Norwest News april 09.jpgArticle in the Norwest News April 09

Sewing for the Stars

By RANI TIMOTI - Norwest News


Behind the sequins and accessories of the celebrities on Dancing with the Stars is a small Riverhead business.

Sam Whelan (Pictured) owns Dance Fabrics Direct, one of the Suppliers of dazzling outfits the dancers bend and stretch in.

Sam has worked closely with costume designer Claire Palmer since the show began in 2005.

"She’s just awesome. She blows my mind with what she does," says Sam.

"I drop everything for her to start creating. We go all-out."

Because each Latin and ballroom costume may take up to 40 hours to make, they need to be comfortable and suited to the dancers and their routines.

Sam understands that as the show progresses and couples get eliminated the pressure is on Claire and her team.

"Sometimes I get courier drivers telling me: ‘You must get this finished by ...’"

An avid Dancing with the Stars fan who has been invited to the live shows, Sam enjoys seeing the results of their work.

Last year Sam visited the show’s wardrobe department where Claire picked out outfits.

"It was good for me to see how it all works."

Apart from meeting celebrities a highlight was seeing contestants wearing Dance Fabrics Direct’s distinctive material.

A group of Sam’s former netball friends turned the same material into shirts for a trip to Rarotonga.

It all started a few years ago when Sam spotted a niche in the market with customers looking for material to dance and exercise in.

She and husband Ron started RJ Textiles in their garage in Hobsonville.

They grew into larger premises in Henderson before deciding to scale down to wholesalers specialising in fabrics for daywear, theatre-wear and after-five outfits.

Dance Fabrics Direct came into being three years ago.

"It was my dream to set up here," says Sam, who sources fabric from overseas.

The couple have two children and four grandchildren and Sam says her six-year-old granddaughter is already starting to create and try on fabric.

Customers vary from dance mums, teachers and schools to companies and they cater for television, theatre, dress-ups, eventing and weddings.

"If I can make it easier, they have less stress," says Sam, a former midwife who grew up sewing her own outfits.

"It’s been just trial-and-error, learning what mixes and what people want."

And Sam is big on service.

"My philosophy is if I haven’t got it I’ll try and find it."



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