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Highly Skilled Hutt Seamstresses Create Design Tour-de-Force

An enthusiastic sister-in-law, love of wool and creative energy force three-times magnified has led to the first WoolOn entry from a fun-loving Hutt Valley collective… and whatever it is the Baafleeciaga Chicks have created it would be safe to assume it will be entertaining.

Small dogs, Audrey Hepburn, Chanel, Lady Di and family all influence this talented trio, who have created a streetwear ensemble for their WoolOn debut.

Channelling Audrey Hepburn...Baafleeciaga Chick Fiona Donoghue models her favourite style icon.

The Baafleeciaga Chicks are a three-friends-collective who thrive on the social side of their sewing get-togethers, where they bounce ideas off each other. Nerolie is a fulltime dressmaker with a particular love of wool, Maria(or MiMi) a hairdresser, dog groomer, Petone’s ballet wardrobe mistress and all-around creative and Fiona is an IT trainer and lover of wool, denim and leather.

“We all adore wool, in all its forms, it’s natural and lovely to sew and drape. The modern merino lends itself to such simplistic beauty and suits our design aesthetic. We are very excited to be part of such a wonder-wool event,” Maria said.

Maria 'MiMi' Nailer.

The trio were encouraged – repeatedly according to Maria - to enter by her sister-in law, Jane Wilson, who was a finalist at WoolOn in 2017. Maria also visited family in Alexandra last year just after the Woolon event, viewed the winners' gallery and “came home raving about it.”

While they often work together, the three sewers also all have their own studios. They have also all been involved in breeding and showing dogs.

“I work in creative chaos, Nerolie works in hoarders’ paradise and Fiona is a bit of both of those, with some neat freak tendencies. When we get together we all agree the best thing is that we leave our baggage at the door and just focus on the fabric, ideas and designs and simply set our imaginations free to rampage at will."

The women share a love of tailored elegance, be it in international design or closer to home.

"Nerolie, a finalist in the Benson & Hedges Fashion Awards in the 90’s, was inspired by her aunt who worked for Norman Hartnell, well known dressmaking to the Queen. Fiona’s grandmother was also an expert tailor and made beautiful clothes often from wool. We also find inspiration from each other,” Maria says.

A knack for re-purposing items which might otherwise be discarded is another string to the Baafleeciagas’ bow. They’re not saying if their entry for 2018 will follow this theme although their name, Maria says, does hold a clue to the Streetwear category creation.

Nerolie and Maria, originally South Islanders, say they are looking forward to leaving all the fur- babies, husbands and teens behind and introducing Fiona to the “wonders of the lower South” come August. The trio had their flights to WoolOn booked, Maria says, before they’d even started on a design.

Baafleeciaga Chicks from left Nerolie Burgess, Maria Nailer and Fiona Donoghue with 'fur babies' Ronan, Mercedes and Yoko.

She reckons the whole town would have to block its collective ears if they managed a placing.

“It would be a huge thrill for us but regardless of the outcome we are looking forward to our first time taking part as a learning experience. We’re also already planning and designing for next year’s event.”

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