Dressmaker's talent leads to surge of business

PERSONAL SERVICE: Rasha Taylor in her bridal store in Upper Hutt.
PERSONAL SERVICE: Rasha Taylor in her bridal store in Upper Hutt.

Upper Hutt bridal and gown designer Rasha Taylor is the belle of her own ball right now after winning Top Shop supreme retail award, starring in an episode of a new reality TV show and getting more orders than she has time to sew.

Taylor has been making clothes since she was a child but became a professional dressmaker after she made her own wedding dress in 2004. She had two orders from admirers of the dress, which she personally hated because it wasn't the same as the expensive dress she had lusted after as inspiration - "I had a burning ceremony on our one year anniversary and destroyed it" - but dressmaking soon became a fulltime job.

"Orders just kept coming in, with word of mouth, it just grew and grew. Straight away I had to upgrade all of my machinery and buy industrial sewing machines, purchase stock fabrics and lace to show clients when they came in."

She opened a retail shop in Upper Hutt's main street 18 months ago and said that a level of respect came with having a bricks and mortar store. "A lot of the time when you work from home, people can perceive it as a hobby," said the mother of two boys, aged five and six.

Around 70 to 80 per cent of her business is wedding dresses, with the remainder bridesmaids dresses and ball gowns.

Clients can either have Taylor make their dress herself by hand or get it made in China at the factory she personally approved. It took nine months, and conversations with almost 60 factories before she found somewhere in Shanghai that was of a smaller size and listened strictly to her instructions so that she could keep up a strong level of quality control.

"I go over there once a year, I know the dresses are made in exactly the same fabric I show the client, I dictate what patterns they use," Taylor said.

She was seeing an increase in people buying wedding dresses online because disappointed brides-to-be often brought her cheap dresses that did not fit correctly when they arrived.

"Clients don't realise they are paying for my experience, effort, continually making sure the product is going to look exactly like the sketch. There shouldn't be a price on your peace of mind. Too many people forfeit and are then disappointed it's just not worth it. Pay a bit extra, get it done properly," Taylor said.

"A lot of people don't really know what made-to-measure is. They think it might be very complicated and take a lot of time but it's not complicated. If you go somewhere and the tailor knows what they're doing, the whole consultation should be half an hour.

"Often, within five or 10 minutes I know what someone likes and what they normally wear - the rest is just all the small details like measuring and picking the colours."

She said New Zealand brides were traditional in their choice of style and colour, apart from one recent client who wanted to be wedded looking like she was appearing in an AC/DC music video.

Early next year Taylor will star in an episode of upcoming reality TV series Meet The Frockers, as one of eight designers and clients that are followed throughout the process of making and delivering a wedding dress.