Re­cy­cled-cloth­ing com­pany owner Jo Bratton.

Jo Bratton — Re­cy­cled-cloth­ing com­pany owner


My mother had been to this won­der­ful party and was all dressed up. She fell out of the car door. I was sit­ting be­side her and she was gone. This bracelet (main

photo) took all the im­pact as she went rolling down the road. So it’s my lucky bracelet. It’s scraped, but I love it. I’ve worn it my whole life.

My mother was older. She was 36 when she had me. My sis­ter and brother are 17 and 18 years older than me, so I was like an only child. My fam­ily moved here from the north of Eng­land when the ship­yards closed. There was no work. I was re­ally odd at school. I did theatre and ev­ery­one did net­ball.

I was al­ways a bit ec­cen­tric, but I don’t think you stood out in the 80s. You had so many gen­res of cloth­ing — punks, New Ro­man­tics, power dress­ing.

I used to catch the bus after school to Queen St and the mar­kets to go shop­ping. I’d wash dishes at the back of a cof­fee shop to pay for it.

In 2008 — the last big eco­nomic crash — I was look­ing at go­ing into part­ner­ship in a women’s fit­ness cen­tre. I put in a month and knew the busi­ness was fail- ing. I felt re­ally de­spon­dent and went home and had a cup of tea. I picked up a magazine and there was an ar­ti­cle with Trelise Cooper. In it she talked about go­ing right back to what she did when she was young. I’ve al­ways loved clothes, sewn clothes, been ec­cen­tric in my dress. I was like, “That’s what I’m meant to do.” I’d done hair­dress­ing. I’d done makeup. I’d done ev­ery­thing but work with clothes. It was a light­bulb mo­ment.

I had $5000. I found the build­ing and I put one step in front of an­other. It was an odd choice here, next door to a panel beater in New Lynn, but it was af­ford­able. Peo­ple say, “Why aren’t you a bou­tique?” But I’m not. I’m a com­mu­nity shop (Go Jo Re­cy­cled Cloth­ing).

I only ever wear our clothes. I wore this to­day (main photo) be­cause it’s quite rep­re­sen­ta­tive of me. Mod­ern trousers with an 80s blouse and 1940s silk jacket. I do my own thing.

The mis­take peo­ple make when they dress? They dress their flaws. They come in and go, “I’ve got a fat tummy” or “I don’t like this”. I’ll go, “You’ve got amaz­ing an­kles.” “Look at your beau­ti­ful dé­col­letage.” “You’ve got this gra­cious neck.” It’s con­fronting for so many women — be­ing able to ac­cept the changes as we’ve got­ten older, as life’s dealt dif­fer­ent things.

One cus­tomer first started com­ing in pre­sented as a man and was ob­vi­ously in­ter­ested in women’s cloth­ing. He’d ring first and I’d shut the shop for him. As time has gone on he’s be­come more con­fi­dent. I had an­other gen­tle­man come in the other day and he said, “I want to find some­thing that I can wear but I don’t want any­one to know.” I said, “We’re go­ing to dress ‘your friend’. Does your friend like lace? Does she like colour?” He bought a tu­nic dress that was wom­anly but not overtly fem­i­nine. Nice fabric.

I love sparkly things. Silk. Muted tones. I’m a mood dresser. It’s about the feel — you put it on and go, “Oh”.

It’s a story. “I feel funky to­day.” “I feel smart to­day.” That’s what I try to get the women en­gag­ing in. Feel some­thing. Peo­ple don’t feel any­thing to­day when they wear their puffer jack­ets and their leg­gings. It’s con­form­ity.

One of the first things I ever got given when I started my shop was given to me by my elo­cu­tion teacher. She was about 94 and she had lost her daugh­ter re­ally young, in the 70s, to breast can­cer.

She’d kept the dress all those years. It’s Hul­la­baloo, which was an iconic shop on Queen St. It re­minds me of a mother’s love.

This lurex dress (1) is called the “mother-in-law”. The lady who brought this in was in her 80s and this was her mother-in-law’s dress. Her moth­erin-law hated her. She was never good enough for her son. There is a photo of her mother-in-law wear­ing it and she’s a for­mi­da­ble woman. I don’t know why she would have kept it. Maybe she was afraid to get rid of it. Even in her 80s, she still knew the power of a mother-in­law who never ac­cepted her.

I love to col­lect New Zealand la­bels. This pink gown (2) is Berkahn. It’s just so nuts. Overt. Kevin Berkahn and Pa­trick Steel were the cham­pi­ons of fash­ion.

I have pieces peo­ple aren’t go­ing to buy. They’re a vault, they’re a time­line. We were so con­fi­dent in the 80s. There was money. Ev­ery­body wor­ries about stand­ing out now. Back then, you stood out. Big colour, big ear­rings, big shoul­der pads. You wore big la­bels.

I think right up to this last decade you could map the so­cial trends in our clothes, but with fast fash­ion it’s taken some­thing away from dress­ing and left a lot of peo­ple in a vac­uum where they just don’t know any more. There are no rit­u­als when it comes to dress­ing. Peo­ple used to dress to go to the air­port.



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