Kee Boutique illustration by Faye West
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with myself. You know, life stuff. I am incredibly grateful for my job, especially as I have friends in dire unemployment situations but it doesn’t stop me from dreaming about the ‘what if’s’ and ‘one day’s’. I don’t have a single dream job. I never have. I do however, in my slightly schizophrenic special way, harbour numerous secret career cravings. These range from the sublime (Anthropologist, midwife, Inventor) to the ridiculous (Pearly Queen, agony aunt, Riverdance star- seriously.) But most of all I hope that one day, once upon a time perhaps, I shall have the means and the balls to retreat from my office based 9-5 to own my own little handmade business. Something to do with sewing machines and being outside a lot and haberdasheries and old things and perhaps chickens and copper kettles and err, well I’m not sure what it is exactly yet or how on earth it would come together. But I always like meeting people who have taken the plunge to do something they love, so I can briefly live vicariously through them. So I was pretty intrigued to interview Keely, the owner of a vintage and handmade clothes and accessories boutique.
Kee Boutique by Michelle Urvall Nyren
Who are you and what floats your boat?!
I am Keely Brightmore and my clothes are Kee Boutique. I love everything pretty and vintage. I like nothing better than rooting through flea markets and car boots for hidden gems, pieces of lace, broaches, fabrics, whatever I can find, then creating something beautiful from something on its last legs!
Where are you from – do you love it or hate it? Does it influence your work?
I am from Yorkshire, in the countryside, and now live in Leeds. The nature and beauty of home is very inspirational to my work, but I also love the buzz of the city.
Kee Boutique by Michelle Urvall Nyren
When did you start the shop and what made you want to start it?
I started it in July last year, just after I graduated from university. I have always been creative, designing and using my mum’s sewing machine as a child. I started selling my clothes online, in markets and in other people’s shops but always dreamt of having my own shop.
What are your ethical motivations? What gets you really fired up?
I either make brand new clothes from vintage materials or rework unloved vintage clothes so it is very important that all my pieces are 100% ethical. I hate disposable fashion – with a little time and love you can always find a vintage piece that is the same as what you would find on the high street, except better quality, greener and way more interesting! [preach it Keely!]
Where do you see your shop in 5 years time?
My shop is in a beautiful art deco building with several other independent shops and I firstly aim to help make the whole thing a great place to visit in Leeds. I also use my shop as a studio where customers can find me behind my sewing machine making my new garments to sell both in the shop, online and elsewhere. I would like to expand where my clothes are available but still using an ethical method of production.
Some might say It was very brave to launch a new fashion business in a recession; how have you found it?
There were times at first when I was slightly doubtful in the current climate but if people like something they still seem to be able to afford it! This is a full time thing but the shop is only be part of it. I also sell my clothes in other shops and online – there’s a whole world of like-minded buyers!
Kee Boutique by Madi Illustrates
Do you have any advice or top tips for any other aspiring/fledgling entrepreneurs?
If you love what you are trying to do then you just have to keep with it, visualise where you want to be, and, if it’s what you really want to do, then you will get there. I look for inspiration everywhere without thinking about it and, if it’s in you, you won’t doubt yourself or think of it as a job. Enjoy it!
What have been the best and worst moments in running your business so far?
The hardest part was at the beginning; trying to get established, budgeting, not having enough time for everything, let alone time off! It’s all worth it though and my favourite parts of doing this are meeting new creative people who I can learn from, doing fashion shows and photoshoots and seeing the results of everyone’s hard work. I also love seeing people wearing my designs!
Who are your style inspirations?
I adore icons from the 20’s to now, in particular Bridget Bardot, Jane Birkin, Rita Heyworth, Kate Bush… I love the French style, Paris and Lolita… My favourite major designers are Chloe and Chanel…
Do you have a favourite vintage era? Why?
The 40’s is probably my favourite style era with floral tea dresses, lace and pearls, very feminine and elegant, although I get inspiration from the best bits of different era’s.
Do you have any secret career cravings?!
I do what I do because I love it so this is my career craving!
I think myself lucky to be passionate enough about something that can also be my living so it seemed natural for me to follow it. I think if people have a strong enough dream that can become reality they should be less fearful of following it, whether it is starting a business, travelling, providing for your family or exploring your talent.
Visit Kee Boutique Here
- Minna: an interview with ethical fashion designer Minna Hepburn
- Oxfam Boutiques
- Minna Hepburn Interview
- Julia Smith Interview
- Introducing the Closet Swap community from Channel 4: Don’t Shop – Swap!