Designer Claire Williamson from Velma & Beverley. Image supplied.
Claire Williamson is the designer of wool coat label Velma & Beverley which she founded in 2018 after being unable to find a colourful wool coat she liked. The label is named for her two grandmothers Velma Aldridge and Beverley Williamson both of whom had a love of sewing, rural living, fabrics and colour. Claire grew up rurally with an appreciation of wool so she wanted to create coats that celebrated the natural properties of wool using bold but timeless colours in practical styles. Every coat is made from 100% New Zealand wool which is grown, spun and manufactured locally.
We caught up with Claire to find out more about her brand, what inspires her and what you would never catch her wearing!
Tell us about your latest collection/pieces?
Our latest coat is called Beryl – named for my Aunt who had a special love for bright colours and making incredible sewing pieces herself from home, she was a big inspiration for the colour choices. The Beryl is a wrap coat which flatters all figures, it’s made of 100% wool outer with a cotton lining (customer’s choice!). It can be worn open casually on a warmer day or with the tie done up for the cooler winter months, and is equally at home as a high fashion item or worn to brunch in the weekends.
What made you become a designer?
I have always loved natural fabrics (and growing up on a sheep farm, wool in particular) and colour, and was finding them difficult to source in a winter coat. So I decided to create a fusion of natural, NZ sourced wool with fun colours and patterned linings. I’m inspired by a little bit of rural NZ but my designs carry through to high fashion items, flatter all women and can be worn every day as well as on special occasions.
What inspires you?
People who get out and live their dreams – and bring others along on the ride. Taking the plunge with Velma & Beverley was one of the scariest but most rewarding things I’ve ever done and the feedback about my designs and story have been incredible. I encourage more people to do what makes their heart sing and live their passions every day!
Coats by Velma & Beverley.
Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
My style is “colourful smart casual” and I wear natural fabrics as often as I can. I love colourful coats, shoes, scarves and bags and almost never wear black, except for jeans. This has carried through into the Velma & Beverley styles and my dream is to see women shining, looking beautiful and confident in colour.
What is your all-time favourite purchase?
This is such a hard one, I’ve had some amazing things over the years! Except for my V&B coats, I think my favourite is my floral heels which I bought a few years ago on a total whim from Merchant 1948 (Overland). They go with everything, make me feel beautiful, and I get comments every time I wear them!
What wardrobe item should everyone invest in?
A 100% wool winter coat, if possible with a natural lining like cotton or silk – made by a reputable company. Not joking – wool is an incredible, natural, renewable fibre and I adore the way it feels as an overcoat, provides warmth but you don’t overheat. Of course we make these along with other brands, but it’s my number one recommendation for everyone to have one, regardless of whether they buy from us!
Do you have a style rule you always obey?
I always wear colour with a neutral shade. So never leave the house without a splash of colour somewhere!
Coat by Velma & Beverley.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
A post of mine went viral on NZ Made Products recently and the amount of comments, emails, messages and interest I got was such so overwhelming and positive (and very emotional!). Standing at the top of my parents farm watching the sunset and my phone absolutely blowing up with messages of support was absolutely the highlight of my career in “slow fashion” so far!
What can’t you live without?
Coffee. I bought my own machine last year and it’s been a lifesaver!
Finish this sentence – You would never catch me wearing…
A totally black outfit!