She’s one of the most interesting and inspirational people I have ever met – a true geek who is ‘good at maths ‘n’ shit,’ adopting a quirky sense of style and would be able to win anyone over with her charm.
The vintage loving enthusiast is so funny, so friendly, so down to earth she was beginning to make to me feel as though we had known each other for years. We had in fact only just met. The mum of two had showed me round her boutique, picking up items and retelling the background behind each. She seemed to have a tale for everything that caught my eye, from reformed pendants to old fur coats. The shop floor is a physical representation of her personality, busy, exciting and adaptable. “If I had to compare myself to a dog I would like to think myself as a Labrador – cute and friendly, but unfortunately one of my best friends said I’m more like a Spaniel – crazy, hard working and manic, I have to admit it does ring true,” she told me.
No wonder people think everyone in the fashion industry is insane. The tall, red head, bespectacled (in Geek glasses of course) 48-year-old, wears only second hand clothes and has done for the past 40 years. Dressed in a charity shop skirt and a gold bow necklace, black lace top and velvet jacket, all found from her shop, she expressed her views on ‘recycling products:’ “Why make some thing new when you can use what’s already there, you don’t need to keeping adding more things into the world,” she said speaking in a acute southern accent.
It seems almost hard to believe that this person, who is so full of life, went through so much in such a short period of time only a few years back. Having separated from her husband she was left to bring up her two children alone, she needed a job that would provide for them and their lifestyle, but essentially still give her the time she needed to spend with them. Having grown up with very little money herself, she was always use to cobbling outfits together: “I’d love to buy the local newspaper on the weekend and circle all the car boots sales. My best friend and I would race round from one location to another, finding old clothes we could wear for our nights out,” she related. “I remember coming back after a day at the car boots and my dad immediately saying ‘I hope you’re going to wash all those.” This only secured her love of vintage clothing and made it all the more easier for her to decide to start selling vintage products online. With the rise of Ebay and her constant eye on her competitors she was quickly becoming too big to hold the store from her spare bedroom. Moving out into a warehouse was an immediate success, but with the price of rent and the loss of her partner in the business money became scarce. At the same time her son, Bill, 14 at the time, became seriously ill. Hospital visits became a weekly affair and her focus towards the online store slowly drifted. Wanting to provide for her family she held a warehouse sale once a month to try and generate the cash needed to keep everything a float. However, things only took another turn for the worst. Her daughter, who was 11 was diagnosed with a heart condition, it had been there since birth, but had gone unnoticed by doctors until then. Following this she had two major car crashes were her car was written off, her house burnt down and she suffered from depression. Yet, when talking about the whole situation, whilst drinking her Costa coffee and being interrupted by tweets, she seemed to relaxed and willing to share. “Life throw shits at you sometimes,” she told me, “it only makes you appreciate all the good times you have had more.” She did manage to save one of her dresses from the fire, it was in one of her spare rooms under a pile of other clothes, so got survived the smoke. It is now a highly treasured piece in her wardrobe and is in danger of being preserved in a glass cabinet, being an Ozzy Clark mid to late 60’s piece that she adores.
Her determination from that point on rocketed; she wanted to turn the bad situation into a good one and her focus quickly returned to the business. Having had success with the once a month sales at the warehouse, she looked to relocate into a small store in Southampton. Last year, she signed a five-year contract for her vintage boutique in Bedford place, Hepwrights. Catherine Wright, the proud owner found it hard to decide upon the name. Taking inspiration from Liberty, Selfridges and powerful women such as Margret Thatcher and Patricia Fields (who’s vintage store in New York City is something she bases her shops aesthetics on). She wanted a name that sounded as though it had been around for years. Taking her surname ‘Wright’ and combining it with ‘Hep’ found a solution to that problem. ‘Hep’ comes from Audrey Hepburn, Catherine Hep and ‘’Hep’ the cool cats.
In it’s first year the shop has seen many items come and go, she described each item to be like a child. ‘It as though we are an adaptation agency and I have to find the right person for each garment, they all have to go to a good home.” “I know it sounds shallow, but I love it when celebrities wear my clothes. One of my assistants is a stylist and we are forever sending out clothes for music videos to celebrities – I can’t name names though. I wouldn’t be able to think of one particular person I would love to see wearing one of my pieces, but if Vivienne Westwood did I would be thrilled, I absolutely worship her,” she gushed.