Portland fashion designer wants to bring women hope

The founder of a Els Learning Centre, a non-profit company, Eleanor Campher will be hosting a high tea on Saturday August 26 at Alliance Francaise in Portland.

A Portland fashion designer and seamstress wants to help women and girls through her work and by sharing her story.

The founder of a Els Learning Centre, a non-profit company, Eleanor Campher, 56, wants to help those who are underprivileged and needing hope.

“They are part of my passion. For young women especially, I want to help them and bring them hope. I want to help make them employable and be confident in themselves. I am not rich. I can’t just give but I can give of my time. I am prepared to do that,” she said.

It is because of this she will be hosting a Women’s Month high tea on Saturday August 26 through her NPC at Alliance Francaise in Portland.

For Ms Campher and her late husband, Patrick Campher, it all started when they had their third child. They did a paint job for a now late elderly couple in Athlone. “We did not have much but we worked so hard. The elderly man could not believe that a woman would want to paint his house,” she said.

“It looked as though I was the helper of my husband. However, I was very good at sewing,” she said.

“I had to give up my dream to pursue sewing, making clothes at the time, as it’s costly to put children in a crèche so I preferred to look after my own children and remain independent. We could not afford to buy a sewing machine but I was hoping this would come true in the future,” she said.

However, the wife of the couple they helped blessed her with a small domestic sewing machine. Since then Ms Campher has walked door-to-door to ask factories for off-cuts and leftover materials.

“I always thought of children as I made them T-shirts. I even had my own stand on Fridays and Saturdays in Rocklands to sell my T-shirts. Some were wide in the neck area, some were too small but that is how I started,” she said.

Eventually I could afford to buy a sewing machine. I made toilet seats and sold them in Town Centre. It came in handy for my children. “I had to make an income,” she said.

She also made her daughter’s wedding dress when she got married and continued to do this for others as well as matric ball dresses.

During lockdown people also reached out to her and she partnered with influencers. She also works closely RLabs, Edubiz and Mosaic Women’s Centre.

Eleanor Campher will be offering sewing classes.

Next year she will be offering sewing classes with the community and some organisations to help women and girls learn this skill, she said.

Her daughter Kim-Lee Campher said her mother’s goal-driven mindset has inspired her.

“She’s always provided for us as children. She’s been a single mother for the longest time. I don’t know another mom raising six children so flawlessly. I want to be like her but she’s reminded me that I will be better than her, in the way of making better decisions and having a better life,” she said.

Kim-Lee wanted to drop out of school but her mom finished school at 50 to inspire her to keep going.

“I’ve resigned from my job of four years and today I am an entrepreneur like her. My mother is my biggest supporter in my life. I am so proud of her and her work she is doing with the community,” she said.

Her colleague Q.Rock said: “She’s very helpful when it comes to rebuilding young women using her skills from drawings, cutting materials and working the machinery. We are so proud to know her and support her in what she does,” he said.

Blaqpearl Foundation founder Janine Overmeyer said: “I am proud of Eleanor for being brave enough to pursue her dreams and while she’s moving forward she’s also helping others move forward on their own journeys. We need to help and support one another as women. As management of the Blaqpearl Foundation we are keen to partner with her classes to extend such great opportunities to girls and women in our community,” she said.

For more information contact Ms Campher on 062 516 9201 or email on elstraininghub@gmail.com.