Easy Breezy

Of all the muses fashion has tapped over the years, Bob Marley is not at the top of the list – at least not for a womenswear label. But the revered reggae star is responsible for at least the name of one fashion brand: Johnny Was, inspired by the eponymous track on Marley’s 1976 album Rastaman Vibration. In 1987, the Los Angeles-based label was founded by Eli Levite, who had played that infectious song, a favourite of his children, so many times he cemented the lyric “Johnny was a good man” into his consciousness. While not going as far as designing clothes in Rasta colours, Johnny Was does favour vintage and bohemian looks that reflect the artsy Californian beach lifestyle. It’s an antidote to fast fashion.

“The embroidery, the prints and the colour combinations are quite different from any other brands I have seen,” says Marilyn McLaughlan, owner of New Zealand fashion retailer Kimberleys. McLaughlan says she is proud to be the only one distributing the brand in New Zealand. “I was in Paris checking out the stands at Tranoï [the international fashion trade show],” she explains. “It was very crowded, with a huge number of designer stands, but to me this one stood out. I approached them to buy exclusively for New Zealand and I haven’t regretted that decision. And that was seven years ago! I still love it that much.” The Johnny Was woman is confident and free-spirited, McLaughlan adds, whether she’s dressing up, jet-setting around the globe or just walking out of the surf. “Each piece can be worn in many ways, from beach to dinner. It’s all in the styling.”

The Johnny Was brand falls into six collections: Johnny Was, JWLA, 3J Workshop, Biya, Pete & Greta and 4 Love & Liberty, all helmed by designer Biya Ramar with the exception of 4 Love & Liberty, a project of Christy Whitley. Each aesthetic is distinct but united by beautiful fabrics such as silk, voile and velvet as well as embellishments of lace, embroidery and beading, done in a vintage, beatnik style.

Although her fashion business, now with 13 stores in five cities around the country, deals in several international and homegrown clothing brands – including her own labels Episode, Marilyn Seyb, Marilyn Seyb Jeune and Marilyn Seyb Glamour – McLaughlan says Johnny Was will always occupy a special place in her heart. “I can’t help myself. I have so many pieces,” she laughs. “I think my new favourite will be the divine silk print I just saw in the Los Angeles showrooms. I can’t wait until delivery in 2016.”

Summer Beauty Secrets you Need to Know


While vitamin D deficiency is a growing health concern in the Western world, cosmetic chemist Ray Townsend, one of the brains behind Joyce Blok formulations, says you don’t need much sun exposure on a daily basis to get enough vitamin D. “I don’t think sunscreen is our problem; it’s our lifestyle, exacerbated by us spending more time indoors,” Townsend says. The issue surrounding the impact sunscreen has on the body’s ability to produce vitamin D is a contentious one, however the World Health Organization agrees with Townsend’s recommendation of five to 15 minutes of casual sun exposure to hands, face and arms two to three times a week. In countries where UV levels are higher, such as New Zealand and Australia, shorter periods of exposure are sufficient. Cancer Council Australia makes similar recommendations but suggests sun exposure in summer on either side of the UV peak time (before 10am and after 4pm).   


Sunscreen doesn’t block all UV rays, which is why correct application is crucial. The Cancer Council of Australia believes most people don’t apply enough sunscreen, resulting in only 50 to 80 per cent of the protection stated on the product. To protect your skin you need to be liberal with the amount of sunscreen you’re using; apply a teaspoon of sunscreen per limb – the equivalent of seven teaspoons for an average-sized adult. Townsend believes one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding sunscreen is how we think about reapplication. “Reapplying every two hours doesn’t mean you can stay in the sun all day,” he says. Townsend goes on to explain that reapplying sunscreen only replaces product that’s lost through perspiring or contact with water. “It’s really important to not think of reapplication as giving you more time in the sun,” he says. Townsend simplifies the way we should think about reapplying sunscreen by comparing it to using an oven to cook a roast dinner. “If you’re cooking a roast dinner and it says leave in for three hours, if you take it out after 1.5 hours do you then put it back in for 1.5 hours or another three hours?” he asks. “If you have sunscreen on and 300 minutes is your limit before you get burnt, reapplying your sunscreen isn’t going to extend your burn time.”