Featured in Capital #81. Subscribe to get the real thing here.
Foreign bodies is a 4 part series about locals living overseas. To read the next one, click here.
We spoke to a few Wellingtonians who’ve established themselves overseas, asking about the depths and differences of their new locales – and whether they still reminisce about broken brollies and the town belt.
Zoey Radford Scott, 29, and Tom Wright, 31, live in Alphabet City, in New York’s East Village. Toms Juice, his business, began during the early days of the pandemic. He used social media to sell fresh home-made juice, delivered on his bicycle. In Wellington, he founded the popular streetwear label Shark Week. Zoey, a stylist, has worked with some of the biggest names in music and fashion in the USA. She moved to New York with Tom in 2016. In Wellington her first foray into fashion was modelling.
Tell us about where you live Zoey: Alphabet City, East Village, New York City. My friends live close by, easy access to everything, and close to the water.
Tom: It’s a super chill neighbourhood with a good mix of students, young families, artists, small mom-and-pop businesses, lots of bars. The East River is right there, Tompkins Square Park, and lots more.
Is New York more affordable than Wellington? Zoey: It depends how you want to live, but I would say it’s more expensive.
What is your connection to Wellington? Zoey: I studied at Massey and then worked at Good as Gold while I saved to move to New York. It’s a huge part of my memories. Lots of our best friends live in Wellington, so it’s a strong connection. It’s also where Tom and I met.
Tom: I’ve always loved Wellington. My first memories of it were as a kid getting the train there with my family from Napier and going to watch Christian Cullen and Jonah Lomu at the Cake Tin.
What are some of the highlights of your careers? Zoey: Travelling the world and working with people and companies I had only dreamed of. Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky, Pharrell, Bruce Irons, Toms Juice, Beach Boy, Supreme, Harmony Korine, Jacquemus. Releasing my book Motor. My job is a huge highlight for me. It’s taken me on a life-changing journey.
Tom: I had a clothing brand called Shark Week which kept me busy most of the time that I was in Wellington. I had a couple of long term pop-up shops in the city and sold the brand all over the world: New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, USA. By the time I moved to New York around 2018 I was really over the clothing industry. In March 2020 I started a brand called Toms Juice. There were lots of reasons, but it was really just a platform to do me. Zoey and I were going to book flights back to New Zealand, but just as we were about to pay for them, a feeling came over the both of us that this wasn’t the right thing to do.
What happened after you decided to ride out the pandemic? Tom: After we decided to stay in New York, I had to make the juice thing work. I thought if I can sell 20 juices per day at $5 each for five days a week I will be able to survive in New York, just. I would take orders each day, wake up before sunrise, head to the market and get the produce, juice it, then bike all over New York delivering the juice.
By the end of 2020 things were starting to snowball a bit. I had the juice on the shelves at great restaurants and delis, featured in magazines, raised money for charity, and got a feature on CNN. Most importantly I had great people drinking and enjoying Toms Juice. In mid-August 2021, I signed my first lease located at 75 East 4th St, New York. Stoked!
Are there other Wellingtonians in your circle? Zoey: Yes, all of the friends I moved here with are from Wellington. We all studied fashion together at Massey and decided to move here on the J-1 visa. I’m so lucky to have been in that year – I don’t know if I would be here if it wasn’t for them. Most of them have left now, but there’s a big bunch of people who studied in Wellington here.
Is there a memento from home that you keep? Zoey: My photographs of my family are my favourites, my biggest inspiration. If I’m ever feeling lost I look at them and it gets me back on track.
Tom: There’s nothing more special to me than friends and family. I wish they could all be here.
What’s your favourite activity in New York? Both: Getting a buzz on and walking the streets.
Is there any part of your experience that has helped you being a New Zealander abroad? Zoey: I think the appreciation for life and being open-minded. Everything is so different here, so I think the enjoyment of the new is really helpful. Kiwi ingenuity. Hard working and a can-do attitude.
Tom: Everything I have achieved and failed has led up to my living in New York without even knowing that this was going to happen. Be yourself, and be the best you can be. That way you can’t lose.