The Fashion Godmother's Guide To Dunedin

Dunedin’s isolation, remoteness and harsh winters have always bred creativity, from the city’s dynamic music history, to its concentration of New Zealand fashion heavyweights

Charmaine Reveley. Photo / Graham Warman

Not only is this Dunedin local a talented designer, she’s also a competitive roller skater, part of Dunedin’s roller derby league as well as the national team, where she goes by the nickname Little Yellow Jacket.

The fast pace of the rink is a world away from her other life, designing garments from luxurious fabrics through the label she’s run for 14 years (her George Street store has been going for seven).

Charmaine moved to Dunedin 21 years ago to study fashion and never left. “It felt like home,” says the force behind her eponymous label, who now lives on a “wild, overgrown” four-hectare block on a steep hillside at the start of the Otago Peninsula.

“It’s beautiful and peaceful, and has an amazing view of the harbour. I live there with my little family, my daughter Olympia (11 months old) and Tilly, my very happy black labrador/spaniel cross. It’s my quiet place, here in my garden. I’m a real homebody so it’s my place to switch off."

Where to eat: "The sage butter ravioli is my go-to dish at The Esplanade at St Clair, but I go there for the atmosphere above everything. There’s always great service and it has a busy yet chilled vibe."

Where to get coffee: "My first stop every morning is Common Ground, a back-door espresso bar run out of their roastery in an industrial park in south Dunedin. Great coffee, great chat and great music."

Where to see art: "Gallery Fe29 in St Clair is amazing, full of a variety of mediums displaying quality artists in a relaxed home setting."

Where to go shopping: "When it comes to shopping I have a pretty sharp eye for homewares in the second-hand world. Hayward’s Auction House has been a favourite over the years. Most of my house has come from there."

What to do on Sunday morning: "I normally have roller derby training on a Sunday morning then it’s off home to relax or spend time in my garden at the end of a busy week."

Margarita Robertson. Photo / Graham Warman

Longevity, consistency and a deep connection to her Dunedin roots have seen Nom*D’s Margarita Robertson become one of New Zealand’s most revered designers.

Since co-founding her George Street store Plume with husband Chris Robertson in 1979, she has successfully merged elements of conceptual Japanese style with highland punk, resulting in original designs with a distinctive New Zealand flavour. Think mysterious black garments that can be worn a multitude of ways, striking silhouettes, bold graphic prints, and sumptuous knitwear.

It is the architecture of Dunedin that Margarita loves best. In particular, the beautiful space her label Nom*D now calls home, built in the 1880s.

“We love being on the edge of the Queens Gardens with statues like Queen Victoria and the Anzac memorial monuments, and the beautiful trees and space to sit on the grass. The interior has barely changed and has lovely wood panelling and leadlight windows.”

Born in Clyde, Margi’s family moved to the city when she was two and she’s never really left. “We now live in an art deco house built in the 1930s. It has an incredible view over the city. In the evening you get the twinkling of the lights and through the day the harbour is our water feature. Best of all, it’s an easy walk to our store in George Street and HQ at Queens Gardens.”

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Where to eat: “For a special occasion we eat at Moiety, they have one of the best degustation menus I’ve enjoyed. Then there is No 7 Balmac or Prohibition Smokehouse.

Where to get coffee: "For a good coffee and a great Sunday brunch I enjoy Precinct. We try to move around different cafes to spread the love; there are lots of good options."

Where to venture outside: "In the summer I love walking on St Clair Beach. You can go right down to St Kilda and then reward yourself with an ice cream when you get back to St Clair. Another walk is down the harbour from Forsythe Bar Stadium to St Leonards. Or we head up the hill from our house into the Town Belt and onwards to Ross Creek. At the Botanical Gardens climb up to the aviary with both the New Zealand (green and dark and camouflaged) and Australian (loud, bright and fancy) birds."

