‘Bring back bustle’: Ideas to revitalise Bundy’s Bourbong St
INSPIRED by what the region has to offer, one successful businesswoman has a plan to help revitalise Bundaberg’s CBD and give the region a financial boost.
Born in Maryborough in the mid 70s and relocating to Bundaberg in 1990 with her parents and two older sisters, Mel Woods went to school at Bundaberg High.
After graduation she worked on Lady Elliot Island and at Cyrils Camera Centre on Bourbong St, where she was mentored by Bradley Durrant who opened her up to the world of photography, which enabled her to get her foot in the door of the industry.
Ms Woods later ran a photographic lab and worked as a freelance photographer for a magazine in Hervey Bay before starting a career as a Brisbane-based stylist.
Now just six years later, Ms Woods is still working as a successful fashion stylist, as well as a curve model and Instagram blogger with more than 13,000 followers under her belt.
And with her parents remaining put in Bundaberg Ms Woods returns to the region often with her husband, five-year-old daughter Sidney and 10-year-old Golden Retriever Clancy in tow.
“I started by primarily posting outfit-of-the-day photos on Instagram, just to share my love of fashion with the community, and it has grown organically since then but I want people to know that every day is a special occasion worth celebrating,” Ms Woods said.
“The most important thing is to never lose your sense of style but I also always tell my clients not to overlook the men’s section in an op-shop because it’s great for those incredible oversized blazers, classic white shirts to tie up and ties make amazing head wraps too.”
The fashionista’s digital influence has quickly accelerated and she is recognised for her fearless attitude towards breaking the standard rules of style, experimenting with powerful colour combos and game changing print and pattern clashes.
“I wear blue and green together and then throw a pink coat on top because I don’t believe in rules when it comes to fashion and I despise the word unflattering because I believe there is always a way to make it work,” Ms Woods said.
“I often see first-hand the difference that colour makes to the way people look and feel and I love seeing the face of a client who never thought they could wear certain colours when really they just haven’t been taught how to or what shade compliments their face and to see the joy it brings to them is the best feeling – that’s what it’s all about for me.”
Not one to be caught wearing black, Ms Woods said she loves fashion because it is a diverse and always evolving form of art that everyone can enjoy regardless of age, size or gender.
She said the creative outlet caters to individuality, self-expression and has the ability to set a mood or make a powerful statement.
Passionate about promoting Australian brands of all sizes, Ms Woods is interested in collaborating with Bundaberg businesses too and encourages any interested parties to get in touch.
On her recent visit home to Bundaberg, Ms Woods noted how heartbroken she was to see such a noticeable difference in the atmosphere of the CBD.
“I was walking down Bourbong St, and I just started to well up with emotion seeing all of the empty shop fronts and businesses that had folded,” she said.
“Back in the 90s, Bourbong St was the place to be and I want to see that bustle again – from having lunch at the Royal Cafe or upstairs at The Loft, before chatting to Betty at Avenell Brothers, browsing the gorgeous Buss and Turner for hours, spending my pay at the Estée Lauder counter there and visiting the ladies at the Soul Pattinson Perfume department.
“I’d love to see landlords give rent reductions or allowing businesses to set up a revolving pop-up shop in one store, allowing creatives to have a stall on a monthly basis because that way they could share the cost of rent, fill the empty shop fronts and build steady foot traffic.”
Ms Woods said she has been using her platform to promote the tourist attractions, businesses and beautiful surroundings of the Bundaberg region, in a bid to encourage her following to visit and give the local economy a boost.
“I want Bundy to become a destination that people want to go to and spend money and support all the fab local businesses we have,” she said.
“Especially after COVID-19, Bundy needs our help more than ever, so if I can use my platform in some way to draw attention to not just the region but our wonderful businesses, then that would make my heart sing.”
Also focused on promoting a positive body image movement, the model said she has been curvy all her life and developed an eating disorder at a very young age.
“We have all been there at one time or another, whether it be having children, losing weight or gaining weight and I help you to find yourself again fashion wise,” Ms Woods said.
“In its modern form, body positivity means many things to many people and we don’t all share the same opinion but it can mean anything from accepting your flaws and being happy with your body to fighting for the visibility and acceptance of different size, shaped bodies within society.
“Two years ago I was 20 kgs lighter than I am now, but my smile was hiding multiple things and that’s the thing with eating disorders – you can’t just look at someone and know they have one because they are all different and for me, I’d lost my curves, my face was gaunt and I was living on protein shakes and not much else.”
Ranging in sizes from 10 to 24, Ms Woods said she wants to encourage anyone struggling with their weight or body image to reach out and get the help they deserve.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for the help available because there is no shame,” she said.
“We all have our vices, it’s how we deal with them that makes the difference, but most importantly no matter what your size is, please remember that you are enough, we are all enough and it is society that has to change.”
After releasing a successful range of clutches, purses and earrings, the fashionista is currently working on an exciting new collaboration, set to brighten up all wardrobes.
Ms Woods is also still offering styling sessions and shop your own wardrobe consultations to Bundaberg and the surrounds, which makes a great gift for those hard-to-buy-for people and it can be tailored to suit budgets.
For business owners who would like to collaborate or clients seeking more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org