These Sassy Southsea and Waterlooville fashion firms are booming

Helena Lester-Card, from North End, uses Instagram to run her vintage clothing company, Sassy World
Helena Lester-Card, from North End, uses Instagram to run her vintage clothing company, Sassy World

One sells unique, colourful vintage items online, to a customer base built up entirely through Instagram without which, she says her business would not exist.

The other custom designs wedding dresses and sells them from the heart of her high-street shop in Waterlooville.

Helena shoots new stock from her studio space in Southsea

Helena shoots new stock from her studio space in Southsea

Both are young, female entrepreneurs who have created booming businesses in times when town centre footfall is dwindling, and standing out on social media as an online clothing company is a hard slog.

Twenty-six-year-old Helena Lester-Card, from North End, set up Sassy World in 2014 after following her mum’s love for second-hand and vintage clothing.

She has 40,000 followers on Instagram, a photo and video-sharing smartphone app, and says: ‘I set up Sassy World because I felt like there was a lack of bold and colourful fashion in the UK.  

‘I love vintage clothes. They’re unique and you’re less likely to see someone else in the same outfit as you.  

Tia Eddy owns Always and Forever Bridal Boutique in Waterlooville

Tia Eddy owns Always and Forever Bridal Boutique in Waterlooville

‘My goal is to inspire others to have fun with fashion and dress however they want.

‘I’m fussy though, items have to be colourful but fit into current, modern trends and be high quality.

‘I rely heavily on social media – Sassy World probably wouldn’t exist without it.

‘Almost all of my website traffic comes via Instagram and the majority of my sales are as a result of me posting about an item on there first.

Tia custom designer wedding dresses for customers, these are some of her sketches

Tia custom designer wedding dresses for customers, these are some of her sketches

‘When I do that I’ll often get a sale within the next few minutes.’

Helena has a studio space at her mum’s Southsea home where she shoots new stock.

‘I try to make sure my Instagram profile is aesthetically pleasing,’ she adds.

‘I shoot look books, which are photoshoots of a certain collection of clothes, and post the pictures to Sassy World’s profile.

‘I also love posting customer photos. I don’t really stick to a theme or schedule I just try to keep things really colourful.’ 

Helena started Sassy World as part of her final major project studying BA (Hons) Fashion Media and Promotion at Northbrook College in Worthing.

She adds: ‘I spent a good year researching and trying to come up with a name. 

‘Before I launched I was customising clothes and making flower crowns and selling them locally and on ASOS Marketplace.

‘Everything sold pretty well so I hoped I’d have a good chance at my own online shop.  

‘I promoted Sassy World for a couple of months before it went live and luckily, because I already had my own personal fashion blog, I had built up a potential customer base on social media. 

‘I sold everything on the day of the launch and since then I’ve stocked independent designers, collaborated with swimwear designer Jade Clark and designed sustainable T-shirts with an illustrator.

‘Standing out online is often harder for small businesses because there’s so much cheap, fast fashion being pumped out by big brands which have the budget to advertise heavily. 

‘But there’s definitely been a rise in consumers wanting to support smaller brands.

‘I’m so grateful I get to do what I love. It hasn’t been an easy ride at all but there’s lots more I want to achieve.

For 20-year-old Tia Eddy who owns Always and Forever Bridal Boutique in Waterlooville town centre, social media isn’t as crucial to her success – but she admits it’s still important for her to have an online presence.

Tia, from Horndean, opened her shop in January and says: ‘We’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but being a bridal shop we’re slightly different to other companies, because we offer a service and an experience not just products.

‘We don’t sell online, but a bride-to-be might see a picture of one of our dresses on Facebook or Instagram, and want to come and try it on.

‘Our biggest online tool is Google and our second is Facebook which we get a lot of enquiries through.

‘We try to post on social media five times per week.

‘We post pictures of stock and other content like industry knowledge and tips.’ 

Tia had her mind set on opening a bridal boutique after spending her school work placement at one, going on to study fashion and textiles at South Downs College.

She adds: ‘I spent about a year-and-a-half researching and making a business case. 

‘The hardest part was finding decent manufacturers.

‘At the boutique people can buy a dress we stock or have one custom designed where the dress is created from scratch. 

‘In that process a bride-to-be will try on different style dresses so we can decide on a shape, such as silhouette, ball gown, or fishtail.

‘We’ll find out if she wants sleeves, lace, beading and so on, then I get to be creative and sketch up designs of what I believe she wants, then we get the dress made.’

Tia stocks up to 100 dresses at a time, which range from £595 to £1,200. Custom-designed dresses cost about 10 per cent more.  

‘When I opened up I did worry about whether or not it would work what with the struggle high streets have, but business has been amazing,’ Tia adds. 

‘We chose Waterlooville because there are lots of bridal shops in Portsmouth and traffic can be really bad. We wanted somewhere near the A3 customers can easily access. 

‘I love what I do. When a bride puts her finished wedding dress on and smiles in the mirror – that’s what it’s about for me.’