Wednesday 22 December 2010

happy christmas...

I’m sat having an easy thursday afternoon in my day job just waiting to hear if there are any last minute alt's to a branding job I have been squirreling away on. In an hour I break up for the Christmas holiday’s (my first time off in eight months). The office is closing until the end of January and I am taking a small break from ‘Dear Colleen’ to re charge my batteries. I've had an amazing five weeks in the run up to Christmas and did far more business than I ever dreamt I would - those who lived through it with me on twitter will quite rightly think I’m a total moaning mini but now I’m on the other side I can look back and say it has been amazing and once again this year I feel like I was chucked in the deep end and somehow didn’t drown.

It’s a funny thing facing Christmas alone on the wrong side of the world. For a start it’s pretty dam hot and sunny over here, which to my English brain just doesn’t make sense. More importantly I am just about as far away from my family as I can be, I feel a little sad about that but I’m mostly sorted and am looking forward to getting the day off to cycle, catch up with friends and relax. I also love to cook so will spend at least part of the day making lots of yummy food including the legendary pav, which I believe is the Kiwi Christmas desert of choice. I hope you all have lovely Christmases however you’re spending the day.

I just have a few people to thank who have gotten me through the last few weeks; Chris and Sandy my bosses at scooter design endlessly supportive and kind employers. My assistant Jen who filled in for me at the Auckland Art and Craft Fair at the drop of a hat and who has also helped me run a passable wholesale business. Evie for keeping this blog alive and putting together some fabulous articles with little or no guidance from me and finally I huge thank you to my brilliant Mother the most remarkable person I know, she has kindly managed my UK based Etsy shop and wholesale orders. She just got on with it, know what she was doing and made my life a lot easier. I couldn't have asked for more.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Christmas in New York

My guess writer Evie is just back from New York (lucky girl) so here's her top tips for a festive time in 'the city'...
I'm really lucky. I just got back from New York where I had a super time as both tourist and bargain hunter. As someone who resents having christmas in summer I loved the cold, short days, incredible Christmas displays and totally excessive use of fairy lights. I would recommend to everyone to save your pennies and try and visit NYC around Christmas at least once in your life. And so with no real theme in mind (hipster, budget, fashion) I restrained myself to suggest just 5 places you must visit. Luckily they're all free or inexpensive so that leaves money for spending on the good stuff!

1). Brave the crowds on 5th Avenue and the Rockerfeller Center. The Christmas decorations and window displays (particularly at Bergdorf Goodman pictured) are spectacular and you have to go and try on at least one pair of insanely expensive shoes. If you're brave (I wasn't) go in the morning when there aren't queues and go ice skating.

2). Eat at Five Guys. Traditional style burger joint, there are several as they are now a national chain but still feel like a one off place. Nothing flashy but the burgers and skin-on hand cut fries are incredible. Make sure to get ALL the toppings and I recommend getting takeaway and eating in private. It gets messy.

3). Visit the Guggenheim. NYC is full of amazing galleries and museums but to me the Guggenheim is the best. It's a stunning piece of architecture and such a clever layout. It's size and format means the exhibition is really well curated and entirely manageable. No art over-exposure or sore feet. I've been twice and loved it both times. Even non art lovers will be able to handle this one.

4). Go to Brooklyn, especially up to Williamsburg. If I went again I'd spend most of my time over there. It's too cool. It's so nice to get away from the noise of the city too. You must go to Beacons Closet (both of them) and Buffalo Exchange thrift shops, great pickings at fair prices just give yourself plenty of time and energy. Check out all the little shops you pass as well, especially on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn.

5). Ok I'm going to cheat on my 5 things and put two together. Go to Grand Central Station and just marvel at the ceiling. It's so pretty, plus you can stand there and think about all the movies that use it as a place to lose people (so if you're travelling with someone you want to ditch go here and run off). Finally, obviously you have to go to Central Park even (or especially) if it's snowing. It's a great place to people watch and see lots of pampered NY dogs and crazy dog walkers walking 12 dogs at once.

Now I'm really going to cheat and share just a couple of quirky shops you should checkout.

The Evolution Store in Soho, If you love Taxidermy, you'll love this place and The Mysterious Bookshop, a bookshop specialising in crimes and mysteries.

