If ever proof was needed that one can rise phoenix-like from the ashes after a devastating personal event, then local business entrepreneur and mother of two Sam Hipperson is surely it.
Going through a separation, selling the family home and then having to Airbnb and hotel hop from week to week due to not being able to rent a place because of Covid, would have surely broken the majority of us but not Sam.
And after spending a pleasant sunny Friday morning interviewing her it would appear that this very testing period of Sam’s life has actually only made her stronger and wiser.
I’m talking to her because, despite the aforementioned difficulties she’s had to endure over the past two and a half years, Sam is now back up and running having bought a house, divorced her husband and taken over the running of local start-up fashion and accessories brand Love and Luxe.
We meet in a beautiful – and huge – cottage-style garden right in the centre of Tunbridge Wells to conduct the interview for SO magazine. It belongs to one of Sam’s many supportive friends who has helped her over the past few years and it’s where she shoots all the new collections for the label she acquired in February of this year which she is clearly pouring so much passion into.
“I absolutely love this garden,” says Sam as she carefully hooks a selection of beautiful beach and occasionware dresses to a pretty ornamental rose arch, ready for our photographer Emily to shoot.
“These dresses are the main stay of the Love and Luxe collection. The Ibiza Aztec one in particular is by far our most popular and always sells out,” she continues smoothing the fabric as she hangs it up, prepping it ready for its close up.
In addition to the brand’s gorgeous dresses which will perfectly transport holidaymakers from beach to bar, and look effortlessly glamourous on women of all shapes thanks to most of them being one size fits all, Sam sells lots more sartorial goodies. These include a kaleidoscope of coloured soft knits, smart blazers and divine boho style jewellery in both silver and gold. Then of course there are the ‘Off Duty’ slogan hoodies which launched the Love and Luxe label last summer under its original owner and founder Rebecca Doyle – AKA Becks from the House Build Instagram account and owner of Isabella Grace bridal boutique on Mount Ephraim.
“Becks launched Love and Luxe back in June 2021 and I could see via her Instagram stories that she was really busy running her bridal boutique, her House Build account and a new fashion brand, so I decided to email her and ask if she wanted any help.”
At this particular time Sam was newly divorced and having to stand on her own two feet financially. I reached out to Becks as my previous career had been in events and I thought I might be able to help around the Love and Luxe launch. Becks was very sweet and supportive to me saying that although she couldn’t employ me on a full or even part-time basis she might be able to give me ad hoc work.
“I hadn’t worked for 16 years due to being a stay at home mum and all of a sudden I had to find a job.
“Our first job together was on a Love and Luxe photoshoot and we hit it off. I then helped her out every now and again while the business grew and when she went on holiday a few months later in August she said that I could run the business in her absence. I was working four days a week and that’s when things started to really take off for me,” explains Sam.
By November however Becks said she felt she was unable to juggle Love and Luxe with everything else and told Sam that she could either wind the business down or Sam could buy it from her.
“She said I think you should do the latter stressing what a great opportunity it would be for me. It was quite serendipitous. Becks had really helped me and now wanted me to take it on and make something of it. I had to borrow money to buy the business and I have to admit it that I really put myself outside of my comfort zone but here I am!”
On purchasing Love and Luxe in February of this year, Sam hit the ground running having to source new premises to operate from, find a new model to showcase the clothes and work out how she was going to put her own style stamp onto things.
“I borrowed money from my sister and managed to secure a place to rent and then asked my friend Sarah if she knew of anyone who’d be up for modelling. She suggested one of her personal trainer clients, a new mum of twins called Rachel. She couldn’t understand why we’d asked her as she had just become a mummy and had lost a bit of her self-confidence. But a few months down the line and Rachel is killing it as the Love and Luxe model so it feels like a mutually beneficial collaboration!”
And over the past six months Sam says she is now finding her feet with the type of stock she is sourcing for the brand and how she is now marketing it.
“I’m seeing that having invested in targeted online advertising is paying off. We’re able to track who’s buying what and where and we’re doing pretty well – our biggest followers are in Tunbridge Wells, London and funnily enough Scotland.”
Sam says that she is also now going to trade shows so she can curate future collections and that’s something she’s really enjoying.
“For me it’s all about the quality and how something feels, so to be able to do that in person means that our shoppers know we are selling good stock. I know that a lot of people are wary about buying online but hopefully Love and Luxe customers can be assured.”
So what’s the secret of how Sam cherry picks pieces, because if her current summer collection is anything to go by it’s certainly appealing to women of most ages, styles and sizes.
“I guess I buy what I like and I buy what I would wear but I’m also really keen on quality. And it also has to be good value,” replies Sam.
“My other big thing is that it has to be multi-functional. So, I always consider how many ways I can wear something. Will it go with a denim jacket and white trainers or a pair of high heels? Can I also wear it on the school run as well as to the office, out to dinner or to a wedding? That’s a big selling point for me.”
Sam adds that she is constantly learning on the job but what’s lovely is that she can see things properly evolving.
“I’m getting into a routine with forward planning and am really excited about what we have coming up for Autumn/Winter and Christmas!
“There are some beautiful pieces coming through in some gorgeous colourways. I’m very into things looking good together and like they complement one another.”
As well as a variety of cable knits, chunky cardigans and fur trimmed ponchos, there will also be a little bit of seasonal sparkle added into the Love and Luxe mix. And the good news is that having just hosted a series of super successful pop ups, Sam is planning on doing a few more so customers can see the collection in the flesh before buying – something that’s quite unusual for an online store and its customers.
It’s fair to say that the future season is certainly looking bright for Sam – in more ways than one….