After gaining experience within the industry, working in off-shore production, and then a sampling/manufacturing work room, Claire decided to start her own clothing line, so Belle + Beau was born.

Her label wasn’t going to just be about designing and creating clothes, it was also about following something that was close to her heart.

“I wanted to produce clothing that was innovative in its use of sustainable textiles. The devastating impact of the clothing industry is not widely known, so I wanted to get involved in making positive changes while creating beautifully, simple clothing.”

Realising there were other skills, other than clothing design, that were need to run her own business, Claire studied a Certificate in Small Business Management at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

“This course was brilliant and taught me a lot about the day-to-day running of my own business, from accounting to marketing while assisting in the development of my business plan.”

With a lot of trade and production dealt with via email, Claire says having excellent communication skills is crucial to success, as well as good working knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel, and creative programs like Adobe Photoshop. Of course, technical skills specific to fashion, including garment specifications, pattern making and sewing construction, are also really important, as well as the ability to sell to both customers and store buyers.

“Many people see the fashion industry being all pretty pictures and not a lot of work. But in reality, it is so fast-paced and is just as much about making sales and marketing as it is about designing and photo shoots. You have to work really hard and there are always deadlines to meet.”

But the time constraints and busyness of her job are all worthwhile at the end of the day.

“It’s really great to get positive feedback from customers about the clothes they have bought from Belle + Beau. I love to know that people appreciate the quality and softness of our clothing as we put a lot of effort into getting it to that state.”

After following her dream to work as a clothing designer, Claire is happy she has a label to call her own and for others looking to follow in her footsteps, her advice is to follow your instincts.

“Design what feels right to you, deal with people you trust, say ‘yes’ when great opportunities come your way and say ‘no’ when something doesn’t feel quite right; if it initially seems like the wrong move, it most likely is.”

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