So I’ve now been open for over a year and I still love my little shop and have managed to pay the rent each quarter! What I have realised is that it’s not enough just to sit there and wait for people to come in. It is a quiet area and there isn’t that much footfall so I still have to work hard to get ourselves known. My milliner Gemma Sangwine has been a real support and has stuck with me and I have made new creative friends along the way.
I have met some lovely brides for whom I am now creating their dream wedding dress. For these I’m now collaborating with another textile designer Polly Jones. We make a dream team as she loves the pattern cutting and making up while I love all the embellishment and fine details. It’s such an honour to be trusted with the task of making someone’s dream come true for their special day but we all love this challenge and like nothing better than all working together to make sure everything co-ordinates. I’ve even found a Spanish artisan shoe maker to collaborate with to make bespoke hand embroidered and handmade shoes. I’m waiting to receive our very first pair any day now!
Gemma and I have also joined Blue Patch, a brilliant ethical directory as we like to think that everything we make is also ethical. As I call my label “something old…something new” and we both love taking old and preloved components to make something new and exciting this seems appropriate and hopefully they can help us promote our work. I’ve also joined Kate Beavis’ Indie PR Hub to help with all the social media and PR that’s so important for any small creative business. The problem is, there are never enough hours in the day to fit it all in!
Other plans include more workshops and Polly Jones is using the basement to set up a textile/dressmaking workshop space. This area also has to double up as a studio for pop up photo shoots with my two dear photographer friends Su Larkins and Danniella Jaine. Danniella also offers modelling packages where aspiring models can have a professional photo shoot, hair and make up with styling by me – the perfect, completely safe way to obtain amazing images for their portfolio.
We also host vintage tea parties and held an amazing one to celebrate our first anniversary and the publication of Danniella’s photo shoot “Time for Changelings” in the American Faerie magazine, quite an accomplishment! Eight people sat down to a “Midsummer Nights Dream” inspired full afternoon tea served on my collection of vintage china and served by two of my favourite models dressed as fairies! We were also entertained in the evening by Danniella reading some of the poems she had written to accompany her images.
In May we are hosting two special “Textiles, Tea and Tales” events with storytelling by Chloe from “Midnight Storytellers” and a talk about my collection of vintage clothes entitled “Mrs Butcher’s Wardrobe” so watch this space for more exciting news about the second year at “Atelier 19”!
Well, I’ve finally managed to open my atelier/showroom in Cheltenham. Some of you may know that I’ve been trying to do this for around 15 years or even longer (I recently found something I’d written when I was 9 saying all I wanted to do when I grew up was open my own shop and make clothes for people!). So, maybe I’m grown up enough now and it’s finally my time to do what I want with my life!I’ve been looking for the right premises since moving to Cheltenham and I finally found one at 19 Suffolk Road that gives me everything I need in my favourite location known as The Suffolks. It’s always been my favourite part of Cheltenham as it’s full of quirky shops and galleries, so very artisan and bohemian. The added bonus is that everyone is really friendly and supportive and work together to raise awareness of the area.
Eventually everything was sorted and I got the keys on September 30th. I decided I wanted to open on October 15th so managed to completely redecorate the space and set everything up in just two very hectic weeks! The other designers involved all helped set up and Anthony Lewis Churchill was brilliant adding the final touches and doing the window display (it helped that he used to design windows for Harrods and Fortnum and Mason)!
The amazing haberdashery unit that I came by when I was a teenager when my Dad refurbished a shop in Ross-on-Wye (the old Vines) finally came inti it’s own and looks like it’s been there for years. Behind it is a small selection of original vintage wedding dresses and a beautiful Victorian veil with the original wax flower headdress. To the left is a range of cute flower girl dresses by BE by Little Wings made from vintage fabric and antique christening dresses.
We eventually managed to fill the whole space with all our work, the French antique brocante finds I’d been amassing and handmade goodies from other friends and designers whose work I really admire. Basically, the whole space is filled with things I love so a bit self indulgent but it seems to work and everyone seems to love it too!
On the day of the gala opening, we had the Mayor of Cheltenham pulling the ribbon to officially open the shop as well as a visit from Michael and Clare Morpurgo. All my friends and family came along including a surprise visit from my eldest son and his new wife which was really ” the icing on the cake”! We also served mini cakes made by my lovely daughter with Prisecco, elderflower and tea.
It’s been a week now since we opened and the response has been brilliant although it’s still a bit quiet. We’ve already taken two orders for jackets/coats so all very promising. Can’t wait for our first bride to find us so we can design and make everything for the whole wedding!
Another step in the right direction for our big move started last October. We had a few lets at Cedars House so rented a cottage in our favourite part of Cheltenham, the Suffolks for a month. I needed a hair cut and colour so went to Vallender Salon simply because I liked the look of it. I got talking to the owner Jo Vallender and it seemed we had a lot in common, including a passion for Marie Antoinette. I told her that I was looking for a studio/showroom in the area and she showed me an upstairs room which was empty. While I was still there, someone from the Wilson Gallery came in with details of a window display competition to tie in with an exhibition about the icon Audrey Hepburn. The brief was to do a window display inspired by another icon so we immediately decided to collaborate on a “Marie Antoinette” window as I already had an outfit and Jo could make a Marie Antoinette wig. I already had photographer Su Larkins and designer Anthony Lewis Churchill (who just so happened to have designed window displays for Harrods and Fortnum and Mason!) coming to talk about my upcoming Alice in Wonderland inspired exhibition so we tied it in with a live photo shoot in the salon window.