Girls Show their Passion for Fashion and Cars
Hawkes Bay Today Local News, Saturday, July 3, 2021
Napier women, Bobbi-jo and Tessa, sew up annual awards for upholstery. It takes Bobbi-jo Wilkie about eight hours to hand stitch and wrap leather around a steering wheel.
For her it's a combination of her passion for both cars and fashion. Last week, Wilkie, 36, who works at family-owned Napier Auto Upholstery Limited, won the tier 2 award at the annual OFPANZ (Outdoor Fabric Products Association of New Zealand) conference. “It was awesome winning the tier 2 aware. It was a goal I had set out for the year,” she said.
Apprentice motor trimmer Tessa Paaymans, who works at the auto shop with Wilkie, won the tier 1 award and got overall apprentice of the year at the conference. “This is an industry women can totally dominate in,” Paaymans said. “My mission for car upholstery is to make people push boundaries.”
Both Wilkie and Paaymans previously studied at EIT and completed a Level 4 Certificate in Fashion Apparel. Paaymans also studied Applied Industries at Toi Whakaari in Wellington. Wilkie was introduced to motor trimming from a very young age, with her father Malcolm owning Napier Auto Upholstery in 1982, before she was born.
At the age of 11, she got her first job at Napier Auto Upholstery, doing odd jobs around the workshop. With her love of cars and 25 years’ experience in sewing and her skill in pattern making, she decided to try motor trimming. “I love working with hot rods and muscle cars and am currently in the process of restoring a 1960 Bel Air. It takes a couple of months to restore fully the interior of a car. I really love restoring Camaros – that era of cars are really fun to upholster.”
She also loves the different choices of fabric she can work with, which allows her imagination to run wild, but she has a favourite. “I love working with nappa leather, it’s really nice to work with it and I like the feel of it,” she said. “It’s used a lot in the fancy European cars.”
Wilkie currently works at and manages the workshop and has shares in the company and will take over once her dad retires. Paaymans, 27, has 14 years’ experience in sewing and has a background in fashion and costume. She has spent her life around vintages, classics, speedway and track racing.
She started restoring cars with her dad found years ago and knew that using her skill base in design and sewing would be a good match for auto upholstery, which let her to Bobbi and Malcolm and their vast knowledge. “I started sewing when I was about 13,” Paaymans said. “There used to be lots of wearable arts competitions and I used to enter them. I really like doing it. I also got contacted by New York fashion Week in 2017 to showcase a collection of six garments,” she said.
“After completing my diploma, I went to work at Weta Workshop for two years, Then I can back to Hawkes Bay. My dad has stated a car restoration business at home, so I joined him,” and soon after she stated working with Wilkie.
Winning the award for Paaymans was “amazing” and she wanted to highlight the achievements, so more people were aware of how to get there.