By Sharon Stephenson
I found them in an unloved outlet store in an even more unloved part of Milan - a 40 euro pair of jeans that sucked in what needed to be sucked in, made me look taller and my butt look like something sculpted by Michelangelo.
Even better was how lucky those jeans turned out to be. While wearing them I crossed continents, wrote award-winning stories, bought and sold a couple of houses and was proposed to by my now-husband. Those Diesel low-rises were my Holy Grail, my Mordor and my magic numbers rolled into one (until they fell apart, that is, and I had to bin them).
But are certain items of clothing luckier than others? Seven Kiwis open their wardrobes to tell us about garments that have brought them luck.
Founder, Jess' Underground Kitchen
It's multicoloured, beaded and cost just $12 in a Te Atatu op shop, but the cardigan is Jess Daniell's talisman.
The owner of two Auckland delicatessens and a dinner delivery service found the vintage cardigan on her way to a friend's wedding two years ago.
"I'd gone into my local op shop one Saturday, looking for a handbag for a wedding I was attending that afternoon.
"I found the perfect handbag and, as I was heading to the counter, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a beaded sleeve and knew instantly I had to have it. I consider finding the cardi lucky in itself."
Daniell has worn it constantly ever since: "It goes with everything, from dresses to trackpants and slippers when curled up on the couch on a wintry Sunday afternoon."
She was, in fact, wearing it the day she received consent to build her second deli in Remuera. "It was a six-month battle with Auckland Council to get consent, so I'd like to think my lucky cardigan had something to do with finally getting it."
Exec chef & owner of Cassia & Sidart
Sid Sahrawat isn't superstitious - except about his birthday. "I was born on 8/8/80, a trifecta of eights, which has always been lucky for me," says the award-winning chef and restaurateur.
"I found out I was going to be a father for the first time on my 30th birthday, we bought our current home on my 34th birthday and my brother Suhail presented me with a bespoke black chef's jacket he'd made for me on my 36th birthday."
That jacket, made from a self-cleaning water-resistant and carbon-neutral Swiss fabric, has particular meaning, because "it was designed and crafted by a loved one and was presented to me on my lucky day". So special, in fact, that he wears it only for occasions such as guest appearances and photo shoots and, unlike his regular chef's whites, keeps it safely at home.
Because he splits his time between his two restaurants, Sahrawat says his brother designed a velcro tag so he can customise the jacket according to whichever eatery he's in. "It's an ingenious feature and I'm honoured to be able to wear it."
Trying to find the perfect outfit to wear to the launch of her ninth book, Scarlet & Magenta, led Lindsey Dawson to her duster coat.
"My book has a Victorian theme, so I wanted to find something vaguely Victorian to wear to the launch events last year," she says. "I was looking for a duster coat in lush brocade with a big collar and wide sleeves that I could slip over simple black separates."
Recovering from breast cancer treatment and too tired to shop, the former magazine editor wandered into Ponsonby Central, where she stumbled upon the pop-up shop of Kitch Cuthbert, who makes nothing but duster coats.
"Kitch said she'd make me one, and sent me off to Nick's Fabrics in Otara to find suitable brocade."
Which is how Dawson became possibly the only author to attend a book launch wearing curtain fabric.
"But every time I wear the coat, I sell heaps of books, so it's become my lucky coat. I'm also bowled over by the sheer luck of finding someone who could make me exactly what I'd been thinking of. Kitch mostly works from home and if I'd turned up a week earlier or later, her pop-up store wouldn't have been there. It was like a fashion angel tapped me on the shoulder and sent me into Ponsonby Central that day."
So determined was designer Fiona Fong to get the handbag of her dreams, she almost missed her flight home. "Four years ago I was in New York and found out the only place that had the 31.1 Phillip Lim 31 Hour Bag was Barney's in Madison Ave," says Fong of the handbag she affectionately calls Phil. "I jumped in a cab for a crazy cross-town ride, cutting it pretty fine for my flight."
The Grey Lynn-based designer, who works with a range of local fashion brands, says she'd been hankering after the bag for some time. "I had to rationalise spending a large amount of money on a handbag when I'd just left a secure job to go freelance. But Phil is a reminder of my leap of faith and has been with me every step of the way, supporting me in self employment."
Shortly after returning to New Zealand, Fong was invited to move into a house that had sufficient room for a workroom. "This allowed me to take on new clients without having to do any kind of advertising. It all fell into my lap after I got Phil, so I think he's a lucky omen."
Founder Johnson & Laird Management
A vintage men's Gucci watch has proved fortuitous for leading Auckland actor/presenter/agent Imogen Johnson, who bought it 15 years ago from a Ponsonby shop to celebrate the first cheque from her now multimillion-dollar business.
"The watch cost about $1500 and I went into overdraft for it. But I really wanted to celebrate setting up the business."
Johnson says the watch has proved its worth many times over. "Since the day I bought it, business has really taken off. That watch has now come to symbolise the success of my business. I always glance at my watch before going into negotiations for my clients - it's become something of a good luck omen."
Johnson, who represents leading Kiwi celebrities such as Karl Urban and Melanie Lynskey, takes the watch off only at night and when showering. "It's so much a part of me, I'd be devastated if I ever lost it. My life is so time-bound that it's an essential business tool and because I'm such a stickler for being early, this watch keeps me on track. Life's too fast, you can't be late."
Edward von Dadelszen
CEO/Founder of E. von Dadelszen
It's the first rule of retail - sell only that which you love. In Edward von Dadelszen's case, that includes the Biker Perfecto, a buttery, soft grey leather jacket, the first item he ordered for his eponymous atelier, which opened in Customs St East in May last year.
"I fell in love with this jacket when I met with the French manufacturer, Seraphin Paris, the most exclusive leather jacket-maker in the world.
"It turned out to be lucky for me because Seraphin agreed to work with me, which is a pretty big deal, given I'm one of the few in the world to do so. This jacket represents the birth of my business."
That was 18 months ago and since then, von Dadelszen's jacket has accompanied him everywhere from meetings in Milan and Paris to early morning walks around Parnell.
"The first time I wore this jacket, it changed my perspective on what clothing can look and feel like. It fits me better today than when I first bought it," he says of the jacket that took three weeks to custom make.
"It's been incredibly lucky for me in business and I'll be wearing it for years to come."
Miranda Harcourt never goes anywhere without her blue and white scarf - except for that time she lost it and had to buy another. The Wellingtonian bought the cotton scarf in Kolkata, India, two years ago, when she was coaching 5-year-old child star Sunny Pawar for the film Lion, which also stars Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel.
"The cast and crew visited a children's home and craft emporium called Antimacassar, where I found this gorgeous scarf."
Harcourt says it helped get her through the long and often gruelling shoot. "It sounds strange, but it almost felt like the scarf helped me to work. I would put it on every day and it would give me strength in some pretty tough shooting environments." As well as being beautiful, it's also useful, she adds, "because I'm a great crier, and the fabric is perfect for tear-mopping".
Harcourt, who has just finished co-directing her first feature film, The Changeover, with husband Stuart McKenzie, says her luck ran out when she lost the scarf on a film set in Italy last December.
"The moment I got back to New Zealand, I rang Antimacassar and they made me an identical one. I wear it every day, in all weathers, because I always need luck. And I'm going to be more careful with this one."