Bernadette Gledhill has been part of the fashion industry for over 40 years (not that you would believe it!) - she is a professional lady who exudes elegance and grace.
We are delighted to welcome her to our team of guest experts and thank her for this, her first of many features.
For myself, like many people, the beginning of 2020 saw a full diary of work events and a rather exciting line up of special and social occasions. As the weeks slowly moved on these wonderful celebrations were removed and rearranged for later in the year or 2021.
This really made me think about Special Occasion wear and how difficult it has been to find items for events, particularly very important ones. Choosing outfits for any special occasion is not always easy and although shopping on-line has been our only option over the past 3 months I would certainly recommend trying a special outfit in store to ensure you find the perfect look for your individual event.
This week I got the chance to catch up with a few independent family owned Yorkshire businesses to see how appointments and sourcing special outfits will work as they slowly reopen for business.
My first call was with Ann Wray of Helen Sykes Fashions in Leeds. I have been lucky to work with this beautiful store for nearly forty years both as a model and organising fashion events with them.
Helen Sykes Fashions
“When I first began my career in designer fashion, most exclusive independent shops had a strict appointment system, if only to prevent Mrs Jones from knowing what Mrs Smith was buying, and each customer had the full undivided attention of the person looking after them for whatever time was needed. A considerable part of our business is still by means of individual appointments for a variety of clients, many of them business women, who travel to us from all over the North, and from as far away as London. So effectively, that side of our business will not change, apart from the necessary social distancing, masks, gloves, etc., which will be a requirement.
The duration of each appointment will be tailored to the individual customer's requirements.
The big difference will be that the individual customers looking for a special-occasion outfit will now also have the benefit of an appointment system where they can enjoy individual attention and an area of the store to themselves for the duration of their appointment".
Home to Helen Sykes Fashions is a spacious Victorian building one and a half miles west of Leeds City centre. There are 7 showrooms, 6 of which have large fitting rooms. They are planning to keep to 4 showrooms, but will have a maximum of 2 to 3 customers in the shop at any one time. Therefore, each customer, after making their selection, would have not only a fitting room, but an entire showroom, to themselves. Customers should still feel relaxed and enjoy the buying of their dream outfit knowing that they have the most stringent protection regime in place. Each fitting room will be thoroughly wiped down after use. If necessary, they can arrange for a customer to have the entire store to themselves for the duration of their appointment.
This year's collections are absolutely stunning as always! Hopefully, weddings will be given the go-ahead later this year, and Mums of Brides or Grooms will be spoiled for choice with the wonderful variety of dresses and outfits.
JR Millinery Harrogate
Millinery plays a huge part of planning for Special Events, Race Days and Weddings so I was delighted to catch up with Jenny Roberts of JR Millinery in Harrogate. I have often visited Jenny myself over the years for Special events and they offer a fabulous styling service.
Jenny Roberts is one of the North’s leading milliners. Recognised for her couture brand, Jenny has been working with customers for over 15 years, creating beautifully crafted pieces. Based in Harrogate, Jenny’s studio is the home to countless bespoke creations and she also offers customers a hire service where ladies can select from a couture collection of over 500 pieces.
At Jenny Roberts Millinery they are still working on new collections for the coming seasons, although some weddings have been delayed and the races are going ahead behind closed doors they are really excited and ready to welcome clients through virtual consultations or at a social distance in the studio to help you plan for your special occasion.
Sandersons Department Store
Sandersons Boutique Store is an independent department store situated at Fox Valley, North Sheffield. This is a very special store to visit and one of my favourites! Here you can view a beautiful range of brands for all occasions, choose from a full range of accessories including handbags and shoes whilst at the same time browse and test the amazing range of beauty products.
I caught up with Amanda Holmes:
“We are hoping our shoppers are all ready for a return to a little bit of glamour!! We are planning to reopen on June 18th which is very exciting for our team. We have now remodelled the store during lockdown and have some great new brands to launch.
We will ensure that when we reopen all the necessary steps are being taken and we want to deliver that high standard of customer service that Sandersons is so proud of, with just at a little bit of distance for now. Obviously safety is at the forefront of everyones mind at the moment and we will be ensuring that our shoppers can enjoy a safe and pleasant environment.
We will open for longer hours initially so that our shoppers can plan their trip and have a little more time to browse.
We feel very lucky that at Fox Valley we have an open air centre with lots of space and wide footpaths which really can lend itself to good practice with social distancing.
We are definitely planning to keep our home delivery service available when the store reopens as this has proven to be so popular for our regular clients”
Sandersons store was launched in 2016 by Yorkshire businesswoman the late Deborah Holmes with a passion for bringing a great range of fashion brands to the South Yorkshire community where she grew up. The Sandersons team headed by Deborah’s husband Mark Dransfield, are building on her legacy and that love of fashion and great customer service. Pictured above and below is Deborah’s daughter Rebecca Dransfield modelling some of the looks available when the store reopens next week.
Stay Safe and Happy Shopping!