Fashion designer Jade Holland Cooper on life in the Cotswolds
- Credit: hollandcooper.com
The farmer's daughter with style and business acumen to match that of Ralph Lauren (the Duchess of Cambridge is a huge fan of her clothes) shares with us her glamorous Cotswold life...
Jade Holland Cooper heads up Holland Cooper, a multi-million-pound fashion brand favoured by celebrities, including Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips – in fact, even the Duchess of Cambridge has been spotted wearing outfits from the collection. This month, Jade opens her latest project – a dedicated Holland Cooper boutique at Dowdeswell Park outside Cheltenham.
She’s hugely excited about the new store, featuring clothes for every occasion – for newborns; for country walks; for stylish outfits to wear at the races. ‘For the first time, we’ll be able to show the brand in its entirety, in exactly the way we want.
‘It encapsulates my love of the countryside, which I’ve had since a little girl – and also the glamour of the Cotswolds. We’re doing everything we can to support this area from an employment perspective, while creating a ‘London’ lifestyle. There’s nothing dowdy about the Cotswolds.’
Jade lives with her husband, entrepreneur Julian Dunkerton, whose business interests include Superdry, artisan baker La Boulangerie, the Lucky Onion group; and Dunkertons Cider, with its shop and headquarters also at Dowdeswell Park.
Their baby daughter, Saphaïa, was born last November.
Where do you live and why?
We live just outside Cheltenham, around the corner from my office – which is amazing with a new baby. I can be a mum when Saphaïa is awake, and fully concentrating when she’s sleeping. I’m passionate about supporting women with children to keep going with their careers, and I want to show Saphaïa what it’s like to be working. My mum, who had a fashion business, did the same. There are photos of me in a little seat-bouncer on her cutting bench when I was four or five months old! As I got older, I had a sewing machine she took the needles out of - I’d spend all day feeding bits of material through.
How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?
Studying at the Royal Ag College [now the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester] kicked it off in 2008. When you have a farming background – as I do – you have a real affinity and attachment to where you live, so my family home in Suffolk will always be special. But several people said to me, ‘When you have a baby, it will cement a feeling of home’. And that’s absolutely true. The Cotswolds now has an equally special place in my heart.
What's your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?
One of us will always be home with Saphaïa at the weekend. For the last three weekends, as I’ve been getting the boutique ready, that’s been Julian. If we’re not working, the perfect weekend might be dressing up on a Friday night and enjoying the huge outdoor area we’ve now got at 131 [in the Promenade, Cheltenham]. Lockdown means people want to dress up whenever they can. But we’re very home-orientated, so we also love spending time working in the garden.
If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?
I love my home; but, with an open cheque-book, I do believe it would be possible to save the rainforest, which would be an incredible gift to our planet. There’s devastation going on minute by minute. It would be insanity if we weren’t all saying, ‘What can we do to help?’
Where are you least likely to live in the Cotswolds?
I wouldn’t want to move away from our businesses.
Where's the best pub in the area?
Oh dear! (I’ll be in trouble if I don’t list all our pubs…) The Wheatsheaf [Northleach] is about fine dining, with a beautiful garden area. The Hollow Bottom [Guiting Power] features British pub classics. Then you’ve got Minchinhampton [the Crown]: almost a fusion of the two, with a gin bar at the back. When we opened the Crown, which had been closed for so long, people were elated; it’s the hub of the village, and has just been voted best pub in Stroud [by CAMRA]. Then there’s the Tavern [Cheltenham], an American-style diner.
And the best place to eat?
For a real treat, 131 or the Wheatsheaf. It’s a chance for me to put on one of our midi knitted dresses with some heels; or a killer pair of jeans and a beautiful silk shirt. But you can go as wild as you like at 131.
What would you do for a special occasion?
At the minute, all I’m thinking about is the opening of the new boutique. I wanted to create a Parisian-London feel that you’re not expecting when you pull into the car park. We’ll have amazing stylists on hand: maybe you’re going to Cheltenham Races – we’ll have people here to make the experience unforgettable. Retail on the high street has become very difficult. People want a reason to go out and we want to deliver for them.
What's the best thing about the Cotswolds?
If you’re afraid of being ‘too country’, the Cotswolds is the place for you. You get beauty and tranquillity with a very eclectic, interesting mix of people. It delivers excitement, and the ability to put on a dress that wouldn’t feel out of place in London.
... and the worst?
