Colmers Hill Fashion is a fabulous online shop and also a boutique on the outskirts of Bridport in the beautiful surroundings of the Symondsbury Estate.
This fashion boutique is run by Penny who has an eye for the unusual in designer clothing. Penny searches out clothes that will flatter and feel good to wear because of their beautiful fabrics and cuts. She selects designer clothing with a distinct emphasis on the unusual and the extraordinary.
Penny and her team want you to feel like the individual you are and express your unique personality. Something which they are highly experienced and excellent at.
Thanks Barbara! Colmers Hill is a women’s clothing boutique set in the beautiful rural destination of Symondsbury Estate on the outskirts of Bridport in West Dorset and close to the Jurassic Coastline. The boutique is named after a hill on the Estate just behind us which can be seen from miles away with its iconic shape and Monterey Pine on its crown.
We offer a large range of designer clothing labels with a broad range of prices from very affordable to very exclusive pieces. We stock clothing and accessories suitable for both casual and special occasion wear.
It is a very relaxed boutique with no pretensions, which perfectly matches its natural surroundings. We have our Colmers Hill online shop too.
I’m a West Country girl, growing up on Dartmoor, but having done a Creative Arts Degree, I went to London. I was lucky enough to work with accounts like Rolls-Royce/Bentley and Gillette on their PR campaigns, some of which revolved around the fashion industry which is where I guess I got my first taster.
When I left London, I did a complete pivot change and set up a fashion & home interiors shop with a large cafe in Lyme Regis, which I ran for over 11 years. I was learning on the hoof!
I realised that my real love is for designer clothing, slow fashion and how it makes you feel. But it was more than that. A lot of ladies come desperately searching for something and many also come burdened with low self esteem and it is just the best feeling to know you have helped that customer feel good about themselves and they leave feeling happy.
That is my mission, to create a relaxed shopping environment, where if people want your help, you are there to offer an honest opinion and sometimes a complete change of style. This isn’t a hard sales shop and I would hate to feel anyone ever felt too intimidated to come in … which I know they can do in some places!
It is always inspiring to hear how the shop began and how it has got to where it is now, can you share with us this story?
I actually started this boutique from very humble beginnings back in 2016 when Symondsbury Estate, as a destination, was in its infancy with a cafe, Tithe Barn, a selection of shops, accommodation, hairdressers and beauticians. I took on a small shop but in 2018 I moved into a bigger space and then in 2019, a bigger and more bespoke boutique was created for me by the Estate.
Finally, this felt like the sort of space I wanted. It was spacious but still feels friendly and allows the team to help several customers at a time.
As the boutique gained a reputation, we did large-scale charity fashion shows and other community initiatives alongside the Estate. In early 2020 before Lockdown 1.0, we won a local Award as the Business of the Year and another for Retailer of the Year. This was based on Secret Shoppers visiting the boutique, so it was a genuine accolade that the team are very proud to have received.
You have an eye for fashion and a wide range of clothes. How do you find and decide on the clothes to include in your shop?
I buy my collections based on a few key factors: eye-catching design, comfort, beautiful fabrics, quality manufacture, ease of care. However, this is an interesting question because my decision processes are subtly changing now as we move into an age where sustainability is becoming so important.
Designer fashion is a slow fashion decision because quality and being made to last is at its heart. It is not the sort of clothing you buy and wear for one season. It is about really loving something and knowing that the quality of the fabric and its construction is there to last for many years, if not decades. That you will feel as pleased to wear it a year hence as it was the first time but being clever about how to change how you style it.
We all need to move towards thinking about “cost per wear” and think through not only our own financial benefits but also the cost to the environment. It is also important to try and find the manufacturers who are doing everything they can to work even more sustainably and ethically with fabrics like organic cotton and new ones such as recycled polyester.
Where do you run it all from? Can you share with us a little bit of your behind the scenes and where you spend your days? Including how you manage to photograph and video all these lovely clothes?
