Handmade Travel Accessories & Design in the Hunter St Mall
For travel lovers, Alie-Jane's colourful shop has now become a destination.
Take a trip to the brightest store in the Newcastle mall, filled with a flurry of patterned creations, rolls of Mexican oilcloth, and stacks of Japanese fabric.
Where? Alie Jane Travel Accessories and Designs, of course.
Alison Bodman, Alie Jane herself, set up shop in the mall over six years ago, and has gathered loyal customers along the way. Not only locals though, Alie Jane has fans from interstate who will make the trek to Newcastle just for their next purchase. Cruise ships regularly bring in visitors who are soon to-be-converted lovers of the shop. Also present online, Alie Jane sends her products all over the globe, to Canada, America and Japan.
For travel lovers, it has now become a destination store.
A trip overseas led to the discovery that there was a niche market just begging to be beautified. “So I went to Europe as a clothing designer and then I was standing in Spain and had this ugly beige money belt on and I thought “Ooh I don’t wear daggy clothes so I why would I be using daggy travel accessories?” and then the day I flew back to Australia I made my first sample up.”
Glass windows front the shop, forming a goldfish bowl of colour. Peering in, you can spot Alie Jane behind the stacks of fabric, sewing with determination.
The majority (90%!) of the stock is made by Alie Jane, and it sells almost as quickly as she finishes it. "Customers have an uncanny knack of buying what I have just made, even if I haven’t posted images on Facebook or Instagram.”
Her designs are complemented by a collection of locally made items focused on the kids: baby clothes and accessories, and toddler outfits.
The shop is a blur of bright colours and shapes, but if you focus on each section you will find a range of travel accessories, and something for everyone: cup holders to wrap around your hot coffee, nappy clutches, bibs, wraps, pencil wraps, and wheat bags.
Homewares make up much of the stock: peg-bags, cushions, Mexican oilcloth to use on your table (wipes clean, doesn’t need to be hemmed, and if you get sick of it, you can use it under the kids’ craft), aprons and oven mitts.
Bestsellers include the shower caps, money belts and pencil wraps. Want to send an Australian-themed gift overseas? Find a quirky kookaburra apron or a koala cushion.
A mustard teapot sits on the fifties-style kitchen counter, collecting funds for this month’s charity: Animal Rescue Newcastle, which happens to be where Alie Jane found her canine side-kick, Clyde.
Clyde is the mall’s resident guard dog, quietly watching passers-by from his comfy cushion under a laden table or snoozing outside in the dappled sunshine. He catches the eye of many a shopper, whether he is wearing the latest necktie like today, or if he is dressed as a cuddly lion.
The dog accessories include dog coats, custom made to suit your pooch, and the oilcloth dog beds that are easy to wipe and - bonus - don’t smell! Dog collars are in the works. Clyde might be the model for the canine side of the business, but will he ever get his own Instagram page? “Never - I don’t want him to steal my thunder!” laughs Alie Jane.
Always interested in fashion and design, a younger Alie Jane had her father take dressed-up mannequins to his work, and arrange them hanging out of trucks for her to photograph. One of the porcelain mannequins now resides in the shop.
Alie Jane studied Fine Art at Newcastle University, specialising in Analogue Photography. Clothing Production followed at TAFE, and she completed a small business course in Melbourne.
A few questions with Alie Jane:
What do you love about your shop?
Colour, being able to make whatever I want. I can bring the dog in. I don’t take my work home, I try to close at 5 and be a normal person. Getting the balance of not letting it over take life.
Why do you love working in the mall?
It’s like a small little French community, and we all know each other. And that the people who own the businesses, work in the businesses. And you can go for a swim after work.
Tell me about Clyde:
So Clyde is a rescue bull arab bull mastiff, who I rescued at age 5, he was the dog that no one wanted. He now comes to the shop every single day, and he has the biggest fan base from young and old, people come and see him every day, people spot us in different towns because of Clyde, they follow him through the Facebook and Instagram Alie Jane pages, and he’s also the model for the dog accessories that I do. (While we’re chatting, the postie comes in specifically to say hello to Clyde even though he has no parcels to deliver to Alie Jane).
What’s the most impulsive thing you’ve done?
I’d say all my overseas trips, this shop I decided in a week. And buying a motorbike (not a scooter!)
Do you have flamboyant motorbike gear?
Yes, my jacket is a jacket I picked up in Quebec City in Montreal which is brown leather with tassels, that weighs six kilos so I had to wear it on the plane home.
I’ve got stuff from everywhere I go, and all my overseas trips I end up coming back with a different travel accessory to make.
So you have to travel for inspiration?
Yes, and I find too that if I have a customer in from Quebec, in Canada, or wherever, we have this long conversation where I’ve been, either to the town in Europe, or I’ve been to the town in Africa, it’s like a bonding talking point in the shop, sometimes they just, I don’t want to say ‘freak out’, but when I’ve been to their little town it’s like ‘What do you mean you’ve been there?!’