The former prison nurse on the road with western store
MELANIE Wellsteed carts her clothing company up and down the east coast of Australia in a revamped mobile library.
Rural Weekly caught up with Ms Wellsteed in her shop truck at FarmFest.
She began her label, Hitchley and Harrow, when she struggled to buy a shirt that had enough length in the body and sleeve, without losing the shape.
“Historically you needed to go up size to get the extra length and then the shirt was oversized and baggy,” she said.
“So we did this little pilot range and it went from there.
“A longer line body and longer line sleeve is our trademark design feature that all of our garments have.”
In March 2014 Ms Wellsteed decided to take her garments to the road when she bought a truck at an auction in NSW.
“When we first kicked off we were operating out of a
3x3 marquee and the then it went to a 3x6 then it was two
3x6 marquees joined together,” she said.
“We were lucky enough to secure the orange truck at an auction in Maxville, it used to be a mobile classroom.
“We stumbled across it online and picked it up from NSW. We stripped it out and started from scratch and made it into a shop.
“It was a very lucky find. A case of the right place at the right time. It was a big project to get it to look how it does now.”
In June last year Hitchley and Harrow got another upgrade after Ms Wellsteed bought a 19m-long single trailer.
Ms Wellsteed got her HV license and drives the truck.
“It was a mobile library that we got second hand and turned into an even bigger shop,” she said. “It’s a single semi-trailer size, it needs a prime mover to tow it.
“It did its first show at Warwick rodeo in October.”
Ms Wellsteed said her clothing designs were based on her personal style and what she liked.
“I actually have a background in nursing. I was a nurse in the prison system for 10 years which is very different to what I do now,” she said.
“But I grew up on a lucerne farm in Tamworth and I’ve always had competition horses, so I’ve always had that country style and equestrian influence in my personal style.
“But I’ve had no fashion or design experience or training, it’s just been winging it.
“I just make what I like. There’s a lot of personal influence in the design and the fabric selection.”
Ms Wellsteed said she had taken her business as far north as Normanton and as far south as Melbourne.
“There’s a lot of country to cover,” she said. “We do a number of key events through the year, we do the Brisbane Royal, the Sydney Royal, and every second year we go down as far south as Melbourne for Equitana. “We also do field days and bigger camp drafts dotted in around there.
“Our busy time is sort of from June until December. The first half of the year is constant but it’s not busy-busy.
“We have the shop in Toowoomba on the Warrego Highway in Charleton.”
TRAVELLING STORE: Melanie Wellsteed with a line of clothing from her brand Hitchley and Harrow.