Xoe, Chrissy and Charlotte: three women – complete with glitter, chains and leather – not to be messed with. They love Cuba Street, what they do and each other. Now life-long friends, this trio staunchly believe in the power of fashion and art to Wellington and are breaking into the gallery scene together.
These three Wellington women are behind the new Hunters & Collectors Gallery in Wellington. Known as one of the most popular spots in the city to seek and sell retro clothes, Hunters & Collectors has an eclectic and feminine energy, generated by its owner, manager and patrons. The space above the store, formerly used to sell second-hand furniture, has been recently converted into, ready to show off Wellington’s brightest artists. Local legend Xoe Hall is first to christen the space above this iconic shop on Cuba Street. ‘Duster Biter – A Colourful Essay on Darkness’ is the result.
Owner of Hunters & Collectors Chrissy was born in Wellington and grew up in Levin. “My parents were working class” she explains. “I moved to Auckland and me and my then partner would go around flea markets in the 1980’s – hunting and collecting. I was at university and buying my clothes from there. I would sell them at other people’s shops and then I realized I had enough to start my own shop. My then partner decided he wanted a leather jacket. After we acquired one, he put it in the window and someone drove past on a motorcycle one day and smashed the window and stole it. That told us we had demand!”
Hunters & Collectors grew to locations all around New Zealand, making their own leather label, and gradually changing the face of second hand fashion across the country.
When Charlotte was 18 she was visiting Wellington from Taranaki on a school trip when she discovered Hunters & Collectors. “My older sister, Alisha, who worked for circuses like Cirque Du Soleil all around the world, happened to be in the window of Hunters & Collectors” says Charlotte. “When I moved down, I got offered a job almost immediately. I was wearing a homemade dress.”
Charlotte notes that growing up, all that was available fashion-wise was the mall. “We used to customize our clothes from Jay-Jays we would layby” Charlotte says. “I was really inspired by Lily Allen at the time and was into the Nike Air Max and 50’s prom dress look which was perfect because working at Hunters & Collectors I learnt about what a real 50’s prom dress was.”
Xoë was born in Upper Hutt but grew up proudly in Porirua. Her father painted and together with her mother the family owned a farm and Boarding Kennels and Cattery. "We were located in Pauatahanui, back then a small farming village" she explains. “Because my parents worked so hard we were brought up by our babysitter Karen, who my mum handpicked as a goth to educate me and my feral sisters. She taught us everything about bogan style and 80’s horror films”. “My first job was as a pooper scooper working for my parents” Xoë remembers, laughing.
Xoë has always been obsessed with making art. “I picked up a pencil and never stopped” she explains. “I work through stuff and emotions with my art. While I don’t necessary feel better afterwards, while I am doing it, it helps. I realized I am overly dependent on some things. Art has always been my happy place so it is natural that I want to paint when I feel shit.”
So how did the friendship spark? “It started when Xoë brought some things in to sell – sparkly platform heels were the first thing she brought in in 2013” explains Chrissy. Charlotte pipes in: “Then I found a special Hunters & Collectors jacket, totally randomly at Savemart, and we thought we’d ask Xoë to paint it. People were asking about Xoë customizing it! Ever since it has been a once a year customized window display of work by Xoë.”
The friendship deepened and over years consolidated. Then came the decision from Chrissy to open the gallery. “I was talking about doing a Gallery and I spoke with Charlotte about the idea and she was keen to do it!” says Chrissy. “I was sick of moving the furniture up and downstairs” says Charlotte. “It just seemed like the perfect idea and perfect timing.” Charlotte and her family painted the space. “It was a real family thing” says Chrissy. “We were also worried we wouldn’t have enough people keen. But suddenly, we started to talk to our friends about it. Now we’re booked up with shows until the end of the year.” “It’s not traditional” states Charlotte, “The way we will do it will be our own way” echoes Chrissy. "I don't want to take the credit for opening the gallery as that was totally all Hunters but obvious I am a massive supporter of the idea and have been exhibiting for years so it was perfect" explains Xoë.
Wellington is the perfect place to have a store like Hunters & Collectors, explains Charlotte. “You couldn’t support it in other cities” she says. “Wellington people support it. The people don’t do generic. Wellingtonians wear a crazy coat to work or to the supermarket. They don’t care.” “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I wasn’t in Wellington” says Xoë. “And everyone is friends. It’s not competitive and we all respect one another is amazing. I am proud of my cool friends. We’re thriving.” says Chrissy.
The show ‘Dust Biter’ offers something fitting for Wellingtonian’s who are fans of Hall, Hunters & Collectors or just generally adore the glittery and garish in life. “We loved making it and we love hosting it” says Chrissy. And who knows, with Xoës work popping up around the world, you might get yourself a masterpiece that will be in the art history books of Aotearoa…