Author Rachael Caughley / Category People / Interview done on the 21.06.2018. Published: May - 3 - 2019
Rach: So I love the story about how you came to live here. You’ve touched on it a little bit. So tell me a bit more.
Cara: This house. So, we were living in London at the time, and we were back in Wellington visiting family. A friend of ours that we were staying with said that he was house sitting for a friend of his and did we want to pop up and see it. Anyway we came to this house. The owner had moved to Auckland and she still felt emotionally attached to the house so she asked him if he could just keep an eye on it. So we came up, we didn't go inside just around the outside, and I had this feeling like I hadn’t experienced before. It felt quite spiritual even. I remember falling in love with it. All about the flagpole and the magnolia tree. And the view. I said to Jeremy at the time “one day we are going to own this house.” And he just looked at me kind of like...
Rach: Like you were nuts! Haha.
Cara: Yea and that was kind of it. We left and then subsequently my Mother passed away and we sold the family home here in Wellington, and some years later I had the opportunity to put some of the proceeds of that into another home. So through our friend we contacted the woman who still owned the house and said to her if you were ever keen or decided you wanted to sell the house we would be really interested. So it was never on the market. We approached her and yea it was just occupied by tenants for years and then we turned it into the home it is today.
Rach: Because how old is this kitchen? I remember you telling me when you had your baby, you were sitting in this little old kitchen breastfeeding and your were like this is ridiculous. I’m spending all my time in this tiny kitchen at the back of the house!
Cara: Yea so we've got this 1904 villa, with its beautiful proportions and high ceilings and somewhere along the line like in the 50s someone had put in this kitchen and they had lowered the ceiling. Because that wasn't seen as being of value then. It was seen as too hard to heat, all that kind of thing, too chilly, too drafty. But I had this newborn and I was in this low ceiling 1950s kitchen with a small window, even though I’d bought this villa. I was in this small claustrophobic room and breastfeeding, and cooking and cleaning. And I had a bit of a melt down. We had never done a renovation before or anything like that. But yea we engaged some people and turned it into what you see today.
Rach: Obviously you did the most amazing brand story for our store. When you gave me the brand story I was like omg you've put succinctly everything I feel about CAUGHLEY. Since then you’ve been a customer, now your studying psychology. Things have changed in you're life since you first walked into the store about 4 years ago!
Cara: So gosh I’ve worked in advertising and comms for 20 years. A long long time. And I worked in London, and Boston, in big agencies, Ogilvy and Mather etc. Coming back to New Zealand was a big thing for us as a family, at that time, 7 years ago and I made a decision that I didn't want to work in a big organisation anymore.
Rach: Why was that really?
Cara: It was a combination of things, but becoming a mother was a big part of it.
Rach: Did you feel they didn't have the flexibility?
Cara: Yea, I think at that time, this was 7 years ago. Things have changed, there has been quite a sea of change in the last 5 or 6 years, you know, being a mother with a young child, a baby, and the pressure and expectations around when you'll be at the office, how often you'll be at the office, and your value around that becomes quite crucial. I wasn't willing to do that. I finally had this beautiful life in my hands.
Rach: Like sooo many other women out there.
Cara: Yes exactly. It's just like the same old story. So I made a decision that I would take the experience and the skills that I have developed over the last 20 years in these huge organisations, but work for myself to have that flexibility. It took a while.
Rach: Yea I think I remember one of the first sales I made to you, was when you were going to one of your first meetings. We did that Harman Grubisa linen shirt, with the Current Elliot jeans and those Sydney and Brown wedges. It was such a boss outfit but in a really cool way.
Cara: I know and I remember that so well. And you saying to me don't just wear it for good, wear it everyday. Like, get in there and wear those pieces. And you gave me permission (to be honest) to look okay on a daily basis with stuff that I could wear with everything else in my wardrobe. That was the key for me. I remember transitioning from this mum with this very needy young child and then getting my first client and turning up to that meeting in my CAUGHLEY gear. And sitting there and no one here even knows I have a baby. They are not defining me as a Mum. Right now I'm the Creative Consultant, I'm the brand person, I'm the ideas person and I'm just Cara. And I'm here on this dimension. And I remember that being a really big thing for me transitioning back into work, and starting my own business.
Rach: Since then it's been busy for you, this year, being a Creative Consultant, you've got lots of clients.
Cara: It's been a very organic process. I guess there is a bit of mirroring in terms of you growing the business and I'm growing a business and then those skills intersecting, and we collaborated.
Yes the business has grown organically, but as part of that I have discovered that I really only want to work with people and organisations that I feel have the same values, and that's something I have worked out over a period of time. When I had that shared value system and I was valued, then the work did itself. The quality of work and the relationship was just quite magical. It didn't feel so worky, it was a pleasure. Working with people that you know get you and you have that shared system. Those values you can go back to. It was quite an eye opener.
