Living the fashionable life in Levin

RANDALL WALKER
Last updated 10:26 03/07/2014
FASHION
INSPIRE PHOTOGRAPHY
Fashion guru: Lisa O’Neill, looking glamorous on Macarthur St, Levin.

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Horowhenua Mail

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Lisa O'Neill knows a thing or two about fashion.

She has trained tens of thousands of women in the art of looking good, is a brand ambassador for New Zealand's largest department store, and fashion editor of one of the country's biggest magazines.

But her own fashion training started while growing up in Levin, including working in retail at By Design Fashions.

"People ask me all the time where I trained and I trained in my bedroom, in Levin."

O'Neill was recently appointed fashion editor at New Zealand Women's Weekly, a job she said came out of the blue, following various writing jobs, including as a columnist for the Australian Women's Weekly.

"I do a lot of events and fashion things, so that middle aged woman is my market, so it's the perfect market for me and it made complete sense. But it's a lot more work than I'd anticipated when I said yes.

"The problem is I already had a completely full work load and I've chucked this on the top, which is probably not the greatest work- life balance move."

O'Neill spent the early part of her career working in retail, followed by seven years as an art director for EziBuy. When that proved too much travelling for the mother of four young children, she started doing one on one makeovers for women.

That led to running public events, fundraising for various charities, including Plunket.

About four years ago, she approached Farmers about sponsoring the events, and was now a brand ambassador for the department store, running fashion advice shows across New Zealand that attract to up to 1000 women, and speaking at conferences.

"I speak to about 20,000 women a year at events."

She said Farmers pays her, and for her travel, and all the money raised goes to Plunket.

"So we've raised about $600,000 in the last three years for Plunket."

Having seen money from other fundraising events go to the national body rather than the area that raised it, O'Neill stipulated that all the money raised at her events stayed in the town.

The events, called What Not To Wear, were two hours of training women about body shapes, colours and grooming, mixed in with supper and champagne, she said.

Before each, she picked a range of clothing from the local store.

"The next day I'm usually in the store helping the women who came to the event the night before."

She ran about 30 events a year, across New Zealand, often in towns like Levin.

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"I've got a bit of a thing for small towns, I quite like to support them. Everyone assumes I'm from Auckland, it's really funny."

O'Neill was also a motivational speaker.

Last year she released her first book, Look Gorgeous, Be Happy.

She MC'd a recent fundraiser for Arohanui Hospice in Palmerston North which drew more than 1000 people and raised $58,000.

How long have you lived in Horowhenua?

I moved here when I was very young and did all my schooling here. I attended Fairfield School and Horowhenua College.

What do you like most about the place?

I love the climate and the fact I know so many people. It feels nice to go to places and have a familiar face around.

What's your biggest gripe?

I get annoyed with people's attitudes that living in Levin is a negative thing. I have always believed that how you live is more important than where you live. Young people living here need to know that they can do and be anything they want to.

What is the region's best asset?

Our settled weather, we are very sheltered from many elements here. I think Te Takere is an amazing resource and has sorted what was an ugly and unused area.

Where is your favourite spot to take visitors?

Everyone who comes to Levin loves the Adventure Park. It is an amazing space for children.

- Horowhenua Mail

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