Wendy Ganley: 1960’s Fashion Designer

The story of a 21 year old Hamiltonian, opening her own fashion boutique on Victoria street, caught my attention.  That it happened back in the 1960’s, fascinated me even more for the vision, gumption, passion and dedication it would have taken to succeed.  It was a privilege to hear Wendy Hall nee Ganley of Elle boutique talk about her early career during an event at the Waikato Museum / Te Whare Taonga o Waikato on Sunday.  The exhibition showcasing her work, “Elle & the Youthquake” was curated with the New Zealand Fashion Museum and runs until the 14th of October.

Take a sneak peek here…

A visit to the exhibition will take some of you back in time… and for the retro-curious like me, have you swooning over the display of 1960’s clothing we spend hours scouring op-shops for today.  I’ve got a little collection of dresses in the mod style which I’ve collected over the years – it’s difficult to find them in my size, but I find the shape flattering and the colour and patterns fun.

Sunday’s conversation was facilitated by Doris de Pont, a fellow designer and Director of the New Zealand Fashion Museum in front of over 40 people.

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Wendy started out by making clothes for dolls, herself and friends.  After finishing school she contemplated what might be next; and while peers may have followed a path in nursing or teaching she decided to follow her love of design, textiles and colour.  The decision was fortunate for Hamilton, which could have been forgotten as a trend setter for fashion in those days.  Because trend setter she was!  Hems were getting higher, she was cutting holes out of the midriff, using crochet loops to make her version of a fur coat and combining colours not previous paired.

She shared her love of colour, showing off the bright orange lining on the inside of her cream wedding suit – which is in the exhibition (bottom left of the photo above).  Orange has been her favourite colour though points out it doesn’t look as good on her as it used to… I’m not sure if I believe this, I get the sense when looking at her that she would still get away with it – as stylish as she has remained.

Society was changing in the 1960’s.  Youth were no longer restricted by pre-war conservatism and more women were in the workforce, giving many of us discretionary income for the first time.   In fact, one member of the audience and one of Wendy’s first customers, an ex-nurse, recalls spending “all her pay” in Elle boutique, while other’s nodded in familiarity at lay-buying their latest desires. Many of these items still hang in their wardrobes.

Another theme, coming from stories of Wendy’s early career was the industry support given to her by fellow designers and given to others in return.  Wendy learnt couture from Babs Radon in Auckland, and mentored Marilyn Sainty in return here in Hamilton.  It was through working with Barbara Penberthy of Babs Radon that she was able to see how balancing motherhood and a career could work; through setting up a space for ‘the babies’ in her Frankton workshop.

Wendy was able to share her original sample books with the audience, which showed the textile swatches she had to choose from – and the designs and combinations used to make her clothing and accessories.  I was really surprised each item was a one off – she explained there wasn’t the same awareness of economies of scale; customers wouldn’t want to be seen at the races in the same outfit as someone else and besides, it wouldn’t have been fun mass producing them that way anyway!

Before trade was opened up in the 1980’s New Zealand wasn’t inundated by cheap imported clothing; or “fast fashion” as we are now.  Buyers consumed fashion under the kaupapa of “Buy once, Buy well”.  Quality over Quantity.  These garments were often one of a kind, hand made and of high quality, particularly with New Zealand wool a common textile to use.   Collectors like myself can attest to this enduring quality – with it not being uncommon to find an immaculate 1960s dress or suit in an opshop (they obviously knew how to follow “care instructions” unlike me).

Inevitably it got me thinking about how different things are now, and most notably in comparison to fast fashion.  Will there ever be a resurgence of NZ made clothing? Will we look back some time in the future and pin point the time when we started to “Buy once, Buy well” rather than base a decision on low cost and quantity.  Will we look back in 50 years and know who our local designers were?

We are not paying “The True Cost” #fashionrevolution

The Waikato Museum / Te Whare Taonga o Waikato has booklets about the exhibition available in their shop for $15.

 

 

 

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What’s going on?

This week a Waikato Regional Council report stated that only 36% of respondents believed they had any influence over Council decisions. Down from 62% in 2006.  A Hamilton City Council report shows strong feedback that respondents don’t think they are well represented – or listened to. Finally, the Waikato District Health Board governance has been so shoddy that the government appointed a watchdog to oversee.  So I ask myself, “What’s going on?”.  At what point is there going to be an intervention or across the board agreement that the current local political system is undeniably broken and that urgent change is needed.  I’m not talking an urgent report… I’m talking radical, creative solutions to our fake democracy.  The narrative after the poor voter turnout in 2016 was that non-voters are lazy, don’t care or don’t know… I challenge that and suggest the real problem is the disconnect elected members have with constituents and a system which pushes forward the status quo and staff and elected member’s personal agendas.  Why would someone bother voting when they don’t think it makes a difference?  2019 is shaping up to be another 2016.  How low can turnout go?

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The Definition of ME!

Last week I attended “The Definition of ME”, a panel organised as part of the Toi Wahine festival.  It prompted me to think more about how we define ourselves, how we look and compare ourselves to others and how to live a life with more authenticity.

