August 2012

August 31, 2012

Frock on Friday: the New Zealand edition

Welcome to a brand new regular feature on Wee Birdy: Frock on Friday.

I guess you could call me a frock girl. Until the birth of my first child, a classic frock was my go-to wardrobe essential for achieving an instant pulled-together look, especially during Australian summers. I love the simplicity of throwing on a frock, slipping into sandals and just GOING – with no tricky separates to assemble or layer.

But when I started breastfeeding I realised that ripping off a dress and sitting semi-naked in the middle of a shopping centre wasn’t feasible, so I had to re-think pants and tops and skirts. It’s only been the last few months that I’ve started to look at frocks again with brand new eyes (and a larger waistline, ahem).

I’ll be welcoming in the weekend with my pick of the best frocks around, and I thought I’d kick things off with one of my favourite New Zealand designers, Karen Walker. The dress above is from her new Spring/Summer 2012 collection, which is in-store and online now. The Bow Tie  Renaissance dress is NZ$750 and features signature Karen Walker details such as bows, quirky prints and ruffles and pleats.

The inspiration for this collection was Jules Verne’s 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, “mixed with the decor­ative flourish of the Victorian age and a dash of Brian Jones-esque ’60s mod”. Quite. This is apparent in the brocade-look of the fabric, which is actually printed taffeta.

Now, my single-income family budget doesn’t stretch to $750 frocks, but I try to keep an eye on Karen Walker’s mainline collection on eBay, and I look to her diffusion line, Hi There, at sales time. I just wish that designers’ diffusion lines weren’t automatically ‘younger’ versions of the main collection. Some more mature styles inspired by the main collection would be a welcome move for cash-strapped ladies aged 35-plus. I’ve also found that you get to a certain age (and bust size) where you can’t pull off a ruffled bib-front anymore. Know what I mean?

New pieces from the spring/summer Hi There collection have just started to drop in-store and online over the past week. Here’s my favourite frock from the diffusion line:

(I don’t want to come across as a wowser but this frock would be PERFECT if it was two inches longer. I think I’d be pulling at the hemline all day, willing it to lengthen.) Hi There Margo dress, NZ$215 from Karen Walker.

What do you think of Frock on Friday? Is it a keeper?


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August 30, 2012

Wee Birdy in New Zealand: The General Store, Christchurch

The General Store in Christchurch was one of the shops that was relocated due to the earthquake last year, and can now be found in the Re:Start village of unique shipping container shops on Cashel Street. It’s a cheery design-led gift shop and is one of the best places in Christchurch to pick up some really lovely Kiwi souvenirs. Take the little wooden ‘Keko’ Kiwi pull-along toy, for instance (see above) and the all-natural Honey Sticks beeswax crayons. Both gorgeous products are made and designed in New Zealand, along with the Owl and the Pussycat art cube by Wellington artist Ellen Giggenbach. Great presents to take home for children!

Along with children’s toys and gifts, The General Store also stocks a range of homewares, jewellery, art prints, books and stationery. There is also a good representation of international designers, including art tea-towels by Third Drawer Down, ceramics by Rob Ryan and novelties by Suck UK.

But it’s the the retro Kiwiana that caught my eye here, such as the The Longest Drink in Town giraffe milkshake cup; plastic Tiki charms and miniature Wahine and Warrior dolls. Other highlights include the Swedish Klippan throw blankets made with New Zealand wool; Native tui tea-towels by New Zealand textile designer Ingrid Anderson; and appliqued New Zealand-themed cushions made with vintage blankets.

The General Store
Re:Start
Cashel Street
City Mall
Christchurch
Tel. 03 365 9950

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 10am-5.30pm
Saturday to Sunday 10am-5pm

Wee Birdy travelled to Christchurch courtesy of the good folks at Tourism New Zealand and Air New Zealand. Head to www.newzealand.com for more information about visiting New Zealand.


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August 28, 2012

Wee Birdy in New Zealand: Re:Start

Last week I travelled to New Zealand for a four-day trip to Christchurch and Mt Hutt. Sadly, I’d never visited Christchurch before the devastating earthquake in February 2011, but the signs of destruction were immediately apparent on the drive from the airport: countless churches with missing spires; buildings surrounded by rubble and “danger” signs pinned to construction sites. I felt an emotional connection to the city as the earthquake occurred just days after my son was born last year, and I distinctly remember clutching him in my hospital bed as the tragic events in Christchurch unfolded on the TV screen.

Fast forward 18 months and I find myself perched on a stool in a cafe on Cashel Street, just metres away from the rubble of the Cathedral in the middle of the city’s no-go red zone. But this is no ordinary bricks-and-mortar cafe – in fact, there’s no bricks and mortar at all. The cafe is in a shipping container, and it’s part of a clever initiative called Re:START, offering many of the retailers dislocated from the devastation of the earthquake an opportunity to rebuild their businesses, as well as bringing people – and a new community – back into the the centre of the city.

