Michelle Procter | Production Manager
Every piece has a story
‘‘Every piece has a story’ is our way of giving you a little insight into the wonderful people who contribute to each of our garments, where we talk about the people behind our brand and the people part of our Mina Community. We talk a lot about how our community and relationships are so central to our business but as the day to day of business gets so busy we don't often get to talk about these people as much as we would like to.
For those of you who don’t know, Mina is a mother-daughter duo. Natalie, the designer and head of sales for the brand and her Mother Michelle, the production manager and in-house pattern maker.
Over the last couple of days Michelle and Natalie have been working out of their Glendowie studio, cutting and sewing reusable face masks made from leftover fabric from our current Walking the Bushveld collection.
As such an integral part of Mina, we had a chat with Michelle about what it’s like working with her daughter and how she came to be a part of the business and her experience in the industry so far.
Hi Michelle tell us a bit about what its like working for Mina and how your role in the business came about?
And so Mina was launched and a huge learning curve for me. I love what I do and the boss is pretty good too. Working for Mina has opened a whole new world for me. It’s very exciting. I work from my home which is ideal for me as I am a real homebody. We converted the “kids” TV room into a studio.The only problem is that I find myself in the studio more than I should be. Working from home means you are always at work.
"When your only child says she wants to start an ethical fashion label, you think wow that’s awesome, I wonder how I can help. Little did I know I would be working full time. The idea of having a label that is ethical, made in NZ and inclusive of age and size piqued my interest."
Where did your skills for pattern making originate and what do you do for Mina?
Good pattern making is a real skill and I am a long way from there, but learning more every day. I think it is a skill you get better at the more you do it. For Mina I do most of the patterns. We also use Pattern Table for the odd one I either can’t do or run out of time to do. I also sample up my patterns to the point of being ready to sample in our preferred fabric.
"I have always been a keen sewer but always frustrated with bought patterns as they never fitted properly, so when I retired from corporate life I decided to do a pattern drafting and garment construction diploma at NZAF. I loved every minute of it. Being with young people and all their creativity was a real buzz"
Can you tell us about the pattern making process and where this fits into the production of a garment?
Natalie will send me her design ideas and then I either start a new pattern or adjust an existing one. Patterns are done on brown craft paper. I will sample up the first draft (these samples are usually very rough just to see if the pattern fits the body). It can take me 2 or 3 goes at getting the pattern just right.
I am fortunate as Natalie is my in-house model, so a great time to catch up. I make patterns to fit us rather than a size 6 model. That way we can see it on real bodies. I have a try on too and most of them look great on young and old.
Once the pattern is good I then have a lovely lady Phylly who sews all my sample garments in our preferred fabrics. Once we have all the samples...this process takes quite a while, we then photograph them and get them ready to sell in to our retailers. These same samples are used for the cutters, production team and ultimately for Showroom 22 which is the PR company we use.
Mina works with a community of local makers and suppliers, tell us about this experience?
Over the years we have made friends with an amazing group of people. We are all passionate about what we do and would love to see the NZ fashion industry survive. With more and more brands going overseas it is now more than ever important to support our local makers and suppliers.
I do most of the organising when it comes to production and so it’s important for me that the fabric suppliers, button/zip suppliers, pattern graders, cutters and sewers are all relatively close so I don’t spend all my day on the road to source products or check on productions.
"I am very grateful for all their support and patience as Mina has developed and grown over the last couple of years. I have found them all to be very generous with their knowledge and without their input and support, I don't know how we would have been able to continue with our dream."
What is it like working with your daughter Natalie - designer and sales for the Mina brand?
I love it. We get on really well and as we have different roles in the business (I look after the production side and Natalie does all the rest), we don’t seem to clash that often. Our stresses are usually at different times, so we are generally there for each other.
How do you separate your mother/daughter relationship from the business?
I don’t think we do really. I admire her for being so focussed and driven. She knows exactly where she wants to take Mina and what it should look like. I am very much there in a supportive role, giving advice at times, but generally, Natalie takes the lead. We do try and keep Mina out of our conversations at the weekend, but it is quite difficult, as my husband is very supportive and always wants to know how we are going.
What are you working on right now?
Once level 3 was announced Natalie and I decided it would be a good initiative to use some of our spare scrap fabric to make some reusable face masks as a replacement of these one-use masks. Since putting them online on Saturday the response has been huge so Natalie and I have been working long days trying to get these out as soon as possible.
My main focus now (once the demand for the masks dies down) though is the production of our summer season. There is always a multitude of things to plan and sort for this. I have also started the design stage for our next capsule. So back to pattern drafting and sample sewing. The stress level is reasonably high with all the delays due to COVID, we are not sure when we will be able to launch our new range.
What styles are you wearing this Winter from the AW20 collection?
I can pair the Yoli Top with the Studio Pants if I want to go out and look a little more dressed up. I wear my Obom Blazer almost every week, perfect to put over a top and jeans or I will wear the matching Mali Pants if I have a meeting.