May 21, 2019 Product, Service

Business fashion for curvy women.

Starting with Nana’s sewing machine, Rowena went on to show her collection at New York Fashion week! But let’s start at the beginning.

After getting a divorce and leaving a corporate career, Rowena Burley was feeling burnt out. She wanted to spend time with her family and recharge. To do this meant moving back to Townsville in rural Queensland. The area was in a downturn and not an easy place for someone with Rowena’s extensive experience to land a job. Things slowed down and frustration set in. She looked for options and did some Googling. That’s when Rowena discovered the NEIS program.

My Pathway in Townsville is where Rowena started her NEIS training and explored her new business idea. Proudly describing herself as a curvy business woman, Rowena had found a serious lack of quality and style in the business wear available to her. For curvy business women, the time, effort and knocks to confidence that go into dressing well, were real issues.

When you look good, you feel good about yourself; helping you to work better and lead more strongly. Rowena channelled her passion for this idea into developing The Elegant Executive Curve, creating made-to-fit and ready-to-wear business fashion, for curvy women leaders.

“Even though I had a lot of business experience, I found having a NEIS mentor to work with very helpful; someone to talk things over, build my confidence back and help me stay motivated. It also helped to fill in gaps – it was really good to go back to basics and review the fundamentals that go into creating a solid foundation for a business,” says Rowena.

Rowena started The Elegant Executive Curve with around $1,000 and did all the sewing herself on her Grandmothers’s old sewing machine. It was a truly vintage machine that could sew everything from denim to the finest silk. “You don’t need much to get started in business” says Rowena, “there’s a lot of fabulous free software tools out there, and you don’t need the latest equipment – it’s about being resourceful, creative, and willing to learn new skills.”

With research and testing, Rowena found the latest in pattern making software. She applied this to her own considerable experience, having sewn since she was 8. From there, she could create couture pieces from silk georgette to wool-blend, to fit any body shape. Her clients can input their personal measurements online. From that point any order from the range can be ‘made-to-fit’ the individual client. The order is then completed by Australian-based sewers ensuring a quality result. With a niche market in her sights, things were slow to start, but the value of what Rowena offered started to get traction.

The Elegant Executive Curve won the 2018 HiTechModa and TailorNova international design competition using the latest pattern-making technology. This prize included coaching by an international expert for 12 months; a new embroidery machine worth $5,000 and a runway showcase at New York Fashion Week in September 2018. That’s a big deal and a big audience. “It was a tremendous experience to see how my designs and quality stacked up against international standards and have them validated and applauded by industry experts,” says Rowena.

“I think the skills you learn being able to set up and run a small business help you to be in control of your own future with more confidence. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or don’t have, or what the market or trends do; you can apply those skills to anything – they are very transferrable,” says Rowena with a smile.

While selling directly to customers through the website, Rowena also partners with stylists, image consultants and stockists in Melbourne, Sydney and internationally. Rowena says, “My pieces are not for everyone, we have a specific market that we serve. We are not fast fashion. A piece from The Elegant Executive Curve will last many seasons; good couture fashion requires fit, style, and quality materials.” Things keep moving as Rowena works to take advantage of the momentum of her international exposure and take the label to a whole new level.

Take your business idea to a new level with free NEIS training. Use the postcode search tool to locate your nearest NEIS provider for a chat.

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