Dedicated follower of fashion
2nd May 2019
Charlotte Newman, the owner of Kitch boutique in Tunbridge Wells, reveals to Eileen Leahy the insider secrets of always hitting the right style notes
If you love fashion then you can’t have failed to notice the veritable Aladdin’s cave of stylish sartorial finds that is Kitch, an independent fashion boutique located on the upper end of the High Street in Tunbridge Wells.
You may think the shop’s name is a spelling mistake – i.e. that it should be ‘Kitsch’ – but actually the shop’s signage is indeed correct as the moniker comes from a rather cute and clever amalgamation of the owner’s name, Charlotte, and that of her husband, Kit.
Mr and Mrs Newman, who have two grown-up children, live in East Sussex with their dog Mildred, an adorable basset hound who features in plenty of Charlotte’s popular Instagram posts.
'I never really thought about the competition as I tried to offer something different. My idea was for Kitch to have an eclectic and unique look'
The couple have been running Kitch for the past 16 years after a ‘change in personal circumstances’ led to Charlotte, who had been working in fashion retail in the capital, deciding to do something just a little bit different.
“I moved to London aged 18 and worked for the Arcadia group, working my way up to store manager in the West End,” she explains.
“After having my first child I was offered a job running the wholesale side of the brand Naf Naf. From there I worked for various different labels as a sales and buying director until personal circumstances dictated a lifestyle change – and hence Kitch was born.”
She goes on to say that when she first flung open the fashion boutique’s doors she wasn’t daunted by the fact she might have a clutch of competitors on her hands in the fashion focused town of Tunbridge Wells.
“I never really thought about the competition as I tried to offer something different. My idea was for Kitch to have an eclectic and unique look.”
She obviously had crystal clear vision for her own retail brand as she reveals that ‘all but one’ of the boutiques that were in Tunbridge Wells when she opened have now gone.
'We try to source new, upcoming brands you won’t see everywhere else so we can offer the customer a unique shopping experience'
What does Charlotte think are some of the key factors that have set Kitch apart in the fashion business? “Kitch is a one-stop shopping destination. We try to source new, upcoming brands you won’t see everywhere else so we can offer the customer a unique shopping experience. Kitch is all about colour and print. So many stores tend not to veer away from neutrals.”
Stepping inside the boutique, which has won the Muddy Stilettos ‘Best Boutique in Kent’ award twice, you’ll be greeted by rails and rails of colourful clothing, ranging from chic printed maxi dresses to beautifully boho tassle kaftans, bright logo luxury knitwear and smart separates – in a range of high octane hues. Current labels dangling from hangers include on trend labels such as Onjenu, Citizens of Humanity and Pampelone.
Then of course there’s the amazing selection of covetable accessories on display, both in store and online, which include glamorous Tom Ford eyewear, gorgeous Melissa Odabash panama hats and beachwear, as well as plenty of buttery soft leather bags and belts.
So now Kitch is sweet 16 what plans does Charlotte have for her next stage of development? “Kitch is going stateside, so watch this space...” We can’t wait to see this home-grown brand grow even further.
Charlotte’s Style File
Confidence is the best thing you can wear
Create your own look, don’t be a slave to fashion and embrace the classics from your wardrobe
Not everyone can wear every look so know your personal style
Describe the Kitch experience in one sentence?
A one-stop shopping destination
How useful is social media for you?
It’s extremely useful. Instagram is a great way of increasing our exposure. It drives traffic into Kitch, be it in store or online. Social media is key to customer service and I love engaging with our followers. I’m very much learning on the job and it’s quite time-consuming but whether I like it or not, it’s the way forward!
Which platforms do you use most and why?
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, but the latter is the most effective as it’s so visual and a great way to engage your audience.
When did you start posting and what has it taught you?
I started posting six years ago knowing nothing about Instagram. I’m slowly learning and still very much a novice! I’ve learnt that although it’s a great marketing platform, it also has its negatives.
Do you collaborate with any other local Instagram influencers?
Yes, a lot of them are customers already but it’s great having the support of the local bloggers.
Why I love Tunbridge Wells...
Where’s your favourite place to shop – other than Kitch?
I try to support all the other boutiques in Tunbridge Wells but owning my own means I don’t often buy clothes from other stores. But I am obsessed with home interiors and love Oka in Hoopers.
And to eat out?
I much prefer to entertain at home as I don’t live near Tunbridge Wells, but I love Juliets for a takeaway salad and The Ivy for drinks and dinner.
And for cocktails?
If I’m out in Tunbridge Wells, I like going to Chapel Place Gin Bar, The Ivy and Tunbridge Wells Bar and Grill – especially in the summer when the roof is open.
Finally, where’s the best place to go locally in order to get away from it all?
When I really want to escape, for me there is only one place and that’s walking my dog Mildred on Ashdown Forest, followed by a gorgeous lunch in my local, The Griffin in Fletching.