Costume and clothing designer Narelle Stewart in her studio
in Waldronville. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Narelle Stewart has some big plans for her Dunedin-based
clothing and costume business.
She hopes to eventually open a factory, employing staff and
keeping manufacturing not only in New Zealand, but in the
Miss Stewart (41), who moved to Dunedin two and a-half years
ago, is about to launch a new yoga and sportswear label,
The former dance teacher, who was on the stage herself from
the age of 2, used to teach tap, ballet and jazz in Auckland.
She started making costumes, tracksuits and uniforms. One
thing led to another, and she agreed to take on outside work.
Eventually ''something had to give'' and she gave up teaching
to concentrate on NS Designs, producing costumes, training
wear and promotional outfits for dancing, gymnastics,
aerobics and other performance sports.
A day trip south to visit some friends who had moved to
Fairlie was enough to get her thinking and she moved to the
small rural South Canterbury town four months later.
After a year in Fairlie, and then a year in Ashburton, she
decided to move to Dunedin. She has no regrets about that
''It's a city that has everything a city has to offer but it
doesn't feel like there's that many people here. I like it
feels like a smaller town. There's heaps to do.
''I just love it in the South Island. It's so good, it's so
much easier to ... have a life and not get kind of sucked
into the stress and speed that everything goes unnecessarily
up in Auckland,'' she said.
When it came to creating costumes or clothing, comfort was a
priority. Having been a dancer herself and worn ''scratchy''
costumes, she was always amused when customers commented on
how comfortable her designs were.
''It's like, surely stuff can be comfortable,'' she said.
With her new range, she planned to mostly work with merino
and DryLite fabrics. With merino, it was about educating
people that it was a fibre for ''four seasons'', she said.
She felt strongly about wellness and the need for people to
look after themselves and take time out for themselves.
She would continue to make costumes for which she did all her
own patterning - drawing up a design and then turning it into
It was a ''crazy'' time during June and July, when she made
about 250 costumes, working day and night and grabbing ''a
few hours' sleep every now and then''. While it was ''just
ridiculous'', she had to keep going because she had committed
But it was also something she was passionate about and it had
been part of her life for a very long time.
She was in the process of finishing renovating a work area at
her home. In the ''big picture'', she wanted to set up a
factory, which she acknowledged would not happen overnight.
First, the plan was to get some outworkers, and then bring it
all together in one place.
While other clothing manufacturers had gone offshore, that
was not her ''personality'', Miss Stewart said.
Manufacturing here did not mean she could not build up a
business and ''sell to the world'', and she wanted to keep
her New Zealand-made philosophy as a point of difference.