After a brutal accident at an ice-skating championship aged 8 involving a polar bear, "K" was forced to spend two hours in bed drawing pictures of the bear who knocked her out of the competition. Her surgeon said it would give her "closure." With her leg in plaster, very bushy eyebrows and an HB pencil behind her ear, she behaved like Frida Khalo.
It was during this time, as she sipped on margaritas and pain-killers that she dreamt of designing beautiful leather bags and accessories. As soon as the cast came off, "K" set to work making paper mock-ups of handbags and shoes and tried selling them to kids in Thornton Heath.
She traded these paper sculptures for 100g of dusty mis-shapen Milk Bottle sweets and so the business began.
After studying contemporary Textiles at Nottingham Polytechnic she had an excellent knowledge of fibres and fabrics but not a hope in hell's chance of getting a job. It was later in 1995 that she got a break at East fashion as a Buyer's Apprentice under the watchful eye of owner Penny Oliver. This set her off on her career in fashion buying product development and design. Apparently, it was her C.V's bold block capital handwriting that clinched it.
St Leonards is all about well-proportioned, and beautifully practical products for men and women the globe over. "K" is heavily influenced by the pleasing '70s proportions and timeless understated 80's tomboy elegance of MaxMara, and Cagney & Lacey.
St Leonards and its location:
The brand is deep-rooted in its surroundings. St Leonards on Sea in the County of East Sussex was the model town for the renowned Regency architect Decimus Burton. His elegant streets with far-reaching views of the sea created in the early 1800's was once one of the most elegant seaside towns in England. Much of that elegance can still be seen today but now it's very much mixed up with a bohemian rough-and-ready artistic community, many of whom left London like myself to enjoy a more relaxed pace and spectacular seaside living. 10 years later there's now a burgeoning creative scene and St Leonards is proud to be part of the growth.
St Leonards is older than its years. Many of the products are named after streets or events that occur in its immediate vicinity, and it even has heraldic symbols full of precious meaning for the brand and its founder.
It's also rather poignant that St Leonards' grandfather, Robert Leonard Avery was trained by the Royal Legion in leather craft when he was invalided out of the army. During his convalesence Robert honed his skills and then started selling his collection of small leather goods at local markets in Hampshire. He was then selling his products nationally through the British Legion until the mid 1950's when he was recognised for his high quality products at a fair in Olympia, London. Little did he know that years later his granddaughter was to follow in his footsteps.
St Leonards is all about forging your own sense of style whether you're 8 or 88. It hates fads and loves longevity. It loves products that are androgynous too. Many of the designs are for men AND women. It expects you to fight over them. Often.
St Leonards hopes you'll grow alongside this plucky British brand and return again and again, enjoying the products, the off-beat branding and of course the high quality customer service too.
In July 2016 "K" appealed to her loyal customers, friends and family with a rapid crowdfunding campaign. She had just 3 weeks to raise the lease deposit to secure the ideal space on Norman Road. The shop opened and began trading on the 1st August 2016 as St Leonards Modern Goods at 70 Norman Road - it's a modern lifestyle store for men and women of all ages; not only does it provide the town with contemporary, well designed clothing, gifts and items for the home but it's the studio hub and production space for the online brand.