Interview with Geneva V. of A Pair and a Spare

I’ve been following the DIY inspiration blog A Pair and a Spare for some time now, and I love how Geneva showcases a huge amount of DIY ideas, along with her own amazing projects.  She’s also quite the sewist, whipping up maxi skirts and sexy body-hugging dresses effortlessly, and has an eye for bold, chunky jewelry that looks gorgeous with her designs.  I thought it would be really great to talk with her a little further about her blog – and D.I.Y. of course! – so here is my interview with her below:

Where did you grow up and what is your background?

I grew up in Brisbane, Australia, then a couple of year ago moved to London and am now in Hong Kong, so I’ve done a bit of travel and definitely racked up an extensive carbon footprint in the last couple of years.  I’m a town planner by trade, with a focus on community and environmental planning, but more and more DIY and fashion is taking over my life…  I’ve definitely always been addicted to fashion and clothes, as a small child my parents actually had to put a lock on my wardrobe to stop me changing outfits every hour – I was only allowed to pick one outfit per day, which was a challenge for a 6 year old believe me. My parents were kind of hippies in their youth and generally pretty relaxed so I think for that reason I never really got into high fashion. My mum shopped in thrift shops when she was younger and passed it on to me so I guess that’s where my love of vintage and thrifting comes from, and she taught me how to use a sewing machine at an early age so that helped me start marking my own clothes.

How did you start your blog?

I started my blog after seeing a few others that I liked, but never honestly thought that anyone would want to read it.  At first it was more like an image library of things that I liked, but one of my best friends said in passing that my love of DIY would lend itself to a focus for the blog – and I guess the rest is history. I think that having a blog has really helped me to define my style and my love of DIY fashion, as Blogs and the type of real world fashion they showcase are such a positive aspect of the industry. In the past there were such limited outlets for people interested in style and fashion to meaningfully tap into, with magazines showcasing a very small cross section what fashion actually is. Bring able to see fashion, whether bought or made, on real people in their real lives is so interesting to me and has helped me appreciate individual style so much more. I find it so inspiring having a blog, particularly when I see how many people out there love the same things as me – I get such an incredible rush seeing people using my DIY tutorials and inspirations.

Bloggers you admire?

I am very much drawn to blogs where people are busy making and creating fashion. Self style blogs are fun and I waste much of my day working through my overflowing bloglovin account, but the real addiction lies with other people’s DIYs. So blogs like yours, Love Aesthetics, Honestly WTF and I Spy DIY really appeal to me. Outi of Outsapop Trashion is a constant source of inspiration for me aswell. I get my inspiration for DIY from a whole range of sources – self style blogs, street style, editorials and fashion collections, as well as on the street! My mind is always in overdrive trying to work out how I can DIY a trend or detail that I see. My trusty notebooks that go with me everywhere have loooonnng lists of DIYs I want to try out and I definitely prefer to be inspired to make something rather than go out and buy something new. The rush you get from making something yourself – whether it be from scratch or a simple alteration to a thrift or market purchase is second to none.

How did you get started with DIY and making your own pieces?
DIY is something I’ve done since I can remember. I would love to say it was all about the creativity blah blah blah but to be honest DIY for me was initially a response to being a cheap student.  I rarely had money to buy things when I was in primary and high school, and my parents didn’t have any interest in supporting my love of fashion. So I often went down to my favourite jumble (what aussies like to call a thrift store) and bought things to alter using my mums hundred year old sewing machine. That sewing machine and I had a love hate relationship (which was probably more hate on my part). Although I’m no way near as hard up as I was in my school days, the money I do have I would much rather spend on travel, going out with friends and generally enjoying life – so thrifting and DIY in combination allows me to wear current (ish) styles while still being able to afford to eat.
My earliest DIY sucess that I can remember was in year 9 – a few girls at school were wearing these cool handpainted tops with cut out necklines and beaded fishing line straps. I think they came in at around $100 which was quite expensive for the time, so I started making something similar – cutting out t-shirts, hand painting them and gluing on ribbon straps with bows. A few of the girls got me to make them one so in that sense it was a sucess – and so the addiction to DIY began!

How would characterize yourself: a customizer? DIY’er? Deconstructionist?  Crafter?  Something else?
I think I’m a bit of everything – and my DIY style has definitely evolved  in the last couple of years. I particularly enjoy deconstructing/ altering things bought from thrift shops – sitting here writing this I am actually wearing a camel full mini skirt that was a mid length skirt which I shortened to perfection. This type of DIY is easy – all it requires is for you to be able to imagine the potential of an item and get stuck into it.

