Ilminster is a town with community at its heart, as well as being home to one of those ‘magic moments’ as Alice Temperley explains to Rachel Mead.

Great British Life: Alice Temperley designs. (c) Dave WattsAlice Temperley designs. (c) Dave Watts

You are renowned for your Somerset roots and your little sister brand to Temperley London is named ‘Somerset by Alice Temperley’. Can you tell our readers how living and working in Somerset inspires your designs?

I have loved being home in Somerset after more than 20 years of city life. Being able to walk to work through the fields and have so much open space is a complete luxury. I love my team and the world we have created here and we cannot wait to launch something very exciting right here in MAY that we have been working on for the last 2 years. Some of our designs take weeks (and more for haute couture) but whatever it is we make – day or evening wear, it’s all worn with a relaxed attitude and a haute bohemian spirit that the brand has become globally renowned for.

Your HQ, Phoenix Studios, is entering its second year, congratulations! Why did you choose Ilminster to play host to your Somerset studios?

The lightbulb moment came while queueing at Boots during Covid. I looked at the building opposite to where I was standing that overlooked the market square and after going around lots of other locations in the area for a few months prior, this almost appeared as if from nowhere… right under my nose. It was one of those magic moments. The next morning, I was walking around it with my partner and decided there and then it was meant to be. During lockdown, London business stalled and the future of the fashion industry ambiguous, so it seemed so obvious. We shelved the daily commute to the capital and turned the former magistrates' court, a fabulous Victorian building which had been left empty for 13 years, into a creative hub. We set to work and worked around the clock for five months to convert the first part of a very derelict (22,000 square foot) abandoned space into the amazing wonderland it is today.

Aside from the Phoenix Studios where else would you recommend people visit whilst in town?

No.57 for antiques and delicious lunches, Bonners the award-winning butchers, and Ilminster Hardware - the most brilliantly useful and practical shop! My parents’ farm, Somerset Royal Cider Brandy at Burrow Hill is only 10 mins up the road too.

The Phoenix Studios is a great destination for a cocktail. It’s Friday night and you’ve worked hard all week… which cocktail will you be ordering?

A Margarita!

Great British Life: Alice Temperley. (c) Dave WattsAlice Temperley. (c) Dave Watts

Thinking about sustainability and the impact that the fashion industry has on the environment. How do you hope to overcome these challenges? Do you source fabrics, yarns etc from any local Somerset-based artisanal companies?

We work with some amazing local companies including Axminster Carpets, Fox Brothers & Co Ltd, Pittards and Fortis. There is a lot more to be done when time allows. We are keen to support our community and to work with local manufacturers and artisans. All our packaging for shipping, including hangers and boxes are all eco-friendly.

If you ever get stuck for inspiration, which part of Somerset life helps you overcome it?

I ride my Shire horse, Tiny, through the woods near my house or out on the Somerset Levels near the family farm, or I’ll go for a walk along the Jurassic coastline.

Tell us about your role as an Ambassador for Visit Somerset.

I am proud to support the Visit Somerset mission to highlight how wonderful the county of Somerset is because it’s my favourite place in the world and I am so delighted to call it my home. Somerset is where I truly believe the beating heart of the English countryside resides. I am so lucky to have grown up at Burrow Hill Cider Farm overlooking the Somerset Levels, enjoying living through the seasons on the farm. From apple picking to lambing, we were brought up as true farm children and this is still a very important part of my belief in the philosophy of nature and the need to be close to it.

If you had to describe Ilminster in 3 words, what would they be, and why?

So ready, with huge potential, to become alive with creativity and local talent.

Great British Life: Dawn Bowring designs Artie Flora parasols and trades from the Ilminster Emporium housed within the iconic drapery shop, R. A. Dyers. Photo: Dawn BowringDawn Bowring designs Artie Flora parasols and trades from the Ilminster Emporium housed within the iconic drapery shop, R. A. Dyers. Photo: Dawn Bowring


‘We don’t look like every other high street, Ilminster is filled with independents and you’ll always receive a good warm welcome here!’ I am chatting to Dawn Bowring who designs Artie Flora parasols and trades from the Ilminster Emporium housed within the iconic drapery shop, R. A. Dyers. ‘We are so fortunate that the emporium has maintained the original shop front of Dyers. We’ve got all the old wooden counters and many of the original fittings are still in situ – we even have an original Polly Parrot from Pretty Polly tights! She hangs above the old cashier booth and now that she’s had a few feathers replaced by Ilminster Share & Repair, she looks even more fabulous!’ The emporium is located directly opposite the 15th century Minster and as well as hosting many small businesses, it is also surrounded by other flourishing independent shops which extend along the adjoining East Street and beyond. ‘Being able to display my homewares range in Ilminster is wonderful, our town is one of those rare communities which is incredibly well supported from the surrounding villages and beyond.’

As you stroll up through the town it isn’t difficult to cast your mind back to the 18th century when Ilminster’s prosperity was growing rich from the farming, cloth, rope and glove making industries. Although due a service, a quirk of times gone by can be found in a shop doorway along East Street where an old clock displays ‘Railway Time’. During the 1800’s, Ilminster was connected by the mainline train to London but there was a problem with locals missing trains because they were still calculating the time by using the sun. ‘Solar noon’ in Ilminster was actually 12 minutes past noon in London so to overcome this ‘Railway Time’ was displayed on East Street, before GMT was formally adopted in 1880.

On reaching the top of East Street you'll then find a converted Unitarian chapel which has been home to Ilminster Arts Centre, a charity and multi-arts venue, for almost 30 years. Alan Hyde is one of the trustees, 'We have a packed concert calendar which raises the curtain to a mix of new and young musicians in addition to well-established performers. Building on our solid reputation for jazz, our performances also include folk, blues and pop, and in partnership with Concerts in the West, we have a great classical line up planned for the rest of the year. With our art exhibitions refreshing every month or so, we are proud to shine the spotlight on the region's artists, as well as offer a mix of creative workshops for all. What's more, we have a boutique shop and café too – our cheese scones are famous!'