Nelson's clothes shops tried out for size

20:30, Dec 12 2013
Cheryl Mackie
LOCAL TALENT: Fashion designer Cheryl Mackie at her shop at Snows Corner, Waimea Rd.

I recently had an interview for a proper job. For the past seven years I have worked from home and dressing up means a clean T-shirt and pair of jeans - and lipstick if it is a special day. But it doesn't really matter how I look.

Despite shopping for myself for more than 30 years, my wardrobe threw up nothing suitable for the interview. I decided to turn the problem of nothing to wear into a shopping opportunity. I focused on Nelson designers and Nelson-owned shops in my search for a professional-looking outfit.

Until recently, Emma Manhart was my "go to" for special clothes. She made the most gorgeous skirts, dresses and jackets.

I thought her clothes were fun and made from beautiful fabrics in bright colours. But I can't have spent enough there because she closed this year.

The good news is that Cheryl Mackie who worked for Emma has opened a shop in Waimea Rd and, like Emma, she has a great eye for beautiful fabrics.

Another favourite local designer is Madcat, owned by Jill Alexander. Her studio is at Founders Heritage Park and is well-known for making exquisite, unique corsets.


Madcat's skirts most impress me. These are made from distinctive hand-printed textiles and, as the skirts aren't mass-produced, they should be thought of as limited edition pieces. Think of it as a chance to own original art for just $125.

Robyn Reynolds of Go Clothing also makes great skirts. She has a stall at the Saturday market as well as a studio that you can visit. Again, her designer skirts are around $125 each.

I found a newcomer in Liann Bellis in Stratford St, Richmond. The clothes have got simple, classic lines but there's an edge that is different from the chain stores.

Also worth a look is V Designs, a fashion boutique on Bridge St, Nelson CBD, with clothing that is designed, cut and made by local fashion designer Vicky Jepson. There are also plenty of stalls at the Saturday market selling very cool locally made clothes. Trying on can be a bit awkward but you can always take items home to check size and style.

Other locally owned fashion outlets offer a more broad selection of national and international style. Verve and Stacey Clothing in Richmond both stock sumptuous and fabulous "must have" clothes and have some excellent summer stock.

In Nelson City my favourite locally owned stores are Palm, Cooper & Rouge, Kilt, and Vintage Heaven. All stock quality fashion from New Zealand's leading designers.

Ethical shopping is a recent trend led by publicity about exploitative international sweatshops producing branded clothes for mass consumer markets.

International labour standards in the apparel sector can be very poor - and without transparency, certification and media attention it's hard to identify where fair wages and conditions are offered.

A recent factory building collapse in Bangladesh is yet another sad example of a failure in the international clothing trade.

So where to go if you want to shop ethically? For starters, consult the Shop With a Conscience Consumer Guide next time you need to buy a T-shirt or shoes. Google "Fairtrade" or "organic clothing" and a wide variety of options will pop up of companies that respect a worker's voice on the job, and pay a living wage.

Consider buying second-hand. There are many shops in Nelson and Tasman selling pre-loved clothes. One that is worth a look is Labels Resale and Designer Clothing in Bridge St, which has racks of New Zealand's top fashion brands, and even local designers.

The biggest second-hand shop of them all is, or course, Trade Me, and to buy from here you don't even have to leave home. I have just done a quick search and there are currently 193,000 items of clothing for sale, including an Emma Manhart item. Unfortunately, not my size.

Another option is to nurture friends with good taste. I have a stylish younger sister and occasionally receive her hand-me-downs. These clothes make me look good and add to my sense of being an ethical consumer.

A few friends and I have similar good taste, although it's a little embarrassing when our husbands notice something familiar about our attire (they can never quite work out what it is).

Finally, don't buy things you don't need or that don't fit properly. I have lost count of the number of times I have made an impulse buy because it was on sale, I was buying last minute, or simply because I'm a girl who likes clothes shopping (supermarkets don't do it for me).

Planning shopping sounds boring but it can become second nature as you work out what your style is and what you're not likely to wear. Clothes should make you feel good, and well-fitting clothes are vital.