Thursday, March 20, 2014

In dreams

...I find myself in this place.

A high plateau on a windy day.  An old abandoned station with echoes of its past

We visited it last year and ever since my mind has wandered here.

Wide and rugged is the landscape.  The wind rolled down the valley shaking and whispering the poplars in the distance - you could hear its advance before you felt it on your face. 

As I drift off to sleep at night I imagine myself taking this beauty for a canter or what it would have been like to wake up in this landscape and forge a living from this land.

There was a gentle murmur of a river nearby, a ring of pines hug the remains of the homestead

All the textures spoke to me of hot dry summers and snow bound winters

of endurance and grit
of solitude and resourcefulness

I can't help but wonder how this place could be abandoned, how could anyone stand to leave it.

The peace.  The magnificence.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


So this....

is where I'll be this weekend.  

A regular visitor to the Pavilion, this time I get to participate in an event in this cool space before it shuts up shop for ever next month.  This is a special place and time in our towns history, its current metamorphosis

And whats more I get to sit along side and connect with some very awesome, talented makers.  This is what slow fashion is all about - local :: mindful :: unique.

Lets face it, I come to these things to connect with people.  I find it gives me an incredible creative boost.

So come say Hi and chat with me, I'll probably even give you a discount if you ask - I'm pretty good like that

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.

Friday, December 6, 2013


One of the last parts of this garments journey:

I sew all my buttons by hand.  You can get a machine to do it, but I always thing hand sewn buttons stay put - whereas machine applied ones can unravel.  Have you ever had a thread hanging off your button and pulled it, only to have the button fall off?  Machine applied.

Applying the buttons by hand is a slow journey, but I often contemplate what description I'll write for this piece.  Who might like to wear it and with what.

Today I'm enjoying the act of creating [in a] slow fashion.  Sitting in a comfortable spot, enjoying the sunshine, contemplating the summer ahead of us - golden days for easy sleeveless cotton tops just like this one.

{A shop update is imminent}

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Quietly my November has been marked with the creation of a series (among other things) of shifts from vintage sheets.  I work in a mixture of the old and the new, but this style I felt really lends itself to large scale florals.

Anyway, these came with me to the Lost and Found market the other week.  It was interesting to me to gauge the reactions of market goers.  

It was either love at first sight or {in every instance from an aherm older person} confusion; a muttered "I used to have sheets a bit like this" followed by incredulous horror when I amble over and happily admit that I love to save vintage sheets - the really good ones - and create dresses from them.

I relish the idea that these pieces aren't for everyone, but they are nostalgic, provocative and individual.

They are in the shop, in limited quantities - but if you are in love with the idea and you can find the size and colour you want, feel free to contact me about a special one for you.  I received an astonishingly generous gift from a friend last week.

Enough vintage and modern/reproduction prints to keep a girl like me going a while.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Latest Makes {Pictorial}

One of a series of summer pieces, some of which are in collaboration with Dee.  This one is the castaway jacket.  They are nearly ready.

They are an exploration of faded elegance and the beauty in imperfection.  Christine reminded me of the Japanese term for this Wabi Sabi.  The stitching details and hand stamped label made from a vintage fabric scrap are added give a 'lived in' appearance, a sense of the hand that made the garment, a history in a way.

Thank you to those lovely people who have contacted me recently, keen to catch up with me at the Lost and Found market next Saturday.  I don't do so many markets these days - they are quite a juggle with the family as it turns out, so I'm looking forward to it.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lost and Found

It really has been busy behind the scenes with several weeks now.  I have a whole line of tops sitting at the studio ready for photographs, but organising a photographer and model in the same time and space has been - well fraught!  It is most frustrating.

Meantime, I though I would remind you that I have regular studio open days on Wednesday and Friday afternoons - 1.30 - 4pm.  And these days Orange Tree Cottage is budging with pieces - it really it the place to go and snap up new offerings as they come off my sewing machine.

Also I'll be at the Lost and Found market to be held at CPIT on Madras Street (this is formerly the Craft Collective market, which has gained quite the reputation for its smart and diverse offering - and rightly so!)

