Obi Evening Sand Silk panel dress. Image supplied.
Recently I had the chance to pop in to High Society HQ and meet Jon Dyball. He’s funny, charming and trust me – he knows women’s fashion. Jon is the designer behind Obi, a New Zealand label that is a great match of classic and contemporary, combining clean lines with edgy design. Obi is a label very connected with New Zealand, and not just because it’s designed and manufactured here. You can see the inspiration Jon takes from nature in the hues, fabrics and textures used in his designs, they’re reminiscent of the landscapes, plants and creatures of our country. I had a chat to Jon about what influences his designs, what it’s like creating clothes for a range of body shapes and sizes, and what Obi has in store for us for SS16.
How did you get into design?
I get asked this all the time, I am very lucky that I was born creative – I have always loved design, be it clothes, shoes, houses, food, dancing, you name it. My grandmother could see potential in my creativity and mentored me in home sewing from about age 8, and I just kept on going. I always knew I wanted to be different and to stand out from others, so I could achieve individuality through design. I announced at about age 11-12 years I was going to be a famous fashion designer… still waiting for the famous part to kick in.
What inspires you?
Everything. I can get inspiration from having a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop, to walking down a beach with the sand under my feet. I people watch, I sky watch, I star gaze. I love the fact that I don’t live inside a box, I have a very free mind so can get inspiration from everyday life.
Chameleon dress with Scales Coat (left) and Bolt layer tee, Radius top with Capri Capri pants (right)
How does your own style influence your designs?
Interestingly I am a guy designing clothes for real women. Over the years, I have always had a muse or a specific customer/consumer in mind, but as I have got older, I guess I bring more and more of my own style to the brand. I have been designing Obi now for six years, and so the label has morphed more and more into my own handwriting. I would always be stopped by people wanting to know where I get my clothes from, so I realised I needing to start incorporating a lot more of my own style into the brand.
Describe your creative process – how do you get from your initial idea to putting clothes in to production?
As we are manufacturers, we tend to work almost a year ahead of the current season. I am very fortunate to have a very large talented team behind me, so the design process itself can be very quick. We make all our clothes in New Zealand, so we have the flexibility to produce quality garments in a three month period. As I write this, I am currently designing Summer 2017, so from conceptual design to delivery in store, it’s about 9 months. So when people say to me “What’s in next season?” I really have to stop and think as I have already moved on two seasons.
Alex Rose dress with Island Rose kimono (left) and Rose Dallas sweater and Island Rose tie pants (right)
Tell us about your SS16 collection?
Obi tends to have a more muted colour palette, more sophisticated colour with softer use of prints. I love monochromatic black and whites mixed with grungy, edgy pieces to toughen up a look. Summer 16 I had two favourite prints, the gorgeous Island Rose print and a stunning blush pink silk floral. I want the wearer to wear the clothes, not the clothes to swamp the wearer. As always comfort plays a major role, relaxed knits, drapey tops and elegant dresses.
I know it’s hard playing favourites, but which is your favourite piece from your SS16 range?
Easy, I’d have to say the Island Rose Kimono – simple elegance. This can be worn back with a white tee and jeans or dressed up over a dress for any formal occasion. I actually made a shirt for myself in this print to wear to a wedding last February, I had every woman at the wedding swooning over the print.
Quad jumpsuit (left) and Air Drape tunic with Eat Pray Love slim pants (right)
The Obi range comes in sizes 8-22, what differences do you find between designing for straight size and plus size bodies?
I don’t design clothing for straight size or plus size, I design clothes for real women. I don’t care if you are a size 8 or a size 28, women come in all shapes and sizes, and I think every woman wants to feel beautiful. However in saying that, as a whole the industry/society thinks that all plus size women should be hiding under layers and layers of fabric. I say embrace what you have, stop hiding what you don’t like, and start showing off what you do like – let’s embrace the curves! And if another woman says to me I don’t like my arms or my knees, I am going to scream.
What is the one thing you think every woman should have in her wardrobe?
This will make you laugh – I think the one item imperative in a good wardrobe is a properly fitted bra. Honestly, well fitting undergarments make clothes look so much better. Other than that, my advice to my girlfriends is to always have a well fitted simple black dress and a pair of red stilettos in your wardrobe – you will always have an outfit to wear to any occasion.
Meagan Kerr also writes at This is Meagan Kerr.