Inspiration for a product originating on the family farm came from standing on the
cold winter sidelines of a rugby match. The story behind The Clip is told in the latest
episode of the From the Ground Up podcasts, Rebecca Greaves writes.

Standing on the sideline watching her daughter play rugby in winter, Charlotte Bell thought she’d love to have a warm wool coat to wear. When she searched, she couldn’t find what she was after, so she decided to create her own.

Charlotte and her husband Hamish and their two girls Alexis (8) and Zoe (6) live on their sheep and beef farm at Cattle Creek in the Hakataramea Valley, South Canterbury.

Using Romney ewe lamb’s wool sourced from their farm, Charlotte started The Clip in 2019, creating stylish, functional and warm wool coats that will stand the test of time.

“The Clip was born from a cold winter’s day. Wool prices obviously have been terrible for a long time and we started brainstorming what we could do with it to try to increase revenue from the wool side of the business,” she says.

“Watching my wee girl play rugby, I was looking at the different coats people were wearing and thought, why not try to make a wool coat?”

Luckily, the wool they were producing on the farm turned out to be a good fit for making a wool coat. “Even though we have crossbreds, both my husband and father-in-law still select their rams for their wool as well as other traits. We were producing good wool but not getting any money for it. It’s nice to be able to make use of this wool.”

The ewe wool was too strong, but the lamb’s wool was ideal. Handily, Charlotte’s father-in-law is also a classer and a passionate wool man, so he was able to lend his expertise for selecting the wool.

“He loves it. He has come over and classed the wool every time. I stand beside him and try to learn as much as I can. It’s been great having him on board.”

Charlotte’s beautiful coats are New Zealand made, using all natural materials, from the cotton lining to the ethically made cow-horn buttons. A coat from The Clip is an investment, fitting with the ethos of slow fashion – quality over quantity, buying less but making it last.

“I wanted it to be completely natural, and that was hard to find in the market; I thought there was a bit of a gap. With Covid we found we were getting more passionate about New Zealand-made and supporting local manufacturers.”

Lambs on the farm are shorn twice a year and the wool used in the coats is hand-selected, ensuring the perfect length and micron, making each piece a limited edition.

Charlotte admits she had no previous design experience but has always loved beautiful clothes. She set about creating something she wanted to wear.

Getting started involved plenty of Google and seeking advice from people in the industry. Andy May at Woolyarns provided good advice and recommended talking to Interweave, who weave the fabric.

A friend who had a background in fashion design helped with the patterns and sewing samples.

“She was amazing and put her hand up – she’s a busy farming mum in Southland. She had been on a factory visit to Albion [Clothing] in Christchurch and recommended I try there to get them made.”

Getting the wool scoured is one of the slowest parts of the process, Charlotte says. It is then spun and dyed into yarn before being woven into fabric, which is then made into the coats.

Plenty of trial and error and tweaking the design resulted in the luxurious, long, wool coat she now has on the market. The coats are available in one style with three different colour options, and Charlotte’s next step will be to create a men’s line.

Apart from her desire for a lovely wool coat, a big part of Charlotte’s why is to show her children that opportunities are there for those who are brave enough to take them.

“It’s my daughter that keeps me going. I found a note she had written the other day and it said, ‘when I grow up, I want to be just like my mum and make fashion designs’.”

  • To hear more about The Clip and how Charlotte set about designing, manufacturing and selling her wool coats, listen to the latest episode of Young Country’s From the Ground Up podcast.