Madeline splashes out with swimwear designs
Madeline White couldn't find the swimsuit of her dreams in stores so she created Novah, a collection of her own.
Her range of bikinis, monokinis and one-pieces are now available at www.novahswimwear.com.
It was many months in the making.
“I have always been really artsy,” the 24-year-old explained. “I took art classes in school and college and went to interior design school in Newcastle in the UK, so I kind of started from there.
“I always knew I wanted to pursue something to do with fashion and worked as the general manager for an Abercrombie & Fitch store, but then I decided I didn't want to be in retail or running a store. I really wanted to be designing my own pieces.”
The Bermudian designer is based in the UK but returned to the Island to pose in her designs with model Sophie Adams. Miss White's boyfriend Douglas Parker photographed the shoot — the pictures can be seen on her website.
“The first step was getting the designs together,” she said.
“Before I really decided to go for it I had already started a scrap book and jotted some of my inspirations and design ideas down, so I knew what styles I wanted to produce.
“When I decided to set up the company I was living here in Bermuda, but went back to the UK last October because there are manufacturers there and it's a lot easier to produce over there.” She talked to patternmakers who took her sketches and created a design blueprint from that. She also worked closely with sample makers to bring the patterns to life.
The hardest part? Finding the right manufacturer to do the job.
“Especially because this is my first time manufacturing anything, I wanted to make sure that the manufacturer was close enough to me that I could visit regularly and guarantee quality.
“I didn't want to outsource anything to a far-away place and just assume they would do a good job. It's not the cheapest option to do it in the UK, but it's generally a really good standard.”
Next, she spent some time in Cannes, in the South of France, where they have one of the biggest trade shows for textiles, fabrics and trim in Europe.
“I saw every kind of material imaginable and sourced everything myself,” she said. “My pattern maker is very experienced and has been in the industry for 50 years and worked for Marks & Spencer, so she had a lot of advice, like which threads to use and which kind of elastics I needed.
“Actually, doing it was very much different and a huge learning curve, but I am sure it will be a lot easier next time.”
The business venture wasn't something she'd ever have imagined herself doing.
“I was always the type of person, and have said my entire life, that I would never run my own business,” she said.
“I'm used to working really hard and taking home a paid salary. I was happy working for someone else who would have all the risk.
“Now that I'm a business owner myself it's really scary because it's my time and my pockets that will be hit hard [if it doesn't work]. Fashion is also a very competitive industry. I didn't think at any time in my life I would be taking a chance like this, especially so early on in my life.”
But so far the gamble seems to be paying off.
Miss White said family and friends have been extremely supportive and gave her the courage she needed to put her ideas in place.
Positive feedback is also starting to trickle in.
“Being able to show people my swimsuits and hearing them say they want one is great,” the designer said.
“I've heard people tell me how well they fit and how they felt really secure in them; no slippage. The pieces are just everything I wanted them to be.
“When my boyfriend's sister tried it on, she commented on how great the fabric was. When you spend all that money investing in the best materials and people notice it, it's really validating.”
Her ultimate goal is to branch out to design cover-ups, beach clothing and children's swimwear.
She also wants her career to reach the point where she can show her designs at Miami Swim Week or see them appear in magazines around the world.
“That's the end-goal and where I hope to be in five or ten years,” she said.
Miss White will present her swimwear at the City's Local Designer Showcase as part of the fashion festival this summer. She will also sell her pieces at a trunk show at Pier Six on July 9.
Visit Novah's Facebook page.