— observations from the Blue Mountains Design Bureau —

Play it again Sami Bop!

You may have seen Danette Rowse’s children’s clothing range displayed at ‘The Nook‘ in Leura or at her stall at one of the craft markets in the mountains. Handmade and designed for children, with the much coveted, occasional a-line skirts for their mums, Rowse’s ‘Sami Bop’ takes inspiration from the quality retro fabrics she finds, which are then lovingly reworked into new and utterly gorgeous creations. How wonderful that a cute little tunic dress that you buy your two year old can evoke flashes of your own childhood and or some long lost decade!

I asked Danette to tell us more about what inspires her……

How long have you lived in the mountains and what do you love about it?
I have lived in the mountains just over 10 years now and I love the surrounding spectacular environment as well as the great sense of community within the area.

Was there any particular inspiration or story in your choice of the name ‘Sami Bop’?
Yes, the name ‘Sami Bop’ was actually the nick-name my son Jasper (then 2 years old) gave my daughter, Samara, when she was a baby.  My partner was the one to offer it as a suggested label and since all of the family were involved in the naming process, it made it all that more special.

When was Sami Bop conceived and what kind of career life came before it?
Sami Bop was started in 2006 as a way to have fun while raising my two kids at home.  I have always been interested in fashion.  I started sewing when I was about 11 years old and haven’t stopped. I was recycling fabrics and supplying a small shop in the early 80s and that era was certainly a time to experiment more and more with different designs – some outrageous outfits were made then.  I decided to do a three year fashion design and production course (over 20 years ago now) and worked within the industry in many areas including computer-aided design. A little later I did an Apparel Manufacturing Management course. The industry and training is geared towards the inevitable off-shore production of clothing so I think I have been more focused on keeping it all within Australia. When I had the children I decided to work from home doing something to keep me stimulated and have the satisfaction of seeing the kids in some clothes I made. I decided to expand and started selling at markets and it has grown from there.

Do you experience a bit of ‘a thrill of the hunt’ in finding good vintage fabrics?
Most definitely!  Great finds are becoming rare, so it’s wonderful to find a truly vintage piece, or something I know can be re-purposed into some other quality item.

Where do you source your fabrics and have you had any particular favourite ‘geronimo!’ moments”?
I get fabrics from all avenues, being opportunity shops, estate sales, etc., and I am often gifted fabrics and trims from people who like to see it go to good use.  Since I deal with both vintage and recycled fabrics I have had plenty of ‘geronimo’ moments.  I see a lot of e-bay beauties, but need to consider if they are truly cost-effective once I factor all my labour into it.

Have you had any interesting customer flashbacks when perhaps seeing a particular fabric design?
Yes – I have a few customers I know would really like a particular fabric or print.  I have such a collection now there is plenty to choose from.  I just need more storage space!

What aspects of your business motivates and inspires you?
I am motivated to make something totally individual or special from fabrics combining a variety of prints and fabric textures in interesting ways.  I’m generally inspired by the patterns and colours in front of me at the time a lot also!

What aspects of your business do you find challenging?
The challenging part is planning my time schedule around all the ideas I have, and the amount of items I’d like to create.

Is it nostalgia or taste that drives your vintage philosophy?
I probably have a nostalgia driven vintage philosophy.  I am able to remember the outfits my mother used to dress me in as a child.  Life seemed a little less complicated back then.  I have a real love for all the amazing vintage prints and colours on offer today which I can combine with my own taste considerations in mind.

You mix your business exposure with markets, the Nook and Etsy/online. Are you finding business stronger online these days or are your best sales made to those that can touch and feel and instantly respond to your products?
Because I am involved with every aspect of production, I find it very gratifying to meet with my customers and see what their reaction is to what I am presenting.  The online aspect of my business is also growing, although the ‘hands-on’ market selling is probably what my customers most enjoy and where I make the most sales.

Who is the Sami Bop customer?
The Sami Bop customer is not really price-driven. They are craving a good quality item that is creative, well designed, and not mass-produced. They may be environmentally conscious or aware, and often nostalgic for their own childhood experiences.

What do you think of the retro inspired fabrics being produced today? What is it about the vintage fabrics that make them different/better?
I love some of the retro-inspired prints and fabric produced today.  Technology has allowed for some interesting fabrics.   Some modern fabrics however have finishes that only last for one wash and their quality may be diminished.  Also, some of the vintage fabrics are highly flammable and not appropriate for kids clothing.

When you find a source of fabric do you have an instant vision of how to use it, or do you like to let it brew and hang out with other fabrics before you utilise it?
Some fabrics I will know instantly what I will use it for, so I try my hardest to use within the first few days so I do not lost my train of thought.  I have enough fabric now to work with and try not to buy something without at least an idea of what it will be used for.  I will try to sample it then I let it all ‘brew’ to be part of a collective inspirational group for later combination work.

In a day and age where we are yearning for more soul than mass produced goods from China and at time when we aim to reuse and recycle for the good of our planet, here is a lady producing quality, handcrafted clothing using the best of retro fabrics. Sami Bop lovingly pulls together notions of the beauty and skill of the handmade with a dash of nostalgia, creativity and style. I encourage everyone to seek her out at one of the arts and crafts markets here in the mountains.

Or you can find her online at -




Words by Nicola Taylor and Photography by Camille Walsh

4 comments on “Play it again Sami Bop!

  1. What a lovely feature about Danette and her gorgeous clothes. She makes some great skirts for women too!

  2. Elizabeth Butler on said:

    I love your work…

  3. Elizabeth Butler on said:

    Lovely work…

  4. danette rowse on said:

    it was fun answering your questions!

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