The shipping containers themselves look fantastic, adding a level of excitement and edginess to the city’s historic centre. There is some subtle landscaping around the village, giving it green urban vibe. At the moment there are 27 retailers, including banks, cafes and gift shops – and there is free wi-fi throughout (a boon for a travelling blogger). I spent Sunday afternoon browsing through the temporary village, and discovered quite a few wee gems.

Here are my top six must-visit shops at Re:Start:
1. HAPA: design-led gifts, art, jewellery, toys and homewares by local designer-makers (including the Kia Ora mugs in the top pic).
2. The General Store: delightful gifts, homewares, toys and art by local and international designers.
3. Johnson’s Grocery: imported sweets and goodies from around the world, including haggis, Stilton and Maynard wine gums.
4. Infinite Definite: local and international fashion for men and women, including Riddle Me This, Salasai and Stolen Girlfriends Club.
5. Scorpio Books: fabulous independent book store with an extensive New Zealand and Maori collection including fiction and natural history.
6. Ballantynes Contemporary Lounge: local and international contempoary fashion designers for men and women, including Karen Walker, Scotch & Soda and Ketz-Ke.

I’ll be showing you some of these shops (and some of my wee Kiwi finds) in more detail over the next few days.

Wee Birdy travelled to Christchurch courtesy of the good folks at Tourism New Zealand and Air New Zealand. Head to www.newzealand.com for more information about visiting New Zealand.


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August 26, 2012

A wee birdy week – in pictures

According to Instagram, this is what the last two weeks in my life looked like. What it doesn’t show is one grizzly toddler, numerous piles of dirty laundry, three separate cases of head colds and two unpacked suitcases.

But let’s rewind a little, back to my walk through Camperdown Cemetery, where I found myself recently after another fruitless attempt to find childcare in Sydney’s inner west. It’s astonishingly beautiful for an inner-city cemetery, just metres from the endless traffic of Newtown’s King Street, and many of Australia’s earliest colonial settlers are buried there (including several of my ancestors). I really loved the little cottage with a lovely shingled roof within the cemetery grounds (top right).

I also went to the launch of the new IKEA catalogue and textiles collection in Tempe (hurrah! the new IKEA catalogue is out now!) and I got the most incredible care package from London courtesy of Miss B from A Girl, A Style (Jubilee tea canisters! a Liberty hankie! London souvenirs!), before heading to the airport for a family trip to New Zealand.

At the beginning of last week I found myself in the heart of Christchurch, pottering around the marvellous new shipping container stores which are part of the Re:Start initiative. More on that later. I also punted down the River Avon and admired the early spring blooms before heading to Mt Hutt for a bit of snow action. The scenery was spectacular and I don’t think we even took a particularly iconic ‘scenic’ route. Just before flying back to Sydney, I spotted a few penguins at the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch.

Back home, I stumbled across a garden crammed with gnomes, Mr Birdy made me proud with his shiny new trophy for a mobile app he designed, and I bought some strawberries at the Farmers’ Market in Taylor Square.

Busy? Why yes, just a tad.

What have you been up to? And if you’re on Instagram, find me @WeeBirdy.


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August 24, 2012

Wee Father’s Day finds

It’s Father’s Day in Australia and New Zealand on September 2, so I’m going to totally embrace the number one Father’s Day cliche – SOCKS – and show you some of my favourites. The vibrant patterned collection above are by American brand Richer Poorer, and in Australia you can get them from Incu (both in-store and online) for AU$15.

I also rather love Sydney fashion label Vanishing Elephant‘s Scandinavian-inspired intarsia print socks, which look wooly but are actually one hundred per-cent cotton. They’re $15 from Incu stores (in-store and online).

And if it’s fancy socks you’re after, you really can’t go past Swedish Happy Socks, which have attained cult status in recent years. For a pair of socks, they really are rather delightful and make wonderful presents. From AU$14.95.

But if you want to be a tad more original and creative in your Father’s Day gift-giving, look no further than the 21 totally awesome presents I rounded-up for Kidspot – and not a pair of socks or undies in sight. Promise!


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August 14, 2012

Wee Birdy made the #DECOREX100 list!


I found out this morning that I made the #DECOREX100 list of the top 100 interior design influencers on Twitter, and I’m delighted to represent Australia along with fellow bloggers Interiors Addict, Amanda Talbot and The Design Files. Many thanks to those who voted for me.

The list of Twitter users includes interior designers, design brands, stores and websites as well as industry organisations, bloggers and magazines. It’s a great line-up of interiors insiders – check out the top 100 here.

Decorex International is a luxury interior design show and it will be held this year at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, between the 23rd and 26th of September.


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