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Fashion design thriving in Clyde

Mary Hinsen for the Central App

07 September 2020, 12:00 PM

Local fashion designer Jamie Richards has opened a store in Clyde – coming full circle and choosing home over big city lights.

July saw the official opening of a new shop in Clyde, a bridal store – its owner, Jamie Richards, made the decision to grow and expand in challenging times. Nearly two months on, the business has bucked the trend and is thriving.

“It’s great to have the space to work here; I had a quarter of a shed at home and workspace only two and a half metres wide, so it’s great to be able to spread out and hang my dresses.”

Her business’s new home in Clyde has taken Jamie full circle in her career and her life.

“I grew up here in Clyde; I went to Clyde school and then Dunstan High.

“I’ve always sewed, always liked it.

“My Aunt helped me and encouraged me - I used to sew for my Barbies and made my first dress when I was twelve.”

Jamie studied sewing by correspondence while at school, and gained experience with local sewer Heather Payne, who she invited to be part of her opening this year.

“Studying fashion design was a natural thing; I qualified in fashion design in Wellington, then worked for designer Megan Tuffery there.”

When Megan moved to Belgium, Jamie took over production and managed the business in Wellington.

Jamie’s mentor and friend Heather Payne was there to celebrate her store opening, along with Mayor Tim.

“I got to do a lot of things at quite a young age – by that time I was only 23.”

Jamie eventually moved to London, where she spent 15 years in the fashion industry.

“I worked as a garment technologist, which is like an ‘engineer’ of clothing, I guess.

“I worked for a number of High Street stores, including Ted Baker.

“We’d get the samples in, I would fit them on models, alter them, explain to the factory how they should alter the design – then repeat the process until they were perfect.”

Once Jamie got her British citizenship, she was able to freelance. This enabled her to live in the UK for nine months of the year, and visit home for three months.

“Then I realised I wanted to be home with family.

“It got harder to go back each time.”

Jamie said she made the move back to Clyde in time for Christmas 2017. The next year, she got a contract for three months work in Melbourne.

“I was missing the UK at that point, so returned there for a friend’s wedding, and realised I had made the right decision – it just took me that year to settle.”

Jamie said she came back to New Zealand with a focus on creating wedding dresses.

“I found them fun when I had worked for Megan, and I had also made them for family.

“Then, in England, I was doing alterations from home, and someone asked me if I would make their wedding dress.

“I was like ‘Oh yeah’, and then I got more to do and it was fun.

“The way it makes you feel when they put on their dress, they look amazing, and they’re just in love with it, it’s something really special.”

The new store has enabled Jamie to expand her range.

Jamie started working from home. Her uncle built her a studio in her father’s shed, and she opened for business.

With reference to both her ‘inspirational’ grandmothers, she created the name 'Margaret Wray'.

“My designs are quite classic; I started off doing vintage styles, and now I’ve found my own mix between the two.”

Jamie said she had originally thought she would have to open her shop in Arrowtown or Queenstown.

“But after being back in Clyde a couple of years, I like it.

“I like the fact that I can just walk around and see old friends and new – it’s just nice.”

Then the shop came up just as Jamie was ready to expand, and she decided to stay in Clyde.

“I’ve found people travel to see me – Clyde is a destination, and so is a designer you connect with.

“I didn’t need to be in a big city, or in the busyness of Queenstown – people are enjoying coming to see me here.

“I’ve found it’s more about growing your brand, and this town, this space works.

“It’s wonderful to design here, you open the door, the sun comes in, you’re in a place where people know you – it’s all very creative.”

The shop and the business reflect Jamie’s creative flair. She stocks shoes from a designer she loved in London, she has a line of men’s suits, fur coats, accessories she has picked up on her travels and a variety of bridesmaid’s and evening wear dress designs.

She has full racks to choose from, and a myriad of design ideas for those who want something of their own.

“When I was in London, I always wanted to create a one-stop shop, so having the whole range has been my aim.

“And it’s not just bridal – we’ve got a lot happening in Central, so I design for people going to events here.

“My advice to anyone keen on fashion design is just go for it.

“It’s a hard industry to get into, but if you love it, you’ll get there.”

Jamie said there were many facets to the fashion industry, patternmaking, fabric technology, computer aided design, technical advisor, seamstress, designer. She had found a love for the technical side of designing through her work in England.

“I would help the designer change something in a way that would make it technically work better.

“I love designing styles for people, others like designing commercially and getting multiple ideas out there every day.

“I don’t necessarily follow fashion - I do my own thing.

“Anyone who wants to be in fashion, there’ll be somewhere in the industry that attracts them and they will naturally evolve to it.”

Margaret Wray Bridal is at 21 Holloway Street, Clyde.

Photos by photographer Kate Roberage.

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