British womenswear brand Suzie Abbott specialising in bespoke shift dress-making in luxurious vintage and modern fabric is opening its first retail space at 25 The Old High Street in Folkestone’s Creative Quarter on 7 November.
“Bespoke” is the current buzzword in the ever-changing world of fashion as being the smart and more discerning way to buy fashion and unique, made-to measure garments are now coveted by professionals and women who find they cannot and more importantly, do not want to conform to the fashion industry’s ideal shape and size.
Suzie Abbott was born just out of this desire, though way ahead of its time; Sue Keeler met Patsy Abbott in 2011 and she asked Abbott to help measure and create a bespoke pattern which would fit her perfectly and enable her to make some business dresses for herself.
Keeler was struggling to find off the peg quality dresses that fit properly and she had a clear idea of the classic look she was after. The patterns evolved and they found they both really liked the styles they were working on. They soon realised they had a winning formula on their hands as the dresses suited not only all seasons, but also formal and casual occasions.
Both women have a love of vintage fabrics and started dipping into their own collections to create some unique dresses and also then started sourcing new fabrics which would suit the vintage-inspired designs.
They soon realised they were not the only ones struggling to find dresses that fitted their body shapes and lifestyles and soon started to create dresses for other women who approached the duo after seeing their creations and Suzie Abbott was born.
“We never buy off the peg dresses for ourselves now. We have spent so much time getting the perfect fit, shape, sleeve, neck line and so on that anything else just doesn’t look as good,” explains Keeler. “We have designed a look and style that works so well. It’s great to be able recreate it in different fabrics and know that it will be just what you want. You know what jackets and shoes will go with it and it makes wardrobe planning so much easier. These dresses are classic keepers, timeless dresses that don’t date and ultimately, they are so wearable.”
The pair behind the Suzie Abbott label go the extra mile for their clients, creating not only a bespoke fit but also in fabrics of their customer’s choice. “We really enjoy making our clients look great and feel amazing and that is our number one aim in what we do. If you are not sure what you require we spend time with you to see what works for you,” they proclaimed.
And it’s obvious why this pair has the winning formula…
Keeler says of her fashion and business partner, “Patsy has a huge amount of experience in tailoring and costume making and really understands fabric and how it will work. She is very giving with her attention to detail and has great patience.”
Abbott is as complimentary about Keeler, “Sue is very organised and is passionate about what we do. She has an excellent eye and just seems to know what women want and how they want to look. And we always have good fun!”
Both women have followed very different paths in their careers to meet at this point, which goes to show it is never too late to pursue a passion in life. Sue Keeler worked in recruitment before starting up a very successful engineering firm which she runs with her husband while Patsy Abbott made a very successful venture into costume design for the theatre in the early 70s and worked in it for many years.
“I developed my passion for the creative arts as a young girl, when my mother, a trained tailor, taught me to sew. As a fashion-conscious teenager I quickly learnt to improvise with unpromising and cheap materials to produce interesting and innovative clothing,” Abbott explained where her interest in dressmaking originated from.
Having lived in Kent for many years, it is perhaps not surprising to learn this is not Abbott’s first brush with the Creative Foundation; she has been a tenant for the last ten years and staged her first public exhibition in the Quarter’s galleries in 2000s. “We are looking forward to bringing new clients to the area and introducing a new brand born out of The Creative Quarter!” Abbott explains.
Earlier this year, Suzie Abbott also took up residency in the Creative Foundation’s pop-up shop in Bluewater Shopping Centre in Dartford, Kent, where not only did they have a collection of dresses out on display to show off their designs, they also won a couple of bespoke commissions in the process.
Suzie Abbott continue their successful relationship with the Creative Foundation in their new shop, they look forward to taking this next step in growing their business and they plan on giving back to the community as their business continues to grow.
“We understand the need to pass on our skills and as the business strengthens it is our aim to employ a local apprentice or two,” Keeler says.
An on-trend, bespoke couture service with a heart, it’s hard to see how these two ladies can go wrong.
Alastair Upton, Chief Executive of the Creative Foundation, will officially open the newly refurbished properties at 18-24 and 23-29 The Old High Street at the heart of Folkestone Creative Quarter on Thursday, 22 October 2015, of which the Suzie Abbott shop will occupy number 25.
These are the first two buildings to be refurbished as part of the Folkestone Townscape Heritage Initiative. The buildings have undergone extensive renovation, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, achieving long-awaited improvements to Folkestone’s Creative Quarter.
The Folkestone Townscape Heritage Initiative is a £1.8million project run by a partnership between Kent County Council, Shepway District Council and the Creative Foundation, which aims to bring further improvements to the conservation area over the next few years.