So Lynne, how did you get into the world of fashion?
In 2010, after a lengthy career in the corporate world, I was becoming jaded and unfilled. I was in my late 40s, our sons were in their teens, and I felt if I didn’t make a change then I never would. So I seized an opportunity to join a designer and vintage dress agency that had just opened in Tunbridge Wells. The next two years were the steepest learning curve of my life! I learnt about clothing brands from high street to high end, fit, fabric, styles and colours, how to run and market a business, put on events, network and how to go out of my comfort zone. Most importantly I learnt all about women; their body shapes, colouring, style personalities, proportions, clothing that worked and why, and how they felt about their image.
And how did this introduction to fashion translate into a career as a stylist?
I had finally found my niche, my passion and it felt amazing! I was doing what I loved and was making a lot of women happy in the process. My reputation soon spread locally that here was a woman who would give an honest opinion about how clothes looked on them, suggestions for clothing they may have never tried on, and styling ideas to make the clothes look even better. Unfortunately it had become apparent that the writing was on the wall for the dress agency, but I had started to get so many requests from customers to come and sort out their wardrobes and go shopping with them that it was the perfect segue into a new career as a personal stylist.
How much of a challenge did you find it launching your own business Styling Matters in 2012?
We were still in recession in the UK at the time I launched Styling Matters. My husband was self-employed, and it was a gamble. But I hit the ground running and have grown a successful business since then helping hundreds of women all over the South East with their image and wardrobes. A few years ago I started a profile on Instagram – mainly to help my clients by sharing photographs of myself wearing my outfit of the day. Before I knew it I had a following of over 25,000 and was invited to work with lots of independent and nationwide brands and retailers as a fashion influencer. I was amazed to discover how many clothes were being bought by my followers because I had been wearing them. At the same time I was finding personal shopping was getting harder and harder.
My client base was mainly aged 35 to 60 and they wanted a capsule of cool, contemporary, comfortable, staple pieces of clothing that were well made but not too expensive. The shops were full of clothes but not the right clothes for them, and they often didn’t have the right sizes in stock. It felt like they were looking for a needle in a haystack.
And then from that how and why did you go on to launch The Meek Boutique?
In the autumn of 2018 in response to what I felt was a healthy demand, I launched The Meek Boutique with my husband. This online boutique was initially intended to be a small collection of clothes, run as a cottage industry from home, and alongside Styling Matters. However it became immediately apparent that our stock was hitting the nail on the head and the business grew fast!
The boutique’s niche is that every single item is hand-picked by me for style, price and quality and means our customers don’t have to wade through thousands of items to find their key pieces.They really enjoy being able to engage with me with their queries, and because I’m an experienced personal stylist there is a huge level of trust and support there.
In spring 2019 we took on stock room premises locally. An added bonus was a beautiful styling room where we’re able to photograph the clothing.
I am also able to offer hour-long styling appointments where ladies can try on any of the clothes in a relaxed, calm environment and I can help them on a one-to-one basis. This has been such a game changer for the business – and the hour-long session is free!
My husband closed his business earlier this year so he could work alongside me in the boutique full-time, and we are loving every minute of this new life. We have to pinch ourselves every day!
Why personal styling can have such a positive effect
A large proportion of my personal styling clients and boutique customers are at a similar stage in life. They are often focused on their families, careers and homes and have little time for themselves.
Most women are very good at putting themselves last, and in the process have lost some of their identity. Having multiple demands can make it difficult to move with trends, cope with changes, understand why colours, shapes and styles work (and don’t work) and to know how to evolve their style through each decade.
The vast majority of the women I know through the business are extremely time poor and as a result, clothes shopping is stressful. I hear the same problems time and time again.
Women find the shops overwhelming, with too much stock, they don’t know what they are looking for, and can’t find it when they do know. The changing rooms are often cramped and too hot, with bad lighting and unflattering mirrors.
The Meek Boutique’s USP
I spend a huge amount of time searching for the clothes women need, so they don’t have to. I know what women are looking for: I know the colours, styles, fabrics and shapes that are the most flattering to the majority of body shapes, and I know that most women want to look current and contemporary rather than being a cutting edge trend-setter. I’m also hugely aware that nearly everyone wants to feel comfortable, so fabrics that can stretch are very high on the agenda.
Being in a position where I can work with women on a one-to-one basis in a quiet, calm environment is such a pleasure, and adds a unique service to The Meek Boutique. One of my customers told me that she had only seen such a service at high end designer level, never at our reasonable price point. At these appointments I can advise on body shape, colours, styling tips and putting outfits together from our range of stock. An hour is an efficient and workable amount of time to get the pieces our customers need and is a massive time saver in the long term. And for most women, an hour when it’s all about them is a rare commodity indeed!
For those who are unable to get to Tunbridge Wells I can still offer a free hour, but over the phone instead. We both sit in front of a screen with The Meek Boutique website up, and after asking several questions about sizing and lifestyle, I can make suggestions as to clothes that would fit the brief.
Lynne’s top shopping tips
1 Think about how that article of clothing will work in your wardrobe. Make sure it will go with lots of clothes you already have. Don’t just buy something because you like the colour
2 Never buy something to slim into. Only buy what fits and looks brilliant right now
3 Set aside time if it’s an important purchase. The phrase ‘I had an event but no time and bought that in desperation’ is a comment I hear far too often!
4 Only buy something if you really love it. Don’t buy something you quite like, or because it’s the best of a bad lot, it’ll just hang in your wardrobe
5 If you’re not sure which colours suit you the best, spend most money on neutrals like navy, black, grey, khaki and ivory. You can spend a smaller amount on a scarf or a top in a pop of colour to lift your outfit and try out different colours that way
For more information on Wellness HQ visit www.wellnesshq.co.uk