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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Kitsch: Why I can’t do minimalism.

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I blame my love of kitsch for my inability to be a Minimalist.  The concept of being a Minimalist is bang on… I understand the benefit of keeping things simple, keeping the feng shui moving around the house and feeling more liberated with less stuff – but it’s just not for me.

Sometimes I call myself a vintage collector, sometimes a hunter gatherer and sometimes a hoarder.  Either way – if this beautiful stuff didn’t make me happy I  might have been  the type of person who could thrive with bare minimal possessions… I could live in a house that looked like everyone else’s and was easy to clean… but I choose to surround myself with beautiful stuff.

Beautiful might be a stretch…  You see, I have a thing for kitsch.

Kitsch is defined as “art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way”.

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I should be ashamed of it – the tackiness of it.  But I’m not.  Part of me is proud of saving this stuff (that has stood the test of time) from landfill.  Part of me is proud of having a unique home that was sourced for next to no money from opshops.  Most of our decor is 1950s-1970’s so there’s stories with pretty much everything we have.  Not even just our stories but other people’s stories – passed on at garage sales; markets or through nostalgia for a common item. I should be ashamed of spending our little disposable income on stuff… but I’m not.

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As you can see – one of my kitsch collections is shell art.  Everyone seemed to make random little shell objects back in the day including most tourist shops…  My particular favourite in that image is the mermaid.

Shells aren’t the only kitsch thing I love though…

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Queen Elizabeth II; Ballerinas (Carlotta Edwards); Ducks/Swans (Vernon Ward) and Religious icons were all really popular in the 1950’s.  So there’s lots of those sprinkled around our house.  The vintage ballerina alarm clock was my Great-Grandmother ‘s so it’s extra special.  Ella’s not allowed to touch it.

There’s a religious corner – and a “bad taste” (often considered racist) shelf -with my favourite pieces of German Pottery (not kitsch – but of the era).  That’s only a smidgy part of that collection – I’m fond of Black African lady ornaments – one of my ‘prized possessions’ is a lamp that one of my Teacup customers tipped me off about after she saw it at Restore (Bryant Road).  Speaking of “racist” memorabilia.  Native Affairs shared this article earlier in the week.  “Aboriginalia and the politics of kitsch”.  It was interesting – but hasn’t made me hide the pieces I have.

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You guessed it, the kitsch spills outside.  I took these to show Ian Duggan who wrote this article about gnomes in New Zealand gardens… Well worth a read.  The one at the front (who is missing his fishing line) was James’s Grandmother’s and the one with the watering can was my Nana’s (we brought it up in our luggage from Dunedin after finding it lonely in the yard after her house was sold).  Needless to say – the dump has given us even more friends.

So – kitsch.  It’s the reason I can’t do minimalism.   I would love to see your kitschy items!! Please feel free to share your photos and stories with me.

 

What is it about retro?

This Saturday Hamilton will enjoy it’s biggest Retro fair of the year.  The 6th annual Waikato Mid-Winter Retro fair runs from 9-3pm at the Chartwell Church Hall, 124 Comries Road. Hamilton.  With free entry, plenty of parking and over 20 exhibitors cramming anything and everything you can think of into a hall, there’s no excuse for missing it.  Prices are reasonable, and whether as a trip down memory lane or a hard-core mission to find the perfect seat for the lounge, or missing plate to a set, you won’t be disappointed.

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But, what is it about retro?  Retro is technically products made between 1950-1970… (the 80’s is starting to be included).  For some people, something which is ‘just an old chair’ will be the gorgeous Scandinavian inspired recliner, handmade in New Zealand in the 1960’s that someone else desperately wants.  The wood is better quality… (it’s ACTUAL wood as opposed to wheatbix); the craftmanship is superior – and the style is sleek, modern but completely practical – and comfortable.  Remember that gawdy orange, yellow and green Tupperware?  We want it… they literally last a life-time and are so practical.  It’s down to quality again.

