I often get asked ‘Why a Scandi Fashion Boutique?’ Why not British, or another ‘world aesthetic?’ – I’ve talked a lot about why Scandi Fashion is such a great, flattering and versatile look for women over on the Scandi Fashion Guide; today I wanted to share with you more of my personal story – of how I ended up falling in love with Scandi Fashion, the brands that introduced me to ‘the look’ and how I turned my passion into a thriving business…
Where it began
My love for Scandi Fashion all began 15 years ago, whilst I was an air traffic controller in the Royal Air Force. I was in a ‘desk job’, yet it still took me all over the world and in-between the hectic work schedules I got to explore the countries I visited – via the means of retail!
The trips that took me up to Norway, Denmark and Germany soon became my favourites – the wonders of Day, Birger Et Mikkelsen, Becksondergaard, Rosemunde and Georg Jensen intrigued me – it was a whole new aesthetic that immediately appealed.
The thing about wearing a uniform everyday in the RAF was that it made me acutely aware that I didn’t want to slip into an ‘off-duty’ uniform of generic high street fashion at the weekend – discovering the ‘Scandi look’ was a light-bulb moment that felt ‘me’, yet different and exciting.
The Scandinavians have a way of wearing their fashion that just looks effortless and cool (they would say ‘super cool’). Their fabrics are beautiful and in colour palettes that look good in our similar light and climate. I also admire how hard they work to source ethically and with the environment in mind. It’s not a ‘marketing ploy’ but an integral part of their fashion ethos – the amazing Ilse Jacobsen is a trailblazer (it should come as no shock that the most stylish ladies’ rainwear and waterproof boots come from Scandinavia!). She started producing her own stunning shoe and boot designs in 1998 from her studio and shop in Hornbaek, and she continues to strive for sustainability in her womens’ clothing and footwear to this day.
So my love for a good Scandi clothing line began way before Sarah Lund turned up on our TV screens wearing THAT jumper in The Killing!
The juggle is real
Meanwhile, back in the Royal Air Force I was getting promoted and became pregnant with my son. I was very fortunate to have had a brilliant employer when it came to maternity (and paternity) leave and subsequent postings – so my son spent his first 10 years living wherever I was based. When it became obvious that I would not be able to keep my son in one secondary school because of the posting cycle of moving every 2 years, something had to give. We decided that boarding school was not for us, although it is a reality for many military families, and so in November 2014, I resigned my Commission as an Officer and left the RAF after 25 years.
It was about a year earlier, I had had an epiphany – it was one of those moments when I realised that the answer to being more flexible in work, to stop moving house, and keep a decent career was to start my own online fashion business! It’s not as crazy as it sounds – I did my research diligently and had previous fashion experience working in retail in my college days.
Being ‘online’ was the perfect platform for us as a family, it gave me flexibility in hours and location – I wasn’t tied to a physical address and could work from my laptop pretty much anywhere, especially helpful whilst my other half continues to serve in the Armed Forces.
So Five Six Blue was born in summer 2014, and off I gamely marched off to my first Trade Shows in London and Copenhagen with little more than a hastily composed (but stylish) business card, a checklist of questions I knew I should ask and an enormous list of Scandi brands that I already knew and loved. This passion and personal experience of the brands I wanted to attract gave me the confidence to jump in, feet first.
I was nervous, but my research and checklist won through and so every brand that I approached decided that they wanted to work with me. There then followed months of work on branding, website design and getting all the logistics in place so that products could be presented, packaged and sent out in luxury style. I wanted to provide the level of customer service and ‘experience’ that you would expect from a designer boutique, just because my store is online I didn’t want to compromise on that personal touch – from hand-written notes to offering a personal shopping experience to customers.
Going for it
The first Scandi brand that I worked with, and continue to work with is the Danish brand, Rosemunde, renowned for extremely feminine styles in beautiful lace and silk/cotton mixes. They are consistently my best-selling brand and I send just about as many pieces back to Scandinavia as I do around the UK.
So what do I want Five Six Blue to be known for? I want to carve out a beautiful corner of the internet that celebrates that Scandinavian aesthetic I love; the boutique has grown organically over the last 4 years to include British and other European brands that display the same qualities of simplicity, luxury and whose values of integrity match ours, too. We’ve recently added the British lifestyle brand, Chalk because their products are beautifully crafted from luxury fabrics and are made ethically in the UK.
There are lots of gorgeous new and emerging Scandi and British brands that we’d love to work with in the future,we’re not ready to name names just yet… but stay posted this year!