Behind The Scenes with Sara Lauchlan
We go behind the scenes with personal shopper Sara Lauchlan from Viola and find out about her favourite designers,her go-to wardrobe staples and which famous faces regularly pop into her store.
1) Tell us a bit about the shop. Why did you open Viola?
I had been a buyer and a personal shopper, always working closely with individual clients, so it made sense to me to try and create a space where I pulled my own edit together of my favourite designers, rather than dashing across town on a constant search. We have always looked for new designers and introduced many to the UK, such as Parisian brands Stouls and Roseanna. We carry on the ‘bespoke’ nature of our store by collaborating with designers such as Ninivah Khomo and Raquel Allegra on special pieces.
2) Where did the shop name, 'Viola' come from?
I wanted a name that was pretty & feminine and worked well as a handwritten font. I had a son when I opened the shop and had always thought if I had a daughter, I might call her Viola. But of course the shop came first and was firmly established by the time I had my little girl (so I called her Stella instead).
3) Have you had any famous faces shopping in your store?
We have a few lovely actresses who shop with us, such as Keira Knightley, Gillian Anderson and Jenna Coleman. Daisy Lowe is a customer and we carry her mum Pearl’s dresses too. Locals Claudia Winkelman and Sam Taylor Johnson are regulars.
4) What are your go-to pieces for your summer wardrobe?
I like lots of cotton pieces in summer, easy shirts & blouses, St James Bretons and slouchy high-waist wide trousers to roll-up at the ankle. I think a wedged espadrille is the perfect summer shoe (we sell various colours by Adelphe) and for summer evenings, I love the low-key glamour of a silk slip dress (we carry a great new brand called Parasol Rose for these), as can be worn with flat sandals or heels.
5) What advice would you give your younger self?
Apart from marry rich? I’d suggest that working hard at what you love is great, but remember taking time off is essential so you don’t burn out and you can get a perspective on your business. No one will give you a special prize for sitting in the office at 11pm! In terms of running a small business, I feel that money spent on a diligent bookkeeper is essential, especially for creatives. They will keep everything in order and free up your time, that’s something I’ve definitely learnt in the past 10 years.
6) What is your proudest moment in your career?
Not so much one defining moment, I am very proud of the beauty and glamour in our shop and the loyalty and feel-good factor amongst our customers. I am always so happy when we get regular reports of how fabulous our clients feel in their clothes and how relieved they are that they don’t need to shop anywhere else!
7) Do you have any shopping tips?
Yes, but they probably change on a daily basis! Generally I’d say good to spend more money on pieces you’ll wear everyday, such as well-cut jeans or low-heeled shoes, rather than a cocktail dress or skyscraper heels that you might only wear once.
Personally I cant stand being uncomfortable in clothes so they have to feel really good against my skin when I wear them. So the Viola aesthetic tends to be more towards soft fabrics and diaphanous shapes rather than rigid bodycon.
Boringly, I’d also say its pretty essential to own a good bra if not several!
8) Who is your favourite designer at the moment?
We are in our third season with UK designer Edeline Lee, who makes truly beautiful dresses and chic separates. Her collection is grown-up and feminine, lots of clean sweeping lines and quirky details, such as exaggerated sleeves and gold-plated belts to emphasize the waist.
9) What's your favourite thing about Connaught Village?
I love the intimate villagey atmosphere in the heart of the city, the proximity to Hyde Park creates a really lovely sense of space. I am here so much of the time, so I’m happy there are other great businesses around: I can get my nails done at Fé, pick up some bits for supper at Buchanan’s, Abasto or Assal Patiserie, get great coffee in Markus or Roni’s and I’ve been known to blow my housekeeping at Kokoro or The Dresser.
10) What was your plan B?
There wasn’t a plan b, I was singularly focused on Viola and making it a success. We launched online a few years in and began producing our own collection last year. It has been a huge amount of work, but I have been very lucky in terms of support from our brilliant clients, our fabulous designers and the amazing, inspirational young women who have worked for me since we opened in 2009.
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