Business profile - Kaftan Heaven

Julie from Kaftan Heaven (c) Emily Ellis

Julie from Kaftan Heaven (c) Emily Ellis - Credit: Emily Ellis

‘When people come here they feel like they’re on holiday already’ Julie Austin-Kaye, owner of Kaftan Heaven, from Saighton

'It was while I was on holiday visiting my daughter in Australia that I got the idea. She had bought me a kaftan by the designer Camilla and while I love what Camilla does, at more than £300, it seemed very expensive. I thought maybe I could do something similar for a lot less.

I'm not a dressmaker but despite spending most of my life as a languages teacher I've always been creative. I started by using vintage, recycled embellished silks and making one-off pieces. Then I found a printing and design company in India who agreed to do smaller orders. I'd find a print from an old painting or wallpaper, send them a picture, forward my designs and three months later 25 pieces would arrive at my door.

Kaftan Heaven grew from there. It was a friend who suggested I turn my husband's garden office into a showroom. We transformed it into a pseudo Barbados beach shack - all candy pink, aqua blue and terracotta. It's a great setting. When people come here they feel like they're on holiday already. I do feel that colour lifts our spirits. I'll put on one of my pieces and instantly I feel brighter.

My customer-base at the moment is mainly local - though I market myself over social media it's very much down to word-of-mouth. I think people really like the fact they're getting something that feels original at a fairly reasonable price tag, as my kaftans start from around £80. Things are starting to move forward though - a friend of mine who lives in Barbados loved my designs so much she bought several to take back home. When she got back she found that she'd be in shops and the owners would be asking her where she got them - so now they are stocked in a shop in Barbados called Gaye Boutique. It might not be a global brand just yet but it's beginning to take off.

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