Dressing Dolly :: Obi and Chocolat


I am about seven years old, standing in a suburban Christchurch store gazing at a selection of Sindy doll clothes. All of the narrow boxes contain a few items of clothing, stitched into a flatlay behind the cellophane.  I’m deeply impressed, ’cause you can mix and match different things together and everything goes with everything else!  I can’t wait to try every possible combination!


This inspired moment must surely be the origins of my love for fashion and all things coordinated! I’m a girl who likes to get up and know that she has at least five outfit options to choose from, all of which have matchy-matchy potential.  I think this is why I love wearing black, or mixing it up with variations of colour or print. It truly does make dressing so much easier. It makes me calm.  When my first baby was born, I used to lay out the whole weeks worth of tiny little pink outfits in readiness. Ah Sindy. You were onto it.  Mix and match is a phenomenon designed for girls like me.



Yesterday I had one of those very cool “is this my life?” moments.  I was at a bloggers event run by High Society, one of New Zealand’s biggest NZ made fashion houses.

The room we were ushered into had been decorated by the very clever Xanthe, with spools of thread and ribbons, the table runner hand-drawn as an oversized measuring tape. Along the table were little beribboned boxes, one for me (!) and one for each of the bloggers sitting beside me.  We were there to meet the designers of High Society’s fashion labels, Chocolat and Obi.  I could see the new summer ranges hanging on the wall beyond them.



Kylie Niovara-Dave and Jon Dyball took us on a tour of their design studios, their cutting rooms and machining floor. I met Dolly, the clothes horse with the extra added boobage, who helps Kylie and John with their plus sized pieces. She made me think of my Sindy dolls all those years ago! I could imagine how dressing dolls could evolve into dressing people. Of course, both designers use real-life fit models also and are passionate about creating clothes that truly work for their customers.


John spoke first, with great enthusiasm, about his creative process and the influences on his summer collection. You can expect from his label Obi, an attention to luxe prints, luscious fabrics and pieces that will work for their pricetag. I loved his passion for all things Japanese, the variations in texture and interesting juxtapositions. John has a gift for finding beautiful lines, colours and textures and weaving them together into a soulful, interesting collection.  I loved all of the pieces he showcased, here is a small selection, just look!



Avise, Vigeur, Joliesse. We bloggers sat transfixed as he talked us through the ins and outs of each piece and how he makes sure his customers are catered for. I was particularly delighted that he understood the issues we (ahem) over forty ladies have with hot flushes!  Many of his items are sleeveless but with coordinating throw over options for coverage. There is a focus on the comfort + style equation, with flat fronted side elasticated waist bands. As he said “we’re over being fashion victims”. Yes, John, we are! I’m all for fashion that I can feel at ease in.  In trademark Rachie style, I did gush a bit (sorry fellow bloggers, I’m working on cooling that down!)  It’s just so hard to shut myself up when I am excited about something!  See? All these exclamation marks… oh my life.


Nicky, Monique, Taylor and Becca; fashion bloggers.

Then it was Kylie’s turn.  Kylie is just how you imagine a clothing designer to be, she is wearing layers of edgy black mesh and her hair is a razor cut work of art. When she begins to talk about her collection, I am impressed with the confidence she has in knowing what her customers want; she listens closely to the feedback that comes directly from their retailers. She is loving the sense of ownership that is developing in this, her second year with the brand. Chocolat caters more exclusively to the Plus Size body and it shows in her cleverly constructed garments. I listen to her intently.  She is a creative powerhouse who thinks deeply about detail, drape, line and print and colour. Her collection speaks my language.  There is (happy sigh) lots of black, with a painterly print I just can’t get enough of, and a marimekko-ish finer print in the more structured corporate styles. Her colours are ‘lickable’ brights, orange tang, slushy blue, k-bar green (those are my names for them, because they speak to my eighties inner child)!  My eye is drawn to a super cute black and white spot jacket. It is adorable and I think it will do happy things for my waist. Kylie took me down to the factory floor to try some of her pieces. It was, dear reader, a little bit of fashion heaven!



When I have been browsing stores before, I can find it hard to get a good grasp on a whole collection. Lookbooks help, so I do sometimes scroll through those online before shopping, just to get the gist. But yesterday, seeing whole collections displayed on the rails really captured me. I could see Kylie’s collection as an entire work of art, how each piece works with the others. It inspired me to find a way to shop more items in a collection than I ever have before.  In fact, 5 awesome pieces came home with me yesterday. Is it possible to have more than one ‘favourite’?!



