Today's 'Lou Lou Chats' is with one of my favourite and most stylish friends on Twitter, Sam from 'Bottega'. I first bonded with Sam over a mutual love of all things 'Chanel'. She later turned out to be my Fashion Fairy Godmother when she lent me clothes for my 'Red' magazine photoshoot. Sam runs her own boutique and cafe ('The Birdcage) in Cheshire. Well when I say 'boutique', I think that that is a massive understatement. 'Bottega' is a veritable emporium of all things lovely and stylish, from clothing and accessories to gifts and gorgeous items for your home. I was so pleased when Sam agreed to answer some questions for my blog. So here she is, the super-stylish and lovely, Sam Brightmore.
Describe 'Bottega' in three words.
Eclectic. Escapist. Indulgent
Please tell us more about yourself.
I’m a workaholic but genuinely love my job. The only thing more important to me is my partner and parents and my 3 children who all share my passion for art, fashion and travel. My friends are also really important to me. They ground me and are hugely supportive. I’m also lucky to have some firm friends in retail with whom I can bounce ideas off. My ideal day would be breakfast in Paris with a croissant and the perfect coffee in the sunshine, followed by an afternoon shopping in New York’s Barneys, Henri Bendel and ABC Carpet & Home on Broadway; with a trip to the Frick or The Guggenheim. My perfect evening would obviously be at the Blue Marlin Ibiza, watching the sunset with a Mojito in hand listening to Balearic beats.
|Sam on a recent trip to New York|
How would you describe your personal style?
Hugely eclectic, I’m a fashion chameleon and actually quite fickle! I love everything from strong and quite masculine tailoring to bohemian chilled out. I am never girly and feel quite ridiculous in overly feminine looks. I will always ‘edge’ an oufit. I call it ‘Glunge’ - Glamour meets Grunge! I am also a total jeans girl, and day or evening outfits always revolve around them. I own too many pairs! Fashion is my enjoyment so I’m playful with it. It reflects my mood.
Why did you decide to open 'Bottega'?
I saw a gap in the market for a concept store, and was frustrated at not being able to find unusual items either for design projects whilst working as an interior designer, or for myself. I was also constantly disappointed with the North’s lack of bridge brands in fashion. I couldn’t add to my wardrobe without going to London, something I love but couldn’t do at the drop of a hat. Having worked in some of London’s most eclectic & unusual stores such as 'Liberty' & the 'General Trading Company', everywhere seemed quite pedestrian in comparison!
What has the highlight been since opening the boutique?
The most recent highlight has to have been being nominated for Mary Portas’ & The Daily Telegraph’s Best Small Shops in Britain, where we have been shortlisted as one of the top three in the Womens’ fashion category. We were also very happy to be thought of as one of the top 50 boutiques outside of London by Stella Magazine.
Is there a typical 'Bottega' customer?
No, there really isn’t. We cater for women aged 16 to 60 and beyond. We have always believed 'Bottega' ''has a style for everyone. We buy pieces that appeal to different people in different ways and that can work for anyone. However, I would say that our customer appreciates the service level and the next level we always go to.
What are your most popular pieces in 'Bottega'?
There isn’t really a ‘one’ piece that sells more than others. We sell capsule wardrobes to clients, so everything is worn to its optimum and complements other pieces. We don’t believe in throw away fashion, but a commitment to a long and fulfilling wardrobe life. We don’t sell anything too basic...basics can get lost in the store...there has to be a real twist to most items we buy. It has to be remarkable! Even a tee needs to have something about it!
What new brands are you stocking for S/S12?
We are very excited about our new S/S 12 brands. My personal favourite is 'Elizabeth and James'. I love the neon colours, floral prints and edgy but feminine styling. We have also started stocking 'Victoria Beckham Denim' which has had a massive response, and we have virtually sold out with clients coming back to buy in a second colour. We have yet to have a client who has tried and not bought!
|'Elizabeth and James' S/S '12 - I love the vibrant print and the candy pink jeans.|
|'Elizabeth and James' S/S '12 - I love the combination of mixed prints in this look.|
Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently?
No, I’m really happy with where 'Bottega' is now, how it’s grown and translated from its origin, which was a tiny village in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no footfall. We quickly gained a reputation for offering something different, and those clients that found us in those very early days are still very much with us and are firm friends. It’s been really hard and there have been struggles, but I’m pleased with how I’ve got here today. I guess even inspite of the relocation in Sept ’10 and huge refit costs, we are still here and I guess that has to mean something.
What advice would you give to people who are looking to open their own business?
First and foremost you have to be very realistic about the time you are able to give to it....It is not and nor will it ever be a 9-5 job. It is your baby. It is the first thing and last thing I think about every day. In addition to that you must be passionate about what you are doing because as well as time, it takes incredible energy and so much drive to keep moving forwards. I never switch off from it and there are times that I feel as if I step away, I will lose my foothold. It’s a huge step and everything has to come secondary to it. If you aren’t prepared to put in the long hours then don’t even consider it!
What is in the pipeline for 'Bottega' in 2012?
2012 is going to be an exciting year for 'Bottega'. We are collaborating with Cleo B, the shoe designer in April for a fashion show being held at Cleo’s family home, Bolesworth Castle also in Cheshire, and not too far from Tarporley. Think Studio 54 meets Ibiza - it’s going to be a hot ticket to an excellent party. It is strictly invitation only and we are very excited about it. The 'Bottega' website will also be going live in 2012 and will be in an editorial style, highlighting all areas of the store; cafe menus; press and events. Finally I will have a forum from which to blog!
|Sam and Alicia from 'Bottega' at an Olivia Rubin show|
What motivates you?
My passion for my job, the desire to find under the radar brands and seeing 'Bottega' flourish with the clients. I really get a buzz from the faith and trust that our clients have in us. They truly respect and appreciate our opinions, and seek our advice on more than just fashion decisions. We are so much more than just a store. We literally have been here through some of the worst times in our clients’ lives, whether it be divorce, illness or bereavement. That sounds trite but it is so true, and there’s nothing nicer than hearing how that outfit picked them up off the floor! 'Bottega' is like a little haven, and a lot like therapy for many!
The mantra that I live by is "Do unto others as you would be done by." I also think it's nice to be nice.