Natalie Lake on bringing Really Wild Clothing to Marlow
PUBLISHED: 10:32 23 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:32 23 May 2017
Good things come to those who wait, but combine that with talent and determination and you have the magic mix
As Natalie Lake, founder of Really Wild Clothing, shows us around her delightful home, a former rectory within pretty grounds in a village near Didcot, she laughs and declares: “This is supposed to be my ‘oasis of peace’ where I find the inspiration for designs!”
And no doubt it often is, although Natalie admits it sometimes seems like “90 per cent admin” rather than creative genius at the forefront of her thinking. But today there are visitors and the delightful family of four affectionate working cocker spaniels who share the Lake home are all expressive eyes and wagging tails as they beg to be let out to investigate.
Natalie is just as warm and welcoming, but it’s easy to see her business success is built on a mantra of being willing to take your time to get it right – spectacularly right.
She founded her business back in 2002 after joining the Really Wild Girls Club at the Royal Berkshire shooting school. It soon became that clear for women who liked to shoot the dress code was simply slightly less bulky versions of what the chaps wore – hardly flattering or stylish.
With a background in interior design through working on both commercial and residential properties for London architects, it was not long before Natalie was setting her sights on more than clay targets.
It was time for a career change and entry into this specialist clothing market, using the finest Scottish tweeds, produced using traditional skills.
Natalie says: “I’m still surprised my husband, Tim, (he’s a commercial property lawyer) wasn’t driven mad by all this, but he’s been very supportive. I’d always painted and imagined I’d have some kind of artistic career – and then I found it by chance!”
Production of her first lines of bespoke tweeds saw the designs quickly snapped up by the ladies who shoot and grew into what is now a well-established online business including co-ordinated collections for those in the know, with word spreading as the clothes began to appear in outlets across the country.
When Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, was seen in Really Wild Designs it was clear that this was a label going places well beyond the hunting, shooting set. Others spotted in the designs include Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Catherine’s mother, Carole Middleton. Then there’s Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, pictured in a Really Wild Liberty print silk shirt for a Sunday newspaper feature.
Natalie says she ‘loves the London buzz’ but a more rural life beckoned for the Lakes and their two daughters. It was another case of good timing as this is a couple who can definitely say they live in their ‘dream home’ – they waited 28 years nearby for it to come up for sale.
It’s easy to see why; although built in the Victorian era it has clear Georgian style throughout – that excellent mix of solidity and fine proportions under high ceilings. There’s plenty of room outside for the grinning dogs to race round trees in circles, and a home office where Natalie can shut herself away, whether that’s to battle with the admin or work with fabrics and mood boards on new designs.
When a business is going well – and people are telling their friends about it – one of the most important aspects is careful management of any expansion so that the essence of the brand, and what made you begin the journey, remains at the centre of the operation.
Once again Natalie has followed a wise route. She began taking her clothing to the likes of game fairs at Burghley and Blenheim Palace: “You get a real sense of how people enjoy a special day out and like to take their time to enjoy the shopping experience.”
Now the greatest step forward has been taken: just open is the first ‘bricks and mortar’ store in Marlow High Street, taking the collections of tailored tweed with a feminine touch in new directions with knitwear, accessories, boots and printed shirts from Liberty silks.
“I can’t tell you how excited the Really Wild team is to be in Marlow,” says Natalie. “It’s the perfect place as we know many of our existing customers enjoy both country and city life. Plus new people will find us, and as we do limited runs of any design they know they won’t be seeing all their friends in the same clothes.
“When we opened I stood there thinking ‘Wow, this is my first shop!’ I knew Marlow was a fantastic market town with great stores and places to eat, but the welcome we’ve received has shown just how lovely the people are as well. We’ve had ladies new to the brand arrive as well as those who usually buy online and were so excited to see there was now a store in Marlow.”
Really Wild, 105 High Street, Marlow, SL7 1AB (close to the bridge); 01628 481 570; reallywildclothing.co.uk