I was really lucky to get some great recommendations on where to go. Guide books are one thing but it means a whole lot more fun when you can get some real life tips from some like-minded people. So with that in mind please share your favourite places, shops, things to do and eateries in the comments.

Saturday 4 December 2010

house keeping...

While it's been a busy couple of weeks for me, this of cause has lots to do with the run up to Christmas and is also partly down to the fact I've been lucky enough to have myself and my work featured in a handful of rather cool places (mostly blogs) but I also did my first magazine interview with Homestyle. Thanks to Jessica from Foxes for scanning it in.
As for house keeping. Firstly Christmas posting dates, that's it for orders to the State and Canada the final guaranteed delivery date as been and gone - sorry. Our lovely neighbours in Australia still have until the 9 December to place orders and New Zealanders can wait until the 20 December to get their orders in. Also New Zealander might like to buy my items from Foxes or Felt as prices work out a little cheeper postage wise, plus Foxes have an exclusive line of 'Dear Colleen' items including the 'Skills' poster pinned above my desk in the photo.

I'm also showing at two fairs over the next couple of week - my assistant Jen is taking a big bag of goodies up to the Auckland Art and Craft Fair next saturday (so sorry that work commitments mean I'm unable to attend myself) and the week after I'm at the Christmas Craft2.0 at the New Dowse. I think this is likely to be my last outing in New Zealand so make sure you drop by to say hello if you're in Wellington that weekend.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Christmas knits...

Every Christmas I watch Bridget Jones. If DVD's were like books my copies of Bridget Jones would be a well thumbed, coffee stained penguin paperback. There is something about all that snow, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant that puts me in a festive mood. So when I thought about christmas sweaters (or jumpers, or pullovers) I instantly thought of Bridget and Mark Darcy in theirs. Any other time of year I would grimace at the sight of someone in a jumper like that but at christmas they are ok, they can even be kind of cool. However before you settle down in your knitted glory with some eggnog comfortable in the knowledge you're not completely breaking a fashion crime there are a couple of rules to follow.

  1. His and Hers or in fact matching with anyone is still a big no-no. You may have christmas spirit but you have not lost (all of) your dignity.
  2. Leave the flashing christmas tree earrings at home, or even better in the bin.
  3. Snowflakes are best, seconded by deer. Anything with a smiley face comes last ie. reindeer with smiley face, christmas tree with smiley face, christmas pudding with smiley face.
  4. You do not want to dress like a christmas pudding.

Now, there are two ways you can wear your christmas sweater effectively (although the second one is questionable):

1. Nonchalant hipster chic. Hipsters can enjoy christmas too. Look a bit cutesy and kitsch. Team a loose sweater with skinny jeans or tights and some big clumpy boots (engineers boots look good). Roll up your sleeves, roll up your jeans if you like. You can even have some holes in your jumper if you're into that. Make it look like it was your Dad's sweater and you just don't care. Curl up in the library or a cafe. Look cool. You may add a hat.

2. Snow bunny. It doesn't matter if it's not snowing just channel some Scandinavian vibes. This look is best pulled off with a longer knitted dress. Wear tights (or don't if you dare) and pixie boots, or elk fur boots and maybe an elk fur hat or ear muffs (not recommended for southern hemisphere). Wear some blush to give you that wind burn, cold air glow. Goggles are a nice touch. Look streamlined and sexy like a Bond girl, or better, a Bond villain.

Example 2. D&G winter 10-11

If you don't have anything suitably festive lurking in your cupboard I've found a couple of workable ones for you.

From left: ASOS Fairisle jumper £38 , Topshop Deer jumper £48, ASOS Curve Blanket Cardi £29.

Because it is the season of good will I'm going to end this post by saying that if you still have an overwhelming desire to make like Mark Darcy and wear something totally absurd, you may. Just make some mince pies too.

Fashion Friday by Evie Kemp

Thursday 25 November 2010

say it at Christmas...

I'm on a bit of a power trip this week after using last weeks gift guide to push a couple of people in to some cute purchases so I thought I'd do a Round 2.

