It has been six years now since I took over the Jane Davidson store from my mother, Jane. In the beginning I made some horrible buying mistakes and I often wondered how she had held her nerve. But over the years I have become more confident and the stock has greatly improved.
However, there is always a voice in the back of my head, which at the end of each buying season questions whether I have got the mix quite right. Don't get me wrong, my mum herself doesn't question my buying, but every so often she will throw in a worrying question: "Have you bought anything for me this season?"
My mother is a very stylish woman. She won't mind me saying this, but she has just turned 60 and is not a size 10 or even a size 12. But like most women of her generation she wants to dress well. She doesn't necessarily want to be fashionable, but she aims to be modern, elegant and appropriate to her age. And she doesn't feel the need to lapse into a pre-retirement style oasis as the years go by.
I have been ashamed over the past few seasons that I haven't really been able to buy that much that would be suitable for her and her peers. Missoni works well and casual pieces are easy to come by, but I struggle to discover more formal brands that work.
So it was an interesting exercise last month when mum and I went shopping in central London for a suitable mother of the bride outfit for my upcoming wedding. First stop was a well-known department store, which I felt sure would have a depth of stock that would offer us several choices. But there was nothing suitable.
Next we tried a store that catered mainly for mothers of the bride. However, this place was stuck in a time warp. The outfits were so horribly dated and cheap looking (albeit with a hefty price tag) that I would not have been comfortable dressing my grandmother from there.
Finally, we ended up in the beautiful Jean Muir store on Conduit Street. My mum was provided with a choice of stunning outfits, and more importantly she was made to feel special. How sad it is that the store is to close at the end of the season. Having put in the legwork around London, I felt that Jean Muir provides a great service in a section of the market that is distinctly lacking in choice. Had Mum and I gone shopping in six months' time, we really would have struggled.
What our day out did bring home to both of us is that I have not chosen to ignore my mum and the fashion needs of her contemporaries. But there are simply not the brands out there that would hang alongside my existing labels.
It is sad that some parts of the fashion industry provide so little choice, while in other areas there is far too much to choose from. To demonstrate this, we could have happily added a whole day onto our trip to choose the matching shoes and handbags.
- Sarah Davidson is the owner of designer womenswear retailer Jane Davidson in Edinburgh.