Do you feel that DIY’ing is a movement or subculture at all?  Or just a hobby to pass the time?  Something in response to the economy?
DIY seems to be a growing movement in the last couple of years – perhaps much like Slow Food or Buy Local where people feel encouraged to do something more than just consume. Every day without fail I find bloggers who do amazing projects and I’m constantly struck by people’s limitless creativity. It could also be that DIY has always been part of people’s lives but recently the internet and blogging has provided us DIYers with the platform we need to share ideas that we previously would have kept to ourselves. I’m sure the financial crisis didn’t help any of our bank balances so that probably also fueled many of us into action making and DIYing our own clothes.

What are your favorite DIY materials to work with?  Favorite techniques?  Favorite past projects?

I recently acquired a glue gun – a bit late I know – but the amount of projects that a glue gun opens up to you is amazing. I’m currently working on a studded capelet – gluing on studs and buttons. So easy, just be careful not to burn yourself! I am also a bit obsessed with buying frumpy looking skirts and dresses and breathing new life into them by shortening and hemming them. These types of DIYs always get a huge amount of wear. I have also started experimenting with silk fabrics to make dresses and tops, by wrapping to create lovely bodice styles. But if you were going to invest in one key item to help you with DIY it would have to be a sewing machine – by far the most useful and important tool for DIY.

You’re currently living in Hong Kong right now…what brought you there and how long are you planning on being there?

Prior to living in HK I was in London – working as a town planner on the Olympics and loving the city – days spent rummaging east and north london thrift shops and wasting away sundays in cosy pubs. After three years my boyfriend got the offer of few projects in HK that were too good to pass up so we decided to try our luck in this hectic city. We have a whole bunch of amazing friends here from back in Australia – so we decided it was the place to be. At the moment I couldnt say how long we I’ll be here, but it’s such an interesting city with a really great entrepreneurial vibe – I have a few little projects in the works which may keep us here in the longer term.

How would you describe Hong Kong to someone who’s never been there?
Madness – in the best possible way. It is such an eclectic mix of western and eastern influences. They say that New York is the city that never sleeps but I am pretty sure Hong Kong could give the big apple a run for its money. There is always something to do here and an emerging art and design scene that is really interesting too. What makes it perfect is that when it gets too much and it feels like this hectic city has you in a strangle hold, you can always escape to the quiet surrounding hills or bay. Hikes around the peak and days out on the boat definitely help to keep me sane. My favourite part about this city is that there are cheap DIY materials in abundance, filling local market and side streets to overflowing – sometimes I am so inspired that my mind literally comes to a standstill! The funniest thing is in a city so jam packed with everything you need for DIY, there are so many other things to do that finding time to DIY is a major challenge….

Do you see people there customizing and putting their own personal stamp on their fashions at all?

From what I can see HK generally has a much more mainstream attitude to fashion than other parts of the world – I think there is a focus on brands and designers goods that has, in recent years, been replaced by creativity and DIYing in other parts of the world. But the city is part of what you would call an emerging market and is slowly evolving. From what I understand traditional Chinese people are also uncomfortable with the concept of vintage or thrifted clothing – being suspicious of the spirit of the previous owner. I shop in a completely crazy thirft store and rarely see any chinese people in there. Its usually me and the Filipino helpers that get down and rummage – which is always such a laugh.

What would be your dream job?

I’m still trying to work that out – anything that I could do to work for myself is the goal at the end of the day. Outside of the realms of fashion I have an interest in sustainability and social entrepraneurship, if I could combine that with my love of DIY and  fashion I would be very a very happy girl!

Future plans for your site or otherwise?

I have a few major projects in the pipeline this year that will hopefully allow me to combine a number of my passions, but I won’t say anymore as I don’t want to jinx myself. On a more general level – the plan for this year for the blog includes weekly DIYs that draw inspiration from current trends and collections. With detailed instructions so everyone can ge amongst it!

DIY Sheer Cut Out Wrap Top and vintage spotted skirt

Please check out Geneva’s blog A Pair and a Spare for a major overload of all that is lovely and DIY!!

A Pair and a Spare

Thanks, Geneva, for a wonderful interview!


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