This week i've focussed on statement gifts. These are the the bold, in your face, unforgettable pieces which really say something about you or the person you're gifting it too. All are things that are sure to get lots of comments so you can be sure you'll never be forgotten as the wonderful friend you are. Some are quite literally a statement, others just make a visual statement. They're fun and loud, just make sure as always to keep you recipient in mind when you're choosing and be nice - My absolute favourite has to be that specs jumper. What's yours?

All prices are in US$ unless otherwise stated.

1. Neivz by Steven Shein grow up necklace £30 2. Whistles intarsia spectacles jumper £95 3. CAST supernova leggings $31 4.Whistles intarsia bulldog jumper £95 5. Dear Colleen skills tote $12 6.Tovicorrie leather iphone case $38 7.In the library perfume absolute 15 ml $65 8. Canny Belle hello goodbye earrings $4.86 9. NoFormDesign ring ring $50 10. R.W Scissors knits badges $10NZ 11. Silly Buddy colorful cubes dog collar $27. 12. Melbell aargh barrette $6 13. Plastique avant garde necklace $20 14. paperwhite studio love you more t-shirt $20 15. ASOS frosted sunglasses £10 16. Timex 80 pink taffy watch £50

Fashion Friday by Evie Kemp

Thursday 18 November 2010

a fashionably handmade christmas...

If nothing else, Christmas is an opportunity to relax and indulge yourself and those you love. As adults we can (for the most part) choose the way we want our own Christmas to be whether that means embracing the traditions of your childhood or banishing them to the back of your memory and starting afresh. Christmas means different things to each of us, but at the very least it is the perfect opportunity to celebrate your hardwork, eat well and spend time with good friends and loved ones.

I wanted to put together a little fashion gift guide of handmade and designed items, leaving the chain stores out of it. Clothing is often an under-rated and/or badly chosen gift but it doesn't have to be. If you think you know a person and their style, don't be afraid to try and find something new for them. If sizing is what bothers you accessories are things that can be beautifully crafted and can make a really special gift. So long as you keep in mind the recipients style rather than your own you should be fine.

Of course no one says that you can't treat yourself at Christmas, so these selections are more than a bit self-indulgent (I'm definitely going to treat myself to those gold flats). Enjoy and feel free to share any handmade fashion and accessories you have bought for gifts or would like to receive! Remember to order really soon if you're buying from overseas too.

Picture 1.

Clockwise from top left: 1. Victoria n Bird striped peter pan collar dress $77, 2. Lolo and Lulu leather bow $22, 3. Emma lucie lace bow sweater $155(NZ), 4. In my neck of the woods Gravity necklace $17, 5. Aforfebre 2 sterling silver initial rings $38, 6. Extraseed satin eco flats $38, 7. Stash small camera bag $115, 8. Dear Colleen hello sailor rosette $15.90

Picture 2.

Clockwise from top left: 1.Thief and Bandit patterns forever braided bracelet $16, 2. Mary Ink dearie pullover $40, 3. Freedom creative japanese fabric brooch $15(NZ), 4. Neneee indian summer dress $98, 5. Miju and You arrow ring $24, 6. Miju and You arise walnut necklace $36, 7. Golden Ponies gold oxford flats (more colours available) $38

Wednesday 17 November 2010

my bag...

'What's in my bag' seems to be a popular theme on twitter and blogs right now and I think it's a smart little way to get a glimpse into someones life so I thought I would share. My bag is very empty today, but I've been totally honest - I've given my wallet it's own section as it's quite large and is hiding a lot of extra junk.

So here's a few pointless facts that you can find out about me; I have a large leather bag that my parents bought me for my birthday (some of you will have read about it here), I walk everywhere so I only use bags that you can wear across your body as everything else is a pain to fuss with- it has to be large as the more shit I do, the more shit I have to lug around with me.
I really do carry a notebook everywhere, I get through about one a fortnight. Currently I'm using the yellow 70's style MMMG one. Ideally I like lined or squared paper - plain paper freaks me out. I have a few bits of stock with me today some tea towels to drop into a shop for a wholesale order and a rosette to photograph. Under the rosette is one of the most important things in my life - my orders book. Every single order that I get goes into that book once I have completed the order I tick next to the name and write the date so I know when it was posted. Next to my order book you'll spy some make-up, yes I'm a little vain. I may have holes in my shoes but I wear Channel lipstick - if I was to hind anything it would be that I feel a little ashamed that I spend so much money on a bit of wax in a tube.
I always have my sunglasses on me, I find the sun unbelievably bright in New Zealand. And yes that's right I have two phones not because I'm a super important business woman it's just that my iPhone doesn't work as a phone outside of the UK so it's been down graded to an iPod touch and I have a rubbish little pay as you go. I'm not sure if you can make out my headphones but they're in a terrible state they're held together with japanese masking tape and super-glue. The rest is just bit's of scrap paper and post office receipts. For some reason I'm still carrying American dollars in my wallet - I keep thinking I'll be heading back through there soon so why take them out - but if I'm honest they do get in the way.

