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January 2020
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Further to my recent Newsletter …..just a simple bio below of why I have decided to open a

NEW CHAPTER in my life…


After running events at house sales throughout the home counties and then hosting regular events in my own home, I opened my first boutique in Claygate Village in 2005 .  This was 6 months after my dear mother passed away and 3 years after my father.

My son was then 17 and my daughter 15 – it felt like the right time.  I was 48 , my children were growing up and desiring independence and I needed a new challenge in my life.

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.  The shop was a big success, appealing to a hungry audience for something refreshing and new and my USP was very much genuine customer service , a friendly and relaxed environment with a targeted demographic.   With a background in interior design, I sourced vintage furniture and designed my own vintage inspired clothes rails and shelving.

Within a year I took over the shop next door, knocking through to increase my floor space and a much-needed stock room.  Time to increase my staff numbers.  At this time I also took on Lucy Trustam to design my website to flag up my brands, fashion news, events and style advice.

Within a year I opened up my second store in Queens Road, Weybridge and shortly after my flagship store in Esher High Street.  An opportunity to create a London inspired independent with a higher profile, designer brands, regular in-store events, and an online transactional website.  This time, with some help from interior designer, Francesca Gaskin, helping me create a slick, industrial-inspired interior, spending hours trawling eBay for large pieces of vintage storage units. We opened in 2009 and my brother, Jonathan OKeefe, joined the team as the Esher Manager.  I was now running three stores, doing the buying , travelling to France, Italy and The Netherlands 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.

Jonathan had a background in corporate fashion, having worked for Saks in LA and then coming back to the UK for a few years.  He initially worked for Rosemary Bravo at Burberry’s in Bond Street at the beginning of a very successful period for the Burberry brand and then for an independent store in Chichester when he decided to move down to the Sussex coast.  He inspired us all with his extensive retail experience for the couple of years he was with us, much loved by all the staff for his great sense of humour and we all still use some of his much-loved vocabulary …. “backstock” and “rolling rails” come to mind.  He returned to The States with his partner, Kevin in 2011.  He is currently Fashion Director back at Saks, Rodeo Drive, LA and much respected in his field and spends his time between LA and his house in Palm Springs.

Over the next few years, really tough ones in fashion retail, the recession and a huge increase in online shopping meant tough trading …we had a tricky time.  In hindsight, it was probably a mistake to open more stores and spend so much time and money on a transactional website.  OKeefe, is my business, my vision and my expertise and bottom line, alongside a handpicked and amazing team, the boss needs to be in store as much as possible.  You cannot spread yourself too thinly.  Net a Porter, Matches Fashion, the large departmental stores in London alongside key independents in the UK were ruling the roost with online sales and it was impossible for a small independent to compete with this.

We had some fabulous events in Esher, regular well attended 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 Small Boutique”  final – three times.  But business was challenging and frustrating at the same time.  Fashion was changing and we had to change with it. I knew what I had to do.

I decided to close my Weybridge store, followed by Claygate when the leases allowed, thus cutting back on rent/rates and staff costs and also decided not to cease trading transactionally.  I needed to get my focus back on being 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 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 everything, including all the fixtures , except for the rail system, hangers etc …and spent that summer taking time out and working out my way forward.

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

Through a tip-off from a friend, I was fortunate that Jackie, from In Harmony, was happy to rent me her small unit at 41 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 including the much loved SUZY D.

I went back to my roots – small, affordable and original, genuine customer service and being in the shop pretty much full time.  This led on to several ensuing seasons and resulted in making the 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.

I have had a wonderful time working in Hampton Court, with my fabulous team of loyal and hard-working girls – Hilary, of course, who left last summer to work full time, Lou and Ruth, both of whom worked in Weybridge and Esher and lately Alison, who joined the team 18 months ago.

There is never just one reason when making a big decision and this is no exception. I had a very tough year last year when my husband was seriously ill with pancreatitis last summer and was a real wake up call.  (he is now completely recovered, thankfully) .  Our daughter got married and we hope very much that she will start a family in the foreseeable future and becoming grandparents, supporting and helping them.  I have so many prospects for consultancy work, personal styling and my writing and, long term, splitting our time between a flat in London and a small house in Hampshire (with a garden).   This alongside, the changing world of retail, particularly my field of fashion.  I am also very aware of climate change, sustainability and increased online presence … It’s not been easy for the last few years and I fear for the future of the high street.

This is the right time to open a new chapter, going out on a high.  I have enjoyed, nearly every moment, and thank all my amazing staff for everything they have brought to the success of the business …they are not only my team but my friends now.  I also thank all my loyal and wonderful customers for all their support and enthusiasm but most of all I thank my husband, Stuart, financial director at OKeefe for the last 15 years for all his hard work, advice, massive handy skills and for supporting me in every way.  You have no idea how much.

So look out for further news in my Newsletters and on my blog…

with much love



Thanks also for their input to my previous sales staff

in Claygate , Weybridge and Esher


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