Over the coming months we’ll be taking a stroll down Tunbridge Wells’ atmospheric High Street, to meet the people who make it such an exciting place to visit, shop and dine. This week, we meet Charlotte Newman, the fashionista behind designer boutique Kitch and find out how she can help you work your wardrobe this summer
How did Kitch arrive in Tunbridge Wells?
I began my career at the Arcadia Group and worked my way up to store manager level in London, before becoming sales and buying director for a number of brands in the capital. But my head office kept moving further out of London and as I was commuting from Crowborough, I never got to see my children. I decided there was a big gap in the Tunbridge Wells High Street so, 11 years ago, I opened Kitch and sure enough, I got to spend more time with my kids.
What was that fashion gap you mention?
In a word, individuality. There weren’t many boutiques here when I opened and nothing offered what I wanted to offer – an eclectic mix of internationalÂ designer brands, in a ‘one stop shop’ destination where customers could buy a whole outfit, from jackets to jewellery. Sometimes customers come in and say they’ve been to Bluewater to look for a wedding outfit, only to find that all the department stores stock the same brands. I source clothes in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Milan and even Australia. So I offer something totally different to the High Street.
How else does Kitch stand out from the crowd?
Customer service is absolutely key here. I’m in the shop most days and my manager and staff are brilliant. It’s all about getting to know customers’ likes, dislikes and insecurities; what areas they like to cover up or put on show and understanding their taste. We sell a lot of denim here and we know byÂ looking at customers what size they are and what shape of denim will fit them well. Staff training is vital, it’s something we take pride in and that’s where we shine.
Sounds like quite a personal service?
I really like to get to know my customers and will often buy with particular clients in mind, especially my regulars. Sometimes I’ll buy one item that I don’t even put out in the shop; I’ll put it in the back, call the customer and tell them there’s something here I think they’ll like. They usually buy it! I’m almost a personal shopper in that respect. Also, I’ll go and edit customers’ wardrobes, free of charge – I’ll sort the clothes into outfits and tell them what they’re missing.
You mentioned denim – is a pair of jeans not just a pair of jeans?
No, there’s much more to it! We don’t stock low-rises because I believe they’re for 18 to 24-year-olds. But we do stock mid to high-rise jeans – they’re not on your belly button, but they cover any love handles!
All our jeans have a minimum 3%stretch and we only buy LA brands because they’re the best fit. They’re a bit more expensive but most women wear jeans all year round, often two or three times a week, so it’s an investment buy. If you work out the cost per wear, they’re really good value.
So, what jeans should we be wearing this summer?
Skinny flares are a big look this season. The bootleg has never goneÂ away, but we’re being asked about it a lot more this summer. There are lots of dark washes about, particularly the Enzyme denims, plus there’ll be lots of greys. Rips and frays are good, while the boyfriend cut is great if you’re slightly bigger, as they’re flattering on the thigh.
What if a new customer comes in and has no idea what to try – can you help?
Absolutely. By a process of elimination, I find out their likes and dislikes – but I also ask them to be open-minded. Some garments might not have much hanger appeal, but when I ask them to humour me and try something on, the customer usually falls in love with it! That happens a lot, particularlyÂ with jump suits and maxi dresses, because some people think they’re too short for those. Also, we sell a lot of beautiful tailored dresses in an array of colours and styles; they look very Victoria Beckham-esque without the Victoria Beckham price! Those are really popular for work and for a day at the races.
Finally Charlotte, what are your top looks for the summer?
Boho is massive – tunics or kaftans with skinny flares look fantastic and a kaftan looks good whatever size you are. We sell a lot of jump suits and play suits, plus maxi dresses look great with wedges, either dressed up or down. Also, neon is huge and it looks fabulous with any skin colouring.
1 High Street, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 1UL 01892 513 613 | www.kitchclothing.co.uk