If you fancy you can also take a look inside Evie's bag and remember to drop by tomorrow for her fashion friday post.
On a final note I've had another chair re-covered at es design - it's in their show room at the moment if you want to pop along to take a look. It's not as outlandish as my pink office chair but I think the blue velvet with the wood is so yummy and I have the perfect cushions in mind to make it a little more hip (the cushions on it aren't mine). I picked up the chair as part of a three piece set in the salvation army's a few months back, it was a utter steal. Two of my friend have taken the other pieces off my hands so we're all having them reupholstered in different fabrics - I'll try and get some pics to share as they get their's done.

Thursday 11 November 2010

in the paper...

I had a different post written for today but then carrying on from gratuitous Rob Ryan loveliness (below) I was directed to the Rob Ryan wedding dress. How have I never seen this before? It makes me want to get married… but to a paper groom.

The idea of a paper dress is an adorable concept that to me really signifies that link between the graphic and the fashion designer. Paper is so important to a designer and I personally think paper is just the most perfect material there is. (If you're having doubts about paper then you must check out the blog Upon a Fold). In another post I want to address more the connections and crossovers between these two design disciplines but for now I'm just going to share a few of my own favourite paper looks.

Theres not really much to say about paper dresses. They're just incredibly fun to look at. However something that should be taken from them is that if you can make a gown from toilet paper you can't blame your materials as an excuse for a shoddy design. (The pink and white designs above are all made from toilet paper... wow)

Speaking as someone who this year has made a paper dress I say everyone should relax, grab some newspaper and a stapler and go wild. Call it art therapy, real life Project Runway or just some crazy time. Paper is lovely and so is Haute Couture. Oh and of course a paper outfit wouldn't be complete without the paper shoes.

By Evie Kemp

Tuesday 9 November 2010


This is not the blog post I'm meant to be writing - but in the last week or so I've really started to think about the future, not the distant hover-skateboard future but next year. I haven't had a clear vision for myself or my business since starting 'Dear Colleen' it was more of a field of dreams philosophy, which to be fair isn't working out so badly but if I'm really going to turn this into something more then I have get my head round what I actually want.
One morning last week while looking at illustrator extraordinaire Rob Ryan's blog something just clicked and it became very clear than I want a studio, I used to collect pictures of desks but a desk isn't going to cut it anymore I want more space and space with room for screen printing facility. I'm also facing the very real and scary fact that i'm going to be working on 'Dear Colleen' full time before next year is through. I would say all the fear is met in equal part by incredible excitement but I'm definitely developing a knot in my tummy.
However I'll continue to take inspiration from Rob Ryan's amazing studio and shop shown above and Wellington furniture designer/maker Duncan Sargent who runs this workroom come shop (the red building also shown above), which I guess is more what I have in mind. I really do believe that knowing what you want is the hard bit, making it happen is just a case of one foot in front of other so I think it's nearly time for me to take the first step.

Thursday 4 November 2010

dressing for success in the handmade market...

I'm having a bit of a break this week (and by break I mean catching up on paperwork- yuck), anyway that's why it's been so quiet on the blog front. I'm hoping to write a quick round up about Craft2.0 tomorrow and be back into the swing of thinks more fully next week. In the meantime I'll let Evie do the talking today. Inspired by my recent outing at Craft2.0 this fashion friday is all about dressing to represten your business and yourself. I really love this as an idea for an article and I'm hoping we can follow up with a part 2, so if you have a story and hopefully a couple of photos to share about the way you like to dress for your 'art, design or craft' business then please drop Evie a line


In the pre-Christmas rush of the craft market crush what is it that gets you and your stall noticed? With so many beautiful things and hoards of customers even the most exquisite products can sometimes get overlooked. It is so important that your products and more importantly your brand is looking it's best and that includes you. When people choose to buy handmade they have a connection to the person who made it and to them, you ARE your brand. Personal appearance is so important and the way you dress could change someones mood. Call me fickle but I've honestly been swayed many a time by an enthusiastic and well-dressed seller all because they inspired me.

