The power of colour
It’s hard to believe that over 6 weeks have gone by since Boris Johnson announced the lockdown. Back in mid-March, it was a terrifying step into the unknown – we really didn’t know what lay ahead and if we would come through it. Would anyone be interested in buying clothes in the middle of a lockdown? Was colour even relevant in the face of a global pandemic? Would sales of our Spring/Summer 2020 collection, which had launched just days earlier, fall away to nothing? With a warehouse at capacity with new stock, the timing couldn’t be worse. One thing I did know was that after 16 years of blood, sweat and tears, I wasn’t going to let Kettlewell fail without trying to find some sort of solution.
Our primary concern, of course, was to ensure the safety of our workers, so we furloughed all but five members of staff who could work from home, and the family began dispatching orders from the warehouse. Having made sure all our suppliers were paid, and with the prospect of selling the same stock for a year to stay afloat, we cancelled our mid-season orders – a step that naturally made us worried about the knock-on effect on the small family-run factories we work with in Turkey and Portugal. At the end of March, it looked unlikely that we would reorder any new styles or colours for Autumn. I hate to admit it, but it all looked decidedly bleak.
Forward-wind seven weeks and, while we’re not out of the woods quite yet in terms of the long-term effects of the pandemic, the future is hopeful. Sales have been buoyant and steadily increasing, and although I’m not quite sure how we will do a photo shoot or produce a catalogue for Autumn/Winter, let alone get photo samples made in time, I’m an optimist and know we'll find a way.
Melissa busy packing orders in the warehouse
The fact that we are coming through this as a business is due in no small part to the ladies in the Facebook Kettlewell Colour Club (you can join here), who have literally created a lifeline for Kettlewell. When we started the KCC back in February, as a focus group and to provide additional customer service from our in-house colour expert Jo, we could never have guessed that it would coincide with a pandemic and evolve into the positive, nurturing space it is today – a place for like-minded customers with a passion for colour to support and inspire each other by posting photos of themselves wearing their Kettlewell purchases (recent or old).
Not only have the members of the KCC lifted each other’s spirits, they have also lifted mine, and given me the encouragement I’ve needed to keep going. Those who struggle with colour combining are given ideas and advice, and those who have found their style, are there to inspire others to do the same. While I’m busy dispatching orders in the warehouse, I’m only able to dip in and out of the KCC, but I’m taking note of suggestions and feedback and screenshots of some of the outfits for future ideas and designs. I find it incredibly inspiring.
It’s also been lovely seeing all the Kettlewell purchases being unpacked and tried on as soon as they hit the doormat (with our best-selling Gemma and Lulu tops, Eliza Top, Roxy Shirt Jacket, Supersoft Sweatshirt, Stripey Pima Scoop, Chloe Jacket, Cara V, Betty Cowl coming in for particular praise!). Many members have talked about how the group has been good for their mental health during a time of social isolation and given them something to look forward to, and I really couldn’t hope for more than that.
One person in particular who has shone out for her positivity is Edith Verhoef from the Netherlands. A gorgeous Spring, Edith goes out of her way every day to post her OOTD and give advice to those asking. She is the living, breathing embodiment of Kettlewell style, and as many of the ladies in the group have suggested, would make a wonderful honorary brand ambassador. So to acknowledge all her support – and to say, “we couldn’t agree more” – we have invited Edith to be just that. I’m sure she will continue to uplift and inspire your purchases long after the pandemic has passed, and spread the Kettlewell word.
Talking of purchases, some in the KCC have been asking how Covid-19 is affecting delivery times, and I’m pleased to say there are not many delays in dispatch. The Royal Mail is collecting from us every day, but delivery does depend on your area as some sorting offices are running on a depleted workforce. Overseas deliveries are variable but we dispatch those as a priority the next day to give them the best chance of being delivered as quickly as possible. Returns are dealt with as soon as they have rested in our warehouse for 24 hours (to avoid Covid contact). We understand that returned parcels are being held up in the US (New York) but are slowly coming through to us. Customers shouldn't worry as we have extended our returns by three months.
Busy as we are keeping on top of orders, we are still managing to find time to be together as a family, and home has become our sanctuary (as well as a bit of an education hub with our son back at virtual school and one daughter at virtual uni!). Last weekend was our 28th wedding anniversary and the children shopped and cooked a feast for us, while we were ushered out for a walk in the bluebell woods. I’m so lucky, and can’t thank John enough for putting up with me (we joke that the KCC has become like our fourth child!), as well as our three children, who have been incredibly supportive.
Bluebells on Lewesdon Hill, Dorset
John and Melissa on their Wedding day, 28 years ago
And, of course, a big thank you to our customers, who have been so good to us; we hope to offer the best possible customer service in return. You have shown us that colour really is the best tonic, and we’ll keep the rainbow shining bright for our brave NHS workers and all those affected by the Coronavirus.