My new shop is taking shape. It’s very exciting.
It’s called Lois Reloved, a boutique dress agency for pre-owned ladies’ clothing and accessories. Buying or selling, it’s win-win: You reap cash from clothes you don’t wear, and get to spoil yourself without costing the earth (with the benefit of my professional opinion, if you want it).
And it fulfils my ethos that we should only keep stuff we love and wear. Liberate the rest and let it be ‘reloved’ by someone else.
Like most good ideas it started on the back of an envelope…
It’s been two years of big shake-ups. Since my chap was made redundant, we’ve moved to the other side of the world, come back, and ditched 80% of our belongings. We have a different home, different priorities – and he found a more fulfilling job.
But since our return I’ve been unsettled. I’ve pushed at a few doors, even poked my head round a couple, but nothing excited me enough to tempt me through.
I knew something was waiting, but what the heck was it?
One night I couldn’t sleep and I decided to write down all the things I love. The toughest part was reminding myself that no-one else had to read it – I could write what I liked, no matter how daft.
The messy list on the back of an envelope went something like this:
WHAT I LOVE: A bargain. Orangey-red roses. Scones. Recycling. Reinventing things. Not 9-5. Being my own boss. Laughing with friends. Maltesers. Silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Dressing up – me and others. Learning new creative stuff. Moving the furniture. Dior. 50s fashion plates. Tea. Woman’s Hour. The countryside.
Then I asked: In my work life, when was I happiest?
The answer came easily: About five years ago, working in a boutique, helping with buying and advising women on styling.
I knew what I loved, but how could I make a future of it?
I’ve been thinking about opening a shop for years. But it felt risky. I’ve seen small boutiques struggle, and anyway, I didn’t have the startup capital.
Earlier this year I was in a client’s bedroom, hoiking stuff out of her wardrobe (the posh term is Wardrobe Management). The ‘get rid of’ pile was bigger than me. We discussed what she’d do with the clothes she no long wanted; Sell them on eBay? Give them to friends..?
I had a vague thought: ‘I should be doing something with those clothes…’
Driving home, all the dots joined up: The back of the envelope came to life and Lois Reloved formed in my head, a perfect picture of what I wanted.
I saw a shop and meeting place where I could recycle good quality clothes, run my colour and style business and host creative workshops. A great big dressing up box where I could drink tea, eat Maltesers and listen to Woman’s Hour whenever I liked. I saw a red brick wall, high ceilings and lots of light. And somehow it was part of a bigger community, and there would probably be scones.
I put that thought ‘out there’, concentrated on little else for weeks. Then one day, there it was: A gorgeous retail unit at White House Farm on the outskirts of Norwich. The minute I saw it I knew it was right – it had red brick walls, a vaulted ceiling and it was on the sunny side of the courtyard.
And I’m right next door to a beauty therapist, a hairdresser, a dance studio, a florist and a gift shop – all lovely people who are as determined as I am to thrive.
Oh, and there’s the all-important cafe. I checked out the scones (and the carrot cake and the brownies). All dangerously delicious.
At the time of writing (April 2017) I’m preparing to open, but I know Lois Reloved will succeed because it has my passion.
It’s scary, but in a good way. It started on the back of an envelope, but it’s led to me most definitely Being Lois.
Until next time,
Lois Reloved Boutique Dress Agency, White House Farm, Sprowston, Norwich, Norfolk NR13 6LB.
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