Craftsbury, Vermont-based designer, Hanna Broer, is a one-woman operation -- from design to sewing to racing packages to her tiny town’s post office before the 2:30 closing time. Originally from Canada, Hannah got her professional start working as a seamstress for a designer in Montreal. But she always knew she wanted to strike out on her own. She made herself some underwear one day and thought, “I should sell this!” -- and the rest is history.
We spoke with this lingerie lady from her third-floor sewing studio (where she sits atop a village grocer and a tattoo parlor) about loving your body, eco-conscious design and how she staves off the loneliness of working solo.
Hanna, how did you get started in the clothing business?
I worked for a fashion designer in Montreal who had a women’s clothing shop. I was the shop assistant and a seamstress. I really enjoyed it, but I was very much planning on having my own line someday. I’ve been passionate about sewing and making clothing since I was a teenager.
I got into lingerie, specifically, when I made some underwear for myself. I found it was fun to make and could be a good niche. Lingerie is a great specialty -- fashion moves so quickly, but making lingerie is more specific and within that constrained space there is room for creativity. I like making things that fit properly, especially bras, and that for me is a fun challenge.
Did you attend fashion school or are you self-taught?
I went to fashion school for one semester, and a number of years later I went to another school for one semester, but I never did graduate in fashion. Working as a seamstress is where most of my technical knowledge came from. And I’ve been sewing since I was 13 or 14 with my mom who made my clothes when I was a little kid. She let me adopt her machine, and she showed me a number of skills. Then away I went!
What was the first piece of clothing you ever made?
The first piece of clothing I made was as a kid, and it was a Pippi Longstocking Halloween costume. I made a circle skirt and put patches all over it.
What do you like about working alone? Do you ever get lonely?
I do like working by myself, and my magic trick is audio books. Since I’m sewing by myself all day I can listen to stories while I’m working. That’s helpful for keeping the loneliness at bay. I got sucked into the Outlander series -- they’re long books, so they can last months!
It’s nice to go to work and slip into my other world. I love that I get to be creative for a living.
What do you struggle with as a small business owner?
Sometimes I struggle with having to do so much myself. I’m a one-woman business, so I can’t delegate if I’m sick, or if I have an overload of work. I would love if someone else could do the sewing for me, especially when I’m really busy.
How did you know when your business really “took off”?
My business really got a boost when I started using professional photography. Before that I was taking all my own photos, and I really wasn’t a pro. That translated to a much less professional-looking shop and online presence. I do still like to take some photos, but I’m not putting all the pressure on myself.
So you sell primarily online, then?
I’ve sold on Etsy for a long time, and I’ve seen slow and steady progress and growth. I have a lot of really good reviews there. When people buy from me they tend to recommend me to others. I use Instagram, where I find a lot of my models and photographers. With my website, I try to have the best Search Engine Optimization so hopefully people can find me.
Why did you decide to only use organic and recycled material for your designs?
Organic farming is really important to me. I believe in nourishing the land and not depleting it or putting chemicals in it. I don’t want to put chemicals on my body either. When I can’t use organic materials, like for swimsuits which need some synthetic stretch to them, I will use recycled polyester instead.
The models you use are all shapes and sizes. Tell me more about that.
I sell garments in a variety of different sizes, so it’s really important for me to showcase different body types and sizes. It helps my customers imagine themselves in my lingerie, too. One of the ways I show love for my customers is by making flattering and comfortable pieces which help them love themselves and the bodies they’re in.
(Profile photo by Carina Phillips)
Before you go
QB Community Members, how do you show your customers that you are listening and know exactly what they want?
You must be a registered user to add a comment. If you've already registered, sign in. Otherwise, register and sign in.