Independent shop of the week: Grace & Mabel in Clifton Village
Six years ago, Bristol-based sisters Daniela Benson, Shelley Presland and Kirstie Davey decided to put their shared passion for clothes and fashion to good use, establishing eclectic boutique Grace & Mabel in Clifton Village.
Today, Grace & Mabel is one of Bristol's most distinctive shops, with in-the-know fashionistas making a beeline for the boutique.
And while many retailers continue to struggle in the current climate, Grace & Mabel has gone from strength to strength. In fact, it has proved such a success that the sisters opened a second shop in Broad Street, Bath, in 2010.
"The three of us have always been interested in fashion," Daniela tells me. "I actually trained in fashion and had my own label, and my sisters have both been in fashion retail.
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"I don't know how the idea came about to open our own boutique, but one day we thought, 'this may be crazy, but why not?'"
The small boutique offers a great selection of dresses, jumpers and coats; hats, gloves and scarves; bags, purses and jewellery and a small selection of homeware.
Perfectly situated in the ever-popular Regent Street, Grace & Mabel is very inviting. The colourful, artistic window displays draw you in, and inside the dark wooden floors, ornate clothes poles, impressive vintage wardrobe, quirky chandelier and large antique mirrors give the place an individual style.
Clothes are artistically hung from attractive clothes racks and tailor's dummies, handbags are strewn on the walls, gloves and scarves are dotted about the shop and glittering jewellery and accessories hang from hooks and stands.
It's all very enticing and makes you want to stay and browse – and buy!
Grace & Mabel screams good taste and quality, so it's no surprise when Daniela says that every item has been individually handpicked from some of the world's top designers.
"We buy only pieces we like, and we are very selective," she tells me. "It's all about quality and individuality. We work with high-end, designer labels, which prove very popular. For example, our Chie Mihara shoes – a Spanish label – are very sought after, as are our Hope & Benson handbags."
Other favourite designers stocked at the boutique include Malene Birger, a Danish fashion designer who MTV Europe crowned "Queen of Fashion in Copenhagen"; European designer and style icon Susanne Rützou; and leading British fashion designer, the trendy and luxurious Paul Smith.
The price tags do reflect the designer labels and excellent quality – so we're not talking bargain basement here. But the old adage "you get what you pay for" is true – although shoppers are snapping up some designer bargains in Grace & Mabel's current sale.
There is a vintage, bohemian feel to the pieces on display and there is something to tickle most fancies and styles.
Daniela agrees: "Shelley, Kirstie and myself each approach the labels we like individually, and we all have slightly different tastes, so there is plenty of variety in the shop."
It is that variety that attracts Grace & Mabel's eclectic clientele, from students to pensioners and everything in between. "It's basically for any stylish woman who loves fashion," says Daniela.
Both the Bristol and Bath shops offer an excellent level of service. Daniela, Shelley and Kirstie work in the stores and also employ experienced staff who are helpful and knowledgeable.
Suzie Jeenes has worked at the Clifton shop for the past five years. The bubbly sales assistant says: "I like to think we offer great customer service as well as a wide variety of quality labels which appeal to a broad range of customers.
"Many of our customers have become regulars. Once people know about us, they tend to return again and again. We're perfectly situated in Clifton Village and it's a lovely place to work as well as shop."
Grace & Mabel 17 Regent Street, Clifton Village, Bristol BS8 4HW. Tel 0117 974 3882.