Please can we get a direct train to London…?
Which shop could you not live without?
Dunkertons Cider Shop. We’re always in and out for bits and pieces.
What's the most underrated thing about the Cotswolds?
We all know about the races – they’re national. But the jazz festival; the literature festival; the science festival? It’s phenomenal to have people like David Attenborough as guest speaker. I had no idea about them when I moved here.
What is a person from the Cotswolds called?
Saphaïa Isabella, for one! Julian liked one name; I liked another. So we melded them together and it sounded great.
What would be a three-course Cotswold meal?
I worked as a cook between school and uni in a Greek hotel, and then – for my sins – at a chalet in France, which was a big learning curve. Every day, you’re cooking a five-course dinner for 15. (A dinner party for friends is a walk in the park after that!) For my three-course meal, I’d cook roast pigeon, carved very finely, with lovely roast potatoes. For starter, something light: I love cold lobster salad. I’m not really a sugar girl but I might do lemon tart for pudding.
What's your favourite view in the Cotswolds?
Seeing Saphaïa doing anything is joyful. Also, seeing signs for the new shop is a proud moment. I’ll be excited when it opens, but nervous, too. If I wasn’t nervous, there would be something wrong.
What's your quintessential Cotswolds village and why?
Probably some of the most quintessential are where our pubs are: Guiting Power, Minchinhampton, Northleach. You almost think: Do people actually live here? They’re so beautiful.
Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds…
Every Cotswold wardrobe should have Wellington boots, a long trench coat and denim jeans.
What's your favourite Cotswolds building and why?
It would have to be our home [a grade II-listed, 19th-century mansion]. It used to be a boys’ boarding school – we’ve some amazing photos of it before a couple of storeys were removed.
What would you never do in the Cotswolds?
I’d never buy other than British, if I could help it. Being a farmer’s daughter, it’s in my DNA. When I kicked off my own production, I put up notices in the local Coop for skilled machinists – and discovered that a Jaeger factory had shut down in Ipswich. Unemployed skilled people going to waste! That sums up why we should be supporting them.
Starter homes or executive properties?
We should be able to design properties that look and feel as if they are meant to be here, but at an attainable price.
What are the four corners of the Cotswolds?
Cheltenham; Minchinhampton; Northleach; Guiting Power.
If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?
A family photograph.
What's the first piece of advice you'd give somebody new to the Cotswolds?
Don’t underestimate what we have: amazing restaurants; amazing people; amazing locations.
And which book should they read?
At the moment, it’s Julia Donaldson all the way.
Have you a favourite Cotswolds walk?
When we got married, guests kindly gave us lime trees, which we planted as our ‘Wedding Walk’ in our garden, along with 40,000 daffodils.
Which event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?
Cheltenham Races encapsulate the heart of the Cotswolds. I’m a rider. I’ve still got Magic – 25 and going strong – the horse I’ve had since I was three.
If you were invisible for a day, where would you go and what would you do?
I’d take Saphaïa back in time to see me working on the family farm, grain-carting. I absolutely loved it: being outdoors; the long hours; the strong work ethic. Before and after school, I’d muck out the horses. At the weekend, I’d be competing. Children need to learn that, if you have an animal, it’s a commitment.
To whom or what should there be a Cotswolds memorial?
To the skills that built the Cotswolds. My dream is to have a ‘Savile Row’ tailor based in the boutique – just a matter of time. To highlight and employ that skillset in this area would be a wonderful thing.
The Cotswolds – aspic or asphalt?
Both. With 131, we took over a beautiful but derelict Regency property. Cornicing, fireplaces and floors had been covered over: we ripped all of that back and gave it some love and attention. Hopefully, the era of plaster-boarding over that beauty is gone forever!
Which attitude best sums up the Cotswolds?
With whom would you most like to have a (Dunkertons) cider?
Either David Attenborough. Or Ralph Lauren, who is an absolute idol of mine. He created this incredible empire, rejecting a lot of traditional fashion ethos and focusing on the classics. And he did that without technical training – same as with me. I’d ask them both what we should most take away from everything they’ve done.
(I’d also ask them: What do you think of this pint!)
Holland Cooper’s new boutique is at Dowdeswell Park, Cheltenham GL52 6UT. For opening information, visit hollandcooper.com, email email@example.com, 01608 658063. More on Lucky Onion pubs and Dunkertons Cider at theluckyonion.com and dunkertonscider.co.uk
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