Rach: I’ve learnt that in business too. I so often didn't have the confidence to ask for something or seek out a company that did have the same values. I just thought, this company does x, I need x, I have to work with them. I didn't realise there are so many businesses out there that do x, and I can choose the one I have the same values with! And the work is always so much better. But that's definitely like a big business learning thing.
I've seen your transition, from when you first came in needing an outfit for your meeting and now it's like every time you are in, it's, I’ve got to go now because I’ve got a meeting here, there and everywhere you know. It's so cool to see. And the CAUGHLEY wardrobe just expands!!
And now the other day you came in and said you are studying psychology so what is behind that transition?!
Cara: That’s happened quickly for me. It’s been a really interesting transition. But ultimately it comes down to the fact I've worked in advertising for all of my career. I found that I wanted more fulfilment from what I was doing. And I wanted more positive change in my community and working with people. I thought around the ideas and ways I could do that to work with my existing sets of skills to do that. Like donate more hours to charity, causes that pique my interest, helping more at my daughter's school. The more I thought about that, I came to this conclusion that this feeling and this need to want to help people is actually really strong, it's filling me, and what is the best way to fulfil that. And I landed on psychology and the possibility of becoming a clinical psychologist. So I’ve started that journey.
Rach: How is it going?
Cara: Yea haha, its hugely intimidating, and there has been huge amounts of fear around oh my goodness what does this mean for me. It means going back to university, and I was at university a long time ago. Twenty-seven years ago. I have an arts degree and I did English literature and obviously that set me up brilliantly for this first career and now I’m exploring. Ps. it's been amazing I am absolutely loving it. It is so challenging but I’ve felt the fear and I’ve leaned in. Fizzing. Sometimes I come out of lectures and I just feel so appreciative and lucky that I’m learning this stuff.
Rach: Well this leads into my next question which is, I think that a lot of the things you've done are very brave. You moved back to New Zealand with your little baby, took on a major renovation, opened your business, and have made a career change. There are so many people out there that are like I’m going to or I'd love to re-train. But are like x,y,z I'm not going to do it. What has enabled you to make these decisions, to change career?
Cara: That's a deep question Rach!
Rach: Haha. Well I guess it's that being brave thing. I think it's an important thing for so many women. And you’ve already touched on it. Like sitting around the board table after having a baby, and realising “I’m actually Cara”, I’m not defined by being a Mother. Not being defined by Motherhood and then again, a massive step for women is trying to get more meaning out of their lives. I think these are all really normal things and we can learn from each other with what you said. Now you come out of those lectures and you’re fizzing but you had to make those hard decisions to get that feeling. You could have so easily gone along with the status quo.
Cara: I know, look ultimately for me it's come down to having to be true to myself. I also have a lot of support. I have an incredibly supportive partner who listens and supports me in lots of different ways. Not just from a practical way but emotional as well. Like with the psychology thing. The idea came and it was a real guttural feeling. I was like oh my gosh I think this is where I am at. And I felt great that I had got there, but then came all the fear. Am I good enough? Am I bright enough? Will I do okay? All that kind of thing. And I remember thinking If I don't try this I am going to regret this so much. Imagine getting to 90 and turning around to my partner and saying remember the time I thought about becoming a psychologist but I didn’t do it. I would rather “remember the time I thought I wanted to be a psychologist and I gave it a bloody good shot.” That's the driving factor. And I think now, throughout the years, I've seen that the most challenging things, the most frightening things is when you can face them and talk about them you can then progress so much more. But with huge effort.
Rach: Yes totally I think fronting up, framing things, it's all really helpful for those crossroads. And really getting to the cause of what it is, and why you're not feeling fulfilled.
Cara: With this new journey I've started. Even starting it was so hard. I went down to the University and I had to battle the voice in the head. Bite sized chunks.
Rach: Did you just talk to Jeremy (Partner) about that or did you bring in some friends to lean on, or what was your support crew for that decision?
Cara: Obviously Jeremy was my first port of call. Is this completely off? But then I reached out to some close friends who I know really understand me and have loved and known me for a long time, and no one seemed to think it was crazy. Everyone was so embracing of it. I had a couple of friends who were like it makes so much sense and were just so supportive. Not like I needed validating but it's a scary thing being a mature student and all that.
Rach: So obviously you love interiors and I always remember you saying in the store when we weren’t close, "it's always a weigh up to buy the interior or the clothing." Where do you think you got your love of interiors and beautiful spaces from?
Cara: Look, I think living in London, working with amazing creative people there... we would be putting on our own shoots, and we would have to find locations, and have privy to all these private spaces you wouldn't usually get the opportunity to see. And then you are exposed to so much beautiful art and design, It's so available to you in those bigger metropolises. And yea that kind of piqued my interest. Because most of my life I have lived in the Northern Hemisphere in small apartments. In terms of my aesthetic and finding my pallet and all of that, that's sort of developed over the years. But for me it is always about feeling calm. Coming home to a space that relaxes me. That's why the palette is quite refined and natural. Here back in New Zealand there is so much colour outside like this sea of green, its beautiful. That's the hero. I don't need to have that reflected inside necessarily, because it frames what I see.