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Panelists on The Definition of ME! Toi Wahine festival. Aug 2nd 2018

Social media feeds us a curated view of other women’s lives through a beauty filter.  Literally.  With that in mind, should those living fun and interesting, “successful” lives shy away from sharing it?  No.  Should they feel compelled to throw in #nomakeup selfies as a way to look ‘more real?’.  Well, only if they want to.  The important message that I want for you to remember is that a curated feed is just that.  It is a snapshot of the moments someone chooses to share with us.  It doesn’t tell a full story.  It doesn’t share day to day monotony nor the high dramas.  I mean, when was the last time someone posted a photo of themselves doing the laundry or vacuuming? Their feed will also be missing moments of pain, frustration and the breaking points we then use to build resilience from.

We scroll through our feeds and watch other women tick boxes for marriage, 2.5 kids, a career, community involvement, a mortgage … (while also being rich, skinny, pretty and talented).  We might feel envy, resentment and then resignation to always be two steps behind success.  But, are we comparing ourselves to a mirage?  How many of the women who we think “have their shit together” would also say that of themselves?  I’m going to hazard a guess and say “very few”. So, why do we put these unrealistic expectations of life on ourselves?  Why do we let ourselves be defined by rules of a game that we had no input into?

Panelists at “The Definition of ME” were asked defining moments in their lives.  Their stories aren’t mine to tell, but you could see a pattern of not so much as moments but events or decisions that changed the path they were on.  Some are chance encounters, some due to forces outside of their control; whatever they are it should act as a reminder that any life can change, better or worse at any point in time.  The other overarching theme is the internal-battle that exists throughout; which may cause times of avoidance, breakdown, panic, substance abuse, reliance on others and eventually resilience to fight another day.  These are the stories that colour our pages and should be embraced.  All panelists shared their experience of “a peppering of mental health issues”.  But, we don’t always see these battles in the social media feed.  It’s unlikely they, their friends or family would post a photo of them curled up crying in frustration or in the midst of a crisis.

In the reminder that social media is a curated view, and that ticking off all the boxes in the right order and at the right time, is a dangerous framework with which to view and compare your life, how do you want to be defined or known?  What is your story?

The seed to begin your personal journey into a life authentic to you or to be “your best self” could start with pondering three things today.

  1. What are your passions? – where does the fire burn in your belly;
  2. Your skills? – believe it or not everyone is good at something;
  3. Your contribution? – how can you help leave the world better than you found it?

It might, by default include ticking all of the ‘expected’ boxes.  It may not.  Identifying your passions, your skills, your contribution and living life accordingly is authenticity.  Instead of envy, resentment, sadness or resignation at not being “that women” with the fabulous life on social media; cheer them on and cheer yourself on.

Can you identify your passions?  Your skills?  and Your contribution?  No?  Surround yourself with women doing great things and they will help you find yours. Strong women lift each other up.

There was a song that kept repeating in my head while writing this, so I thought I’d share it – You are welcome 🙂

The next post I’m writing is on the use of alcohol to deal with social situations…  for now, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post.

 

 

Kirikiriroa Kids

Last week of the school holidays – the weather hasn’t been kind so what is there to do this week?

  •  Professor Novum’s Adventures in Orbit – a rollicking adventure and a celebration of imagination and creativity, adapted from stories written by local kids.  This show runs from 17-21 July at The Meteor.  Price: $9 child, $13 adult.  Tickets from themeteor.co.nz

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  • Peter Pan – an all time favourite play about a free spirited and mischievous young boy who can fly and never grows up.  This Hamilton Playbox show runs until the 21st July at Riverlea Theatre – Tickets from $20

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  • Chill in the Park – This huge event is back for another year of School Holiday Fun at the Western Community Centre! This year we have 18 Ton of Snow, Nawton’s Got Talent, cool prizes and much more.  Just $3 per child
  • Hamilton Gardens Adventure.  Download the free Discovery Trail sheet (in both English and Mandarin) from the Hamilton Gardens’ website to see where the bees, hens and woodland critters are hiding.

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  • Outdoor Kids A website which showcases the fantastic nature walks and trails around the Waikato!  Free outdoor fun! There is the added bonus of info on each walk to tell you which ones are suitable for strollers too!  Check it out!

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A sh*t sandwich for the Mayor

Have you heard of a sh*t sandwich?  It’s a tool for giving feedback which protects the recipient’s feelings slightly while also allowing you to tell them how unhappy you are with their performance.

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Mayor Andrew King has been a regular guest on Free FM. (Pictured alongside fellow Free Breakfast host Mike Williams).

Most work-places have regular performance reviews – in the case of the elected Hamilton City Council it’s every three years when we vote  – except there are so many flaws in the democratic process that residents vote on name recognition – or don’t hold Councillors to account for the crappy decisions they may have made during the term … or just don’t vote.  So, I thought that given we’re “celebrating signing off the 10 Year plan” (cough) – that I’d offer a performance review of Mayor Andrew King – mid-term … Although, I think even he knows he’s a one-term Mayor.

