A passion for fashion |  Times Local newspapers and magazines

A passion for fashion | Times Local newspapers and magazines

Tunbridge Wells resident Sam Hipperson owns and operates fledgling online fashion boutique Love and Luxe. Here she tells Eileen Leahy how, despite a difficult few years, she has now found herself in a new and exciting phase in her personal and professional life…

If ever proof was needed that a phoenix can rise from the ashes after a devastating personal event, local entrepreneur and mother-of-two Sam Hipperson surely has it.

Going through a break up, selling the family home and then having to switch to Airbnb and hotels from week to week because we couldn’t rent an apartment due to Covid would certainly have broken the majority of us but not Sam.

And after spending a pleasant sunny Friday morning interviewing her, it seems that this very difficult time in Sam’s life has indeed only made her stronger and wiser.

I’m speaking to her because, despite the aforementioned hardships she has endured over the past two and a half years, Sam is now back on her feet after buying a house, divorcing her husband and taking charge of a local start-up has fashion and accessories brand Love and Luxe.

We meet in a beautiful – and huge – cottage style garden right in the center of Tunbridge Wells to conduct the interview for SO Magazine. Owned by one of Sam’s many supportive friends who has helped her over the last few years, this is where she photographs all the new collections for the label she acquired in February this year and which she clearly has so much passion for.

“I absolutely love this garden,” says Sam, as she carefully attaches a selection of beautiful beach and party dresses to a pretty rose arch, ready for our photographer, Emily, to snap.

“These dresses are the heart of the Love and Luxe collection. The Ibiza Aztec in particular is by far our most popular and always sells out,” she continues smoothing out the fabric as she hangs it, preparing it for his close-up.

In addition to the brand’s gorgeous dresses that perfectly transport holidaymakers from the beach to the bar and look effortlessly glamorous on women of all shapes and sizes as most of them are one-size-fits-all, Sam sells many other fashion goodies. This includes a kaleidoscope of colourful, soft knits, elegant blazers and divine boho-style silver and gold jewellery. Then, of course, there are the “Off Duty” slogan hoodies that the Love and Luxe label launched last summer under its original owner and founder Rebecca Doyle — AKA Becks of House Build’s Instagram account and owner of Mount Ephraim bridal boutique Isabella Grace — have brought into being.

“Becks launched Love and Luxe back in June 2021 and I could see from her Instagram stories that she was really busy running her bridal boutique, her House Build account and a new fashion brand, so I decided to email her and ask if she’d like some help.”

At this point, Sam was newly divorced and had to fend for himself financially. I reached out to Becks as I was in events in my previous career and thought I might be able to help launch Love and Luxe. Becks was very nice and supportive and said that while she couldn’t hire me on a full or part time basis, she might be able to give me ad hoc work.

“I hadn’t worked for 16 years because I was a housewife and suddenly I had to find a job.

“Our first job together was at a Love and Luxe photoshoot and we hit it off. I then helped her out on occasion as the business grew and when she went on vacation a few months later in August she said I could run the business in her absence. I worked four days a week and that’s when it really took off for me,” explains Sam.

In November, however, Becks said she felt she wasn’t capable of juggling Love and Luxe with everything else, telling Sam that she could either handle the deal or Sam could buy it off her.

“She said I think you should do the latter and stressed what a great opportunity it would be for me. It was pretty random. Becks had really helped me and now he wanted me to embrace it and do something with it. I had to borrow money to buy the business and I have to admit I’ve really stepped out of my comfort zone, but here I am!”

When Sam bought Love and Luxe in February this year, she had to find new premises, find a new model to showcase the clothes and figure out how to put her own style on things.

“I borrowed money from my sister and managed to secure an apartment to rent and then I asked my friend Sarah if she knew anyone who would be willing to model. She suggested one of her personal trainer clients, a new mom of twins named Rachel. She couldn’t understand why we asked her as she had just become a mom and had lost a bit of confidence. But a few months later and Rachel is killing it as a Love and Luxe model, so it feels like a mutually beneficial collaboration!”

And over the past six months, Sam says she’s now becoming comfortable with the types of stock she’s sourcing for the brand and the way she’s now marketing them.

“I see that investing in targeted online advertising pays off. We can track who’s buying what where and we’re pretty good at it – our biggest followers are in Tunbridge Wells, London and funnily Scotland.”

Sam says she now also goes to trade shows to curate future collections and it’s something she really enjoys.

“For me it’s all about the quality and how something feels. So being able to do that in person means our buyers know we’re selling good stuff. I know many people are cautious when buying online, but I hope Love and Luxe customers can rest assured.”

So what’s the secret to how Sam chooses pieces, because if her current summer collection is anything it certainly appeals to women of all ages, styles and sizes.

“I think I buy what I like and I buy what I would wear, but I also value quality. And it has to be good value for money too,” Sam replies.

“My other big thing is that it has to be multifunctional. So I’m always thinking about how many ways I can wear something. Does it go with a denim jacket and white sneakers or with high heels? Can I also wear it to school, to the office, to dinner or to a wedding? That’s a big selling point for me.”

Sam adds that she’s always learning as she works, but the nice thing is that she can see things going in the right direction.

“I’m getting into a routine of forward planning and really excited to see what we have in store for Fall/Winter and Christmas!

“There are some beautiful pieces coming out in some beautiful color combinations. I am very interested in things looking good together and complementing each other.”

Alongside a variety of cable knits, chunky cardigans and fur-trimmed ponchos, a bit of seasonal sparkle is also added to the Love and Luxe mix. And the good news is that Sam, having just hosted a series of super-successful pop-ups, is planning to do a few more so customers can see the collection in real life before they buy it – something that for an online retailer Shop and its customers is quite unusual.

It’s fair to say that the future season is certainly looking bright for Sam – in more ways than one….

www.loveandluxe.uk

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