Phoebe Paling of the Ivory Chapter, Melbourne - combining a wedding business with the world of engineering

Phoebe in her bridal boutique Photo: Chris Seddon Photography

Phoebe in her bridal boutique Photo: Chris Seddon Photography - Credit: Archant

Derbyshire Life meets Phoebe Paling who combines a wedding fashion business with the world of engineering

Phoebe Paling Photo: © Chris Seddon Photography

Phoebe Paling Photo: © Chris Seddon Photography - Credit: Archant

It could be said that Darley Abbey-based entrepreneur Phoebe Paling has achieved almost ‘superhero’ status through her dichotomous working life. By day, or to be accurate for the first half of the week, Phoebe manages a team of buyers for the nuclear submarine arm of Rolls-Royce, working in what is a tightly controlled, highly technical, engineering environment. By night – and for the second part of the week and at weekends – Phoebe owns and runs one of the most exquisite bridal boutiques in the region.

This is not the career combination you expect to hear – submarines and bridal gowns – but Phoebe is making it work superbly. Her wealth of buying experience, eye for detail and design and industrious attitude to life works incredibly well in both the engineering and fashion industries, enabling Phoebe to balance her highly specialist role at Rolls-Royce with running The Ivory Chapter, Derbyshire’s newest bridal boutique located in the lovely market town of Melbourne.

Phoebe, originally from Somerset, moved to Derby in 2001 after meeting her future husband, Karl, while she was on a university placement at George at Asda. Phoebe graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a first class Honours degree in Fashion and Textile Management, secured a job as a buyer for George, and then for the best part of a decade lived (and loved) her high-paced, demanding and jet-setting role with one of the UK’s largest fashion brands.

‘There was so much travelling involved,’ Phoebe recalls, ‘but I loved it at the time. The pace of the job suited me, it was a young and vibrant industry to work in and I learnt so much.’

Magdalene by Mia Mia £1,547, available at The Ivory Chapter

Magdalene by Mia Mia £1,547, available at The Ivory Chapter - Credit: Archant

In 2012, when Phoebe had her daughter, she quickly realised the constant travelling overseas couldn’t continue with a new baby, and so addressing her skill set, found a job in buying that was much closer to home – albeit in an industry which was worlds away from fashion. During the interview process, one person saw beyond Phoebe’s CV and the sphere of fashion and picked up on her drive and the transferable skills that would allow her to thrive as a buyer for nuclear submarine systems as successfully as fashion items. In five years, Phoebe has moved swiftly from a buyer position to that of team leader of a group of specialist submarine buyers at Rolls-Royce in Derby.

‘It’s a hugely complex, highly specialised field in which to work,’ describes Phoebe, ‘but it’s fascinating and has seen me move from a global fashion market to one which is very much dominated by UK suppliers. My former job dealt with fast-moving, disposable consumer goods; now I deal with sourcing parts for submarines which have long life cycles and are hugely complex products.’

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So, how did the move to bridal fashion emerge from such a different environment at Rolls-Royce? Phoebe explains: ‘I use my former fashion-buying skills every day at Rolls-Royce, however, I knew I couldn’t allow the desire to do something of my own stay dormant any longer. Last year, after much research at weekends and in the evenings, I identified a gap in the market for something fashionable yet bridal, here in Derbyshire.’

Phoebe started the business while she was still working full time at Rolls-Royce, which has been ‘so supportive’, and she now works part-time at Rolls-Royce, using the rest of the week to develop the bridal business.

It took Phoebe six months to launch The Ivory Chapter, and she was drawn to Melbourne as the location by its ‘stylish feel’ with exclusive shops, good restaurants and beautiful architecture. The boutique sits neatly on the high street and on entering, Phoebe’s eye for detail is clear – a relatively modest space has been transformed into a beautiful reception room, complete with chaise longue, glittering chandelier, polished wooden floor and – most importantly – a row of stunning wedding dresses. Phoebe’s choice of designers is what makes her boutique stand out from any others. As she says on her website, she has chosen designers whom she personally loves, ‘breaking the number one rule in fashion buying’, and yet her choices are clearly paying off as she dresses bride after bride in gorgeous designs made in England, France and the USA. Phoebe has been able to establish herself as the regional outlet for names including Cymbeline, Alan Hannah and Sassi Holford – a great accolade.

‘I was married in a dress by Cymbeline and so fell in love with this Parisian design house 13 years ago. Each dress is so beautifully constructed in French lace,’ says Phoebe. ‘Alan Hannah is designed and made in England by a hugely talented team. Sassi Holford’s brand ‘So Sassi’ is from my home town of Taunton and so another great English product to support.’

Phoebe’s boutique offers the bride all she needs with the addition of lower-priced designers’ bridal wear, bridesmaid’s dresses and accessories, including hugely popular veils. In September, she is adding a new collection, ‘Watters Bridal’, from the USA – incredible bridal gowns that really make a statement.

Phoebe sees her role at The Ivory Chapter as, ‘supporting the bride and helping to whittle down the huge choice out there which can confuse and overwhelm any bride to be. I can tell what a bride will look good in within minutes of meeting them and often encourage the bride to try a dress they wouldn’t usually think of which opens their eyes to the possibilities for their wedding day.’

‘It’s how the bride wants to be represented on her wedding day which is key; not what they think they should wear or what they have been told suits them,’ says Phoebe. ‘There’s no science behind the right dress. You need someone with the right eye to help you look great on one of the most important days of your life.’

Phoebe offers just that: a tremendously experienced eye for buying and design which clearly works in both the bridal world and in the somewhat less usual sphere of nuclear submarine systems. ‘All I am waiting for now is to be able to dress a Rolls-Royce bride-to-be. That would be super special, and the icing on the cake…’ concludes Phoebe.

The Ivory Chapter, Derby Road, Melbourne, is open for appointments throughout the week. Contact Phoebe via