As every high street looks increasingly similar, we highlight our five favourite independent boutiques and ask the women behind them for their new season style…
Please Don’t Tell Boutique, Belfast
WHO: Ann Donaldson, 46, has worked in retail since she was a student but finally took the plunge and opened her own boutique in 2010 to bring cool contemporary brands to her home town.
THE CLIENTS “I dress women from 30 to 80 plus,” says Donaldson. “Typically they are professional women who are stylish and confident and need a wardrobe which incorporates practicality, sophistication and yet have an edge.”
BEST-SELLERS: Isabel Marant’s footwear is perennially popular and Helmut Lang’s leather leggings in all colours are a constant repeat. “They are a valuable investment piece,” adds Donaldson.
Ann’s Tips for Autumn/Winter 15
Textural mixing of fabrics is key; mix leather with matte suede, marled knits with solids.
Colour block with bold accents and off-set them with cooler shades of grey or inky navy.
Invest in a cashmere coat – Helmut Lang have refreshed their brand bringing designers from Celine and The Row on board with some amazing pieces including a luxe full length cashmere coat, Joseph has a chestnut version and Theory a double cashmere in camel.
Theory is a great brand for working women. It doesn’t follow every trend but it keeps the customer looking modern.
There’s an emphasis on luxury loungewear for autumn so look out for innovative knits to pair with slouchy pants.
Maze Boutique, Bristol
WHO: Gill Vaughn, 60 started the company with her husband Glenn in 1985 and continues to run it today with daughter Hannah Holloway, 35 who left her career in the art world at Christie’s and the Whitechapel Gallery to join the family firm in 2010.
CLIENTS: “We believe that fashion is ageless and our customer base reflects that,” says Hannah whose customers span all ages from the city’s yummy mummies to more mature professional women.
BEST-SELLERS: Velvet by Graham & Spencer is incredibly popular while firm favourites also include Maison Scotch and Hudson Shoes – “two brands that offer something a little bit different at a very competitive price,” adds Gill.
Gill and Hannah’s five tips for autumn/winter:
Fur-free-fur is a huge trend. We are introducing BloodLess Fur – a new collection that will give customers the chance to enjoy the glamour, feel and warmth of fur without harm coming to any animals.
Invest in a shaggy coat or a shearling gilet, this is the stylish update for the season.
Continuing the luxe trend, leather skirts and cashmere knits will add a touch glamour to your wardrobe.
Embrace the changing season and buy into rich autumnal tones.
Wrap yourself up in autumn’s new understated cocoon-shaped dresses and skirts.
Vanilla Boutique, Oxford
WHO: Renate Beaumont, 63, worked on a magazine in her native Austria before marrying a Brit and moving to England. She ran the Oxford brand of Whistles before branching out on her own with the gorgeously colourful Vanilla in 2000.
CLIENTS: Come from far and wide – in some cases from London for the friendly, personal service and eclectic mix of fashion and lifestyle on offer here.
BEST-SELLERS: Velvet is a perennial favourite (“It literally flies off the shelves,” says Renate) as are pretty printed dresses like those from new arrival Samantha Sung.
Renate’s Tips for Autumn 15
There’s an extremely luxurious feeling for autumn best played out in beautiful cashmere in cream and camel tones.
Focus on ornate details – we love the Spanish label Vilagalo which specialises in exquisite silk dresses and amazing coats and jackets with embellishments
Get a hat – Russian inspired hats in vivid colours with matching sheepskin add instant glamour.
Nude snakeskin is going to be a big trend in footwear. And will go with almost anything.
Add texture with fur collars which will continue to be a big hit.
Sam Brown Boutique, Edinburgh
WHO: Sam Withall, 50, cut her teeth with eight years working alongside Patsy Seddon at Phase Eight, before branching out on her own in retail 21 years ago. She opened Sam Brown in Edinburgh in 2011 and added another branch in St Andrews last year.
CLIENTS: Style rather than fashion trends are the focus for the women aged 30 + that flock here for the affordable but chic collections and focus on personal service.
BEST-SELLERS: Knitwear and dresses from Danish brand Masai Clothing Company, casual separates from Sea Salt and Great Plans and special party pieces from Irish brand Avoca Anthology.
Sam’s Tips for Autumn 15
Invest in a midi skirt – they are very wearable and will give you an instant update.
The Dress is still important but look for interesting, unusual prints (we loved Ongenu) and flattering long sleeves.
Great Plains jeans are one of our best sellers with a slightly higher rise and either skinny, or flared they all sell well.
Always add contrasts – we have bought into embellished and textured fabrics for autumn.
Small brands are a great source for party dresses. We love Irish brand Avoca Anthology which is our go to label when you need something extra special for an event.
Emporium Kalu Boutique, County Kildare
WHO: Louise Flanagan, 44, worked in the Irish Design Centre in Powerscourt as well as other stores before opening Kalu twenty years ago.
CLIENTS: “She knows her own style and really appreciates strong pieces that cannot be copied on the high street,” says Louise of her typical customers that range from 20s to 60s and beyond. “She is discreet, and low key but definitely wants beautiful clothes.”
BEST-SELLERS: Vivienne Westwood Trousers, cashmere from Duffy and 360, basics from AG and James as well as strong fashion pieces from Giles and Caterina Gatta.
Louise’s Tips for Autumn 15
Invest in beautiful classics – it is an accumulation of many pieces that give a strong look. It may take time and money to create a classic wardrobe but I would advise to spend as much money as you can afford on single pieces.
Pair classic black trousers with a crisp white shirt – we discovered a beautiful collection Balossa that does stunning white shirts.
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The brogue is an essential for the season – we particularly like Robert Clergerie’s Golf style brogue.
Cashmere is a perennial best seller – for autumn it’s understated and oversized cashmere and Tania is one of our favourite brands.
The Maria Grachvogel Jumpsuit always is in demand, in a different shape every season but always a sure thing.
For more brilliant boutiques, pick up your September issue of w&h, on sale now