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My fashion life - Natasha Coote

The independent store owner, buyer and stylist wants to use fashion to help empower women.

Natasha Coote

Natasha Coote

A well-known face at womenswear trade shows, indie owner Natasha Coote’s career started in 1997 as a buyer for BHS in Moscow. After moving to London in 1999, she worked as a merchandiser at Laura Ashley before setting up her NC boutique in Fulham in 2013. The shop stocks brands including Gestuz, Goat and Hudson as well as running a successful personal styling service.

What do you enjoy about your job?
Each day is different, which makes it challenging but fun. From appointments to walk-in clients, updating social media, changing window displays and visual merchandising, the day goes really fast. Every Friday afternoon we tend to have a team drink at the boutique. I feel I have two homes and two families, and it’s lovely.

What are customers looking for when they come into NC?
Most of our customers find us by word of mouth. Apart from a beautiful boutique and relaxing atmosphere, the customers mostly expect honest and expert advice on what to wear.

You’re known for your personal styling services. How do you approach styling your customers?
To get to know our clients from various angles within the time given I created a questionnaire, which allows me and my stylist to put together outfits based on the customer’s needs and our own instincts about what might work.

If you could style anyone in the world, who would it be?
Top corporate women, to empower them at work and reduce their stress about getting it right at home.

Who is in most need of a stylist, do you think?
Women in politics, to increase the impact of their roles on a political and individual level.

Have you ever had a really difficult customer to deal with?
No. Personal styling can be very emotional, tiring and frustrating at times and extremely personal. It’s my job to make my clients feel relaxed and open to suggestions. If it’s not happening straight away, I adjust my message.

What is the biggest mistake people make when they dress themselves?
The size issue. Many women don’t know their true size and often wear unflattering clothes, trying to hide or feel comfortable. It’s mainly obvious in jeans.

What does your buying diary look like?
I love trade shows as I always get inspiration from the changing mix of brands. I usually start with Scoop and then Copenhagen Fashion Week. I love everything about Copenhagen and often stay for three to four days to make sure I have seen everything before placing orders. In London, the diary is full of showroom appointments and London Fashion Week. It’s usually a race against time and very hectic.

What’s the biggest complaint you have as a buyer?
The inflexibility of bigger brands when it comes to stock swaps due to poor production quality in comparison to samples, which is a problem in itself. Also the very tight margins I have to accept with brands who also sell online, particularly when they are so quick to discount or go into Sale. And finally, distribution clashes: there’s an unspoken rule about brand exclusivity in the area, but it’s not always followed.

You started off as a buyer in Russia. What’s that market like?
It has changed so much since I started. At that time it was all about top-end designer brands, which only a few could afford. Now there is so much more to choose from and it’s affordable to a lot more people. And the dress sense has improved dramatically.

Are customers different?
I don’t think there is a real difference. They can be more demanding and a little difficult, but that’s just character.

What is your favourite thing about the fashion industry?
The creativity and individuality of people who work in it and the ever-changing style.

What’s the biggest misconception about the industry?
From the customer side, the misconception is that fashion is for an exclusive few and the rest of us just wear clothes. I try to remind clients that fashion is about expressing our personalities through clothes and that absolutely everyone can do it - with a little bit of help, of course, which is why I opened the boutique. For younger people wanting to work in the industry, I would warn that fashion isn’t only about front rows at fashion weeks and glamorous parties. It is fun, but it is also hard work, blood and sweat, which doesn’t seem to be known by many nowadays. The returns are not great at the start, but if you have passion and work very hard, you can make it.

If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
I would love to find a business partner to share the thrill of it all together and take it to the next level.

Would you ever consider expanding into menswear?
This has been on my mind for the past year, so yes. After finding confidence and love for their new style, my clients often ask me if I can do the same for their husbands. There are so many great menswear brands in Europe and I already have a client list set up. The only problem is the space, but I’m working on it.

What else interests you, outside of fashion?
I adore spending time with my family - I’m a very homely person. I also have wonderful friends, who I often invite over for meals. I also like cooking and I’m not a bad swimmer. My new hobby is polo and I can’t wait for the next season to start.

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