Isn’t there something just a little romantic and wildly life-affirming about a woman who escapes the stiff, structured institution of a career in the bank to open her own gorgeous little shoe shop in the city? Well, cast your mind back eight years ago (yes, eight years!) to the opening day of Eva Lucia and you will find one extremely determined Lori Smith standing in 29 Scott Street, hoping upon hope that the women of Perth were going to come in and buy her amazing collection of unusual shoes.
A lot has changed since then – she’s Lori McGaffney for a start! – but Eva Lucia has stood strong, steered from cool, quirky shoe boutique into the go-to fashion shop for women of all ages, sizes, styles and budgets.
This clever mix of on-trend fashion and timeless classics has proven a winning formula for the whip-smart business woman. From cute t-shirts to sophisticated party dresses, classic blazers in every colour to the irrepressible success of Waven jeans (if you’ve not tried these, then you really must read this article on why we called them the Holy Grail of Skinny Jeans >>>) Lori’s timeless mix of easy-to-wear pieces have picked up one of the most eclectic – and enviable - fan-bases of any city centre fashion outlet. I shop there (45 years old), my friend’s daughter shops there (age 22) and I may just have lost last summer’s Melissa sandal after loaning them to my Mum!
“It’s really funny because I often meet people at parties who say they’ve never been in because they think it’s for younger girls, or that we’re only occasion wear. I think I’m even more excited than I was when we first opened all those years ago. When I tell them we have tops starting at £22 and that my mum almost lost her mind trying to choose which of the new French Collection dresses she liked best, they’re genuinely surprised – but our customers genuinely come from all walks of life and shop with us for lots of different reasons.”
As a self-confessed lover of fashion, Lori knows only too well that sinking feeling when you turn up to a party wearing the same as someone else! She buys in minimal quantities, from small labels and fashion houses dotted across the UK and Europe – the exception to this is the new (and uber-swoon worthy) French Connection range, which is unique to her in Perthshire, and the Melissa shoe range which has proven to be one of her long term best-sellers thanks to their edgy vibe and green credentials.
“I think everyone enjoys buying a real fashion-find and I do try to buy in from smaller labels that can offer something different without blowing the budget. FRNCH is always a big favourite with our customers for that reason and this winter I’m all over the Silvian Heach knitwear range which starts at £35. And of course Traffic People is really strong again – I’m loving the leather skirts and the tea dresses. I need to be careful not to buy it all!”
One of the biggest risks of recent years was the launch of her own Felmini boots designs. Lori chooses the style, the fabric and the colours and the Portuguese manufacturer make up her bespoke order and ship the lot to Perth! Thankfully, her years of listening hard to her customers, learning lessons the hard way and keeping ahead of trends ensured her step into the unknown paid off. Felmini were a huge hit and are back again this winter with more of the same great block heels, distressed leather and boots that feel as good on your feet as they look on the shelf!
Of course, it’s not all been easy and she will tell you willingly there has been more than one costly mistake! But she kept her wits about her and had courage in her convictions that she had something to special to offer. Having never experienced the highs of pre-credit-crunch retail, she is a new generation of shop-keeper who is as much about digital as she is bricks and mortar, and as passionate about your experience as she is the stock she sells. That’s why you will find plenty of Facebook chat, a click-and-collect website service and lashings of Prosecco served while you browse!
To add to this wonderful, all things to all women vibe, Lori was joined a few years ago by Esther – the glamorous pink haired beauty behind Boutique Nails. Working from her neat little nail bar in the shop, Esther’s glossy manicures have become part and parcel of the Eva Lucia experience – you might be lucky and bag a space but my advice is to be sure to book!
For the first time since she opened eight years ago, Lori closed up shop for two weeks while Eva Lucia underwent a refurb. Extra shelves, a big, central table and even more hanging space for her new transitional range has somehow opened up the shop to appear bigger than before. True to her Indie roots, she used local tradesmen – and fuelled her hangovers and late night unpacking with Murrays pies!
“This does feel like a new era for Eva Lucia and if it’s possible, I think I’m even more excited than I was when we first opened all those years ago. I love meeting new people, I love fashion, and I love that we’ve created a space that welcomes in everyone.”
Eva Lucia is now open seven days a week
Shop online at www.evalucia.co.uk
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