A Passion For Fashion
Already known as the brains behind Lara B, Newmarket’s bridal couture brand, Lara Kinnett is now taking the helm of a second fashion enterprise: the town’s much-loved womenswear store, Martha V. Velvet reports
Walk into Martha V - the womenswear boutique that’s been a fixture on Newmarket’s High Street for more than a decade - and, at first glance, nothing’s changed. The same carefully curated collections, spanning occasion, evening, smart and casual looks, hang on the rails; the staff remain smiley, quick to help, and well-informed about their labels and how to wear them.
But look a little more closely, and there are subtle signs of change. A stand-out new brand has been added for spring/summer: by acclaimed Spanish designer Gabriela Sanchez, it combines luxe fabrics, bright colours, bold prints and strong silhouettes to catwalk effect. And trays of the most exquisite embellished panels - intricately embroidered and beaded sprays of flowers and foliage - wait to be added to dresses and jackets, part of a new bespoke service: offering additions and alterations, it will allow customers to make any outfit their own.
“I wanted to bring a bit of the bespoke, which is core to Lara B, my bridal business, to the Martha V experience,” says Lara Kinnett, who’s just taken over the store from retiring founder Martha Fraser. “Martha got it right when she created the brand, so there will be no major changes - just a few little extras. . .”
When it was announced that Martha would be standing down, the store’s legion of loyal customers - people travel from across the country to shop there, especially when looking for mother of the bride or race day outfits, for which Martha V has made a real name - were worried it might close.
“Martha’s biggest concern, for the staff, for the customers and for Newmarket High Street, was that the shop should carry on; that it should have a future,” explains Lara, whose Lara B boutique, selling her own couture bridal collection, is just around the corner on Rous Road.
“I could see a natural synchronicity between Martha V and Lara B: I’ve advised so many mothers and wedding guests to visit Martha over the years. And I also felt ready for a new challenge.”
With Martha joining her on the new season’s buying trips - “she held my hand; she knows her customers and what they want” - Lara says spring/summer stock from all the store’s best-loved labels, such as Joseph Ribkoff, Frank Lyman, Betty Barclay, Hatley, Tinta, Robel and Marble, is now arriving thick and fast.
As well as making sure all the existing Martha V customers can find what they’re looking for in store, Lara is also keen to appeal to a new audience, by selecting a few more fashion-forward items from each brand - a just-arrived monochrome polka-dot pleated skirt, tapping into three current trends in one, is a case in point. Eighties styling, literal splashes of colour and spot prints are all, she says, in the fashion forecast for 2020.
Lara was, she laughs, destined to work in fashion. “The sewing machine was always out at home and Mum let me play with patterns and make things from quite an early age,” she says. “I remember going to the airing cupboard on a Saturday morning, pulling out a sheet, tie dying it in the bath, and whipping it up with some elastic to wear at night for a party.”
Going on to do a Fashion and Textile (BA) Hons degree at London’s Ravensbourne College, Lara was a lingerie designer for a decade before launching Lara B 14 years ago. Using her design and seamstressing skills, she then developed Lara B Couture, her fully bespoke bridal gown service which revolves around mix-and-match top and skirt shapes, in 2015. In the future, she’d like to offer the same level of tailor-making to her Martha V clients, too.
With a number of the Martha V team - Helen, Lorraine, Annie and Liz - staying on, and new recruits also joining, Lara will split her week between the two shops, “and, whichever shop I’m in, I’m only ever round the corner,” she adds. “They sit well together, yet also standalone: I’m really excited about the future of both brands.”
Martha V is at High Street, Newmarket. See marthav.co.uk and follow on social media for updates.
Read moreFashion and Beauty
More by this authorAlice Ryan