Black Sheep was a denim label started by MaryJane and Phil O'Reilly. They returned to Auckland in 1974 after travelling around the world making and selling jeans. They knew very few people after being away so long, so they decided to rent a stall at Cook Street Market.
Phil, a graphic designer, and MaryJane, a dancer who happened to also have great sewing skills, developed a denim range for men and women complete with their own leather labels, t-shirts and certificates of authenticity.
They spent the week at home cutting and sewing their complex-seamed jeans, skirts, overalls and bags.
At Cook Street Market, they shared a large stall near the right hand entrance with the Allpress family. "They sold organically grown capsicums from Tapu and cotton shirts, bags and other hippie accessories," recalls MaryJane. "We sold heavyweight 14oz denim jeans, overalls, bags, shirts, jackets and waistcoats in heavily topstitched and highly detailed styling." Their denim garments usually sold out within 45 minutes of the market opening. "There would be a crowd waiting for us. We spent the rest of the weekend socialising and helping out with the stall."
In 1976, MaryJane and Phil sold the Black Sheep label to music promoter Hugh Lynn. They returned to America where MaryJane studied modern dance in San Francisco.
Back in New Zealand, Phil returned to Cook Street to work as a designer for Barbara Allpress and her partner Jim McIntosh's new denim label Roxz. MaryJane moved on to to co-found Limbs Dance Company and Phil after Roxz went onto form his own marketing and design company with Giles Molloy - 2020 Design.
Text by Kelly Dix. Banner image from the Sunday News, 1974.
Last published October 2013.