Leigh Unwin, the founder of fashion retailer The Style Attic, had never dreamed of launching her own fashion brand until the premature birth of her daughter and the maternity discrimination that she experienced.
In 2014 Leigh welcomed her daughter Edie to the world at just 25 weeks. After a long stint in hospital, Edie was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy which turned Leigh’s life upside down.
She asked her employer, a major fashion retailer, if she could work reduced hours to take care of Edie’s needs but every request was denied.
The 36 year old said, “Fashion buying was my dream job, but it quickly turned into a nightmare after my maternity leave ended. Work got really hard, and never in a million years had I thought that I would walk away from that role, but once I had Edie my priorities changed.”
Leigh’s not alone in this experience. One in ten women were discouraged from taking time off work for their antenatal appointments and one in twenty women experienced harassment or negative comments because of their pregnancy or requests for flexible work.
Leigh said, “At the time I was so upset and frustrated by what happened. When I think about it now I’m thankful that I no longer have to work for a company that treats its female employees in such a way.”
With years of experience in the fashion industry behind her, the day that she left her job, Leigh headed straight to a local wholesaler and returned home that evening with plastic bags full of clothes.
She said, “I ran straight upstairs and started ripping the carpet out. My partner came home and I told him that this was it, I was starting a shop from the attic of our house.”
With that split decision, The Style Attic was born.
Leigh took to Facebook to let people know of her new business and within a few weeks word had spread across her hometown of Rothwell, Leeds.
She said, “I wasn’t sure that people would visit, what with having to knock on the door of my house to get to the shop. But they did and then they would come back, this time with a friend, and it snowballed. I think the novelty of the shop actually being in my attic was what helped word spread. If I had taken out a loan and bought a shop, I don’t think it would’ve worked.”
By 2019 demand was so high that Leigh eventually decided to take The Style Attic out of her home, and purchased a premises in Swillington.
Working alongside her mum Lisa and younger sister Jade, collectively the brand has gone from strength to strength and the demand for The Style Attic has never been bigger.
So much so, on Friday the 10th of November Leigh opened the doors to her beautiful new shop, just a couple of doors away from her previous space in Swillington, in aid of being able to provide even more for her loyal Style Attic customers.
She said: “We’ve never rushed in to any decision we’ve made, but for over a good year we knew we needed to move our much-loved shop in to a bigger space. I looked at a few locations locally, even some within central Leeds, but I didn’t want to make it hard for our local customers or neglect who we are as a brand either.”
She continued: “One day the owner of the old laundrette – now our new home - popped in to the shop to say she was putting it up for sale, and I was instantly intrigued. After a little look around it with a completely different eye, I knew it would be perfect for us. Albeit require a lot of work and imagination to remove itself from its current aesthetic.”
And as the saying goes, the rest is history.
With the strong foundation of being a family run business sitting at the forefront of decisions, together the team spent endless hours transforming the space. Months of hard work, breaking down walls, sanding, painting and even making their own display tables. The new shop became a passion project and together they’ve executed perfection.
She explained: “We could’ve got an interior designer in to do the job of renovating the laundrette in to the shop, but the bit we’ve enjoyed the most is chipping-in and doing it all together. The fruits of our labour has allowed us to accomplish the end goal and I’m so proud of us all.”
The stylish design concept fused both of Leigh’s love of interiors and her passion for fashion in to one. With sleek features such as sculpted arched walkways and fitting rooms, modern black fixtures and boucle furniture, customers will experience the full wow-factor from the second they walk through the door. And customers did just that. On opening day customers were waiting down the street to have their first-look at their beautiful new space.
Leigh said “I am so proud to be stood here in the new shop today, alongside my family, friends and amazing customers. It goes to show that gut instincts will pay off and with the right support around you, anything is possible. Thank you to every single customer we’ve had at The Style Attic over the last eight-years, without them none of this would be possible.”