I thought I would pick Jessica Whiting's brain on the topic as a seller, craft market veteran, Auckland Art & Craft Fair organiser, founder of Foxes shop of design & wonderment and all-round know-it-all in the NZ craft and indie design scene. Jess makes some great points on the role of personal style in handmade success…

I always try and wear something that someone I know (or stock) has made. I have an unhealthy obsession with brooches so I usually have one on. My favourites are a Dear Colleen custom black rosette with my name on it that she made for me earlier this year and some works from Cheek Pinchy — nearly every accessory on my dresser has been made by someone I know; I am so lucky to know so many clever and talented people! I think that it's important to practice what I preach; I always promote my artists works by showing that I genuinely do like what they make and buy it myself, I choose things for the store that I would like to own or already do own.

How important do you find what you wear to events? It's like being the lead in a play — which sounds so cheesy! But you are playing a character, you are your own brand and people need to instantly recognise that. At the same time, it's so easy as my work is me to a tee so it's not hard to dress as yourself! I do make a conscious effort though in my choices when I get up in the morning for a market or a publicity meeting; I may not be working in an office anymore or need my suits, but I still have to keep up appearances.

As a market organiser and longtime stall holder do you notice those that make an effort? Absolutely! Quite often I only deal with people via e-mail or phone, or you read their blog or shop their on-line store so there is minimal physical contact. When you finally meet that person in 'real life' you have sort of built them up in your mind and it can be quite strange when they look so different to what you expect! That's only happened to me a couple of times, I think that most indie designers or crafters are pretty open and honest about who they are and their appearance naturally reflects that.

Is there anyone you think of who really 'IS' their brand? I think that Gem and Nathan Speeden from Hunter Gatherer are an extension of their brand, but again that is because the brand came from them. They always look fantastic behind their table, totally at one with their work.

Thank you to Jess for sharing her thoughts!

With all this in mind I've put together a couple of points to consider if you're wanting to brand yourself a little better at your next market or event.

  1. Take a look at your display, who would you like to see standing behind it or (even better) what would make a great photo (your photo will inevitably be taken).
  2. Interpret and reinterpret. It's not about being ridiculous you can be fashionable, stylish and comfortable and still be incredibly effective. For example if you sell children's toys, you don't need to stick one on your head, but think about the colours, the textures and the overall theme of your brand.
  3. Practice what you preach. If you can, wear what you sell. Be inspirational. You wouldn't sell make-up with a bare face, the same rule applies here.
  4. A market is a step away from reality: it is not an office. Shoppers aren't there because they have to be. They're there because they really want to be. It's a happy place, so have fun. Markets are full of visual delights, don't be afraid to be one of them yourself!
A smile goes miles (but you knew that).Because a picture speaks a thousand words (and I've already written about 1000 of them) I thought I'd finish up today with a bit of visual inspiration from one of this week's featured etsy sellers Shan Shan from TinyToadstool. Shan Shan has both a vintage shop and a handmade shop selling her (very cute) knitted accessories. However what really made me ooh and ahh was Shan Shan's personal style lookbooks. Her distinct, pretty style totally embodies TinyToadstool and visa versa, she really is her brand and it's addictive.
It's a personal choice as to how far you like to go with this, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject (both buyers and sellers) and you can nominate your own best dressed too if you like.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Bridging the gap - Victoria n' Bird

Fashion is an art that combines design and craftsmanship seamlessly (now I've got the pun out of my system). A piece of fabric requires both designer and seamstress to evolve into fashion and in many ways a seamstress who cannot design is as lost as a designer who cannot sew and anyone who has ever watched an episode of Project Runway will know just how lost these people get.

There are people with wonderful ideas, and there are people with incredible practical skills, but without combination of the two, it is difficult to go out on your own into the world of fashion.

