Founder/designer of cult Kiwi fashion brand Jimmy D, James Dobson travels the south
several times a year on sales trips, showcasing his latest collections to his stockists around the island – so he’s something of an expert on where to stay, shop, eat and imbibe.
Words James Dobson
Contrary to popular belief, fashion can be an isolating occupation, especially in the lead-up to finishing a collection. There are many long hours spent in the workroom cutting samples, re-cutting samples, working out the yields, doing costings and order forms, and just generally being riddled with anxiety and asking yourself questions like “Is this collection too commercial? Or too out there? Is this fabric print we’ve developed unique or unwearable? Is there something in the collection for our younger customers or is it all too young?” It’s a lot.
So, for me, getting on the road with our new collection and visiting all of our amazing stores has always been a complete breath of fresh air, and an opportunity to recharge, get re-inspired and generally just treat myself with some amazing food and cute accommodation – the ultimate antidote to months of being riddled with self-doubt.
Here is a town-by-town rundown of how a typical South Island sales trip rolls out, and my favourite places to eat and stay along the way!
(Generally we try to do the whole South Island sales trip in four days/three nights, so the ‘stay’ options are indicative of that, and not that the other places don’t have great options!)
Hardy St Eatery: For a quick and deliciously inventive breakfast in a beautiful space, and killer coffee.
Palm Boutique: Owned by Hannah Parker, Palm is where we stock and has the perfect roll call of New Zealand designers, as well as some unique international brands like Baum und Pferdgarten and Ilse Jacobsen.
Earl: I’ve spent many a sales trip having a solo lunch or dinner here – their pasta is second to none and I’ve even dashed in for a quick salad (and Sav) to balance out all the carby road trip food.
Londo: This small, perfectly formed restaurant is not to be missed. The peach, stracciatella, finocchiona and oregano dish last time I was there was life-changing.
Smash Palace: A trip to Christchurch wouldn’t be complete without a drink here. Super unpretentious vibe that attracts everyone from art kids to craft beer aficionados – there’s nothing better than huddling around a heater and eating one of their incredible burgers.
Child Sister: I don’t feel like I’ve been to Christchurch if I haven’t squeezed in a breakfast here – I love the bustly energy and LOVE the ‘shrooms’ and the kimchi rice omelette.
The Muse Christchurch Hotel: You can’t beat the location, the price and the sleek and well-designed rooms – also, it has a rooftop bar, what’s not to love?
Plume: Is home to Jimmy D in Christchurch – seeing it sitting next to labels like Comme des Garcons, Rick Owens and Dries Van Noten is a little pinch-me moment every time.
Arthur St Kitchen: I always make sure I run in and grab one of their punchy coffees and incredible black olive and cheese scones!
Chillis & More: Truly a one-stop shop, with everything from Wrangler Denim to… Jimmy D! With a great selection of gifts and even a cafe tucked down the back.
Tees St Cafe: Great coffee, delicious pies and incredible pastries – last time I was there I grabbed a dulce de leche doughnut and it was amazing.
Riverstone Kitchen: Between Timaru and Oamaru we always have to stop at the incredible Riverstone Kitchen en-route, whether it’s just to grab one of their insanely good sandwiches or sitting down for one of their seasonal dishes showcasing local produce. You won’t be disappointed, I promise! Also take time to check out the Riverstone Castle in the distance.
Housekeepers Design: Even if I wasn’t stocked here I would still go out of my way to visit. This store has a great selection of local clothing labels as well as the best curation of homeware you’ll find in New Zealand. Set in the old part of Oamaru in a huge historic building, they have everything from designer couches to designer whisks – you won’t leave empty‑handed!
Side-On: Is always my first port of call in Dunedin, whether it’s for one of their legendary cardamom buns, a jar of their homemade ‘bang bang’ chilli oil, or a sit-down moment with something quirky like halloumi and fried cauliflower on toast or hungover carb vibes with a breakfast burger. Yum.
Pizza Bar: We ate a lot of pizza on our last sales trip and this was by far the best. I’m ‘hot honey’ obsessed, so the salami, napoli, mozzarella, ricotta, hot honey and chilli was my fave. The garlic bread with artichoke dip is droolworthy. All washed down with some great natural wines.
Plume: You probably already know about it because it’s an absolute institution. Plume houses the best international labels in an iconic two-storey shop, with the best, most babe-ing staff (who always seem to be playing the best music).
Arc: To be honest, usually we do sales in Queenstown and our lovely Wānaka stockists schlep over the Crown Range to us, so I haven’t had the pleasure of sampling a whole lot of what Wānaka has to offer food-wise, but this place came highly recommended and did not disappoint. Scampi dogs, parsnip gnocchi and the veal croquettes were all insanely good, and the molten chocolate fondant finished me off in the best possible way.
47 Frocks: The best edit of the best New Zealand designers (which I feel very humbled to be included in) with staff that take their jobs super‑seriously and know their sh*t. Beautiful buying, beautiful shop, beautiful people.
Perky’s: A bar on a boat floating on the beyond picturesque Lake Wakatipu, where you can BYO bites. Grab burgers from the iconic Fergburger, knock back some wines and pretend you’re on your own episode of Below Deck.
Odd Saint: If your evening at the aforementioned Perky’s ends up being a big one, let Odd Saint pick up the pieces with an Egg McBlighty bun – their riff on the McDonald’s classic, jazzed up with a gourmet sausage patty and ‘copycat HP sauce’. Bloody Mary optional.
Sherwood Hotel: In my mind this is the only place you can stay in Queenstown. Set out of the town in Frankton, the hotel’s former days as a crummy motel are faintly visible but only to act as the perfect unpretentious foil to its cosy luxuriousness. Think polished concrete floors, cork walls and heavy woollen blankets. Hell, it even smells restful. I guarantee if you stay here you won’t want to leave the confines of the hotel, and luckily even the restaurant is incredible, so you don’t have to. Pro-tip: Grab a negroni that comes premixed in your own little flask and head out to the fire pit with a blanket – dreamy!
The Batch Cafe: Does a hearty breakfast and delicious better-than-home-baked treats, but if I’m in a hurry I have to run in and grab a cheese roll – it would be rude not to.
Yours Faithfully: Is set in one of Invercargill’s oldest buildings, and used to be the local post office, hence the name. Owner Mary-Jane has filled it with a curated selection of NZ’s finest as well as some quirky international labels you probably won’t find anywhere else.