"Nobody says you’re a “fat bitch” or anything like that. I’ve really started putting myself out there on social media and it’s all been received in a positive way"
Caroline Marr
Caroline wears the ESCAPE DRESS from AW19
How would you describe your style?

Eclectic. Mixed-up. And just really mood-based. Usually I like to look cool and creative; so you know statement jewellery and ornaments on my body, well-designed pieces that are more like art than clothing. It changes everyday how I dress; one day could be dark and monochrome and the next could be loud and colourful!

Your store The Carpenter’s Daughter is an eclectic mix of brands. Is that intentional? Is there something that binds them all together?

I just don’t look at mainstream fashion. I cater for women who don’t want to wear that mainstream style and don’t want to be part of mass consumerism; they want their own individual, unique style. That’s why I do what I do and I’m suited to that because I love opposing styles; but those styles are always different and always have something to say. And it goes without saying but dressing women with CURVES is at the centre of my values and who I am as a designer, a store owner and a woman.

“Made in New Zealand” is very important to you. How are you feeling about the state of things at the moment?

Yes, very important. Well, I’m an optimist! I’m always positive about it. I know it’s a bit hard for choosing fabrics and getting things made. But I just do what I do and I manage to get it done and I make here and all the labels I stock make here so it is possible. I guess yeah price is an issue for some but you just have to educate people as to why it is that way; but then there are also people that totally understand what they are paying for when they shop local.

I do feel sorry for the younger ones coming through, because you know in some ways it is a lot harder to make things work and grow a profitable business. But I can see a shift back towards locally-made and buying local. We get customers walking through the door who come because they feel good buying from us and they want to do all they can to support us and keep the industry alive. NZ made will always be around, it has to be… if we don’t then we are just foolish.

So how do you feel about fast-fashion like H&M and the such?

I think it’s awful. Like you see a $15 dress and in my mind I’m thinking “That should not be an option that should never be an option that should not exist. Something bad has happened for something to be that cheap.”

I mean yeah we do have a few of our ladies that might occasionally buy into the fast-fashion thing, even though they don’t stock their size but ya know they buy something for their “future self” like they’re going to change their body and not be so fat. God I hate that! Just dress your body for now and concentrate on looking good and being healthy instead of squeezing into or throwing away or buying into an idea of beauty that is encouraging us to starve for something idealistic…ugh... don’t get me started!

Being such a champion for plus-size fashion, have you ever gotten any negative feedback?

It’s positive. It’s all really positive. Fletcher (my marketing guy) the other day said “Caroline you say this and you say that and you show this off and you’ve got that hanging out, blah blah… why don’t you get more negative comments?” ...and he’s right nobody comes back and says you’re a “fat bitch” or anything like that. I’ve really started putting myself out there on social media and it’s all been received in a positive way… so why is that? Why? I really do think it’s about “Mana” (Maori: spiritual power, authority). I’ve been around a long time, I do know what I’m talking about. I have the confidence to back it up, I believe in what I am doing.

Hahaha. Yeah I like one of your videos you were wearing something sleeveless and going on about how your “fadoobas” are flapping about—

—yeah! The fat wobbly bits under your bicep! Yeah I even put #fadoobas on Instagram  ...but that’s the thing you’ve got to get real and not hide. I am who I am, I can’t be anything different. We try to become something else, but that’s hard work… just be yourself!

Caroline  wears the ESCAPE DRESS from AW19
So have you had moments that just warm your hearts, you know just getting amazing feedback?

Yes, all the time. Everyday. Just today we had a woman who came in with two friends. I knew nothing about her, but turns out she was disabled and had some issue with her feet. While talking to her it because clear that she sort us out and she came in for a reason –like, her body is not perfect in an extra way and she has to put up with so much more than I do– I said “why did you come here today?” and it was because of a pair of shoes… she was up from Ashburton and could’ve gotten them down South but she knew shopping with us would be more accepting and a better experience. And then later that afternoon we had a really, really big woman who needed to go to a wedding and was crying “nothing ever looks good on me!” But we are really good at giving people advice, honest advice, and quickly finding what suits them, and they just really appreciate that. It makes them feel better and they come back and are loyal.

So it’s like a community?

Sometimes it’s like you’re a counsellor… we’re always giving out, you’ve got to give out. I love retail, I love the face-to-face interaction, I love to hear their stories and hear their thanks… you know ‘we are doing an important job for them. I love serving the public. It’s important to make people feel good about themselves. This is normal retail. My girls need a little bit more help and support.

Caroline is the owner of boutique The Carpenter's Daughter in Pt. Chevalier, Auckland.

Photos: Sacha Stejko