Natalie O’Donnell and Karla Lewis launched Napier-based vintage and rockabilly clothing label Two Lippy Ladies in January last year. The founders, both lovers of the 1950s aesthetic, walk the talk and have heaps of fun, yet they are also on a serious mission.
Napier-based rockabilly clothing brand Two Lippy Ladies are on a mission: to capture and transform what they call the ‘curvy’ clothing market.
“We don’t want women hiding their bodies,” says co-founder Natalie O’Donnell.
Mainstream fashion is often only tied to one body shape, and they just increase the size, which doesn’t work, she says. Clothes available to curvier women are drapey, and tent-like, with the underlying message that ‘we don’t want to see you’.
“We are all about get your tits out, get your boobs out, get your waist out,” O’Donnell says.
Two Lippy Ladies supplies rockabilly clothing for sizes 8 to 32, and women are loving the aesthetic.
The inspiration for Two Lippy Ladies came in 2010 when O’Donnell was working for Immigration New Zealand, and Lewis was working on a cruise ship. O’Donnell says the pair, who had been friends since high school, thought “There must be another way.”
They came up with the business name first, and O’Donnell initially made and sold jewellery under the label. Soon, a move to Hawke’s Bay prompted a new direction.
Both Lewis and O’Donnell had always loved the 1950s aesthetic, and after some research they discovered there weren’t many businesses supplying rockabilly clothing in New Zealand.
The exciting breakthrough came during art deco week in Napier in 2014, when O’Donnell did a pop-up shop, and she sold out of all her stock.
“Then I freaked out, because we looked so successful that someone might go this is what Napier needs and come in and take over. That’s when I got it in my head that we needed to open a shop and fast, and Karla was still overseas, and so I told her to come home,” O’Donnell says.
In January, 2015, Two Lippy Ladies opened a shop in Hastings, where they experienced great community support. They moved the shop to Napier in April, to take advantage of the busy summer retail traffic.
The business, which is online as well, has gone from strength to strength, particularly driven by social media marketing. They have recently hired a part-time staff member.
O’Donnell, who looks after the social media side of things, says initially most of her work hours were spent researching social marketing, and the Facebook page grew to 10,000 likes quickly.
“We put ourselves out on Facebook and it’s nice because we are three different sizes, and we have customers who put up photos of themselves,” says Lewis.
Most of Two Lippy Ladies’ stock comes from the UK, and all of the accessories is artisan such as Retro Resin and Erstwilder.
Lewis says her job satisfaction comes from seeing women’s confidence grow as they try on the clothing and see how gorgeous they look.
“We’ve had women in here crying saying they didn’t think they could look like this,” she says. We say – try this and try that, and clothes that people might not think they would suit. Not that we’re bossy, she says.
“But we are,” says O’Donnell, with a smile.