FASHION designer friends say business is booming as customers look to shop local during the pandemic.

Ella Montgomery and Katie Gementera, 26, met at school and in 2018 set up their shop Xaie.

The Colchester-based firm produces women’s clothes which are all made by hand.

The business isn’t eligible for Government support so Katie and Ella have had to take on other jobs during lockdown.

But they say they have been overwhelmed by the support they have been given by customers.

Katie, from Colchester, said: “Other than November and December which are usually our busiest, the pandemic lockdown has actually been our busiest period we’ve ever had.

“Minus a few postponed events we normally attend, our website site traffic has tripled.

“It is absolutely amazing to see that during these difficult times the general public have shared and supported our business more than ever.”

A key part of their business is to reduce waste and cut back on fast fashion.

Ella, from Harwich, said: “As we are only two people doing all the cutting, patterning and producing we have a fixed amount of time that isn’t rushed or to produce thousands.

“Its order by order. We cut only what is ordered and if there is any scrap fabric left we upcycle it to create hair accessories.

“Handmade products also differ from mass market in that as a small business we have the time to communicate directly with our customers should people need specific measurements cut or adjustments to be made to suit them.”

The brand has also launched a swimwear collection and hopes to branch our into children’s wear.

Katie said: “When we first started out we began with classic silhouettes that could be changed or altered slightly each season to have a lifelong item of clothing that never goes out of style.

“We recently ventured into swimwear which has been really successful, so we would love to expand this range going forward.”

  • Here at the Gazette we’re calling on our readers to get behind businesses like Xaie to help them pull through this crisis.

We’re using our Backing Essex Business campaign to highlight the incredible work our small businesses are doing.

Use the hashtag #BackingEssexBusiness to shout out a business, or tell us how your business is adapting by emailing