It's a huge thing for me. My home. I think that comes from living in London and Boston. Your life, it's faster, it's hectic, and you're working with big deadlines. Then you come home and you get that chance to breathe. Consequently interiors became more important to me. So it has always been more of a hobby thing.
Rach: 5 fave things in the house?
Cara: Oh my goodness. Shall we close the bathroom door?
Rach: Oh no we love looking through to the bathroom.
Cara: Shit 5 favourite things.
Cara: That piece of art, the sea urchins, that's a beautiful piece from the 50s, from Colgate University which is in upstate New York. We got it in The States. This was really damaged when we first got it, and I took it to Paul Craig framers, they are in Newtown. They said if you really want to preserve it you need to send it off to this amazing woman who lives in Dunedin, who preserves paper. So they take the paper down there and she puts it in all these water baths, and she then she backs it with rice paper, and puts it together so it will last the next eighty years etc. There has been such care and preservation put around it. That was an interesting process creatively to go on that.
I love The credenza. Its Danish rosewood. Which we bought in the states. What we actually did is, I bought this before we moved back to NZ. I was buying this stuff I didn't know where it would fit so when we did the renovation we made this alcove for it. So finding pieces you love and then making it work is key. I had quite a clear vision of how this nook was going to look. All the stuff here I have just collected over the years. This, like my parents marble chess board, this belongs to my Grandmother, this I got for like 20 pounds in a Bristol op shop 25 years ago. Jeremy gave me that because I used to have one when I was a kid. The old fashioned globe that lights up.
And actually the 3rd piece. This vase, is Murano glass, my parents took us to Murano and they commissioned this and got this made for them. We had this amazing opportunity to go and live in Rome when we were little. My Dad's work took us there for about 4 or 5 years. And as part of that journey, this was like my parents prized piece. It is pure 70s. Like the little bubble in there at the base. I love the colour and the shape but its very nostalgic for me.
My next favourite would be that lamp just there in front of you with the silver base. So that's from Rome in the 70s. The shade had been absolutely mashed up over the years, so when I went to make another shade I thought a lot about what the shade was like originally and you know that linen, that very 70s look. So that's a nod to that in a more updated material. But the proportions of the shade compared to the base. When I went to get that made the person was like it's too big. I had to say I’m re-creating a memory.
I’d say that my Mum's scarves would be on the list. This is Mum's scarf that she wore for best, and then she wore that everyday as her work scarf. They both show different wear. It's funny I thought you might ask me about things in the house, but I still had to think about it.
And I do actually have a sixth piece, that Denis Watkins from Millers O’Brien. I just bought that. I saw it and went that's my colour! I also love the composition and the shapes.
Rach: oh so cool. I love it, very calming.
Rach: You are such a loyal CAUGHLEY customer, over the last nearly 4 years CAUGHLEY has been around. What is it that you love about CAUGHLEY?
Cara: Rachael where do I start!
Rach: And the clothes and things. It's such a privilege, because your house is so considered and I imagine that’s how you like your wardrobe.
Cara: Well for me it's all about you haha.
Rach: Don’t say that haha I want to make this business more about the clothes!
Cara: Shall I give you the brand spiel!!??
Rach: No give me the authentic!
Cara: For me it’s all about the authenticity in what you are doing. And how that comes across in the store. Boutiques, and high end boutiques can seem so intimidating.
Rach: That's interesting because you’re a pretty stylish person and you still find them intimidating?
Cara: I think it’s quite normalised for a lot of people. Maybe that's a bit old fashioned now. I remember feeling sometimes that I almost had to dress up to go to some stores.
Rach: Yea I so want people to feel comfortable coming into the store. It's so weird, people come into the store and are apologising for being in their exercise gear, and I’m like I don’t care, I’m so happy you are here!!
Cara: It’s one of these things, those issues that women have, and some people don’t have them. But the fashion industry in general kind of has that inauthentic side to it.
Rach: Which I think is really changing. At fashion week that label Havilah which is this up and coming label, Sue said after fashion week, god if you don't have grey hair you're not cool, because every show had women over the age of 60, or even a woman in a wheelchair going down a runway. But it has for so long I guess been really inauthentic. And not reflective of our community and not reflective of our society.
Cara: There is high fashion- that like high art, it's so inspiring type of creation that comes down the run way. They inspire and we all love that. And then there's the what am I wearing in my everyday life and how can my clothes reflect who I am, and elevate me a little bit without being definitive of me and wearing me. Can I do all these roles and still feel stylish? Pick up and drop off, and business meeting, and on my hands and knees doing a bit of cleaning because that happens. All in the space of a day. All in the space of one outfit.