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Bev MacInnes, Coco and Raj – Centennial Park Emporium

Images of the Bev McInnes 'Coco and Raj' range of clothes for larger sized women.

I met Bev MacInnes ( image of Bev on the right ) a few years ago when a friend introduced me to her fabulous shop Bev’s Remnant House. Last week we had a chat about Bev’s latest enterprise Coco and Raj and her upcoming collaboration, Centennial Park Emporium ( details at the end of this post) and why she felt she had to start……. a clothing range for all sizes.

“I’ve had Bev’s Remnant House for almost eight years and love it, love the contact with my customers, love the fabric, love the people.

I’ve now gone to India five or six times sourcing fabrics for Bev’s Remnants House. I go to Jaipur where I’ve found fantastic printers who will do hand printed wood block designs on canvas for the business.

A few years back I was on a Christmas summer holiday with a girlfriend, in a small country town called Barwon Heads, it’s next to Queenscliff, on coastal Victoria.

As you do on holiday, we went browsing the boutiques. After the first day we went home incredibly frustrated. We are both over size 16 both over 50, there was not one thing we could try on, even the medium was a size 10, there was nothing over size 14. It was just laughable, totally crazy.

So that was the seed, I thought I’ve just got to do something, because I can’t stand it. On holidays you want something light and comfortable … easy to wear. Something you can wear to the beach and then onto a café. I personally know how hard it is to find these clothes so I decided to make them.

Even going to David Jones, where I do love to shop, they have beautiful clothes and you pick up something in a size 12 and you think that’s lovely but by the time you get to a size 16 it turns into a Nanna print and made of Polyester.

At the same time I had found beautiful cottons and linens in India that were not suitable for Bev’s Remnant House but would be wonderful for clothes … lovely to wear.

When I went back to India and to my printer the following year, coincidentally his daughter had just started making clothes for a Swedish firm, so I said I have some clothes I’d like made could you do that and they said no problem.

I’d done some drawings. I sat down with the wife of the business, she is the owner, and the company is very experienced dealing with overseas companies. They have very beautiful historical prints. I would describe to her, I‘m looking for a medium sized floral pattern and we’d go through the catalogue and I’d find something and I’d say … can I get that in pink and orange rather than the blue and green.

Then they’d print a small colour swatch for me to check the next day, I’d approve the colours and then they’d make up a toile or sample. I was the model and I’d come back a day or two later and I’d try it on and we’d make various adjustments to the garment ….. neckline lower, sleeves bigger.

I didn’t have a lot of time so it was a bit on the hop. It would have been easier with some more time, but I invested in some pants and tops, I still wasn’t sure what I’d do with them.

The shop, Bev’s Remnant House, is my full time job, so I decided I’d try some POP UPS for the clothes and an online store on my Coco & Raj website.

I grew up in a little country town Deniliquin in New South Wales and decided I’d launch the brand there. My old art teacher, who is in his 70’s and his boyfriend have a groovy little restaurant / Café and they put on an Indian night. The locals paid $80 for the dinner and I got some local girls to model, we had a little fashion parade. I set up a shop out the back ….. I also bought some earrings and scarves, we sold a lot and the next day my oldest girlfriend turned her lounge room into a POP UP which was and a hit and so much fun.

Country girls are often big, I’m not saying overweight but strong from working on the farm and want comfortable clothes. They don’t have much time to shop, so these clothes from India are a bit exotic and easy to wear, perfect for hot summer days in the country, but they aren’t going to be for everyone.

I think Judy Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel film is the inspiration. I thought how elegant and individual. An older woman can look so elegant with these floaty clothes, add some pants and a throw a shawl over your shoulder and off you go to a lovely restaurant.

I’ve also had a POP UP event in Adelaide, people come have a drink, it ticks over. People who have bought the clothes have enjoyed them and have come back for more, told their friends who are going on a cruise or to say somewhere like Vietnam or Sri Lanka, and they are looking for light weight clothes that they can wash overnight, very easy care.

It is hard to do this remotely. India is well priced but now they’ve bought in GST and freight is expensive its not as cheap as people think. My clothes are under a hundred dollars but compared to getting 15,000 things done in Bali its not exactly the same, I’m concentrating on quality. The clothes are beautifully made with French seams and great finish and detail. The beautiful quality cotton is the secret, the hand woodblock prints don’t fade or wash out.

I’ve been making the clothes for two and a half years and haven’t started to push it yet as the shop keeps me busy. I know there is a need for the clothes and I get a real thrill when I see someone in the street or at a party wearing something I’ve produced. They look lovely and I know they are comfortable. I’ve recently added size 12 and 14 so we now have sizes from 12 through to 24, as well as Pyjamas and dressing gowns.

Our next event is in collaboration with Design Weaver, Sally Smith and Mamma Mia India and we are located in a charming shop at 7 Clovelly Road, Randwick – the Centennial Park end of Clovelly Road – for two weeks starting Wednesday 22nd AUG.

Phone me on 0419411920 for opening hours or just pop in.

I’d also like to thank the wonderful models Isabel Kidd above in the black and white, Kim O’Callaghan in the Greens stripes and Bronwyn Jones in the yellow top.

http://www.cocoandraj.com

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Comments 2

  1. Finally someone is thinking outside the box and providing fashion for real-sized women. The clothes Bev designs, which are then handmade, look wonderful. My friends and I are looking forward to attending her pop-up this week.

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