Catherine Boddy is the New Zealand label creating experimental patchwork-style garments
“I just had a strong desire and a vision [for a] glove empire and so started designing them.”
It’s hard to distil Catherine Boddy’s handmade, ballet-esque collection into one sentence. A kind of lingerie for the hands and feet, Catherine crafts halter tops, alien-like webbed gloves and subversive socks in her Auckland studio.
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Describing her eponymous label as “a patchwork quilt”, Catherine Boddy has been drawn to design since she first logged on to Stardoll (the iconic dress-up game, obviously). Working in frequent collaboration with other New Zealand creatives, her project is only just getting started. Below, she reflects on her beginnings as a designer.
Tell us about you. What’s your creative background?
I wanted to make clothes ever since I joined Stardoll. I made clothing with my nana from a really young age. My first piece actually was a patchwork top made from different scrap squares. Nothing’s changed!
My nana also taught me how to knit but I didn’t really pursue that. Instead, when I needed knitted nose-warmers for my grad collection I got her to do it. I then studied fashion at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT). I left school early to do this because I spent 100 per cent of high school in the soft tech room and knew what I wanted!
How did the label get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges.
I guess with gloves. I started making gloves with no idea [of] what I was going to do with them after I made them. I just had a strong desire and a vision [for a] glove empire and so started designing them.
I didn’t have a website or stockist lined up. It all fell into place because my friend opened a store called Sabotage right as I was finishing the first run. I love making fun accessories and over-decorating them the most.
What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now?
It started off as a very fun and small side hustle. I just wanted to see what it was like to sell my creations for the first time. I’ve been making clothing for many years and held a couple of solo fashion shows when I was finishing high school and starting uni.
But I never sold anything because I didn’t really know how… it seemed way too ‘business’ and not creative-minded [enough]. My mindset has changed a lot over the last year or so, I’m now so keen to grow my biz because I enjoy making and marketing and packaging and selling my pieces more than anything.
I love the whole process of shooting with my friends, styling and figuring out ways to get [my pieces] across to people. It’s so exciting. I just want to grow bigger and bigger now… we’ll see if I get overwhelmed.
How would you describe Catherine Boddy to someone who’s never seen it before?
My own name. It was going to be Boddypart which was my Insta handle (which is now actually @boddycount). My last name is actually Boddy and I thought Boddypart was good because what I make does cover body parts. [In the end] I decided to take on a more serious vibe and use my full name.
What are you most proud of in your work on your label?
I like that I’m slowly but really steadily building up things and I’ve done that by myself. It’s slow because I don’t have any help… I have to make all of the textiles and sew everything.
It’s so geometric and doesn’t translate well to anyone else; I really love knowing that it’s all mine. Everything is so handmade (except for the knitted garments). I’ve done a lot recently and am really proud of where I’m going.
What do you wish you knew when you started?
You have to be very ambitious to be in fashion [in most parts of the world] but this is especially true in New Zealand. You’re hardly ever going to get help or be mentored… and there’s no funding available. That’s a harsh fact! My lecturer’s advice was actually to move overseas ASAP!
It’s hard to get things made here, there’s only one specialist in everything (very few knitters, one or maybe no dyers now, hardly any pattern makers). I’ve found the only way to make it work is to do it all yourself, a very holistic and enjoyable but super slow process, which I wish I’d known.
Who do you think is most exciting in the local fashion industry right now?
I think while I was studying I felt that it was a very gatekept industry here in New Zealand, by a few older fashion houses that have been around since at least the ’90s. This meant that there weren’t really openings for young kids, because the market here is so small.
Recently, however, there’s been such a surge of cool spots opening up – online as well as physical spaces – that stock only emerging and local designers. New Zealand hasn’t really had anything like them before, and I’m so thankful for them. [Stores like] Sabotage, That Looks, Bizarre Bazaar, etc.
There are so many great designers here. It would be so cool if we could be propelled and recognised by having more events, competitions and funding. It’s sorta lacking here.
Dream local collaborators?
There’s only one other person who truly understands the whole vision. I turn to them as my advisor sometimes when I think I’m going astray and I think we’re going to make some tracksuits at some point. They helped me with my packaging, which I’m so in love with… and they help keep me on track with the [brand] ethos.
I’ve already made a lot of my dream collaborations happen – scrunchies with Emma Jing, gloves with Heather Brennan Evans and I’m working on some really exciting underwear with my jeweller BFF Niicole. These will be ready really soon.