Diana Halley, co-founder of Fabric in Old Amersham along with Ailsa Feroze, on the joy of re-opening, sustainability and a love for European style
What inspired you to open Fabric?
While running the PR business we often talked about how one day it would be great to take on the challenge of opening a clothing boutique and offer a relaxed shopping and browsing experience in a super-chic environment. In 2019 we decided it was now or never and took a leap of faith into the fashion and retail world.
Why did you look to open in Old Amersham?
Who wouldn’t choose Old Amersham?! It’s such a glorious town, which of course was recently chosen by the Sunday Times as one of the best places to live in the UK. The High Street today has a terrific mix of artisan cafes, superb restaurants, interior shops and independent boutiques. And just 45 minutes from Central London, it’s fast becoming a top destination for days out and weekend breaks.
How did the first lockdown affect your plans?
All the planning, renovating and buying our opening stock was pre-March 2020. In fact we were all set to open the first weekend of the first lockdown. We had a big launch party planned, but obviously all that had to be put on hold until the lockdown was lifted in June.
How tough was it to take when all shops were closed?
It was really tough. We’d spent a year planning the business, sourcing the designers and clothes, plus finding premises and then fitting it out so, although understandable in the circumstances, not to be able to open on our planned weekend was devastating.
What did you do during the lockdown periods?
We quickly got to work designing a website and focusing on a strong social media presence, all of which led to good awareness for the new business and a kick start for sales.
How exciting was it to re-open on 12 April?
It was just incredible. The previous year had been a rollercoaster ride with the Covid restrictions, so to finally open was amazing. The day itself was so much fun as we opened live on air with Heart Radio on Jamie Theakston’s breakfast show. There was a feature on the various businesses finally opening their doors on 12 April and we were delighted to be chosen to represent independent retail shops.
What kind of experience do you offer at your boutique?
Our aim was always to create a unique and contemporary destination boutique, bringing shopping back to the bricks and mortar experience. Fabric’s aim is to create a compelling in-store shopping experience – from the look, feel and spirit of the shop, to the friendly and personal approach and, of course, the cool contemporary clothes collections. Shopping is fun, it’s sociable and a way to feel good about yourself, and we believe Fabric offers unique and exciting fashion brands to women of all ages in a cool and stylish environment.
Why the focus on European brands?
There are some really fantastic and unknown small brands that in our opinion should be brought to the wider attention. So many are super stylish and cool, especially brands from Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and not forgetting Paris of course!
Can you pick out three brands that are really standing out for you right now?
We love them all of course, but three that really stand out for us this season are: POM Amsterdam, two sisters who design and create fabulous clothes in bold and contrasting colours using amazing original prints; Moliin, a Danish brand with a feminine, bohemian rock’n’roll vibe; and Stripe & Stare is a super-sustainable brand who were initially known for their knickers made from beech wood trees, but became so successful that they have recently moved into loungewear and nightwear.
Why is sustainability an important issue for you?
The world around us is changing and as we all move forward into a new era, we believe it’s so important to consider the planet with future generations in mind. If we can contribute in some small way, while also running the business we love, then we believe it is our responsibility to do so. Many of the sustainable brands we work with focus on creating timeless pieces of high quality. We encourage customers to create their own personal style, say goodbye to fast fashion and wear key pieces that reflect their personality.
What are your hopes for summer and beyond?
Hopefully no more lockdowns! And to properly establish our brand. We’re definitely on the right path. Sales have been fantastic since 12 April, and we were super excited to have been chosen by readers of Grazia magazine as One of the Best UK Boutiques. We plan to build on this great start and become THE destination boutique in Buckinghamshire…