The sign reads Fran’s Sewing Solutions. It could more accurately read “miracle worker”.
Fran Cooper has been plying the trade of a seamstress for more than 35 years, the last 14 of those years in the City Centre Arcade in the Suncorp building.
While businesses have come and gone at the arcade, Fran has remained a constant with people in need treading a path to her modest shop.
If it needs to be hemmed, let in or out, lengthened or shortened, a zipper or a button added Fran is the superstar seamstress they all seek out.
“I just love working,” Fran said.
“I love the challenges that people bring to me and I love to find a way to ensure they go away satisfied and happy with the result.”
Fran has crammed a lot into her life so far.
At “more than 70 years of age” Fran has learned plenty when it comes to the art of using sewing machines and overlockers.
While having a natural ability to undertake what many consider painstaking work, Fran supplemented her skill set by undertaking a three-year sewing course in Tasmania “way back”.
“My work hasn’t always been in regular clothing, I was involved for many years in heavy industrial work, notably for Moreton Hire on the Gold Coast creating tent liners and plenty of other jobs associated with their hire business.
“I worked for quite a few businesses around the Gold Coast/Nerang/Canungra areas before finally coming to Bundaberg with my partner Robert Cooper.
“Bob could turn his hand to anything and he was the one that convinced me that I could sew and make practically anything.
“A cover for a small plane and annexes for caravans were among the more unusual things we made. When we were working for Moreton Hire we had to roll out the materials in a large car park so we could cut out the designs,” said Fran.
“We also did a remake of some massive stage curtains for a pavilion at the Sydney Olympics. That material arrived in huge rolls on the back of a semi-trailer but we got the job done.”
While Fran and Bob’s business was going exceptionally well in those early years the arrival of the GST saw Moreton Hire take a lot of its business offshore to places like Vietnam which impacted the couple’s business success forcing its closure.
Fran Cooper's seamstress career leads her to Bundaberg
“I worked on and off for bridal wear and suit hire companies, dry cleaners and plenty of retail businesses that required alterations. I learned plenty during that time and I like to think I am quite good at what I do.
“Bob and I eventually followed one of my sons to the Bundaberg area and I really liked the place. To me it had a charm and lifestyle like Tasmania – only warmer,” laughed Fran.
“We set up at Moore Park until Bob found this shop and the business has been successful since day one. I’ve never had to advertise with word of mouth recommendation keeping me busy.”
Fran said she invariably gets many urgent requests.
“Brides and girls with their prom dresses are regulars but I usually find a way to make things work. If they need it I usually find a way to,” she said.
“I also like designing and making clothing that can fit a purpose. I’ve done everything from items for seniors to special order clothing for kids with disabilities.
“Good health permitting I have no intention of ever retiring; I believe work keeps you healthy.
“You know the internet has killed much of the clothing retail business but it hasn’t killed this aspect of the industry.”
Fran said she would also like to update a book she wrote many years ago called “Alterations and Repairs Made Easy”.
“It’s like a recipe book of step-by-step sewing instructions which really does simplify the art of the seamstress,” she said.
“I think I know so much more now but it’s one of those projects that I will need to make time for one day.”
With the skill of the seamstress certainly not on the radar for many young women or men – the hope will be that Fran’s Sewing Solutions continue to provide the alteration answers for many years to come.