What do you do?
I help women to feel radiant in their clothing by dressing them in garments made from a selection of fabrics either hand picked on my travels, my own print designs, or textiles made by some of the communities I’ve worked with around the world. I then design, patternmake and construct these garments in my Northcote studio.
What makes Neisha special?
I really want women to feel good. This means you get high-quality fabric and designs that can be tailored to fit your body. Many of my fabrics and designs are one-offs or made in limited runs so you get to express yourself in a way that is individual to your personality and desires.
What did your business look like before COVID 19 and how has that changed?
I had a bricks and mortar store on High St, Northcote where I sold my own label as well as other talented local creators of fashion, art and accessories. I would work in the studio creating garments around opening hours and then woman the shop 6 days a week. It was a pretty stressful life but super rewarding to share my creations and connect with the amazing customers who came in, as well as promote other incredible local female entrepreneurs.
When COVID hit I had to make a quick decision to either stay and haemorrhage rent money on a shop I couldn’t open, or vacate. I chose to vacate and have since moved my business solely online. What this means practically is I have traded hours in store for hours working on my online presence. I can do this in my own time and often in the sunshine. I have more space to think about what, and how I share and inspire my community, and more time in the studio to work on new ideas. When restrictions ease I will be able to open my Northcote studio for customers to come and shop, and for fittings. It’s really been a blessing. This time has allowed me to get laser focused on my customer and business vision which has resulted in drawing the right customers to my brand instead of just relying on foot traffic.
I really want women to feel good.
What has been the most challenging aspect of this time?
In the beginning, the uncertainty of whether my business would survive online teamed with negotiating rents with commercial landowners was a really stressful time.
Ongoing challenges involve increases in costs and delivery delays of supplies, inability to custom fit garments due to restrictions, and being unable to open my studio to the public.
I could not do what I have done without the connective power of social media.
Have there been any 'silver lining' surprises?
Absolutely. The way I am running my business now is so much more sustainable and enjoyable than my pre-COVID life.
I have also had some wonderful support from The Darebin Council and Creative Victoria who have really stepped up for small businesses like myself who didn’t qualify for the governments business grants.
I have also begun working with a Social media strategist and mentor, Terri Leigh Jacobs who is helping me to level up my business.
How do you see your business evolving in the future? Are there changes you've made that you will continue with if/when things go back to 'normal'?
I will continue to connect with and grow my online community and engage in more events and festivals when they are up and running. I don’t think I’ll ever have a permanent shop front again. Maybe a pop up shop. I will keep my business fluid and adaptable and selling online allows me that freedom.
Have you received any lovely feedback from customers you would like to share?
I’ve had a few customers who I’ve met through the store contact me and tell me how much it meant to them to meet me in the store. They’ve said I made them feel seen and offered a level of compassion that isn’t common when you walk into a shop. Feedback like this reminds me I’m on the right path: ‘Absolutely love this store! You can tell a lot of love has been put in to creating each item. Awesome, genuine customer service which makes it a pleasure to shop here.’
Have there been any personal self care practices/tv shows/movies/foods that have helped to get you through the hard times?
Moving my body is the quickest route to ease and joy for me. I have been doing Amy Carmody’s online yoga classes, online dance classes with Booty and the Beats and also getting in lots of walks to the Merri Creek.
Working with social media strategist Terri Leigh Jacobs and her community has kept me focused and positive about the direction of my business.
Also periods of late night sewing and dancing about my studio have kept me uplifted! Followed by periods of ayurvedic cleansing when I realise that maybe that’s not the healthiest path to upliftment!
Do you have any advice for other small businesses - is there anything that you've found helpful you would like to share?
Enlist the help of an online business community if you are feeling stuck. Talking though your thoughts and experiences can be so helpful and inspiring! Also I like to remember that nothing lasts forever. It really helps with adaptability.
The fashion industry isn't really known for being sustainable, but I know that is a real priority for you - what practices and systems have you put in place to help with sustainability?
I work with high quality natural fibres and long lasting construction techniques so you will have your garments for longer.
None of my fabrics or garments arrive wrapped in plastic.
I cut my garment pieces myself to increase the fabric yield, resulting in less offcuts. Any fabric offcuts are given to local artists, kindergartens or to a manufacturer of boxing bags.
Garments are produced in small quantities so only what is needed is made.
I’m resilient af.
Are there any social causes you support or organisations that you work with that you would like to highlight?
I’m passionate about antiracism and women’s empowerment
For anti racism work – Warriors of the Aboriginal resistance (WAR COLLECTIVE), Yoga for Humankind
Women’s empowerment – Kiva.org, The Global Womens Project