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Some of us will flock to decor.  I personally, cannot resist looking at pictures, clocks, lamps and small furniture.  They’re the items that make our house a home.  Sometimes it comes down to subject matter, a theme, a colour which suits your decor or just because it’s $5.  Sometimes the picture that we like will also hold fond memories.  Perhaps that same framed picture hung in your Nana’s house, perhaps someone else inherited it, when you would have secretly liked it.  Now’s your chance to find it.

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Over the last few years I have found that the items that create the most nostalgia for people is kitchenalia.  It’s’ your Crown Lynn plates, glass decanters, 50’s cake mixers (that last a life-time); wooden handled utensils, kitsch cake tins and eggcups.  So many eggcups.

While some collectables are the exception, despite retro products being better quality they are often cheaper than the reproduction items you’ll find in chain stores.  You’ll find the “real deal” and save money.  That’s not to mention the benefit of re-using already existing items – which is way better for the environment.

What is it about retro?  It’s the quality, style and price/environmental benefits.  But, a huge part of that appeal is the recognition, feeling and nostalgia that comes from finding – and taking home something you associate with loved ones.

 

 

My market purchases…support local

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When I started Teacup and Saucer (my vintage/retro business) I needed a market to sell from (because I didn’t have the patience for selling online).  I didn’t feel we really fit into Tamahere collectors market or to any of the craft/farmer’s markets so to me, mixing vintage and handmade stalls made perfect sense.  Because, I’m not keen on ruining 50 year old items from rain or wind damage I decided it also HAD to be indoors.

The first Market Place was on December 14th 2013.  I’m nearly at year three – and the benefits to me professionally and personally have been huge.  Teacup and Saucer and the market have allowed me to do what I love as my job.  That’s not to say it’s not freaking hard, sometimes – it is… but it’s personally gratifying too… so to everyone that has made it happen – from customers – stallholders and stockists – Thank you!.

Anyway – I digress.  In the last few months I made the decision not to sell at markets – the absolute best part of this is I have time to wander around Ferrybank Market myself – chat to stallholders and customers AND (maybe not a good thing) have time to shop.

After the stallholders were set up and the doors opened at 9am, I popped home to pick James and Ella up to spend some time at the market with me. (No point them getting up at 6am to freeze like I did).  When he got there James had a chat to Jake from the Volume Collective who were set up like they do every month; and has arranged to have them record his band Sugarleaf next week. They’ll be doing it in their new recording studio which happens to be at the University (I believe it’s called the Cow shed?).  This was while the beautiful Aorangi for singing.  We’re so lucky to have them.

The first stall Ella wanted to see was Fairytales by Holly – she loves her stall (although so do I)…  But this month her purchase was a pretty little pink dreamcatcher from a stall from Smart Waikato.  We’ve recently taught Ella about how dreamcatchers work so it was nice for her to find one she loved.   (Watching her study it in the morning – wondering where the dream was was so cute).

As I did my rounds I also stopped at KT Art.  She has some lovely, very kiwi – home decor – which will be the perfect gift for the person who has everything.  My husband and I love fantails (and both have fantail tattoos); so the handmade ceramic tile had to come home with me (it was only $15!!).  It’s always amazing to see how creative my stallholders are.  Their stalls blow me away some times.  (If you look closely you can see my tile).

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EVERYONE knows I have a “thing” about vintage – and I had to bring home this beautiful (probably 40s or early 50s) Hollywood framed print.  After googling “red head starlet” I found it was Greer Garson.  Beautiful isn’t she.  I already have a few framed pictures like that (including Vivien Leigh who is my favourite) and will be putting them up in the bathroom when it’s finally painted (pink).  (I paid $5 for this).

