Acclaimed NZ fashion designer explores Dowse collection

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Published: 12 April 2024

The Dowse Art Museum presents The House of Dowse x Jimmy D.

Acclaimed NZ fashion designer James Dobson will take Dowse Art Museum visitors into his world at the new exhibition The House of Dowse x Jimmy D, which opened to the public on 29 March.

The House of Dowse x Jimmy D is a unique celebration of The Dowse art collection through the eyes of James Dobson, acclaimed designer behind the cult fashion label Jimmy D. James was raised in the Hutt Valley, a place which helped shape the grungy suburban glamour and wry humour that are the cornerstones of the Jimmy D brand.

One of his earliest collections was even called ‘Right Up My Hutt Valley’—a tribute to the Hutt’s memorable city slogan from the mid-1990s.

Curator Chelsea Nichols says The Dowse invited James to re-explore the museum collection he grew up with.

“Pairing unexpected delights from The Dowse collection with iconic looks from the Jimmy D archive, this exhibition explores the creative influences and absurdist sensibility behind his design approach. Drawn particularly to photography, queer artists and contrasting forms within The Dowse collection, James has selected artworks that playfully reflect different aspects of Jimmy D—from suburban dreamer to dark debauchery to unconventional surrealist.”

Nichols says James had a big involvement in the exhibition, designing the exhibition display and selecting more than 100 artworks from the Dowse collection which reflect aspects of the Jimmy D brand. These works are displayed alongside a small selection of his garments from the Jimmy D archives.

“As James has described: “It takes guts to live outside the beige norm. I work in contrasts; I like to imagine a collision of worlds.” The House of Dowse x Jimmy D takes this point of view as its starting point, honouring artists who, like James, chose to step outside the mundane to imagine something a little stranger and more interesting. Inviting you into Jimmy D’s world through The Dowse collection, this exhibition tells a story about the things and the places that shape our creativity.”

James, who established his label Jimmy D in 2004, has spoken openly about how fashion and queer culture has helped inform his career and identity. He is pleased to be back to his Hutt roots and be involved in this exhibition which will be far from boring.

"I am incredibly humbled to have been let loose in The Dowse archives. The House of Dowse X Jimmy D features artists that are my heroes, that inspired me to embark on my creative path and artists that I have had the pleasure to unearth through my numerous deep dives into the Dowse’s extensive collection."

The House of Dowse x Jimmy D will run at The Dowse Art Museum until March 2025.

More information on this exhibition can be found at