to do things for the love of it, not the money. I've never sewn or knit commercially, but I do what I do for the love of it just like what you're doing now. As you say family comes first; speaking of which, I need to pry my kids off the tv so they can do something creative; they sneaked down there when I wasn't looking!

  17. Oh Nin - so sorry to hear it but boy did you fight hard to make it work! Hopefully this will lead you to where you want to be but perhaps a different route? Hope you are at peace with it xx

  18. Onwards and upwards! :) I like your thinking despite it being a hard decision to make.....I'm struggling with just starting down the path you have already tread! I'm inspired by reading this post at how determined you have been....amazing!
    Who knows where this new employment will take you?! You have so much talent to share, I have no doubt great things will happen for you and your family from your decision :) xxx

  19. what a journey it has been so far for you! wishing you the best as you start a new chapter!


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