Rachael Keen never dreamed of being a plus-size fashion designer.
But when she was pregnant and struggling to find maternity clothes, she saw a need and an opportunity.
The recent Covid-19 lockdown gave the Oamaru business owner the time she needed to make her vision a reality and she launched her new fashion label – Rebellious Rose Curve -earlier this month.
“I’ve never been into fashion, or anything like that, at all,” Mrs Keen said.
“But I’m passionate about giving plus-size women something to wear, and something that they can feel comfortable and confident in.
“Originally, it was not going to be launched until summer, but we managed to get things under way with Covid.”
Mrs Keen, who owns Oamaru children’s clothing and accessories store Rebellious Rose, said she had no choice but to buy maternity wear online from international sites when she was pregnant with her daughter Harper (now 2).
“I spent so many days on my bed crying because just nothing would fit.
“It was a time of my life when my body was changing the most – growing, changing shape, stretch marks – and I just didn’t feel confident.
“Add the issue of trying to find clothes on top of that … as a plus-size pregnant woman, it was just such a degrading experience.
“Ever since then it’s been a goal to fix that, fill that gap and help pregnant women and breastfeeding women feel beautiful again.”
More than just offering a wide range of sizes – from 14 to 24 – Mrs Keen wanted her clothing to be affordable, stylish and of a high quality.
She designed her new clothing range, which was not exclusively for pregnant or breastfeeding women, with Hannah Chamblerlain, of Dunedin.
“Hannah and I have put so much effort into making sure the clothes can be worn by anyone, at any stage of life,” Mrs Keen said.
“[Hannah’s] actually originally an Oamaru girl. I just happened to meet her mum in a cafe once, and she mentioned that she was studying design and wanted to start designing plus-size clothing and it all just went from there.”
They have started small, with the release of hoodie and dress designs, but Mrs Keen has big goals for the label.
“My long-term goal is to have a full range underwear through to outerwear plus-size women,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mrs Keen has been busier than ever running her Thames St business. After lockdown, she had noticed a lot more people in Oamaru were making the choice to spend their money supporting local business.
“[I’ve been] way busier than pre-lockdown, and I think free parking has a lot to do with that,” she said.
“Every retailer I’ve spoken to has been flat out and there seems to be a real attitude change towards shopping local and shopping small.”