14 The Courtyard, Montpellier crack
Caroline Charles is a well-known and highly respected womenswear designer, who owns nine self named stores across the country including a department in Harrods, London. She began her career in fash on as an apprentice for Mary Quant, going on to design her own collections which were “kooky and fresh and included a white cotton dress made from a bedspread!” Caroline’s collections attracted the eyes of sever l celebrities including Lulu, Cilla Black, Princess Diana and Emma Thompson who wore a Caroline Charles design to receive an Oscar.
Her business has now been running for 40 years, with the first Caroline Charles opening in 1970, and according to Muriel, manager of the Cheltenham store in The Courtyard, Caroline is great to work for. “Even after 40 years, she’s still so enthusiastic – it’s an inspiration. I’ve known her for 20 years, and although she’s been very successful she’s still grounded and a lovely woman to know.”
“It’s a great company to work for, and everyone who works for me in this store have just loved it and don’t want to go.”
Manager Muriel of is a delight and clearly fantastic with the customers, frequently interrupting our interview to personally greet and chat with everybody who comes through the door, all of whom she seems to know personally. After 20 years managing Caroline Charles, first as a department in Hoopers and now in their own store in The Courtyard, she has gotten to know her client base incredibly well. This helps her to buy in the collections every year.
“Caroline allows all of her managers to buy their collections for their stores, which I love doing. It works well because I know my customer base and what customers in Cheltenham like to wear.”
“The new collection coming in is going to have a different slant, and will include a lot of prints which Caroline is very good at. Prints are very in vogue this Spring/Summer season. Everything is separated so if you want to put a particular jacket with a particular dress, you could do, because Caroline makes sure all the colours blend.”
Muriel shows me a jacket which is literally entirely sequinned with hundreds of vibrant colours; “This is a jacket Caroline had made in September after the sad news that Michael Jackson died in June. This jacket’s called “The Jackson” as a tribute to him”.
The Spring/Summer collection features some more sequins, gingham, and patterned pieces as well as some soft and cool colours. There are also some very pretty fascinators which are a good non garish alternative to a wedding hat. Although Muriel tells me that the main market for Caroline Charles is 35 plus, there is definitely an element of younger fashion in the collection, particularly in the accessories and jewellery.
“Some of our customers have begun to bring in their daughters who find that they like a lot of what we sell”
A couple of pieces which caught my eye included an oversized nautical handbag, and a retro pair of heart-shaped sunglasses, which come in both red and white. “The glasses are fun and really take you back to the 1950s.”
There is a great mix in Caroline Charles, with some great pieces which deserve to attract some younger fans. I was very pleasantly surprised with what I found and am secretly tempted to return and purchase a “Jackson Jacket”!