Vanessa is the Managing Director of Collen and Clare in Southwold. Described by award winning journalist India Knight as 'the ultimate boutique', Collen and Clare brings effortlessly chic collections to their three locations in the East of England. Offering an exclusive range of Womenswear, Menswear and Beauty, their flagship store in Southwold has been an essential part of the high street for over 15 years.
We caught up with Vanessa to find out a bit more about her...
What did you want to be when you were little?
I really wanted to be called anything other than 'Vanessa' - I couldn't stand my name. Somehow I thought I would be so much more sophisticated if I were called 'Domino' .... I also really wanted to be a Mermaid.
What makes you happy?
Turning off my mobile and taking time to enjoy every moment - we all run around rushing everywhere! My kids call me 'Mummyrush' which initially I thought it was amusing but then realised it is so far from ideal. I am trying hard to take more time, to do less but do it better and that makes me super happy.
What does your typical weekend consist of?
Football training, football matches and an endless round of parties - I would like to say I am still playing football competitively and partying like I did in the 1990s but I would be lying - I have a 9 year old boy and a 7 year old girl and it is all about their social life. I love to be in the stores on a Saturday but I have to juggle, as we all do.
How did you get into fashion?
The day I opened a job offer to join an Investment Bank after graduating from University I told my mother not to worry because I would be home in 5 years to open a clothes shop. In the end it took 10 years but I did return home to the town of Southwold to open a clothes shop that would bring a little bit of London to Suffolk. That was over 16 years ago and I am still learning every day.
What makes Collen & Clare brilliant?
My team and our customers - I am ever more convinced that in this changing world we still need and crave real customer service. Whilst so much is so easy to do online it is still impossible to replace knowledge, humour and taking the time to understand what a customer needs, is worried about or wants to solve. Touching, feeling and trying on clothes will keep our stores busy tomorrow and onwards.
If you weren’t running Collen & Clare what would you like to have done with your career? What would be your Plan B?
Well Collen & Clare very much rescued me from my first career in Investment Banking in London, for which I will be forever grateful but I remember reading an article years ago that suggested my generation should think about have three very different careers, that there would no longer be the concept of a 'job for life'. I often think of that article and wonder what my next career will be - I would love to bring independent retailers together to share best practice, we are not competing against each other and I believe we could learn from each other.
What does ‘being comfortable’ mean to you?
Not being too hot, having my reading glasses to hand and wearing shoes that don't hurt even after a long day walking around London or being on the shop floor. Simple things.
What would your ideal shoe look like? And where would you wear it?
I would love to be able to wear a pair of tan leather boots with a great heel, teamed with a midi length denim dress and wide brimmed hat. I would wear it to waft around in every day all day looking like something from a magazine cover in 1976.
What’s your favourite Air & Grace style?
The easiest question by far - I am a Copeland girl through and through and desperate for the Spring 2019 leopard print version that I will be wearing every day.
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