Sixty kilometres inland from Oamaru, the small rural community of Kurow is a somewhat surprising spot to find a fabulous frock shop – but for Jess Beachen it’s the perfect place to pursue her fashion (and foodie) dreams.
Words Josie Steenhart | Recipes Jess Beachen
Nestled in the Waitaki Valley, Kurow – formally a gold rush service town, then a base for the Waitaki Dam construction, and of course the hometown of All Black Richie McCaw – is perhaps an unexpected spot to find a delightfully chic fashion boutique brimming with beautiful things.
But Jess Beachen, designer/founder of clothing label Jessica Flora and owner of In Good Company (which stocks her own brand along with a considered edit of locally made accessories and homeware), was unfazed when she moved to the tiny town (population under 400) last year.
“I moved down to Kurow at the beginning of 2022, and have loved calling this beautiful area home,”
“Growing up on a farm in Hawke’s Bay, I never imagined being able to combine my love of fashion with
a rural setting, so it’s pretty amazing that I get to live in such a rural community and run a business
It makes sense then, that while Jess is designing garments that wouldn’t look out of place in any international fashion capital, she’s doing things a little bit differently.
“Jessica Flora is my namesake brand that we launched in 2021, we are a made-to-order clothing line that focuses on celebrating the good, with a strong emphasis on our footprint, but without sacrificing style.
“I look at this as an opportunity to put my stamp on the industry, but in a way that still fits with my own morals and values.”
Jess says the made-to-order model is win-win.
“It allows us to keep our production low and on-demand, and also to make changes to the fit and design to ensure each customer receives something they love.”
Even better: every piece is made locally – either by Jess herself, by Renee in Christchurch or by Jodi and Donna in Oamaru.
“Renee has been our rock from the very beginning and has the most incredible knowledge around fit and construction,” says Jess.
“Jodi and Donna have also been incredible to bring on board and help with our growing orders – and live close enough to home (Kurow) for a morning visit before the shop opens!”
Then there’s the worms. Jessica Flora’s fabric offcuts and paper scraps, along with coffee grinds and food scraps from the cafe across the road, are fed into Jess’s on-site worm farm, the rich composting results of which are then used in her vege garden “to continue the cycle nature intended.”
“Caring for Mother Earth has been deeply embedded in me from a young age,” says Jess, “so it only makes sense to look after the soil that gives us the resources to live and thrive in”.
And the freshly grown garden produce ties into yet another circular element of the brand – supper clubs.
The host of a popular London supper club in a former life, Jess has found a way to cleverly work the delicious community-focused concept into her current enterprises by hosting shared dining experiences around New Zealand at the launch of each collection to date.
“I originally hosted a supper club for 35 people when I lived in London, and absolutely loved the whole process,” she says.
“It felt like a natural fit for me to join the supper clubs in with Jessica Flora. It was a way to bring in my love of cooking, and I’ve always loved hosting people around a table and sharing my creations in the kitchen with friends.
“And it also ties in nicely with our footprint as it allows us to bring in the waste aspect and incorporate that into the worm farm with the fabric scraps.
“I hosted quite a few last year – I’m yet to put on one this year, potentially I will in Kurow and Christchurch around August – but I would book out a venue/house in a region and put on an event where I cook a three-course meal for 15–35 people, and they get to shop the range and sip cocktails and champagne.”
Connecting to her customers and community might not be as straightforward as if she’d set up in the big smoke, but so far the rewards outweigh the challenges.
“Given that we are so rural, we are very remote. So it is hard to connect with like-minded people in the industry at times. But thankfully it has been overridden with many highs over the last two years. Winning Best Emerging Business at the Waitaki Business Awards last year has been a highlight along with opening the shop and hosting our supper clubs around the country.”
The heritage storefront of In Good Company, an elegant classically columned facade that faces onto the town’s main street and connects to her studio/workroom at the back, is the final piece of Jess’s pretty business puzzle.
“My partner Matt’s mum owns the most amazing cafe and lodge across the road, Waitaki Braids, and acquired this building too, which has accommodation behind the shop to extend the lodge.
“Matt’s whole family were amazing at helping get it set up last winter, sanding and painting to lift it up and give it the fresh feel it has inside now.
“It was built in 1846 I believe, and what is super cool is the building was first used as a tailoring and merchant store – so it feels special to bring it full circle.”
Serves 6–8 as a starter
SHATTA (PRESERVED CHILLIES)
8 chillies, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tins chickpeas
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 aubergines, cut into large wedges
¼ cup pine nuts, roasted
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Add chillies and salt to a jar and shake together.
Add remaining ingredients and shake again.
Cover with a lid and refrigerate for up to one week (if you leave up to three days this helps preserve the chillies and enhance the flavour, but can be used earlier if needed).
Turn oven to 180°C.
Cut aubergines into large-sized wedges and place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Mix the salt through and cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes. This draws out any moisture. Dab dry once done.
Place aubergine on oven tray with a decent amount of olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes, or until they start to golden.
If using tinned chickpeas it is a good idea to remove the skins by rubbing them between tea towels to loosen the skins, and pick out and discard. This helps create a much smoother hummus.
Add chickpeas to a pot of boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes, removing any foam that appears with a slotted spoon. Drain and save the liquid.
Add chickpeas, cumin, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt, a couple of ice cubes and a dash of the saved liquid to food processor and blend till smooth.
Check consistency and flavour, add more liquid, lemon or tahini to desired taste and continue to blend for a few more minutes. This creates a super‑smooth result.
On a shallow plate, spoon out hummus onto base.
Add the roasted aubergine and shatta.
Top with roasted pine nuts, chopped parsley and a good swirl of extra virgin olive oil.
Enjoy with sourdough bread and butter as a wholesome starter.
1kg beef fillet
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons seedy mustard
2 tablespoons horseradish
Salt and pepper
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ cup finely chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
2 red chillies
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Turn oven to 100°C.
Place beef into a high-walled oven tray and cover with dijon, seedy mustard and a decent amount of salt and pepper. You can do this in advance and marinate to enhance flavour.
Place in the oven and cook for 2.5 hours or until the meat temperature reaches 55° at the low temperature. Depending on the size of the fillet this may need to be adjusted. Keep an eye on the colour, if it is colouring the outside too early, cover with foil.
Make the horseradish sauce by simply placing all ingredients in a food processor and blending to smooth. Set aside in the fridge.
Again, with the chimichurri, simply put all ingredients in a food processor and blitz till the parsley is all broken down.
Once beef is cooked, bring out of oven and cover and sit for 10 minutes.
Slice to desired width for serving.
Place beef on plate, and top with the horseradish sauce, chimichurri and any leftover chopped parsley.
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