Where to see art: "When it comes to art the Dunedin Public Art Gallery never fails to please with interesting contemporary exhibitions, and the permanent collections are worth checking out. For current artists both local and international, RDS Gallery in Castle Street and Olga in Moray Place are worthy of a visit also. Gallery De Novo has a great collection of works and is good for gifts."

What to do: "When we have visitors a trip to the albatross colony at Taiaroa Head at the end of the peninsula is a must. Take the high road out and visit Larnach Castle on the way. A trip to Tunnel Beach below the old Cargill’s Castle site is also great, and I love driving down to Port Chalmers and out to Aramoana Spit. Here you can take a walk onto the mole. Just look out for the sea lions!"

Where to shop: "My favourite shop is our store Plume, of course! It stocks a selection of New Zealand labels alongside international brands including Comme des Garcons, Rick Owens, Bernhard Willhelm and Dries Van Noten. All my favourite brands under one roof."

What to do on Saturday morning: "The Saturday market at the Railway Station is always humming; we enjoy buying fresh produce there and will always bump into friends."

What to do on Sunday morning: "On a Sunday you’ll find me at an aqua jogging class at the Moana Pool, followed by brunch, a walk and a lazy evening. We are surrounded by beautiful nature. I enjoy walking up to the Organ Pipes off Mt Cargill Road, or the Pineapple Track. They are both close to town and just enough of a challenge for a few hours of exercise.”

Sara Munro. Photo / Graham Warman

Sara Munro has always been a vintage fan, starting out in fashion by upcycling leather jackets, denim and uniforms, before spending several years in the Nom*D workroom.

She launched Company of Strangers in 2008 with jewellery and leather goods, and has since branched out to knitwear and other high-quality garments, her designs inspired by art, architecture and rock’n’roll. Each piece is designed in Dunedin and made in New Zealand.

Sara grew up in Dunedin and has fond memories of feeding the ducks and eating ice cream at the Botanic Gardens. “Bringing my own children here and doing long walks through the maze of gardens, the aviaries and ponds has been wonderful. We shot our AW21 campaign here, too. It’s just so beautiful.”

“I live in Andersons Bay. It’s five minutes to my studio and right across the road from my youngest son’s school. It’s on a hill with views across the harbour and city. Our street is very quiet and our house is super private, which I love as I’m a bit of a hermit. There are four beaches — Smails, Tomahawk, St Kilda and St Clair — right within a 10-20 minute walk where I take the dog. In summer I just swim in the ocean."

Where to venture outside: "I love to trail run. It clears my mind and gives me energy for my week. It’s also a good opportunity for a debrief with my running friend. It’s actually more like therapy! Flagstaff, the Pineapple Track and Ross Creek all interlink; there are so many great runs and hikes through there."

Where to eat: "Side-On in Moray place is our one-stop-shop. Great coffee, the best croissants, lunch, breakfast and also the best takeaway sourdough in the city. And Vull Design on Moray does great homewares and gifts. Woof is the bar Dunedin has been waiting for all its life. Josh and Dudley have created an amazing all-inclusive place to sit and while away the hours. Plus, their bar snacks are the best."

Where to see art: "I love Gallery De Novo and Olga, both in different parts of Moray Place, and our Public Art Gallery is always so well curated."

Where to shop: "The company store is a great boutique, of course! We have a selection of beautiful, locally made products with a touch of international brands.”

Tanya Carlson. Photo / Graham Warman

Tanya Carlson’s gowns are legendary. From custom wedding dresses to opulent frocks, the designer puts her romantic streak down to her childhood, growing up with the rugged beauty of the Otago Peninsula. Since launching her label in 1997, she’s been tasked with designing costumes for several major dance projects. 

For Tanya, the Dunedin coastline has always been special. She grew up on the Otago Peninsula and first learnt to surf on the beaches around St Clair (where the above photo was taken). “While I was being photographed, a few very eager surfers jumped in the waves and I was very tempted to grab my wettie and board out of the car,” she laughs.

