From her home on beautiful Waiheke Island, designer Melanie Wadham has started her own eco-friendly lingerie line, By Nature, specialising in sustainability without compromising on luxury. Her gorgeous garments are made from bamboo fabric, which is breathable, naturally antibacterial and as soft as silk, as well as environmentally sound.
What do you make?
I custom make women’s lingerie from eco-friendly bamboo fabric, including camisoles, lounge pants, chemises, negligees, French knickers, men’s boxers, wraps and dressing gowns.
How did you get into your craft?
I have been sewing and crafting since I was a little girl, I used to make my own clothing as well as my children’s when they were little, I love to decorate so was always exploring new ideas and techniques. An older friend in South Africa used to make gorgeous lingerie that I admired but never felt I had enough skill or confidence to do it myself, and so here I am 20 years later doing what I have always wanted to do, creating beautiful lingerie with gorgeous laces and trims.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Yes, to achieve an organic, sustainable, eco friendly range of women’s lingerie. I also feel that a lot of women, especially our plus size queens, have trouble finding lingerie that fits and I want to be able to offer custom made lingerie to these women so that they too can feel luxurious and enhance their sexuality and sense of femininity.
Do you have any formal training or qualifications in your craft?
No, I have never done any formal training other than doing it as a higher-grade subject at school that was then called “Housecraft”. My great grandmother was a dressmaker so perhaps I have inherited her talent. I have spent years gleaning, learning, reading, asking and applying myself to reach the place of confidence and skill that I have today.
I have done lots of patchwork and quilting courses, bag making, art quilting and thread play, so this has added to my box of skills too. Unfortunately my creativity was never encouraged as a young girl or nurtured and I have had to do this for myself over the years and push through even when I wanted to give up during those times when I didn’t believe in myself.
What inspires you?
All kinds of beautiful crafts inspire me, I love the thrill of making something beautiful knowing that my workmanship is a higher standard than your average garment made in China for say, The Warehouse; the fact that my customers love what I make for them is in itself a huge inspiration and motivation for me to carry on designing more, sewing more and being innovative. I love books, all kinds of sewing books and magazines and get great inspiration from them and am told I have far too many – not enough as far as I’m concerned!
In five words how would you describe your mind?
Organised, pedantic, creative, passionate, driven.
What are your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love my sewing machine; I have a Bernina Quilter’s Edition that I bought when I was predominantly doing quilts. I would be so lost without it. Working with bamboo has been a new experience for me as I have worked mainly with quilter’s cotton fabrics, but the bamboo is beautiful to sew with. I am a neat sewer, I hate my sewing room to be messy whilst I work and am very pedantic about my quality of work. My quick unpick would have to be a necessary tool!
Describe your workspace:
We moved from a biggish house in Auckland to our wee bach on Waiheke Island, and it is small, you can barely swing a cat in it and I have four! My spare room come guest room is predominantly set up as my sewing room. I love knick-knacks so have a range of old sewing paraphernalia like old cotton reels and sewing machines, old sewing books and tins filled with lots of vintage buttons and ribbons. This takes up much of my space, all this necessary clutter.
I have a large workbench, which I had made in Auckland to fit in my garage. We had to cut it down and rebuild it in the room in order for me to use it, as it wouldn’t go through any of the doors. My walls are filled with quilts, an old printer’s tray filled with thimbles from my travels around the world. It is a lovely bright sunny room with lots of windows and light looking over onto my garden.
What are you currently listening to?
I’m loving Adele 21 and I move my booty to the sound of Burlesque and Christine Aguilera when cutting out patterns or drafting.
Clockwise from left: By Nature designer Melanie Wadham; Melanie and her three sons; 15 year old Duchess.
What was your favourite childhood book?
The Wishing Chair. I think by Enid Blyton. (Soo long ago.)
What are you reading now?
Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Estes Pinkola
It would have to be Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. I loved her tenacity, her will to fight, her determination, passion and her stupidity!
A favourite quote:
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls, the most massive characters are seared with scars”. Kahlil Gibran 1883–1931
Do you have any pets?
Yes I do, I have four cats. Duchess whom we call “Mother” is getting on now – she is 15; Zeus, my big black boy, is 8 and is never sure what day it is. Bluie is my husband’s cat that actually belonged to our neighbor in Auckland as a kitten but decided he preferred Peter instead and so moved in. And my baby girl Chloe who has behavioral problems. She is a Si-Rex, a cross between a Devon Rex and a Chocolate Point Siamese.
If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Definitely red – it is vibrant, strong, warm, confident rich color that speaks volumes of depth and passion.
Browse Melanie’s range of beautiful bamboo lingerie designs in her Felt shop, By Nature.