This is going to be my last market for the year.  Rather than spread myself thin over all the Christmas markets about the place I have decided to focus on one and bring trunk loads of new stuff.  Its only 11 days away, and I have plenty in the planning that I want to bring to fruition for this, so its back to the machine for me.

I hope your Christmas planning is going well.  Have you started yet?  Are you {gulp} finished?  If you feel you might be in the market for a Christmas Day dress then pop into the studio - I've been dropping hints in Instagram for the last week or two.

To all my lovelies who aren't in Christchurch and can't visit - I'm so sorry!!  I'm working to get things photographed as smartly as I can.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Right now

I'm having quite a lot of fun with custom orders at the moment.

Here's the latest top winging its way to a special friend and client today.  She bought the floral fabric from Liberty of London years ago, while travelling on her O.E.*.  I love that she has kept this special fabric for so long and that now I have been able to craft it into a garment that is both useful and loaded with meaning and special memories for her.

Designed to finish just on the hip and with loosely gathered 3/4 sleeves this is the perfect weekend top to wear with jeans or shorts.  I included the spotting yoke and sweet hand covered buttons to give a little visual break and added extra whimsy.

Anyway - I love the top's shape and style.  I have several 'short lengths' both vintage and modern sitting around the workshop that would translate well to this style, so that's one of the tasks I'll busy myself with this week.

After a couple of weeks of school holidays I'm very much looking forward to my more regular workshop sessions.  If you're on instagram keep an eye our for more updates on the Dee Collab (I'm Sailor Spy).  I've just be given a smart phone and I'm really enjoying this instant way of giving you snippets of what happens in that space.  I don't have a computer there, so until now I've had to take photos and share them from home at a later stage.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Here's another commission I've undertaken recently.  Normally I don't create designs from scratch in a traditional dressmaking sense - the costs of developing a pattern from scratch are to prohibitive for most clients and I prefer to work within my aesthetic (its more pleasing and successful).

However Jude came to me with this idea, we talked and we pulled out vintage fabric and my sunseeker shift block (visitors to my old Whangamata boutique "The Wardrobe" may remember it) and came up with this piece.  I'm overjoyed with how it turned out - thank you Jude, you were a wonderful client to work with!

Some of the lines - like the deep scoop pockets and the racer back are concepts I'm working with for Spring/Summer pieces.  I like the idea of transition - carrying over elements of my designs from season to season, so that seasonal collections fit together - they tell a bigger story.

It was worth taking the time to match the check (which is cut on the bias).  While this piece came too late for inclusion in my Spring Summer ready to wear range, I think this little jumper will work beautifully in Autumn with tights, boot and merino.  Expect to see some more then.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Creative Power of Colloboration

I work in a little studio by myself most of the time.

I'm an introvert - I like keeping my own company.  But in terms of creativity I can get stuck with my own ideas.  I miss my old studio in the middle of town with the graphic designers in the room next door.  Having other creatives around that you respect and admire to ask for critique really sharpens your game.

So I've been missing that this year.  What to do?  One of my creative blog-land heroes created a project to work in collaboration recently.  It struck me that this was what was missing.  I wondered - would she collaborate with me on a few pieces for Spring/Summer?

She works with fabric.  She has a great eye for pattern, colour and proportion.  She sews for herself, so I know she has some skill around construction (which is vital when you are trying to design something that works).

I thought about it for too long, I nearly psyched myself out.  She is busy.  She has five kids and she homeschools.  She also has a thriving small the end I figured "If you don't ask, you don't get" (this is my Grandpa's wisdom - he was always telling me that) and you know what?

She said yes!  So I am really stoked to introduce you to (if you haven't guessed already) to Dee of dee*construction

We've been emailing back and forth for a couple of months now, and just last week I got some beautifully drawn designs in response to my fabric swatches and mood boards, like this one:

Here is a sneaky peak, but stay tuned folks.  I am sampling up one of the tops for her this week, so I'll show you how that looks when I've got it together.   Eeeeeee exciting!