While Victoria Beckham was being berated for furloughing staff and Cath Kidston announcing the closure of all stores, industrious women who own boutiques were creating runways in their shops and gardens and just kept selling. Summoning up their inner Delevingne to model spring/summer collections was not something most had done before but, out of necessity, they appeared on camera to showcase dresses, separates and even handbags which are a speciality at The Closet in Potters Bar.
Closet owner Lin Fox was ahead of the game as she started live feeds from her store a year ago and her Thursday morning (10.30am) broadcasts are as popular as Celebrity Gogglebox – in other words unmissable. With affordable clothes – many of them designer and pricier elsewhere – the bag selection alone is a reason to tune in – and I got a pink Birkin-inspired holdall for £24.99.
“We have had an audience online since March 2019 and celebrated our 14th anniversary which is a measure of our success,” says Lin.
Katie Solomons and her sister Lucy were determined Harpers, the shop their mother Karol opened 48 years ago in Edgware, would not be toppled by the Covid-19 crisis. “My mother, who was raised in Sunderland, reminded me that the family fashion business stayed open in the north-east throughout the Second World War,” says Katie. “That gave us the impetus to continue and, although I’m far from tech savvy, I started the first Instagram feed in my garden and we’ve learnt and improved on the job.”
Harpers has a range of sizes and styles to suit all ages and shop assistant Karen, together with Lucy, modelled the clothing, delivered it to buyers and then steam-cleaned any returns. This system is ongoing, even though the shop is now open to customers on a ‘by appointment basis.’ “We have new summer stock arriving all the time,” says Katie, who is able to buy continually as she lives in Paris, but will be in London on 30 July for a special Harpers’ presentation with her mother and sister.
Lili Grace, also in Edgware, became a family affair during lockdown, with the children of owners Sasha Haralambous and Linda Marks doing deliveries and even modelling on camera. Sasha realised Instagram’s potential when everyone ensconced at home declared tracksuit dependence.
“I knew we had plenty to sell but no customers to serve, so suggested we do a Facebook Live featuring tracksuits with a 25 precent lockdown discount,”says Sasha – and this wise decision sent sales through the roof.
Now the Lili Grace fashion showcase at 12.30pm every Tuesday and Friday has travelled beyond HA8 to a global audience of new customers in
LA, Australia and New Zealand. “It has completely transformed our business,” says Sasha, who went through dark days when her husband and business partner Linda both contracted Covid-19, but are thankfully now well.
Daliah Hearn and Karen Lewis, who run the home-based The Wardrobe Edit, also got their pitch for summer tees, vests, joggers and dresses down to a fine art on Facebook and, with no changing rooms allowed, their business model works well. So well that after spotting Daliah in a white soft coat and star vest, I ordered both and I will be back.
www.instagram.com/harpersboutique www.facebook.com/liligrace.co.uk www.facebook.com/twe.thewardrobeedit;
Do U Know Suzy?
Suzy D continues to spread a little happiness, as it has done for three months, with separates for all occasions made in Italy. Pastels and linen separates as well as natty skirts are available and there is
a 25 percent discount on
the new collection.
Gem Of An Idea
After months of tirelessly creating and developing their own fashion brand, friends Gabby Lyons and Emma Samuels refused to let the drastic circumstances prevent them launching GEM. What they didn’t expect was for their first collection to sell out in a matter of days, which meant they had to furiously restock to keep up with customer demand and pre-orders. Made from end of roll fabrics in various prints, GEM dresses come in three designs with an emphasis towards sustainability.
“Even our bags are made from leftover fabric and, where possible, clothing is pre-ordered to avoid ‘dead stock’,” explains Emma, a London College of Fashion business graduate with 20 years of industry experience. Gabby studied at Central Saint Martins before launching her brand Studd, which appeared on a Vogue cover and was stocked in more than 100 stores worldwide and worn by Britney Spears, Madonna and The Spice Girls. The GEM founders have also collaborated with renowned milliner, Benoit Missolin, to create matching headbands using a selection of dress fabrics, so you only need to bring shoes.
Lockdown gave jeweller Natasha Davidov the chance to introduce the Aska maternity bracelet for women who want to monitor their baby’s movement without constant visits to the hospital. The Aska still matters to her, but she is also back making jewellery from precious stones. Every necklace and bracelet, if not bespoke, has its own back story and as a voracious reader, literature is key. With the tragic loss of her mother in the past month, Natasha, who is from Hungary, has been reading the Torah, so anything is possible with her jewellery now. www.davidovlondon.com
Not going shopping was a buzz for the boys, but wearing the
same hoodie and shorts for days didn’t work for the women, so it’s time to restock at Wallers. Polo shirts at £7 each (two for £10)
and Brook Taverner chinos normally £59.50 are now £20. Wallers also caters for a 30” waist that may have risen to 46” with home bingeing, and there are slick suits by Atelier Torino and Mario Barutti at half price and famous store brand raincoats £29.50, so get outta those shorts.
020 8458 7989; www.wallersclothing.com