Taking on Liberty London

So since my last blog post it has been a bit of a crazy couple of weeks. I would like to say preparing candles to have shipped to Liberty but as you probably are already aware that was sadly not to be. However if there’s one positive to come from it, it is a funny account of the run up and the day to share with all of my lovely loyal customers.

9874263 So what does one wear to such an occasion? It had to be something eye catching and designer of course so I took the Monday morning off from making candles and ventured into town for a working shopping trip. I wanted to go a bit edgy with a boho kind of style. I found a lovely shirtdress in River Island and would you believe it matched the colour of the camper!! It had to be a sign and I teamed it up with a pair of boho fringed boots and within an hour I had my designer outfit and was sitting enjoying crumpets in Costa!! It was all going so well.

Samantha Pell’s Photography put together an amazing Look Book for me to use as prompts and to showcase the lifestyle behind the brand. Kaylies Krafts made me a super wooden box to transport my samples to show and I was feeling quite confident that I had done everything I could do to show Billy’s Beach Hut off as best as I could.

Then disaster struck, all the trains direct to London were cancelled with a bus service as a replacement. My mum and I hatched a plan to leave at 5.00am to catch the 5.57pm train via Littlehampton. It took an additional hour however it meant no changes and we could grab a tea and enjoy the journey. I packed my bag the evening before and set my alarm for 3.30am. Up bright eyed and bushy tailed I got ready at my leisure – tonging my hair, putting my beautiful dress on that I teamed with a pair of nude tights, then for a jacket?!! I hadn’t thought about the jacket!!!! I opened the front door to check out the weather and it was -1, the car was completely iced over and by this point it was gone 5am. I grabbed my ski jacket and the kettle and ran down my flight of stairs outside to de-ice the car. How I didn’t slip I don’t know! Having cleared the car of ice I loaded it up with my samples and catalogues. I was now running 20 minutes late, my hair was like a birds nest and I was wearing a beautiful shirtdress with heeled boots, nude tights and a ski jacket and it was -1 degrees. I had gotten dressed in the dark (literally) and it showed, how on earth did this happen? I was so organised and now I was about to miss my train and my mum was calling as she thought I’d slept in!!!

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3658653We got to the station and somebody must have been looking down on us as we managed to jump on the train. We even got a tea, all was good again. We arrived at London Victoria just after 8am and took a taxi direct to the store. It was like the X-factor meets Antiques Road show. Was anyone else wearing a dress? Of course they weren’t, nobody else would be that silly in this climate. Most people were sporting a pair of jeans and converse!! When did times change so much? How did I get it so wrong? I felt like a prized wally and obviously other people thought it too with comments like ‘you’re brave’ and ‘you must be cold’ as I got out of my taxi.

9435794By this time it was 8.30 and the queue was wrapped around 3 sides of the building. At 9.00am they opened the doors and it didn’t take long for us to be inside the warm and I felt a little bit better about life!! We were in the building but still nowhere near the front. There was an amazing long and winding staircase to climb – it was beautiful!!! We got chatting to some of the other designers in the queue, particularly a young lady behind that had designed the most fabulous ukuleles. The girls in front had jewellery and there were 2 super cool guys sporting very unique beards from the London Beard Company. I suddenly felt very amateur and felt way in above my head. Then it happened, the twitchy leg!! It wouldn’t stop, it must have been a nervous thing. I knew people must have been able to see it so I said very loudly ‘I’m really really cold’ hoping for people to relate the leg to being shivery and that they did. The girl in front piped up ‘well it’s not surprising, you’re hardly wearing anything’! I looked at my mum and she looked back with pity in her eyes. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole, or for Ed Burstell, the managing director, to walk down the stairs and tell me what an amazing outfit I had on and that ski jackets and dresses were the ‘in thing’ on the run way at the moment and give me a VIP fast queue pass. Funnily enough neither of these things happened so instead I just stood there red faced wondering what the lady in front meant by her comment. Did she think I intended to influence the buyers by showing off my legs (this may have crossed my mind had I been blessed with nice pins, but unfortunately I am still wearing my solid legs from my football days)!! My shirtdress was knee length but unfortunately my big ski jacket had rucked it up so perhaps it could have looked that way. Was that what everybody else had thought too? With my mind working overtime and my ego bruised the queue seemed to move rather quickly and before we knew it we were on the top floor and registering my details.

