I grew up next to beautiful Fiordland National Park in New Zealand’s southern lakes district. There on a sheep farm I learnt many needle crafts from my mother, but sewing was the one that suited my level of patience the most!
I learnt to sew on her Elna Supermatic at the kitchen table, and traced patterns from Neue Mode magazines onto newsprint from The Southland Times.
Initially I trained as a radiographer then a sonographer, before travelling overseas. I backpacked throughout Europe and Asia with my camera, wistfully dreaming of becoming a travel photographer.
Self employment beckoned, and after a short course in Dunedin I moved to study fashion in Auckland, where I discovered the wonders of patternmaking.
My first job was design room assistant for a company producing clothing for older women. I was the youngest there by far, but learned a lot of traditional techniques from the workroom staff. The designer shared with me her ‘tricks of the trade’ – her words – and so my collection of tutorials is named in her honour. Oh – and she gave me my dress form that I still use today!
Eventually I moved to a patternmaking position with a high end ready to wear designer/retailer. There we produced primarily womenswear – from casual to dressy, tailoring to evening wear, with menswear and jeans thrown into the mix.
During this time I began designing my own label, working nights and weekends to supply a couple of local boutiques. I left to concentrate full time on growing the business, and soon opened a workroom and boutique – having totally outgrown the spare bedroom of our house!
I worked hard designing collections, cutting the patterns and sewing the samples myself, as well as selling wholesale and managing the business. The cut and make was contracted out to local cutters, factories and outworkers. I developed a small inhouse team, and with fabric continually coming and going from our premises in it’s various stages – from bolts of cloth, to cut bundles, and finally finished goods on hangers – it sometimes felt more like a courier depot! I showed at the early New Zealand Fashion Weeks and the label became stocked in about 20 boutiques throughout Australasia.
They say having children changes everything, and it did for me. Trying to do too much took it’s toll on my energy and will, and something had to give. Torn between growing my business or being a stay at home mum, I decided that working from home making wedding dresses was the answer.
Consulting with brides and realising their vision, working with beautiful silks and laces, days spent in fittings, hand beading, and perfecting new construction techniques – this became my new passion for the next five years.
When I was ready I entered the job market again, pattern making part time for one of New Zealand’s top design companies. Part time soon became full time, and now it is great to be part of a design team creating seasonal collections again. I spend my days designing garments for the company, and my nights doing the same for myself. Perfect!
More about me (sometimes too much!):
Nine personal questions answered as part of the fun!