Fashion: Why Blue is a one-of-a-kind boutique

Advertisement Feature: As any woman who’s shopped there will tell you, Blue in Saffron Walden is a one-of-a-kind boutique where the warmth of the atmosphere is as striking as the fashions on the rails. On a mission to help women feel their best as well as look it, owner Hayley Attridge talks to Alice Ryan

Clothes are powerful things. The right garment can be mood-altering: a cloud-soft cashmere sweater can comfort; a sharply tailored blazer empower. Nobody knows this better than Hayley Attridge, founder of Saffron Walden boutique Blue.

“I buy clothes which make women feel good as well as look good,” she explains. “These are women who are dressing for themselves, not other people. Whoever they are - stay-at-home mum, high-flying career woman - they know who they are and they dress to express that.”

Favouring a Danish-inspired aesthetic which combines effortless chic with a fashion-forward edge, Hayley stocks 40-plus labels with an average of 30 on the shop floor at any one time. Star turns include Scandi brands such as Shoe the Bear and Black Colour, Germany’s Set, Australia's Inoa and Devotion Twins, brainchild of an Athenian designer, whose embroidered mini dresses have proved such a hit they even flew during lockdown.

With price-points ranging from just a few pounds (beaded bracelets, pleated headbands) right up to investment purchases (such as the iconic SET biker jacket), Blue is, explains Hayley, for every woman, right the way from a teenager wanting a gift for a friend through to grandmothers wanting a capsule wardrobe. “I visualise our customers when I’m buying,” explains Hayley. “Sometimes I literally think ‘Emma will love that!’ - we get to know our customers so well, they become friends.”

Creating an avatar in her mind to represent each age group - take Megan, the young fashion lover; Yummy Mummy, who has something of Jools Oliver about her; and Maggie, the 70-something who wants to age with style - Hayley photographs every item she views on her buying expeditions, creating themed and colour-schemed mood boards on her phone. The result is the remarkably cohesive edit you’ll find in store: does that dress require a boot? There’s one right here.

Hayley launched Blue in 2011. Having had an accountancy career then stayed home with her own children, she had no background in retail - but what she did have was a finely honed eye for fashion. “I’ve always had a passion for it,” explains Hayley. “I still remember walking into my first buying appointment at this big fashion house and being asked what my retail experience was. I laughed and said ‘I haven’t got any! But my husband says I’m a really good shopper. . .’”

If anyone doubted her skills back then, today they’ll be eating their words. Keeping the show on the road throughout lockdown, Hayley credits her team who, “like family”, include marketeer Mandy Weetch, who kept the social media wheels turning, and Gay Linwood, the designer who dressed the windows week in, week out. “Whatever we put in that window sold,” adds Hayley. “I also can’t thank our customers enough for supporting us.”

Since reopening its doors, Blue has received the warmest of welcomes from shoppers old and new. It’s in good company: Saffron Walden’s streets are lined with interesting indies, making it “a great destination for a day’s shopping,” adds Hayley, who also praises Saffron Walden BID (Business Improvement District) for keeping momentum going and making the town feel Covid-safe.

With both Blue’s bricks-and-mortar and online shops now filled with autumn/winter lines, Hayley says a number of core trends will extend to next year. Animal prints and neons are here to stay, as is embellishment, with sustainable labels increasingly hot - she’s recently added Soya Concept, known for its recycled fabrics, to her stocklist.

Promising more than fine fashions, Blue is “like a little community,” adds Hayley. “We genuinely love helping our customers find that piece which is going to look great every time they wear it - and make them feel great, too.”

On the Rails

Hayley selects key pieces to buy now

Rosemunde Poncho Jumper, £169

As temperatures turn, it’s time to get cosy. This jumper ticks two trend boxes: Fair Isle patterns and chunky knits

Devotion Twins Ella Dress in Neon Lime and Grey, £219.95

With neon trending for 2021, wear it now, over jeans and boots, and right through next spring/summer

Black Colour Luna Dress in Magnolia Pink, £65

These dresses are a top seller for a reason: combining comfort and chic, just throw them on

Set Tyler Jacket in Nightsky, £369

A classic biker made from softest leather, this goes-with-everything jacket is a wardrobe must-have

Blue is at 32 King Street, Saffron Walden CB10 1ES. See and follow @bluesaffronwalden

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