She had not sewn much before and majored in sculpture when she studied BA Fine Arts at Stellenbosch University before she went travelling.
At first she copied one or two of the designs she had bought in Europe and taught herself to sew. She started off by making underwear for her brother, Nicholas, as a Christmas gift for his girlfriend.
Soon her friends started paying her to make more and more of the sexy underwear for them.
Mieke’s boutique lingerie business naturally grew from this demand and was formally started in 2009. Mieks Knickers, based on a farm in the Kenton-on-Sea area, today sells lingerie, underwear, slips and sleepwear to selected boutique stores across the country as well as online.
In Port Elizabeth, her underwear is sold at Sophie Blue and in Grahamstown and Kenton-on-Sea at Volia.
“I was so nervous when I sold my first underwear to a shop in Long Street in Cape Town. I create my own designs and patterns and source the fabric from all over. I prefer to be in my studio, working on designs and am not that much of a marketing and business person,” Mieke said.
She still makes all her underwear by hand and has employed a local woman, Nomonde Samantha Sikaka, to help as a seamstress and the two work from a studio on Mieke’s parents’ Marianne and Wilfrid Henderson’s farm. Often when people come on holiday in the area, they look Mieke up to buy some of her lingerie.
“I taught Samantha how to sew and it took six months to train her up. We converted an old milking shed into our studio and it has been a great help to work from the farm to keep our costs low. I am very grateful towards my parents for this.”
She now draws her creative inspiration not so much from the places she travels to, but from the fabric she buys – the colours, prints, textures and trims that makes her lingerie so unique and quirky.
Mieke said she would love to expand her range to include honeymoon and bridal packages as well as more sleepwear. – Cindy Preller