Creativity is a big part of Denielle Bernauer’s everyday life, as a qualified hairdresser and dressmaker, and with a Diploma in Interior Design. Her passion for fashion and jewellery came at a very young age, making daisy chain necklaces for her friends, and creating clothing for their barbies. Little did she know that this passion would eventually grow into a business. She launched Love Nelli to create a range of beautiful clothing that is stylish, affordable, comfortable, and looks amazing on every body shape, using bright colours and comfortable, easy-to-maintain fabrics. Here, Denielle talks to the Natural Parent Magazine about focusing her brand on women like herself who carry extra weight, the biggest breakthrough for her business, and her hopes and dreams for the future.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
As a woman that carries weight, I found it so frustrating trying to find fashion that fitted me. The ongoing struggle of ordering online and having the humiliating task of ordering the XXXL, and then, that soul destroying moment when the parcel arrived, trying it on and it doesn’t fit, just devastating.
So, with my dressmaking and designing skills, I knew it was time to make a difference. To create a beautiful range that is not only comfortable and affordable, but most importantly it fits! No soul destroying ridiculous sizing, just REAL sizing for REAL women.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Well the start of Love Nelli was a bit of a knee jerk reaction to Covid to be honest. I had been a hairdresser for 37 years, I owned my own salon – and then we were in lockdown!
So, this gave me the time to think about my life and what the future held for me. I have the stereotypical bad hairdresser’s back, which was preventing me from enjoying some things in life. It was the lockdown that prompted me to think about how we would survive financially as a family if this became a common thing, and really, with that first lockdown, we had no idea how long it would last or the ongoing effects to the community. Not being one to be able to sit idle for long, just a couple of days into the lockdown and I was planning. I started with leggings – I had previously sourced comfy leggings for myself and I built on this. I knew they had to be comfortable, soft and the biggest hurdle was they could not roll down! So with my previous importing experience, I sourced the right manufacturer for Love Nelli and we went into production!
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
The biggest breakthrough came when after trialing what felt like hundreds of samples and fabrics, we had THE ONE! The fit was perfect, the yoga band was nice and high waisted which meant it wouldn’t roll down, the fabric was buttery soft and super stretchy, there was no pilling and the sizing was up to a 26 as I wanted. We had made so many tweaks to the pattern to accommodate all shapes and sizes, including mum tums, and we finally nailed it. Our first drop sold out in just 3 weeks! Once our customers felt how soft and comfy they were, they rushed to order more. The brighter and funkier the design the more our customers wanted them.
As time went on, I knew my customers needed tops to wear with their new amazing leggings, so I started designing our fashion range. I knew the range needed to fit comfortably and affordably and it needed to be ethical. I support slow fashion so it would NEVER be mass produced and it needed to comfortably fit up to a size 26. My previous training as a designer/dressmaker was the driving force as I knew I could do this. Carrying weight myself along with my fashion knowledge helped me come up with flattering designs that will work for everyBODY. We now have a core range of around 30 designs that are sized up to a 26. Love Nelli‘s sizes are realistic as well – we have just S, M, L so no more soul destroying XXXLs!