I’m lucky to live very close to the boutique, so if I’m not at the shop, I will be working from home or popping to the warehouse to sort out website orders. I am also often on the road going to see new collections, which is always an enjoyable part of the job. Because the boutique is large enough, we often do our shoots using a pop up studio in the shop but quite often we do shoots around and about Symondsbury Estate, as we are lucky to be in such a beautiful location. I have worked with a few photographers but we also do a lot of our photos in-house too.
What are some of yours and your customers favourites?
Ooh so many to pick from! I love a Dutch label we have called Elsewhere which has a really chic Continental styling to it and is all about layering.
Likewise we have a label called Ralston from Sweden which is very distinctive, with beautiful fabrics, creative and colourful prints. You know there’s jersey and there’s jersey and they use the very best. When you put them on you can feel the difference immediately.
Sandwich Clothing from Denmark and Marble from Scotland are also particularly popular ones and very wearable. I love labels like Yavi and Raga because they are so artistic and many are made of the finest silks and fabrics.
You now have your own label, can you tell us about it and how it came about?
Yes, I launched it in 2020 just before Lockdown 1.0!! Not the best of timings but in the most difficult of years, it has been a real hit!
It is called From My Mother’s Garden and is a “wearable art” label inspired by my mother’s small but pretty English garden. All the prints are based on images that my partner Alistair and I take and they are joyful and colourful.
We have a range of kimonos and long robes, tops and scarves in prints such as Magnolia, Hydrangea, Blossom, Dandelion Clocks and more. If you like, they are a celebration of both nature and the bond between mother and daughter – which I personally feel very lucky to have.
Despite the difficult times for independent retail during the pandemic, it is already being sold by many boutiques up and down the country, and of course in Colmers Hill.
What plans and ideas do you have for the future of Colmers Hill Fashion and From My Mother’s Garden?
Our online sales for colmershill.com have grown by 80% in the last year, so this is something we hope to continue to build on. We are constantly developing and improving our online shop.
We have lots more exciting plans for From My Mother’s Garden including some new prints, which will be launched this year and more styles to come. We have been approached by more retailers to stock the label – fashion boutiques, galleries and gift shops – which is fantastic. In the future I hope to expand its sales internationally.
The pandemic has made the last 12 months so hard for independent shops. What changes have you made to keep your lovely shop going?
Yes, you’re right it has been a real challenge! However, it has also been a time to reflect on what has been working for us and what hasn’t.
When we have been able to be open, we have offered more personal appointments, which is something we will definitely continue as it gives our customers the chance to have the boutique to themselves and one-on-one consultations.
We have also done a lot more online and have created videos to show some of the pieces on staff members which customers have really loved. In the past we have done big charity fashions shows but instead we have had some fun doing a few virtual shows instead, sometimes working with other boutiques from around the country.
We have also set up a Facebook Group called Colmers Hill Fashion Inspirations where we premiere these videos to give the members the first chance to see our new collections or sales.
…and finally. What is the best thing about running your own boutique (both online and your boutique) and what has been one of your proudest moments?
I love working with my team to create a really exciting display, rich with colour and choice. It’s great to see customers come in for the first time and not know what to look at first!
To hear people genuinely thrilled to have found us and so pleased with their purchases, gives us all a real buzz. Many of our customers have become friends and they often pop in for a chat, which makes it feel like a very friendly place to work.
Proudest moment … the launch of From My Mother’s Garden. I don’t think I ever really believed I could have my own collection, so to have achieved this, is really a dream.
Thank you so much Penny for sharing your inspiring and exciting story of Colmers Hill. You really do have an amazing shop, both online and in person. I have really enjoyed watching your videos during lockdowns. It helped me get a better understanding of the fabric and cut of the garment.
One day I would love to visit your beautiful boutique, but in the mean time, your easy to use online shop and all the images you create for each piece of clothing, help me choose what will look and feel good.
Happy browsing and shopping.
All opinions in this blog post are mine and Penny’s. Colmers Hill is a member of my shopping directory.Tags: Clothes & Fashion Online Boutiques, Independent Shops Online, Shops Behind the Scenes