Thursday, October 27, 2011

I spy...extraordinary things for extraordinary people

Imagine being talented enough to go from crafting, to fashion design. Now imagine being talented enough to go from fashion design, to crafting, then back to fashion design- all with a life-changing earthquake in between.
Impossible? Not for our Nin. Nin’s one of our favourite craft bloggers, author of The Wardrobe. We’ve followed her sewing and knitting tutorials and coveted her cute crafts for children for a long time now. chatting We've also chatted through comments on our blogs, and belong to the same craft group of New Zealand Handmade. I was horrified when I heard the news about her gorgeous new studio space in Christchurch tumbling down in the earthquake, and really moved to tears to hear she’d lost all her stock. But Nin’s not one to put down her scissors and give up. Instead, I was amazed to hear that she’s now started her own women’s fashion line, called Sailor Spy.
Her clothes are right up our alley – with pencil skirts, flip skirts, belts and lovely tops perfect for work or a girly outing. (See Greta's Mad Men posts or her pininterest files.)
So as much as we thought we knew her as a crafter…it turns out that Nin is very modest, despite her large influence in the craft blog world. For she is actually a fashion designer by trade, who also grew up with crafting and explored it more after the birth of her daughter. So really this amazingly talented lady has actually come full circle. What she’s achieved is hugely inspirational to me and I simply had to ask her more:

Me: Did you have the idea for Sailor Spy prior to the earthquake, or has the idea come to you from having to start over? Nin: I actually started my first fashion label Seratonin pretty much the moment I graduated uni in 2000. I had to exit the rag trade for a few years due to health and financial reasons…but after several years an opportunity arose for me to open a shop, The Wardrobe, in Whangamata and start up again. But I was left with the nagging feeling that Seratonin didn’t reflect the growth I’d made, both personally and as a small business owner. Earlier this year the decision was made for me. All my branded materials went down with the ship that was my studio in the earthquake.
Me: So this move comes naturally to you? Nin: Yes, it’s quite ironic to me that I’m more known for my craft these days. Crafting is something I grew up with – all the women (and some of the men) in my family crafted for fun, for thrift – it was a way of life. When I had my daughter my label had to go on hold, but that didn’t stop me ‘feathering the nest’. I made softies, clothes, change mats, cross stitch tapestries…

Me: Wow! So as a mum so totally immersed in home life and crafting, is it hard trying to step aside and dream and think about women’s fashion designs? Is the process of conceptualising different? Nin: Actually the creative process starts in much the same way, the seed of an idea for a fashion collection or a new softie toy comes from everyday conversation, playing with my daughter, a movie, my dreams. Where it differs is in the research and execution. Creating craft is quite’s mostly my imagination reigned in a little bit with practicality, ie is it safe for kids? Washable? Durable? On the flipside, there are many hours involved in developing a garment – I might toile (make a muslin or mock up) and fit it to my model, then alter my paper pattern 4-7 times before I’m happy to send it for grading. When I’m designing I have a very clear idea of who the Sailor Spy woman is, what her life is like, what she does for fun, what she has to pack into her day…all this has bearing on fabric choice, cut and even the construction methods.

Me: How has working at Stitch in Christchurch (a lovely designer quilting/craft fabric store) influenced you? Nin: It certainly opened my eyes to colour and pattern! I especially like Saffron Craig’s contemporary yet still whimsical designs and it’’s encouraged me to use more pattern and colour in my women’s wear. While working there I created a couple of patterns and kits showcasing their fabrics (see the peg apron free tutorial on The Wardrobe blog) and it really increased my confidence to see these selling so well. It pushed me to launch my new line of Russian doll patterns and kits which I sell through markets and in my felt shop .
Me: How do you see things going in the future, will you still craft or focus on Sailor Spy? Nin: I plan to grow Sailor Spy to a point where I can employ locals to work with me. But the summer market season is fast approaching and The Wardrobe will be out and about at several local markets on the lead up to Christmas*.
Me: What are the influences behind Sailor Spy? Nin: The current collection was inspired by Lauren Hutton in a 1970s movie ‘Gator, a vintage 1930s pattern book and a Robert Frost poem. My summer designs are based around a vivid dream of holidaying in Santorini and a little bit of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday – think deep indigo and turquoise waters, coral sunsets on whitewashed walls..billowing soft silks and cottons, tailored cotton jackets and Bermuda shorts. The overarching direction for Sailor Spy is the idea of sustainable design through mindful spending…check the range out here.

· See Nin’s crafts at Christmas Encraftment, Christchurch, 26 Nov.

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