Best of both worlds . . . Clothing designer Jess Beachen (right), pictured wearing her own designs with her mother Mary, and friends (inset), has moved her business, Jessica Flora, from Christchurch to Kurow. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED

Clothing designer Jess Beachen has made the move from Christchurch to Kurow. She talks to Ashley Smyth about what happens next for the Jessica Flora label, and how she plans to combine it with her passion for good food.

Jess Beachen feels like she has the best of both worlds, being able to live rurally in her new home of Kurow, and still work with fashion and design.

Having grown up on a farm in Hawke’s Bay, she was happy to make the move from Christchurch, to be with her partner, Heliventures NZ helicopter pilot Matt Irving.

Beachen began her business, Jessica Flora, in June last year. Her manufacturers and suppliers were still based in the city, and now it was just a matter of ‘‘reshuffling’’ and being a bit more organised to make the move work, she said.

‘‘Obviously, with the the world we’re in now, we can really do things a lot more off› grid, but it is just going to be a challenge with the manufacturing side, because [the business is] here.’’

Beachen was temporarily working from Kurow’s former Masonic Lodge, which Waitaki Braids owner Kate White, Beachen’s partner’s mother, had bought with the intention to create self-catering accommodation.

Described on the website as ‘‘a love letter to lady Earth’’, Jessica Flora’s focus was on clothing made from compostable, plant-derived fabrics such as linen and cotton.

Beachen was always trying to find ways to ‘‘improve her footprint’’ as her budget allowed, and wanted to be transparent with customers and social media followers, to make them aware of the ‘‘destructive’’ issues within the fashion industry.

‘‘I’m probably not able to do everything I want to do. I’m just using every growth stage as an opportunity to better myself in that area.’’

She composted all her fabric scraps, and was constantly trying to improve where her fabrics came from — ‘‘getting closer to the source’’.

She was also intent on keeping her clothing manufacturing within New Zealand.

‘‘As a society we’re becoming a lot more aware of, like, where everything comes from, and wanting to support local. I have seen a push in that direction.’’

Sustainable was a word Beachen tried to stay away from. She saw it as ‘‘misleading’’ and a word that was used ‘‘vaguely.

She preferred describing the way she operated as ‘‘circular’’. Her fabric scraps went into her worm farm, where they composted down, creating a nutrient› rich soil, which was then put back into the earth, where the fabrics originated from.

‘‘I’m not just doing it, because that’s where the industry’s going . . . I’m really passionate about soil and soil health and just learning all about that.’’

Although shifting rural could have been isolating for Beachen, she felt fortunate Kurow and the larger Waitaki Valley was full of ‘‘creatives’’.

‘‘I just stumbled across this community that’s just got so many talented people in it. I find it so crazy, like, I’m still amazed.’’

When Beachen was not focusing on her clothing label, she was focused on food.

Her mother had run a catering company while she was growing up, and food had been a big part of her childhood.

Being part of Supper Club while living in London, had inspired her to bring a version of it to Christchurch.

Supper Club was a website in London, where people would plan a dinner, put it on the website and sell tickets.

‘‘Chefs, like, Michelin›star chefs, would do it in their house.

‘‘But all sorts of people would do it, so you can get quite different experiences. I actually hired a venue, and did it like that.’’

She had been keen to bring the concept back to New Zealand, but had been too busy, until an opportunity presented itself when a group of women were going to spend an evening with her trying on clothing.

‘‘I was like, ‘Ooh, I may as well cook them dinner’, and so I just, was like, right, this is my chance to do a supper club.’’

The evening worked well. Customers had the chance to see the, mostly online, brand and studio ‘‘in the flesh’’, and also meet Beachen.

‘‘Then, also share my other love, which is food.

‘‘So it’s a really fun night, people come, try clothes on, sit down, have like a three›course meal, drink wine, margaritas, bourbons, and then, yeah, go home.’’

After the first success, those people told their friends, and word of mouth instigated the next one, she said.

It created an extra element to the Jessica Flora brand, and made it more personal.

‘‘Because I love it — I love that aspect of it.’’

The food scraps joined the fabric scraps as worm food.

‘‘I get so nerded out by the worms.’’

Beachen hoped to bring her Supper Club to the Waitaki Valley, maybe by the end of March.

‘‘Here it’s a chance to have a night off the farm, and away from the kids . . . there are limited events to sort of do that, so hopefully I can bring some element of fun to the community. And, I actually want to do, maybe fortnightly drinks around the cutting table, just for myself as well, just to have that connection with people, and I really just enjoy having people in the space.

‘‘I definitely get inspired when there’s people around.’’

As Jessica Flora had grown, Beachen said it was a matter of building on what she already had.

‘‘I’ve been letting it evolve without too much of a plan, just to see where it goes . . .and now, I’m looking at what I can do for the future.’’

She wanted to create an everyday line, that was ready to ship, as well as continuing with the made-to-order model.

‘‘That’s not really a definite, to be fair, but that’s my goal.’’

She also was toying with the idea of a physical shop.

‘‘I definitely want to have a space that has an open door . . . I’ll see what happens there,’’ Beachen said.