“Dunedin is my childhood home, where I first discovered who I was and wanted to be, and it was in Dunedin where I started the Carlson brand. It remains extremely close to my heart and, while I now live in Auckland, I spend a lot of time here visiting friends and whanau."

"I grew up on the Otago Peninsula on the hills above Portobello, and part of my family still has its home there. It’s a stunning part of the city, home to McCahonesque rolling hills and landscape. The moodiness of that landscape informs some of my more dramatic pieces, such as the Piwakawaka dress that I created for the iD Dunedin hero image one year and that is currently being exhibited at Otago Museum. The dress was later worn by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to the Vodafone Music Awards, which was a special moment."

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Where to eat: "My go-to place to eat would have to be Vault 21 in The Octagon. Andre and his team have created a delicious fresh menu — and the city’s best fries."

Where to get coffee: "For a caffeine fix I head to The Daily Coffee on Princes Street. Owner Jay makes perfect coffees every time and he’s extremely supportive of the city’s art scene, often holding exhibitions of local artists in the cafe. It’s got a great vibe, fantastic coffee and awesome conversation."

Where to venture outside: "Walking the deserted Waikouaiti Beach and up to Matanaka is a must. It’s rustic and romantic, set on a high clifftop and one of the most photographed places in New Zealand (but many people don’t know where it is)."

Where to see art: "I love the Dunedin Art Gallery and I’ve been recently captivated by the often haunting paintings of Peninsula-based Dunedin artist Simon Richardson."

Where to shop: "When it comes to shopping Two Squirrels Vintage Emporium is a beautifully curated store full of treasures. And for homewares check out Wander and Sons in St Clair."

What to do on Sunday morning: The best way to spend a Sunday is to explore the Dunedin Street Art trail, visiting the Art Gallery or any of Dunedin’s amazing beaches.

Donna Tulloch. Photo / Graham Warman

Sophisticated, elegant and beautiful are the adjectives fashion commentator Colin McDowell used to describe Donna Tulloch’s work. Originally from Gore, the designer moved to Dunedin in the 70s and set up her business in 1995, starting with knitwear and soon expanding into woven garments.

Like Nom*D, her aesthetic is inspired by Japanese designers Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto, with sculptural pieces defined by their asymmetrical draping and complex, three-dimensional silhouettes.

Donna has lived in Dunedin since she was 18, and like so many other locals has a penchant for “less obvious architecture, craftsmanship and design that is not visible from the main street, and old buildings with a modern twist”.

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Where to get coffee: “I have a few favourite cafes. The Good Oil is my go-to for coffee catch-ups with friends as they have consistently good coffee and it’s within walking distance from my office. On Bath Street you’ll find Laneway Cafe and Bar and The Swan Cafe and Bar. Both are amazing places, where the interiors are just as great as the coffee."

Where to eat: "I love a good dinner party at home but when we head out, we usually end up at Prohibition Smokehouse for the atmosphere, cocktails and delicious menu."

Where to see art: "Inge Doesburg is a standout local artist, printmaker, painter and person. Her raw images of landscapes and weather are brilliant. You can find them at an excellent local gallery, The Artists Room."

Where to venture outside: "We live in a wonderful 1908 villa on top of a hill, only five minutes from town, in a quiet family-friendly neighbourhood, with views overlooking Dunedin city and the harbour. The hill suburbs always provide spectacular sunrises and sunsets Ross Creek Reservoir has a forest walk we do with the family all the time. Another favourite is the stroll down to Tunnel Beach for a picnic. The only catch is the hike back up the hill, but it’s worth it."

What to do on Sunday morning: "Take a Sunday drive down the Peninsula for brunch at Glenfalloch Gardens Cafe and Restaurant. We’ll often do that or visit the multiple beaches here, and Central Otago.”

Originally published in Viva Magazine – Volume Four

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