Catching up with Somerset’s star milliner and countryside accessories whizz Caroline Nicholls
Milliner and country clothing designer Caroline Nicholls has absolutely smashed 2019 with her business so far. From exhibiting at the world-famous Badminton Horse Trials and seeing her bespoke millinery pieces gracing the heads of well-dressed ladies at Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot. We chatted to Caroline to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes to keep her popular country wear, millinery and accessories brand running smoothly. As well as her grand plans for the rest of the year and beyond.
Tell us a little bit about how you came to be in charge of your own millinery and accessories business?
I’m a great believer in grabbing opportunities when they arise. And that’s basically the story of how I came to be doing this. I made my own bespoke hat for Cheltenham a few years ago. Which was admired enough for someone to ask where I got it, subsequently they asked me to create a hat for them. Since then the Caroline Nicholls product range has grown based on the pieces that I think people will find useful and/or beautiful to wear at country and equestrian events.
Where do you get your design inspiration from?
I’m quite independent with my ideas and designs and know what I like to create! It’s all inspired by the classics and British country dressing but with a pretty, feminine twist. I enjoy including this in my millinery pieces too. I closely people-watch when I’m out and about at events and love seeing how people pair different colours and fabrics together as well as mixing vintage and contemporary pieces. As I previously mentioned, lots of my accessories are designed to be practical as well as beautiful. So that ladies can attend a wide range of events and stay warm whilst looking stunning.
What does a ‘normal’ day at Caroline Nicholls HQ look like?
I’m a single mum to a two-year-old daughter. So it is safe to say there is no such thing as a normal day! I have had to become an expert at multitasking, balancing those ‘terrible twos’ tantrums with the challenges of running a business.
I’m also at the in between stage of business growth where I’m on the cusp of employing someone to help me. But for now am just about able to juggle everything on my own if I stay very busy indeed! I would love the headspace to plan my week out and stick to it, but I’ve accepted that I need to be flexible for the foreseeable future.
Do you think that being a single parent changed the way you approached running your business?
I think that being a single mum has taught me a very important lesson which I intend to pass on to my daughter. It is that if you want something enough then you have to be prepared to make it happen for yourself – don’t sit around and wait for it to come to you. I’m so driven because I want to build a good life for my daughter. As I’m responsible for both of our well being and happiness now.
I have an incredible support network around me. Which is helpful for anyone getting a new business off the ground, but it has been downright vital for me. My parents come and help me set up the stand at events and I have some incredible friends who help me man it too.
What’s your favourite part of your working day/favourite aspect of your job?
I’m at my happiest when I’m designing and creating. I adore getting into my workshop with some music on (chilled out music is best for me – Ed Sheeran, the Lumineers etc! None of this Balearic dance music Ms. Tara!) and becoming totally engrossed in sketching and making. I’ve just had a busy time for bespoke millinery creations with Royal Ascot and it’s been so much fun seeing photos of the ladies looking amazing in them – I love that bit too.
Exhibiting at Badminton so early in your business journey must have been amazing! How did it go?
It was incredible! It surpassed all my expectations and has given me an immense amount of motivation for the future. There was so much interest in the fedora hats, bespoke millinery services, and the fur accessories. People were walking up to my stand and commented that they recognised the brand which was an amazing feeling – I felt that I can really step up my game now!
Where do you want to take the brand next? Grand plans for the future and other big events you would love to exhibit?
I’m in talks with the Game Fair at the moment about exhibiting there this year which would be so exciting! I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed at the moment for that as it is just the perfect event for my brand. I would have loved to head to Burghley as well but that will have to wait for 2020 now. Exhibiting at the Cheltenham Festival would be a dream come true as well… that’s on the bucket list for sure.
Aside from events I have a big project looming at the end of the summer. I’m expanding the shop at home to double it in size and add a workshop area so that people can see me working when they visit. Finally, I’m working on the Autumn/Winter Caroline Nicholls collection. All I’ll say at the moment is think sumptuous, warm shearling and watch this space!
How do you like to relax and unwind after you’ve got all the work done?
I honestly can’t remember relaxing much in the past two years. Life seems very full at the moment – good but full! If I could magic up anything it would be a little bit of time and space to relax. I have bought a hanging egg chair which I love to perch in with a G&T if I have even a sliver of me time at the end of the week.
Where can our readers catch you this summer and browse the collection?
I’m at the Lycetts Festival of Hunting on Wednesday the 17th of July and then Blenheim Horse Trials in September. Plus, if all goes well, the Game Fair at Hatfield House from the 26th – 28th of July. It would be lovely to meet anyone who wants to pop by to say hello!