Celebrating ten years in business this year co-owners of Wānaka fashion store Bella, Jen Milburn and Marg Caldwell, credit their successful partnership to their complimentary styles and each other’s strengths.
“We have managed what the Beatles couldn’t as the original Fab Four were only together for eight years before they went their separate ways,” says Jen. “Marg is the devil in the detail whereas I’m more the fun in the flair.”
Jen’s early days in Dunedin included working with clothing manufactures Sew Hoy and sons followed by a career in finance before setting up her own baby bedding manufacturing business and topped off with 12 years in tourism. Marg had a scientific background with a career in sales and as a shareholder in an Auckland wine business.
When the opportunity to buy Bella arose in 2011 the decision wasn’t difficult for the long-time friends.
“We discussed it over dinner and while it was a great leap of faith we were both drawn to the idea of living in beautiful Wānaka.”
Today Bella is a must-visit women’s clothing store in Wanaka’s thriving downtown fashion hub.
The store’s success remains rooted in Jen and Marg’s original intentions for the store. Jen and Marg offer considerable fashion knowledge teamed with thoughtful advice and a superb line up of easy-to-wear, quality labels many from New Zealand designers and many New Zealand made.
“Over the decade we have seen a positive shift away from what was perceived as fast fashion to what we now call slow fashion,” says Jen. “Our focus is on New Zealand designers and we are embracing the move back to natural fibres such as wools, silks and linens – ethically made fabrics and garments with timeless design and enduring quality.”
“Although all fashion trends are embraced at Bella our seasonal buying is based more on the knowledge of our customer base. We are able to cater for 18 to 80-year-old women, casual to corporate and all shapes, styles and budgets.
Jen and Marg still get a buzz out of welcoming back returning customers.
“We are often told they are returning because they liked the quality and friendliness of our service. Embracing technology in the store from our operation systems to our online store has also seen great success. Having these platforms linking together to create a better shopping experience for our customers is very satisfying.”
The pair plan to celebrate their 10-year milestone together.
“Probably with a game of cards after dinner much as it all started ten years back,” says Marg.
“ But it’s our store and customers who we are really celebrating and our suppliers have been great to us. Over the three days of Labour weekend in October we will be offering a glass of bubbles instore and giveaways to customers.”