To assist people in making their own bras and undies, Helen Cloke gave up her 16-year career as a landscape designer.
The Taranaki woman understands that off-the-rack options aren’t always available but wants to help women feel confident in their underwear.
The only store of its kind in New Zealand, she began her online business, Nellie Jones, five years ago from her home. She sold specialized sewing supplies for people looking to sew their own lingerie, swimwear, and sportswear. In the past year, she has opened a shopfront in Eltham, Taranaki.
“I’ve been making all of my own clothes for a very long time, and I’ve read blogs from other countries about making clothes. When I saw that people were starting to make their own bras and underwear, I thought, “Man, that would be so cool.”
“I didn’t even know that was a thing that you could do, and I couldn’t find anywhere in New Zealand to buy the stuff that you needed for it, so I bought in from overseas”.
Following high school, Cloke received training as a landscape architect and spent 16 years working in the field.
But eventually felt like she had achieved everything there she wanted to and started looking for something else.
“I still get to use my design skills in this, which is really nice, but in a different way.”
Cloke intends to expand the company in the coming year by teaching customers how to sew and create their own intimate apparel.
She has given a few classes at various fabric and quilting shops across the nation, but now that she owns her own shop, she is eager for customers to stop by.
“Since many people in the town who approached me didn’t know how to sew, I’ll start by explaining the very fundamentals of using a sewing machine.
“Then I decided that some really informal classes—like making a pair of undies while enjoying a glass of wine—would be a lot of fun. These classes would be low-stress and last only a few hours.”
As underwire bras are the primary motivator for people to start making their own, Cloke then wants to broaden her scope by teaching women how to sew and fit.
“They are unable to simply walk into a store and purchase one that fits them.
“Making your own bras may seem intimidating, but once you know how to do it, it’s really not that difficult, and I’m here to hold your hand.”
Even though she still does the majority of her business online, Cloke is enjoying having a store in Eltham.
Although it is a small town with fewer than 2000 residents, there are several shopping centers there.
“Since I could never afford to rent a shop in any of the larger cities, Eltham is unquestionably a really welcoming and cost-effective place to have a boutique store. Due to how lovely the structures are, these unique boutique shops fit right in.
“The town has a great deal of potential for the addition of more diverse businesses, which would turn it into a true destination for the kind of shops that are truly unique and hard to find elsewhere.”