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!

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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’?!

 

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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

 

The Embrace

 

Some years ago I came across a seminal video clip that was going gangbusters on social media. I think my cousin, Kylie in Australia posted it. It was made by Taryn Brumfitt. I remember most the way she looked at herself in the mirror. The things she said out loud that sounded like the script I’d had swirling around my own head about my body.  She was talking about the shocking way we look at ourselves as women, and why that has to change. As I watched her clip, the tears began to run down my cheeks. I felt that old familiar despair about my body. I felt shame. That tired dirge within my heart, a deep disappointment weighing down my soul. It had to change.  I added Taryn’s clip to the arsenal of information I had begun to gather around my fledgling body positivity. I’ve thought a lot about this body of mine since then, all the things it has endured. I thought about how truly wonderful it is to be here, in it. This vessel deserves thanks. Not deprecation.  I hugged myself in a long, forgiving, kind-hearted embrace. It was the beginning of this new phase in my life, the start of something brand new. Liking myself exactly as I am (how sad that liking ourselves is almost revolutionary). It’s been liberating!
Thanks Taryn for your part in this shift for me!

 

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A little drawing from my sketchbook of me, embracing myself.

 

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Taryn Brumfitt’s viral social media post.

 

Taryn has since made a full length documentary, EMBRACE, exploring the potent body-ideal saturation of our media and the various ways that affects self image. She discusses the powerful, soul destroying ways we fight the unattainable fight and why we do. Sharing perspectives from a cosmetic surgeon, an anorexic girl, a plus size model, photographers, campaigners, educators, an actor, a public figure, and the general public. The themes and message in her documentary are world-changing.  I urge you to find a screening near you. I hope it will be available soon on DVD. It’s incredible. Last night, I took my daughter and my Aunty to see that documentary. It was a special screening hosted by Meagan Kerr and Monique Doy.  At the end of it, my eleven year old girl hugged me and said “Mummy, everybody needs to see this”.  She’s smart, my girl. She’s right.

 

The documentary was hit by controversy when it was first screened here for the Film Festival. Due to the images of female genitals during one part of the film, it was considered to be sexually graphic and had to be reviewed by the censorship board. The purpose of showing those private parts, was to address a very real problem for young women; asking crucial questions about the rise of labiaplasty among young women. Labiaplasty is surgery to removed the inner labia and create a more ‘streamlined downstairs’ sometimes known as the ‘designer vagina’. Women, especially young women, are clamouring for this surgery because their vulvas don’t look like the ones in pornography. They may not know this is the standard to which they are altering their bodies, but pornography and soft-porn magazines are often the only place women see other women’s vaginas. The proliferation of porn across our internet means young people encounter multiple images of one particular type of vagina (to be technically correct, vulvas). The type fashionable in the porn industry. Waxed or shaven, minimal labial folds. A vagina more stylistically akin to that of a pre-pubescent girl. It’s a sick world, and we wonder why?  Taryn shows a  range of female genitalia to shine a light on the fact we are meant to be unique. In showing realistic, post-puberty vulvas she valiantly attempts damage control. Thankfully, our censorship board watched the film and approved it’s screening. I actually dearly wish that we could make it compulsory in all schools, for girls and boys. But there are some themes that are significant triggers for our youth and it needs to be approached with care.  NB. Suicide, self harm, eating disorders, cosmetic surgery.

 

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Photographer B Jeffrey Madoff

My favourite part of the doco was when Taryn was shooting a special diversity project with New York photographer Bernie Madoff. I’ve been involved with a few diversity shoots, bringing up the rear (pun intended) and representing women over 40 and over size 18. I adore shoots with other women where encouragement and acceptance are part of the scene. It’s a rare thing in this world, for women to accept and encourage other women, just as they are, for being who they are, not just what they look like. It’s intoxicating. It’s a force I want to see more of in this world. Not just for me, but for the generations coming through. Empowered women empower women and when they do, happiness… wholeness, happens.  I’ve been involved in education, the disability sector, and now the plus size fashion world. Advocacy seems to be part of my purpose. But I can’t help wondering if all of the disparate sectors of my life, of my society, are together the thing that lights my fire. Diversity.

 

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Shoot for Euphoria Design’s “Confidence is Beautiful” campaign. 2016.

I want to see more fully grown women fronting women’s fashion brands and having a stronger presence in the media. Women of various ages, various stages, body types, abilities, ethnicities, backgrounds and gender histories. I want the fashion world to give us all credit for wanting more than the one type of ‘woman’ (girl) we see everywhere. I want more representation, not just because I love modelling and I am not a typical model, but because it matters for our young ones coming up. It matters for them to see that women are diverse. It matters for them to see that they have a place.  Here, with us. The women of the village. If we don’t show them they have value, that their image is beautiful, how will they ever embrace the realities of growing upward, outward, and older?

 

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Shoot for Autograph Curvy Model Search. 2015.

 

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Backyard shoot for Sera Lilly jeans. 2015.

Taryn Brumfitt makes room for us all with this documentary. With her wonderful fun loving sparky approach, she elbows the status quo out of the way and asks finally, and loudly, REALLY?  Is this what we want for our gender moving forward?  She calls us to wake up and begin the revolution in our own mirrors. She’s a rockstar, and I wholeheartedly embrace her movement.

#Ihaveembraced #TheBodyPositiveMovement