Janine's blog spot

LAST DAY at OKEEFE FASHION in Hampton Court

 

Janine OKeefe – BIO

After running events at house sales throughout the home counties and hosting regular events in my own home, I opened my first boutique in Claygate Village in 2005 .

My son was then 17 and my daughter 15 – it felt like the right time.

I started with a handful of brands  – Avoca Anthology from Ireland, Out of Xile (made in the UK), a couple of jeans brands and gradually added to my “affordable and original” collections over the next few years.   My USP was genuine customer service, a friendly and relaxed environment with a targeted demographic looking for something new.   With a background in interior design, I sourced vintage furniture alongside bespoke fittings.

Within a year I took over the shop next door, knocking through to increase my floor space and a much-needed stock room.  Shortly followed by my website to flag up brands, fashion news, events and style advice.

The bricks and mortar expansion continued with a second store in Weybridge, followed by my flagship store in Esher , giving me the opportunity to create a London inspired independent with a higher profile, hand picked designer brands, regular in-store events and an online transactional website.

We opened Esher in 2009 and my brother, Jonathan OKeefe, joined the team as the Store Manager having worked for Saks 5th Avenue in LA and at Burberry’s in Bond Street under Rosemary Bravo.  I was now running three stores, doing all the buying , travelling to Europe for regular appointments as well as further afield.  I also did all the ensuing admin and worked in each store for some days each week. It was a busy time.

We had some fabulous events in Esher, seasonal fashion shows and competitions.  I wrote regular, topical articles for Drapers magazine, was asked to talk at industry events like PURE and also reached the Drapers “Best Independent Boutique”  final – three times.

Business was challenging over the next few years so I decided to close my Weybridge and Claygate stores as both leases were ready for renewal,  allowing me to reduce my overheads.  I also decided to cease trading transactionally.  I needed to focus on being back in-store, with my customers, offering key styling advice and leading my team.

I seemed to be working harder and harder for less and less and by the summer of 2014 , with news that my Esher landlords wished to increase my rent to an unsustainable rate, but with a break clause available, I decided to close down my Esher store too.

I sold all my stock and most of the fixtures , except for the rail system, hangers etc …and spent that summer taking time out and working out the way forward.

Living in London and seeing pop up stores opening everywhere – was the inspiration I needed.  I was not going to give up on all the experience I had gained or my passion for fashion quite yet.

Through a tip-off from a friend, I was fortunate to find a small unit in Bridge Road in Hampton Court for a few months in the Autumn of 2014.  This was close enough to my established client base but would give me a new audience too and I had no trouble buying stock at short notice from some of my established brands and some new ones too.

I went back to my roots – small, affordable and original collections,  genuine customer service and being in the shop full time.  I returned to the same unit for Summer 2015 and again for the Autumn.  Business was thriving.  This led to my decision to base OKeefe on a more permanent basis in Bridge Road.  After much negotiation, 33 Bridge Road opened in the Spring of 2016 and the rest is history.  The advantage of this lease was that I had a 6 month break clause and I could sublet so could carry on working as a Pop Up for the months I chose.

I continued to run this store until January 2020 when I had made the tough decision that it was the right time to move on from running a full time retail business .

I now have several consultancy opportunities, alongside personal styling for a collection of established clients and have more time for writing industry articles and advice.