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Young entrepreneur opens custom lingerie store in downtown Belleville


Erin Meiklejohn puts the finishing touches on a custom-made bra in the new Emerald Studio. Meiklejohn opens the custom bra studio Friday. Photo by Candice-Rose Gagnon, QNet News

By Candice-Rose Gagnon [2]

BELLEVILLE – A young woman is getting her chance to launch her own business after winning a local contest.

Twenty-four-year-old Erin Meiklejohn is opening Emerald Studio [3], a customized lingerie and corset store, in downtown Belleville this Friday.

The customized lingerie that Meiklejohn will be offering includes bras, bralettes (wireless bras), swimwear and corsets.

Along with the customized wear, in the new year she will teach courses to those wishing to learn how to make their own lingerie – or tune up on sewing skills.

Meiklejohn, a Quinte West resident, won Pitch This Belleville [4], a competition where local residents submit business plans for entrepreneurial ideas. The winner received one year of free rent in a downtown storefront and a one-year membership with the Belleville Chamber of Commerce [5].

With an entrepreneur youth grant [6] and Pitch This Belleville opportunities, Meiklejohn was able to open the store. If she had not had the monetary support, she said, she would have had to grow her online business and work from home.

“When this unique place came up in the contest, it was kind of the push to get into a brick and mortar place. I couldn’t have done it without the support from everyone.”

Meiklejohn started a blog called The Sewing and Life Adventures of Emerald Erin in 2011. She says she gained a large group of followers from the site that pushed her to create the Emerald Studio.

She received a degree in psychology and health from Queen’s University in Kingston. After she completed her degrees, she took one year off to learn how to create custom lingerie from Bra Makers Supply [7] in Hamilton, Ont. She spent a year as an intern there, learning more of the craft.

The young entrepreneur credits a resurgence in young people’s interest in sewing with inspiring her to open her studio instead of an online store.

“I saw this new young market of people who wanted to make their own clothes, being resourceful, learn how to make things themselves, want something unique and creative. So that was the whole side of it I wanted to get into.”

This is the first time that a store has occupied 213A Front St. in downtown Belleville.

Previous to the Emerald Studio opening on Friday, the space was used only as a carriageway. Meiklejohn has preserved elements of the historic throughway, leaving the brick exposed in the interior and the old circus advertisements on the walls.

While downtown Belleville is undergoing major construction because of the Build Belleville [8] project, Meiklejohn says she isn’t worried it affecting foot traffic stopping into her store. Because her lingerie is custom-made, there will not be products that are ready to purchase like at major retailers, she said.

“Nobody can wander in and buy something off the shelf – it’s not that type of a store. If they know about it, they will call (and) make an appointment, (and) they will come for a fitting. It is more of an experience. So I’m not really too worried about the construction for myself,” she said.

Erica Holgate, office and events co-ordinator of the Belleville Downtown Improvement Area [9], said she is pleased to see new businesses popping up downtown.

“From a downtown perspective, we are really excited to have Erin coming. She’s bringing something new to the downtown core. We don’t have anything like her. No one is making custom anything, no one else is offering custom classes. There are other businesses that offer workshops, but nothing like this,” she said.

Holgate also said she is not worried about construction affecting the Emerald Studio. “We are finding if you have something interesting, you are a downtown destination. If you continue your marketing, social media and your public relations, people come.”

Meiklejohn’s mother, Mary, who was in the soon-to-open shop when QNet News visited this week, said her daughter has been around sewing machines since the age of four. She could not be more proud of her daughter’s accomplishments, she added.

“From a very young age, Erin was sewing. Sergers, sewing machines – she always wanted to be making something. So it just progressed, from making pyjamas for the neighbour kids to (in) university making clothing for fashion shows,” said Mary Meiklejohn.

Custom-made bras will start at $275, but the price includes fittings, quality fabrics and custom designs, said Erin Meiklejohn.

The Emerald Studio’s grand opening runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and includes a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m.

To find out more about the Emerald Studio, follow Meiklejohn on her blog [10] and website [11].