I’m off to the Victorian Derby Day with my brother next weekend and the theme is black and white. The short jump across the ditch isn’t a big packing challenge, but I like to be organised. I’ll be away in Melbourne for two nights and three days. Stay tuned for the outfits I have picked out from this beautiful Chocolat summer range, mixed in with a few other faves. I know I’ll be able to wear and wear every piece, and like my old muse, Sindy, mix and match to my heart’s content!

You can buy Chocolat and Obi’s new collections online or in store at Magazine or Zebrano. So gorgeous. Every single item.

Wanna play?


pssst…. check out these bloggers…

Oh She Writes :: Taylor

Dressing Up :: Monique

This is Jolie :: Beth

This is Meagan Kerr :: Meagan

The Style High Club :: Nicky


“Who, ARE you?” Emily Perkins Doll’s House

A Theatre Review… Kinda

I have been lucky enough to watch exactly half of the performances of A Doll’s House by Auckland Theatre Company.  It is an adaptation by Emily Perkins of the Ibsen original.  Set in contemporary New Zealand, it is the story of Nora, the cheerful half of an off-grid, sugar free, anti-capitalist couple.  Led by the principled Theo (Nora’s husband), they strive for the picture perfect eco-friendly life with their adorable twins, Billy and Bee.

The play is all about Nora, the ‘doll’ of the play’s title.   Boxed in by her life and the ideals they aspire to, Nora searches for ways to please everyone in her world.  She tries desperately, within her means, to effect damage control as the pressures build. All the while scrambling to maintain the facade she has built to make it all appear okay.

Nora is a complex character and it is easy to feel as the play progresses that there is a lot more to her personal story than is being revealed.  It’s clear that she is fighting her battles on her own personal front too; the presence of a more animalistic force is felt as the scenes change, starkly contrasting, yet each building on the tension, until finally, she cracks.  “Who, even, are you?” her husband asks her as their world begins to unravel.  Nora begins to see in that moment.  She is less, and more, than she ever thought possible.

Emily Perkins, herself a contemporary New Zealand woman and mother, has drawn all the shades of Nora so beautifully.  I confess that I have sat in the audience watching Laurel Devenie’s performance of Nora and felt the tears welling up in response to her struggle. She is a woman of my generation. Someone who strives to find the fine balance between sense of self, work, spousal responsibility and motherhood.  Ultimately, it is beyond her reach.  There is no happy ending for this ‘inspiration board’ couple.  As the play reaches it’s final crescendo, she leaves it all behind. Their ‘sustainable’ lifestyle is ultimately, not.

I’ve seen this play so many times because my seven year old son is one of the young actors who plays Billy, Nora’s son. The fact that Nora is loving my son as her own absolutely adds to the poignancy of the play for me. I feel it personally, that mother struggle. My heart is hers as she grapples with the contrast between the frustrations of motherhood and the beauty of her children’s newness. I feel connected to the performance because her arms are cradling a child I love so much. My heart aches anew every time I watch her leave him.

It is such a privilege to see a play evolve across a season.  Laurel Devenie’s performance is an absolute standout, particularly the last scene. The whole cast approach Emily Perkin’s adaptation with sensitivity and feeling. I have enjoyed watching the play each and every time, a feat that would be hard to match with many theatre productions.

And the kids.  Alongside the talented Madeleine Walker (that girl is going to be famous!), my Zed has been able to basically play himself.  A typical little boy; annoying his sister, making noise, wreaking havoc and being a sweet, skinny, vulnerable child. I am impressed with his commitment to the significant hours this play requires.  His enthusiasm for an audience and the joy on his face as the applause washes over him fills my heart with happiness.  It’s a beautiful thing to see your kid doing the thing that lights them up.


Thank you Liz Baldwin-Featherstone, for putting Zed forward for the audition back in April.  Thank you Auckland Theatre Company, for putting on a play that has been such a joy to watch, over and over and over again.  Thank you for nurturing my son’s acting interests and caring for his needs so beautifully across the season, you are all outstanding people (especially you, Virginia Frankovich!) …he has loved the experience of playing Billy very much.  What a cool gig, to play around in a pit of pandas!

And thank you Zed, for reminding me every time, why mothering you is worth all the personal doubts and identity crises, worth all the struggles that every woman faces who chooses to be a mother. I promise you that I will never leave you.  Not because women leaving their children is a social taboo, but because I want to stay.

Being your Mum is one of the most useful things I have ever done. You’re stuck with me, babe.