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Jimmy D

Opening a new site gives us the opportunity to connect with incredible suppliers. The following was one key to making our new sites what they are today.

In conversation with: James Dobson (aka Jimmy D)

Where did you grow up?

I was born in the UK, but moved to New Zealand with my family when I was four. We had a short stint in Christchurch, but I guess most of my formative years were spent growing up in Upper Hutt near Wellington.

Tell us about your journey into fashion – what led you to fashion as your headlining passion and purpose?

I came to fashion through photography. I remember having friends in high school who did photography and I couldn’t understand why they were spending hours in the darkroom printing photos, I just didn’t get it! And then one day something just clicked in me, I picked up a camera and became obsessed. Around the same time I discovered international magazines like The Face and a local mag called Pavement, and for the first time I saw fashion photographed in a way I could understand and relate to. There were quirky-looking people photographed in suburbantype places that looked like where I lived. It was the first time fashion seemed accessible to me, it looked like a world I could belong to.

So after that, I was convinced I was going to be a fashion photographer and did a four year degree in photography. While I was studying, I walked into a clothing store in Wellington that stocked labels like Karen Walker and Kate Sylvester and basically told them all these ideas I had for marketing and convinced them that they needed me. Slowly, I made my way onto the floor selling clothes. It was this combination of retail and just turning clothes inside out to figure out how they were made which slowly convinced me that my calling was designing the clothes – not photographing them.

Time for an elevator pitch: Describe your label, Jimmy D in three sentences:

Darkly humorous. Fashion forward. For anyone that appreciates fearless creativity.

How did you originally ‘meet’ Ozone?

My family live in the UK, so on a trip to London I stumbled out of my little shoebox hotel room and came across this really cool looking café. I had one of the best coffees I’d ever had in London, and some incredible food too. I told my boyfriend about this unbelievable cafe I’d discovered called Ozone, and being from New Plymouth he said “oh, we have one of those in New Plymouth”, and I was like (in a slightly patronising tone), “babe, I don’t think it’s the same one…” But boy was I wrong! I just remember being super proud that this kiwi company was out there, effectively representing New Zealand, and totally killing it on the global stage. Fast forward a few years, and after many trips to New Plymouth with my boyfriend I had a chance to meet some of the owners of Ozone, told them this story, had a laugh and a connection was made.

What was the commission? How were you approached?

I got an email from Creative Director, James Gurr who was familiar with my work. He talked about the new Ozone project in Auckland and how they were in need of uniforms. The initial email talked about this idea of a unisex jacket that could also be worn buttoned up as a shirt and an apron, and immediately I could visualise it. That’s kind of my litmus test for whether I should take on a project…. If I close my eyes, can I visualise it? And immediately I could see the cafe, I could see the people working in it, and I could see the team gliding around in these uniforms (also, a lot of my designs are completely genderless, so the idea of a unisex uniform was a dream project). So – of course, I jumped at the opportunity!

How did you curate the designs – what gave you inspo? 

When I started thinking about this unisex shirt/ jacket my first thought was a light cotton voile shirt we’d made a few seasons prior that my boyfriend and I, and many of my friends, wore OBSESSIVELY. It was just a super oversized, boxy shape design with very utilitarian gusseted pockets.

I really wanted to ensure the shirt/ jacket was super functional for the staff with plenty of pockets for their order pads, pens etc. We tweaked the scale, making it slightly less oversized, a little shorter, with a shorter and wider sleeve. I really wanted the uniforms to feel relaxed and not too uptight. This idea carried on to small details like putting a tag in the garment that says “JIMMY D SAYS WORK HARD AND PLAY HARD”. I thought that if I could put a smile on someone’s face while they’re getting ready for work, this little feel good moment could be passed on to a customer, ya’ know?

For the apron – again, I didn’t want anything that felt too starchy or uptight. I play a lot with volume and drape, so I wanted this to be translated into the apron. I loved the idea of the staff gliding around the cafe with fabric billowing or trailing behind them. Essentially, the apron is a very simple shape that’s quite square at the front, contrasted with back straps that cross over and create subtle draping.

What’s in store next?

We’re working on adding some fun Jimmy D touches into the Ozone uniforms with sporty Jimmy D x Ozone socks and pins that will add a little dark humour to the uniform – just another way to make the person wearing the uniform add their own personality to the look – ‘cos a uniform shouldn’t mean uniformity!

Link to video from photo shoot