Val Lacey, owner of designer boutiques Arabella in Macclesfield and Nantwich, takes a timeless approach to choosing her collections for each new season...
...Coco Chanel said:
‘Fashion fades, only style remains the same.’
When considered in the light of Val Lacey’s buying ethos, this statement could easily be written on the walls of her shops.
‘The brands I choose have a style that is recognizably their own, season after season, yet each collection has a new aesthetic, or a twist that lifts it from the last. This evolution of design, rather than the sort of “all change” you might see on the high street, means that my customers can always trust us to update their wardrobe each season without having to lose the pieces they love most from previous years.’
Val, who lives in Nantwich, and I are chatting in the middle of August, and she is slightly distracted by the boxes that have arrived from one of her suppliers.
‘New Autumn/Winter collections start arriving in July and through August,’ she tells me. ‘It’s very exciting, unpacking them all and revealing the pieces selected on buying missions months ago!
‘We try to get them out in the shops as quickly as possible. We have a real hard-core of fans for our brands and they know I don't overbuy, which keeps the pieces exclusive. As soon as they get the call that the collections have arrived they're in too.
‘As I sell online and in store, we have a slick communications operation in place to alert customers to new arrivals. I email and text all my overseas clients and UK customers. The response is usually immediate. Things can go absolutely nuts when the new season’s pieces hit the digital shelves. I have customers across Europe, Australia and America and they’re in contact all the time.’
Val has clearly embraced everything working in the digital age offers, with a willingness to do Face Time styling sessions with her more distant customers, having her team model outfits and putting together capsule collections. She even has customers who watch the catwalk shows on YouTube, then send her a link with a note: ‘Six mins and 23 seconds – I want that jumper!’
Just a quick browse of Val’s collection reveals some classic brands, loved by every woman who discovers them, such as OSKA, Crea and Annette Gortz. There are also less familiar, slightly more challenging brands to peruse too, including the dazzling German designer Rundholz (which sells out so fast in its native country that buyers there source pieces from Val!) and Croatian design house Xenia.
‘I absolutely love Rundholz,’ says Val. ‘It’s a tiny bit edgy but very forgiving; the colours, textures, the fabric flow…it attracts women of all ages. You might pay a bit more for a piece, but their collections evolve from season to season and they don’t follow fashion, but are always in style, so it never dates or becomes redundant. Xenia I brought in new this year; some standout, statement pieces. Just one item in your
wardrobe will lift any outfit to a new level – perfect for ladies who don’t like to be too noisy with what they’re wearing, but have their own look and style.
‘Perennial, can’t live without favourites here include OSKA, Crea and Annette Gortz; they all present classic, beautifully made pieces each season: the fabric, the cut, the fit…all fabulous. They reflect my own philosophy about not sacrificing comfort for style – they’re pieces you want to wear every day as you look and feel amazing. You can’t look great unless you feel comfortable.’
Val has three bricks and mortar shops and, of course, her online shop. Her most recent opening was her second shop in Nantwich, Arabella Outlet, where she retails any remaining stock from past seasons, at 50% of the RRP.
‘With two stores and an online business, I can offer pretty much complete collections from my selected brands,’ Val explains. ‘It’s not an outlet store where there are just bits and pieces in extreme sizes. As soon as my sales have ended, pieces are moved in here – which means at the moment, for example, there are items from Spring/Summer 16 on sale – perfect for last minute holiday shopping!’
It seems that Val has thought of everything and it all revolves around how to best please her customers, from her brand choices to every interaction with every shopper, whether they come from Macclesfield or Milwaukee.
‘We take it personally,’ says Val. ‘We want every customer to experience personal service, every time, regardless of how they choose to shop with us. It works…they keep coming back.’
FASHION, LIFESTYLE, CONCEPT STORE