My (non-impulse) purchases were from Jill and Ange.  I adore their clothing and have, ever since I saw their clothing when it was in Story on Alexandra Street (2014).  I was lucky enough to stock them last year in my shop too.  I decided to treat myself to collecting up a wardrobe of their pieces for more “official engagements” I may have to go to over the next few months… a great excuse 🙂  The problem with wearing vintage/retro is that while I can find dresses for $10 and under – they are more often than not ill-fitting so it’s awesome being able to get the perfect size.

I have been chatting with the lovely Jill and Ange over the last month or so about pieces that would work if you were to coordinate a wardrobe – so I’ve been looking at which pieces I should start with.  The Genoa skirt fit like a glove, which can be hard with a pencil skirt but I LOVE it.  It’s so soft and warm I can’t wait to start wearing it… (tomorrow and for the rest of winter I think).  The first time I saw the top (Monet’s muse – Oil on Canvas) (photo from Ferrybank market in May) I fell in love.  It’s the perfect colours for me.  I had to have that too…  Can’t wait to wear them as an ensemble 🙂   They make me feel so good 🙂

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At our market on Saturday, as well as lots of shopping and catching up with people, I visited St Peter’s cathedral across the road James, Ella and a friend – just to be nosey.  I love being a tourist in Hamilton and it’s easy to forget where you are when you are looking at it with “new eyes”.  The stonework is lovely, and it felt like I was in England for a minute:)  I was speechless while inside as the interior was not what I expected.  The ceiling, the beams… the stain glass windows… the wood… seriously, well worth a peek.

As pack-up begun I popped over to the Meteor gallery which is now open on Saturdays from 10-3pm.  It’s such a cool venue, and I’m glad they’re trying to drive more people in as visitors – outside of the black box theatre on offer.  (I associate the Meteor with Miss Cadaver which has been held there previously).  I’ll share their latest exhibitions on the Ferrybank market page so you can coincide a trip to the market with a trip across the road.

945 words later… oops.  I found cool stuff at the Market – you should come next month.  Hamilton central is cool.  I love handmade stuff.  Support local.  Thank you 🙂

Day in the life – May 4th be with you

Nothing major in the diary for today – though lots to do.  After dropping Ella at kindy we decided to check out a few shops.  We don’t often “do” op shops any more, they tend to be filled with over-priced bric a brac – but since there are no markets or garage sales on during the week we do a few anyway.

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I have a fondness for industrial vintage so was happy with these two large gold anodised lampshades, sheep? skull, and vintage rustic “explosives” box.

I also picked up an 80’s does 40’s dress for myself, which I’ll post a photo of another time.

After coming home to do domestic drudgery and a few adminny type jobs – it was time to pick Ella up again.  Heading into winter I decided to take her shopping for a new top and pants.  Cuteness overload.  We then headed to pick up some printing from the Western Community Centre.  It’s the cheapest place to get my A3s and A4s printed – but even if it wasn’t – it’s such a great organisation that it’s worth the detour to Nawton.

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While Ella was having snack number 1000 since finishing kindy – I saw that my most recent blog post on “living in Hamilton” had been published on Stuff Nation. That was pretty cool.  I’m hoping to keep it up – I’m definitely opinionated enough to have something to write about.

We came home to go for a walk to the Dinsdale shops – and then down the road to visit a neighbour.  We live in a great little community – the majority of the people who live directly around us have been here at least 30 years.  Extremely unusual I think.

5pm – A little more admin stuff – facebook/emails etc, before starting dinner.

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So – a boring but busy day.  Not particularly intriguing for the reader but we don’t all have newsworthy days.

P.S.  Here’s the link to the Waikato Times’ post.. which differs to my blog post version slightly.  http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff-nation/assignments/share-your-news-and-views/14642354/Whos-laughing-now-Hamilton-ain-t-so-bad

For the record – I would never have had the Chiefs photo as the main photo for the link (I DID state I don’t even like rugby – I just recognise it’s a good thing about the Tron).  ALSO.  I HATE the photo the Waikato Times has on file and cringe every time they rehash it.