Bronwynne Jones’ journey is fascinating. She’s been an international shipping policy expert for Transport, change manager for the ATO and a strategic/scenario planner in her own consultancy. Today she’s operating her own fashion label, which she’s called, with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, Thunder Thighs, working part-time out of her studio at M16 Art Gallery.
‘At each stage of my journey there have been times when I’ve thrived and times when I’ve struggled to survive,’ says the designer.
Throughout her career, Bronwnynne became a single parent, became redundant (choosing to take a package) and was forced to close her consultancy after her business partner betrayed her and the government decided not use as many external experts.
Then Bronwynne discovered she had Graves Disease. She was sad that she’d become an empty nester and continued to struggle with body image. One day, Bronwynne found herself on the couch, depressed.
‘Major crises in life can slam a person hard,’ says Dr Kim Vella, accredited executive career coach. ‘It’s what a person does each time they face a crisis that determines their future. When I coach, I help people realise that every crisis equals an opportunity.’
With Bronwynne, that meant diving deep into her creative side. ‘I come from a long line of makers,’ she says. ‘It’s in my genes (and jeans as it turns out). With my skills and the support of my family of makers, I began sewing, knitting and making jewellery.’
Fast forward to 2017 and Bronwynne opened Thunder Thighs, a label for perfectly pear-shaped women who were being ignored by the mainstream fashion industry in favour of more common body shapes, especially the tall, thin body shapes.
‘I’ve always been pear shaped but wasn’t overly conscious of it until I entered Year 9 in Sydney where the school uniform was a straight, short sleeve shift dress. It didn’t fit. It was too tight over my hips and bum and too big over my “limited” chest area,’ says Bronwynne.
Year 11 wasn’t any better. Her new North Shore Sydney school uniform—a straight skirt and Chanel-style jacket—had to be made for her because of her shape. ‘It wasn’t a flattering, perfect fit,’ says Bronwynne. ‘Once more I stood out in an uncomfortable way.’
For almost 50 years Bronwynne has struggled to find clothing that fit her pear shape.
‘Jeans didn’t fit, trousers didn’t fit, skirts didn’t fit, and I didn’t even bother shopping for dresses,’ says Bronwynne. ‘The clothes made me feel there was something wrong with me when it was the fashion industry that was the problem. It left me little choice but to start designing and making my own clothing.’
‘Journeys like Bronwynne’s are great life lessons,’ says Kim. ‘When we listen to others and learn their stories we find inspiration to grow, professionally and personally. That’s what the Network of Possibility does. It introduces us to ways other people have coped with challenges that at first appear insurmountable.’
Starting Thunder Thighs was a break-through moment for Bronwynne, but the challenges aren’t over.
‘I’ve had people say that a label called Thunder Thighs is insulting and they will never support it, but I believe we all need to accept who we are and maintain our sense of humour,’ says Bronwynne, ‘I initially signed to a collective studio space that ended up being the wrong fit, wasting time, money and energy. I’ve struggled learning about the eccentricities of the fashion industry and have yet to earn enough to be able to quit my job, but I’m thrilled to be where I am today.’
Bronwynne has presented a full collection on the catwalk, held an exhibition as part of DESIGN Canberra Festival, called ‘Curvature Couture’, and is now selling accessories through Splatter in Belconnen Mall.
One delightful learning for Bronwynne is that her designs are also worn by women who don’t have thunder thighs. ‘I’ve had petite women, so-called “normal” women and even apple-shaped women wearing my designs,’ says Bronwynne. ‘They wear pieces differently than pear-shaped women, but still look smashing.’
‘It takes courage, passion and conviction to break boundaries,’ says Kim. ‘The world is a better place for it. Leaders in workplaces can learn from stories about how to break down barriers.’
The Network of Possibility, featuring ‘Bronwynne’s journey from frustrated consumer to fashion designer’, is on 8 May, 6pm to 7.30pm, 25 Forster Avenue. Tickets are for sale online.
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