Upcycling items and giving them a new life with a twist is one of Jessica Netzler’s specialties.
Whether it’s taking the wedding dress of a mother or grandmother and transforming it into a shorter rehearsal dinner dress for a bride or repurposing a sentimental piece of clothing and altering it with a modern flair, Netzler likes being part of a creative process.
“That is our favorite thing to do,” said Netzler, who owns Ensemble Sewing and Costumes at 1125 Broad St., about the work she and her staff do with garments.
Not only does she employ creativity with fashion, but she’s also using it in her business model as well.
Over the summer of 2023, she took over the reins of a business formerly known as Vintage Ooollee, taking Caren “Ooollee” Bricker’s Broad Street shop, rebranding it and making a few alterations.
Bricker’s Vintage Ooollee had two distinct parts — the vintage clothing side and the costumes that were once part of Fat Man’s.
Netzler kept the beloved costume shop, but on the side where Bricker sold vintage clothing, Netzler has opened up the space for her alterations and sewing business, which she called her “bread and butter.” She also creates custom pieces.
She officially opened in August after a quiet transition between the two business owners.
Netzler’s love of sewing began in her childhood. Her mom made window treatments professionally and had a sewing machine.
“I was always getting into her stuff, messing with her tools and using her pinking sheers on paper because they were zig-zaggy,” she said.
As a teen, Netzler worked at Vintage Ooollee, which put her on the path she is following today.
“Initially, I reached out because I wanted to learn more. I didn’t know in what capacity,” she said. “I learned how to interact with people – people from all walks of life. I learned how to use industrial sewing machines. I learned about patternmaking. Making costumes is very different that making regular clothing and with rentals, you’re making them to accommodate a wide range of sizes.”
She spent about three or four years working with Bricker, who she said was supportive of her employees.
“She would always do whatever she could to propel us forward. She always introduced us to people. She definitely encouraged us,” she said.
After leaving Bricker, Netzler continued to polish her sewing skills, but she kept her relationship with Bricker.
“She mentioned (retiring) to me as a customer. I would shop for vintage all the time,” she said.
Once the seed was planted, Netzler knew she wanted to be part of the continued operation of the costume portion maybe in a management position. Owning the business wasn’t even part of her thought process.
She met with Bricker over breakfast with a notebook in hand. She had plans on what she’d do and what kinds of people she needed to operate the business with her.
“I couldn’t get it off my mind,” she said.
Instead of running it for Bricker, she bought it and doesn’t have any regrets. Since taking over, Netzler said business has been great, and she’s happy that she took the chance to strike out on her own.
She feels she has a good foundation and looks forward to further cultivating the relationships with her clientele while bringing in new customers. She only sees it growing.
“Somebody might start with me repairing their jeans, but they could later bring in a wedding dress. I’m not yet 30, but I’ve already been with people through prom, their weddings and babies. I’ve already seen that because I’ve been sewing so long. Those relationships mean a lot to me,” she said.
Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News and Inspiring: Women of Augusta, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for the newsletter here.
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