Insta-trending fashion brand opens new store in Suffolk
- Credit: Contributed
“We’d arrive to have lunch together or have a walk on the coast and we would literally be wearing the same things that we’d bought that month or that week and we’d go ‘funny you’re wearing that’, laughs Francesca Beaumont.
“And out in London, people would come up to us and say ‘I love your dress, where’s it from?’” adds Sian Haley. “And we’d always say that we should sell what we wear.”
The pair met about six years ago, when they worked in the events business. In their words they became best friends “literally overnight”.
It seemed like serendipity – especially when they realised that their families were already linked. Sian’s late father and Francesca’s father had been friends through a mutual acquaintance.
“We felt we were probably always meant to meet each other and meant to be in each other’s lives. And here we are, like sisters, and working together with our first-born child,” says Sian.
The pair are obviously close and share an intuition. In conversation they frequently finish each other’s sentences, and they have bags of energy, drive and determination. It makes for a lively, and inspiring, conversation.
As they explain, their mutual frustration at where they were in their careers led them to start bouncing ideas around for their own business.
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And, while they had no direct experience of working in fashion, given their mutual passion – and their great taste in clothes - it seemed like the natural fit.
Fast forward to now and Francesca and Sian have just opened My Best Friend’s Wardrobe’s third bricks and mortar premises – in Suffolk – and have moved their headquarters to the county too.
They sell a beautifully curated collection of the kind of timeless, classic pieces that every woman’s wardrobe needs: the perfect white shirt, quality knitwear and dresses that look equally good with trainers on the school run or heels on date night.
The kind of staples that, as they explain, they themselves wanted to wear, but they felt was missing in fashion retail.
“We both knew that there was a gap in the market for the clothing that we now sell,” says Francesca. “So boutique clothing, without the boutique price point.”
“So that’s how it came about,” she continues. “Lots of dinners and cups of tea.”
“Glasses of wine,” says Sian.
“Walks with the dog. And we formulated a plan,” says Francesca.
And the plan was to design the garments themselves and to have them made in small workshops.
“We started doing our research as most new businesses would,” says Sian. “That led us to various places in the UK and then further afield in Europe and then basically we struck gold in Paris – and now 95 per cent of our clothing is manufactured in small workshops there.”
“The research was key – we did a very large amount of research and we’ve had lots of trial and error,” says Francesca.
“Especially error,” chimes in Sian. “What we have now is nothing like what we started with.”
And it’s definitely struck a chord with shoppers.
They opened their first premises, at Marlow in Buckinghamshire, at the end of 2019 - little knowing that a few months later there would be a pandemic and the country would be going into what would be the first of several lockdowns.
But thanks to online sales and their supportive social media community, they were able to open a second store at Cranleigh in Surrey, followed by their East Anglian showroom earlier this month.
“They’re those easy to wear pieces that are well made and affordable,” says Sian.
“We sell a lot of dresses,” says Francesca. “Our core product range is our dresses and our knitwear – easy wear, but really lovely fabric.”
As consumers become increasingly aware of the hidden costs of fast fashion, many people are changing the way that they shop, preferring to buy fewer pieces which will be loved and worn for years, rather than lots that perhaps will only be worn once or twice.
And Francesca and Sian share that ethos.
“Select a few really lovely pieces and they will see you through and they’ll see you through well and you’ll wear them and wear them and wear them,” says Francesca.
“Instead of saving it for best,” adds Sian.
“[With our pieces] It’s timeless and you’re going to wear it for years to come – but it‘s still fun and on trend,” she continues. “And you can’t buy it anywhere else – it's our own fabrics, our own designs, our own colours.”
Prices start at £39 for camisoles and T-shirts, £69-£89 for knitwear and £79-£99 for dresses.
“It’s a really good price point for a lot of people,” says Francesca.
“They’re really good quality, European-made products, rather than being mass produced.”
Both of them have strong links to Suffolk, which is why they wanted to base their business in the county.
Sian grew up in Suffolk – her family is from near Ipswich and her mum works for My Best Friend’s Wardrobe.
And Francesca has moved to Suffolk to live with her partner, a fourth-generation farmer.
“There are so many creatives here, it’s really exciting for us,” says Sian.
“To have a strong group of other small businesses and other like-minded people around you is so good,” says Francesca.
“And everyone is really supportive and just really gets behind you,” says Sian.
They needed their premises have space for a warehouse, photo studio, an office and a showroom – and also to be easily accessible from Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and north Essex where they have a growing customer base.
They found their perfect premises, in Thurston near Bury St Edmunds, through their friends at restaurant Maison Bleue.
They’ve also had a warm welcome from customers who made the trip to see them on their opening day.
“We did a soft launch and ended up with loads of people,” says Francesca. “Three ladies couldn’t believe they were able to drive 10 minutes down the road in the middle of the countryside and come shopping.”
And they love the relaxed and individual shopping experience that Francesca and Sian have created, where customers can take their time over trying on items – a world away from what you might experience at some high street chains.
And, in time, they’re planning to hold events.
“People can come and sit on the sofa,” says Francesca.
“Have a coffee, bring the dog,” says Sian.
“Come with their friends and don’t feel like it’s a stuffy, pressurised environment,” says Francesca.
“We want to create a community,” says Sian.
Visit My Best Friend’s Wardrobe’s new showroom at Elm Park Farm, Thurston. Follow them on Instagram @my_bestfriends_wardrobe and see their website at mybestfriendswardrobe.co.uk