How these two young mothers combined their creative talents to find a gem of an idea
Colour has proved to be a bright idea for these two Co Down women. Stephanie Bell finds out more
Two young mums have put the zest back into fashion by setting up their own companies, based on their love of colour and vibrancy.
Donaghcloney mum-of-two Melanie Bond has been making quite a splash with her bespoke costume jewellery range, while her friend Amanda Rankin, a mum-of-one, from Dromore, has been staggered by the response to her new company Colour Pursuit, selling choice second-hand clothing sourced from charity shops.
The girls are now set to bring their colourful range to a fashion party they will be staging in Dromore Town Hall tomorrow.
Joining them at this feast of fashion will be a number of other local designers, including three who will be showcasing woman's wear and bridal - David Henderson, Kelly Black and Louise Chambers - plus a selection of hats from Gary Black and Rachel Monteith.
Models will also be mingling with the crowds, showing off Amanda's eye for second-hand style teamed with Melanie's rather bold and beautiful jewellery pieces.
The girls are married to cousins, who are both teachers, and have been able to combine looking after young families with running their own companies. Melanie also works part-time as a solicitor while juggling life with a new baby and a toddler.
Amanda, who describes herself as a creative, set up her new business just last month after finding herself "burnt out" by working hard in what she eventually realised was the wrong job.
The name of her company reflects her own personal journey when she struggled to get some "colour" and "vibrancy" back into her life.
Originally from Philadelphia in the USA, she came to Northern Ireland 10 years ago, to work with the charity Youth for Christ. It is here that she met her husband Chris (34), a geography teacher, who is also chairman of the charity, and the couple married three years ago. They have one daughter, Acacia (16-month-old).
While she enjoyed her time as a youth worker, Amanda found that it left her exhausted and even changed her personality, robbing her of her zest for life.
She explains: "While I loved the work and I saw great things happening in the lives of the young people, I was not taking time for myself or taking care of myself and I just burned out. I didn't like the person I had become.
"I couldn't laugh or enjoy life or even have fun anymore. I had always been an outgoing person and I had changed, I had become very quiet and wasn't myself.
"It was only when my daughter came along that I decided I had a chance to change and believe in myself again.
"She brought a settling into my life that allowed me to think, pray and become acquainted with my creative side again.
"Colour was always significant in my life, like vibrancy, and I realised I needed to keep colour in my life every day.
"I also realised that I needed to enjoy every moment as it comes, and take in every small moment rather than look ahead and start to live where I am now."
One of her hobbies was visiting second-hand shops looking for what she describes as "wee gems" and bargains.
She saw it as rescuing pre-loved clothes and giving them a second chance.
Colour Pursuit was born out of the gratitude she felt at being given a second chance to change her own life.
Amanda thought up the title to remind herself not to miss the joy of the everyday.
Initially she launched a website, ColourPursuit.com, which was intended to be a platform to write about colourful, life-giving things such as healthy eating, adventure, motherhood, and community.
But she soon hit on the idea of selling her second-hand gems on the site.
She set out to scour charity shops across Northern Ireland for stock and was thrilled with her finds which enabled her to launch her business.
Now, just a few weeks later, she can't believe how well her idea has taken off and as well as a steady flow of orders on her website, she has just been commissioned by customers to find certain items of clothing for them.
She says: "As a stay-at-home mum, I was also looking for a way to bring in a little bit of extra cash which is why the online shop came into existence.
"Because I love second-hand clothes shopping, hunting for those one-off pieces hidden in the corner that nobody else would find, I thought why not find these beautiful things for those who don't have time to rummage?
"There are some amazing keepsake clothing items out there that have been loved in the past and deserve to continue being loved by someone new.
"People have been really supportive and I'm really thrilled by how it has taken off, and even though it has just been a couple of months, it feels like it has been going forever.
"I think people like the fact the clothes are very different and colourful and a bit quirky. It's an opportunity for them to find something that is different from what everyone else is wearing.
"Young mums in particular seem to love the colours and the styles. I am also being asked to look for items in a particular colour or style for people which is great."
The flexibility of the business means she can bring her baby with her as she shops or works on her website.
"I'm really looking forward to the fashion show, as it will be the first time people will be able to try on the clothes and I hope to have a large collection with me of sizes, from eight to 20," she says.
Amanda has known Melanie for a number of years and says she has been inspired by how her friend has managed to continue to keep her business going while juggling motherhood.
"Melanie's jewellery is amazing and ranges from everyday pieces to catwalk items," she says.
"It is so colourful and has so much creativity in it. And at the summer party it will go so well alongside my collection.
"She is an inspiration to me. She has two kids now and is still doing what she loves and being creative and that has inspired me to stay true to my creative roots and pursue my own business."
Melanie (31) works as a solicitor as well as a leading local jewellery designer.
She is married to Stephen (31), a history and English teacher, and they have two children, Rose (3) and Timothy (three months).
Although she went down the academic route, Melanie discovered a creative side when she started making jewellery as a hobby while studying for a law degree.
She soon found demand for her pieces among friends and family which helped pay her way through university.
Since then, she has built quite a reputation for her bespoke pieces which she has showcased at Belfast Fashionweek.
She also designed jewellery for Mary Peters attending the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards and was commissioned to design the crown for the Miss Ulster contest.
Melanie's work is also inspired by colour and by her love of all things quirky, just like Amanda.
She says: "One of my regrets is that I didn't pursue art at school. I went down the academic route and discovered my creative side by accident.
"I still work part-time as a solicitor and juggle that with my jewellery-making and motherhood, which makes life a bit hectic, but I love it.
"Most of my work now is commissions for special occasions and I like to design pieces that are bold and which make a statement."
Melanie works closely with her clients to reflect their personalities in her one-off pieces.
While most of her jewellery is bespoke and designed for big events, she tries to ensure that they are created in such a way that they can be worn not just to dress up, but also to complement casual outfits.
"I like to think of them as a bit of everyday glamour so that they can be worn with something nice and also with a pair of jeans and a crisp white shirt and blazer," she says.
"They are adaptable pieces and I make them so that I can change them for my client into something else if they want, maybe by turning a dressy bracelet into a necklace."
Also, like Amanda, she scours second-hand shops for vintage jewellery and unusual pieces which she uses to inspire her own creations, and is constantly on the lookout for quirky materials.
She is thrilled to be showcasing her new jewellery range with Amanda's eclectic clothes collection at the fashion party in Dromore this week.
"I think what Amanda is doing is very exciting as no-one else is doing it," she says.
"It is completely different and completely reflects her personality.
"She is very colourful and even her home is colourful and unusual. She brings that through to her clothing collection.
"She got this gorgeous bold black and white striped skirt which I just had to have and she is just so creative in how she puts things together.
"I think people will love the chance to see her collection."
The party starts here
The fashion party will be held in Dromore Town Hall tomorrow from 11am until 3pm
Colour Pursuit's summer collection will be available to browse, try and purchase, as will Melanie's new jewellery collection
Other local fashion designers will also be there displaying and selling a fantastic range of their clothes, jewellery and accessories
You can check out Amanda's range at www.ColourPursuit.com and see samples of Melanie's work at www.melaniebond.co.uk