1106165The room was huge with a galley in the middle that you could look over to show off the true beauty of this fantastic building, with union jack bunting and the staff all looking immaculate and really friendly. I felt more relaxed than I had done coming up the stairs, it was less claustrophobic and if you like people watching this was the place to be. As I looked around everybody seemed confident and relaxed. Well, everybody that was, except me. 1403793_origI sat down on my seat and the twitchy leg was back and he brought with him his friend, twitchy chin. I looked at my mum who was beaming with pride bless her and said ‘I can’t do this’! I felt sick and a bit like I could hyperventilate. As we sat chatting we noticed that lots of people had bags of popcorn, we giggled with a guy next to us saying perhaps that was the consolation prize!! We also watched people coming back, some people beaming from ear to ear, others looking rather annoyed and some with smiles across their faces that looked like they could drop the second they stepped into the lift where they no longer had to put on a front. People watching is the best way for time to fly and before I knew it my name was being called.

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I was met by a lovely friendly face who directed me to a smaller room where other designers were having their ideas and designs looked at by the buyers. It was a lot less formal than I had imagined, I felt so much better than I had done. As I looked across the room I locked eyes with a guy I knew, what was he doing here? I shouted across the room ‘Hiya’ and waved frantically like you do to an old friend that you haven’t seen in a while. He looked a bit shocked but he waved and smiled back. Unfortunately though it wasn’t an old friend that I hadn’t seen in a while, it was in fact – Ed Burstell, the managing director of Liberty!! I think watching too many episodes of Liberty of London on Youtube had well and truly got me confused!! I couldn’t help but start giggling to myself as although I felt a fool it really was quite funny. I also thought well if anything, perhaps I had made an impression even if it wasn’t the right one. Red faced, I stood at the doorway of the smaller room for what felt like an hour, when in fact it was only around 5 minutes, waiting for the lovely ladies in front of me to finish their pitch before it was my turn.

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Finally it was my turn. I sat down at the desk with two lovely ladies, Sarah and Emily. I opened my box of tricks and produced my candles. I handed them my lookbook and Sarah commented at how lovely the book was. I think I managed to get out the words Eco Friendly, Wood Wicks and Soy Wax. Sarah then went on to tell me how she loved the branding, and I told her all about how it is based on our outdoorsy lifestyle. I was so chuffed as she totally got the concept and told me about her younger days living in Bournemouth with her family and how her dad had spent a long time renovating an old beetle that they used as their family car. 225083I couldn’t have hoped for a better response, the candles were doing exactly what I had hoped they would do – evoking memories of days gone by of the seaside and the fresh air. I’m not sure if you’ve ever sat and looked at a clock for 4 minutes but in this kind of a situation 4 minutes goes incredibly fast. Sarah explained to me that as much as she loved the designs and the seaside / outdoor / beach living branding personally, they weren’t right for Liberty as they go for a more urban design. As this had been the first shop I had approached I asked Sarah if she thought that they were good enough to be stocked in a shop and she said yes. She took a sample of my best seller ‘Surf’ and some copy prints of the Look Book and advised that she would email me with some ideas.
So off I trotted, pleased as punch that I was one of 600 shortlisted from over 6000 applicants, and that I had pitched my products to such a famous and iconic store in front of industry experts. The candles had worked their magic bringing back memories and stories to tell. It may not have been the perfect ending but there was just one thing left to do. Go and grab ourselves our consolation prize!! Two big bags of Vanilla & Coconut popcorn – that got me thinking of another potential candle fragrance……. Perhaps I should call it Liberty…

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