It would be unfair to review performance without first acknowledging some things he has done which he needs credit for.  He and the Chief Executive Richard Briggs proposed an increase of the minimum wage for Council staff to $20 to take effective on 1 July 2018.  It wasn’t quite the living wage – but an increase that would have helped all the Council staff trying to pay rent and bills in a city they spend their working week maintaining!  Great resource from Dorrington Wright to show you how Councillors voted on this back in December.  While it didn’t go ahead we acknowledge that he tried.  Council Minimum Wage.

We can also credit him (though some may disagree with me here) for generating discussion on the Hamilton vs Kirikiriroa debate …  While he was only proposing a change to Kirikiriroa for the Council – it sparked a city-wide korero on our name and our history which I think should always be welcomed.  Though I did wonder if he’d approached the issue more strategically or if someone else had proposed it, if it would have gone down differently with the public.  Read more: Hamilton Mayor proposes name change to Kirikiriroa City Council.

This is a sh*t sandwich, so it’s time for the bit you came for.

The Mayor sat on an Audit NZ report, seemingly for so long that it couldn’t be released before the Councillors were forced to sign off on something that the report was concerning.  WTF? Now, I know – Councillors who voted for the $7 million being set aside – have justified their decision to back it because “we wouldn’t want a fast food business there” or “we need skin in the game” or “no-one is saying which buildings the money is for” …  but at the end of the day – actions and decisions like this  impact on residents trust of local government – the whole idea of “Councillors doing what they want anyway” prevail.  I’m appalled that this has happened.  Audit NZ report into council process over park expansion delayed

Another thing: on the central city park idea – Who the heck’s idea was that?  Oh yeah … The Mayor’s.  I know, because I asked him in a Free FM interview last year.  Well guess what buttercup, that is not a community mandate.  The 10 year plan should be made up of conversations, briefings and tried and tested ideas with the community – not vanity projects, sprung on other Councillors last minute.

Anyway … I’m going to say something nice again because that’s  how a sh*t sandwich works.  I’ve found myself defending him on lots of occasions, because despite him being rather awkward (I relate to this) you can tell he is genuinely nice and wants what is best for us all, not just the rich – proof of this is the proposal to increase developer contributions significantly.  So next time you think he’s doing deals for mates – you might remember that he was about to charge them tens of thousands of dollars more for developments.  That took leadership.  Read more  If increased charges are in, we’re out: Hamilton Developer.

A sh*t sandwich pats someone on the back for a good job while also telling them to pull their socks up.  What would you tell the Mayor if you had to give good and bad feedback?

 

 

 

Waikato 125 – the women who shine

Podcast available for Episode 89 (22 June 2018).

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Angela O’Leary (Hamilton West City Councillor) joins us in this episode to talk about an exciting project she’s driving called Waikato 125.  The project is calling for nominations of great Waikato women (past or present) who embody strength, vision and honour.  They will then be commemorated at a Suffrage 125 event in September.   We also discuss the lack of  Women in Politics – and what we can do to tip the balance for the 2019 elections.

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Later in the episode I go on a bit of a plastic bag rant – after discovering plastic bags replacing plastic bags at Countdown…  sigh.

Continuing on with the wahine theme… Music on this show is from Auckland emo-pop band Openside; Coral (who is off to represent the Waikato in Hollywood next week!) and Tami Neilson and The Miltones (in town on August 1st).

 

 

Taking on… plastic bags

You have to have been living under a big plastic rock if you weren’t aware of the damage plastic is doing to our planet, in it’s generation and end of life.  So, when I walked into Countdown last night and saw a new plastic bag intended to replace the old plastic bag I sighed…  Here’s what I have to say to those who are having trouble breaking up with the plastic bag.

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Nooooo. Countdown replaces plastic bag with plastic bag.

1,  Suck it up Buttercup.  It’s that simple.  When you consider the damage plastics are doing to our environment, the small sacrifice that we have to make is insignificant.

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11 minutes in your hand, a lifetime in the sand.

2, Use your Scout or Girl Guide experience and Be prepared.  Take one or some of the million bags you already have at home to the supermarket with you next time.

3, Stash stash stash.  Think ahead, put some in your glovebox, roll some up into your handbag or revert back to point 1.

4, You didn’t plan on going to the supermarket and now you have 12 items?  It happens to the best of us – ask for a box… failing that – play tetrix and balance them for your walk to the car – treat it like a game, it’ll be Fun and is infinitely rewarding.  DO NOT CAVE IN to the bag.

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This guy knows

5, You can usually juggle half a dozen pieces of fruit, but if you get caught out use the brown mushroom bags… it might cost you .01c more but provided you fling it into compost or recycling after you reused it – ka pai e hoa.   You might just save a dolphin.

Plastic bags are just the tip of the plastic iceberg.  Personally I think our toughest battle is going to be food packaging – but lets start with the bags.

Now that I have your attention I want to let you know about two fantastic volunteer groups in Hamilton.  Both make reusable bags out of reused fabric to give away!! Check them out, find out where you can get your hands on a bag, donate some fabric or volunteer your time!

Plastic Bag Free Hamilton East and Plastic Bag Free Glenview.

It’s coming up to Plastic Free July – sign up to do the full challenge, or tackle one item… if nothing else let that item be the plastic bag.

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