NZ Designer Spotlight: James Dobson of Jimmy D
Tāmaki Makaurau based designer, James Dobson established his label in 2004, Jimmy D's signature look is dark, with a wry sense of humour, combining deconstructed, androgynous, over sized silhouettes with body conscious elements.
We spoke to James about his biggest challenge in business, where he gets his inspiration from and how working in retail was essential to building his brand. James is no stranger to pushing the boundaries when it comes to fashion and each time we have the pleasure to connect we leave feeling inspired and excited to see what he will do next!
Tell us about Jimmy D, what is your role?
I guess I AM Jimmy D and my role is everything to do with Jimmy D…everything from design to social media, from accounts to dispatch.
What were you doing before you started your journey with Jimmy D and what did that look like crossing over into something new?
I finished my degree majoring in Photography and then I worked in clothing retail in both Wellington and London. In London I worked for a store called The Library which stocked labels like McQueen, Comme des Garcons and Margiela (and I also partied pretty hard in the electro-clash scene which was kind of popping off at that time). I came back to New Zealand to start my label and I maintain that retail really is the best training for designing - I knew the level my label needed to be at in order to sit in high-end retail stores and I had an idea of my point of difference. My love of club culture also informed my love of dressing up and my eternal love of anything 90’s/2000’s.
How many people are in your team and can you briefly explain the process from design-production-marketing-wholesale (it might all be you!?)
It’s just me at Jimmy D, although I outsource work to incredible pattern makers, sample machinists, cutters etc. that I’ve worked with for ages. Generally design ideas come at any time of day/night and get scribbled into my visual diary until it comes time to start working on a new collection. By that point there’s usually a seedling of an idea of what the theme will be, I then trawl through all my drawings, do some research and start pinning it all to a a board. The sampling process takes a little while and then we hit the road visiting all the stores with the sample collection and then we jump into production making everyone’s orders. Rinse and repeat.
What is your favourite part of your job/process and why?
Collaborating with artists on prints, and bringing things to life that *hopefully* have never existed before. I also really love the sales side of things, seeing all my incredible stockists all over New Zealand, eating amazing food and staying in fun places?? What’s not to love??
What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner/designer? What have you learnt?
It’s boring, but it’s probably the financial side of things - you’re financing things months out from delivery and managing that cashflow is super tricky. I have recently started working with an incredible business mentor & accountant and it’s really changed everything I do. So yeah, make sure you have someone around you that knows their shit when it comes to business.
What would you say is a signature piece for Jimmy D and why? Could be your most popular or one you feel truly represents your brand best.
I think it changes over time, I love that fashion is always evolving and part of what makes fashion fun is you can reinvent yourself constantly. In saying that, I think now our 90’s bias cut slips and mesh styles have become pretty signature. I do love a good print on print on print moment too...
Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you have anything specific you can use as an example that directly inspired a design or style?
Ugh, it’s such a cliche, but inspiration can honestly come from anywhere… previous collections have been inspired by books (Brett Easton Ellis is a fave), movies, photos and even myself… the Ego Trip collection was inspired by a screenshot of a filtered photo of myself in full makeup that then became two fabric prints. In saying that, beauty and makeup have been a huge inspiration recently - I started an Instagram with my friend and stylist Andrey called Beauty Benders (@beautybendersofficial) which is all about de-gendering makeup and all the incredible creatives we’ve discovered through that have definitely inspired me a lot.
What do you think sets NZ designers apart from the rest of the world?
We’re not afraid of embracing the darker or quirkier side of things. When I lived in London people were really surprised there was a fashion scene in New Zealand, so I think we battle against those perceptions by developing a really strong aesthetic.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
I’m terrible at listening to advice, but if I was to give anyone else advice it would just be “be the most you you can be"
Another NZ Designer we should check out?
I share a workroom with Jpalm and Samuel Mark Clyma so I think they’re both pretty cool. I love jewellery brand Elliott Metal, I don’t wear a lot of jewellery but her stuff gets me excited about accessories again.
Go-to coffee spot?
I’ve recently discovered Little Grump in Poneke and their coffee is perfect and their sandwiches are INSANE.
Favourite place for dinner?
I find it hard to beat Coco’s Cantina in Tamaki for food & vibes, and I love Concord in Poneke for a luxe dinner.
Favourite place for drinks?
Graze in Kelburn - wash one of their freshly bakes soft pretzels down with a glass of incredible wine. Yum.
A free activity you would recommend checking out in your city?
There are so many incredible walks in Poneke - I love walking over Mt. Albert down to Princess Beach and then around to Lyall Bay - in the Summer it’s pretty epic and in Winter it’s super moody and both vibes work for me! My partner is also director of Enjoy Contemporary Gallery, so I’m biased but it’s definitely a must-see.