One person who has made this amalgamation is the lovely Amy from New Zealand-based label Victoria n' Bird. There were several reasons why I wanted to interview Amy this week. Firstly, she is really very lovely, but also because she is an incredibly successful one-girl operation. Amy has really set herself (and VnB) apart from many other makers of handmade clothing by having a clear and distinctive design aesthetic blended with a carefully edited collection. I wanted to know how she takes on both roles as maker and designer and what they both mean to her.

When and how did you get started?

I hadn’t done any serious sewing while at Uni so when I finished I got stuck in, being that I had just finished Uni and couldn’t just sit around sewing for myself all the time I thought I would also try and sell a couple of things on Trademe. They sold instantly so from there it sparked something fun and fabulous, I gained a bit of sewing confidence and a little business started. I sold on Trademe for a couple of years and slowly transitioned over to Etsy.

When you began did you have a clear idea of what your brand would be like or did it evolve?

It definitely evolved. At the start it was just about making clothing and less about the business as a whole. Things were mostly one-offs and I would let a garment be dictated by what fabric I had in stock: now the design comes first, fabric sourcing comes last. It may not be bold and extravagant but VnB has an aesthetic: ideas and garments now have to fit into that to make the cut.

Who do you have in mind when you are designing a piece?

Me mostly! Then variations in all directions of myself, whether it be someone with a different body shape, bolder clothes choices, less bold, in a different climate. Just a girl, a friend, a lady on the street! At the end of the day we’re not all that different, if I have a penchant for simple clothes with a touch of cute and a touch of vintage, chances are there will be bunches of other ladies who want the same thing.

Where would you like to be in five years time?

Just want it to be bigger and better. Sometimes it’s tricky juggling it with other parts of my working life but I don’t really want it to change in any big way so I just have to make small changes so it runs a lot smoother. It has changed a lot and I have learnt a bunch of lessons along the way. I am sure there are a lot more changes to come and lots left to learn. I have so many ideas in the pipeline, but it does take a wee while as a one-woman business with a to-do list to get them out of my head and out into the world. The possibilities of where VnB could go are part of the excitement to keep it going, who knows?!

Would you ever want to expand VnB so that you could employ others in the construction or is the making of each garment an important aspect of the business for you?

People are always suggesting I outsource my sewing. I even had someone outright laugh at me the other day when they heard that I made everything myself. I know VnB inside and out, it’s not what it’s about. It might be necessary somewhere down the track, who knows, but not for where VnB is right now. If it was all about how many garments I could make in a day I don’t think it would have lasted this long. I did fall into that mind state early on in the Trademe days, and it got miserable and tense pretty fast. The main hurdle with VnB is trying to explain it to others, a LOT of people don’t get it, it’s extremely personal and in business that is clearly frowned upon.

Is there a side to the business that you enjoy the most?

Getting to be myself all of the time... I am not trying to hide the person behind the label: it is what it is all about! I play quirky girl music while I sew, have dog chats, show off pieces I make to family, get grumpy, get excited - it’s 100% me. Then I get to sell this lovingly handmade piece of well-thought-out, well-made clothing to some other person somewhere else in the world, maybe down the road, maybe Paris, I mean come on, how cool is that?!

And, finally...

There is a level of stress and pressure to keep things running, but in the business of creativity, if that was all there was, it would fail miserably. VnB works (most of the time) because it is a perfect balance between personal Amy and business Amy and a perfect combination of the crafty/handmade and well thought out, designed and constructed garments.

Thank you so much to Amy for taking the time to answer these questions. You can of course shop VnB here (the scalloped hem dress is my absolute favourite) and check out her blog here.

Wednesday 27 October 2010


Ok I'm taking five from the indie design posts to do a quick bit of house keeping. Saturday is Craft2.0 at the New Dowse and I've got a stand (well half a stand). It's my second time around and I'm really looking forward to it. Anyway I wanted to do something nice for the local people who talk to me on twitter and facebook and who follow my blog - so I've put together 40 freebies. All you have to do is print out the voucher below (you can download it here on flickr) and drop by my stand with it and say hello - easy and you get a free gift. Some of the freebies are little things like badges and some are big things like rosettes and prints. The freebies work on a first come first served basis. Look forward to meeting some of you lovely peeps on Saturday.