With her love for sewing beginning in childhood, Hannah Wills went on to study design, pattern drafting and commercial sewing, before working as a dressmaker. After travelling the world, running a marketing business and having her 2 children back in New Zealand, the time was right to return to her design roots. Struggling to find locally made baby items when pregnant with her second child, she set out to design and create her own, inspired by nature and with sustainability in mind. Using natural fibres like linen, cotton and merino, she creates beautiful high-quality baby items that are made to last. Here, she talks about launching Boston and Forest and her business journey so far.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
I’ve always sewn. In fact, my grandmother was a milner and had a little toy sewing machine on which I started making clothes for my dolly. I was 4 or 5 years old and made a little pair of trousers and clearly remember Grandma and her sister being so amazed that I’d cut the shapes and put them together without having a pattern or any help. The passion to create has only grown from there. After finishing school, I studied design, pattern drafting and commercial sewing and worked for a few designers learning the ropes, then worked for myself dressmaking until I decided to move to Australia and travel the world. Fast forward 11 years, a big move back to New Zealand, a fiancé, a marketing business and two kids later, I decided it was time to get back to my passion.
I was pregnant during our first lockdown here in New Zealand and struggled to find locally made baby items online. I was making a real effort to buy from and support local businesses. This was the catalyst to launching baby goods first, out of pure frustration of not being able to find New Zealand-made items from natural fibres.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
I want to say slowly but it was fast. I had planned a few products, but then the creativity took over. The more I created, the more ideas I had and the more products I made. I launched online on the 13th February 2021 with a 6-month-old baby and a 5-year-old, so I had to balance everything. I did everything myself with the launch, from the website and sourcing fabrics to production and photography. First, I sold online and then I took products to customers at craft and baby markets in Auckland. My aim was to get as many products into people’s hands as possible, showing them the quality of natural fabrics first hand.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
We are still in our first few months of trade so I know this answer will change a lot over the next 12 months. The biggest thing so far would be one of my products that my fiancé thought I was a bit mad making, which turned out to be our best-selling tissue box covers. So, my big breakthrough was in trusting my gut with design and creativity.