Alexandra Boardman of Alexandra’s of Keswick
Situated in a charming courtyard called Packhorse Court is Alexandra’s of Keswick, a women’s clothing shop with a difference. That difference is eloquently highlighted by a sign on the wall ‘We believe clothing should be ethical, sustainable, organic, thoughtful … and stylish.’ The shop is a treasure trove of elegant and colourful ladies clothing and accessories in Keswick, in the north of the Lake District.
“We’re celebrating our 9th year of business this 2010; we were originally in lower Main Street but moved to this larger store in November 2013. My background was in IT but I’d always hankered after having a shop. My grandfather was in the retail trade so I guess it’s in the genes. Not only do I love clothes but I’m passionate about being ethical. As much as possible, I source brands that don’t exploit their workforce. Keswick is a Fair Trade Town with a great sense of community, which fits well with my values and what’s important to me. I’m a big fan of Slow Fashion; it’s much better to spend a bit more on a quality piece than a few pounds on something you’ll wear a few times then throw out. “
The double-fronted store showcases some well-known labels, including Adini, Lily & Me, Capri, Mistral Clothing, Nomads, Thought and Seasalt. The shop has a huge range of clothes in sizes 8-20 and if your size isn’t in stock, Alexandra will order it in for you. You can choose from top-quality dresses, blouses, skirts, knitwear, trousers, underwear, scarves, bags, socks, jewellery, jackets and coats, all in a variety of lovely materials, designs and colours
There’s plenty of space and everything is displayed with taste and a dash of humour, very much like Alexandra herself. When asked to pose for a photo, she quickly rearranged a rack of dresses and moved a model to make sure everything looked just right. It’s that attention to detail, as well as a vast knowledge of clothing, plus exceptionally friendly service that ensures customers return time and again. Oh, and there’s a cosy corner with comfy seats and drinks on offer for anyone who wants to sit and chat.
“Through the winter months, our customers are mainly locals; we get huge support from our regulars and they quickly become friends. In the holiday season we see a huge number of tourists coming through the door. Everyone loves Packhorse Court because it’s all independent shops with character and something different for all tastes. Being part of this local community means a great deal to me; we help each other and are always popping into each other’s shops.”
Alexandra is one of the Lake District Pounds’ most passionate advocates. “It’s a great way to support our community, economy, charities and independent traders, but it’s also fun. We have the poster showing the notes on our till and it’s a talking point. Residents often recognise the characters on the notes and visitors enjoy hearing about them. Each note tells a story and they are also works of art. I can understand why some people collect them as souvenirs.”
“They also make great gifts. Last week a lady came in to spend her birthday present money. Instead of a gift voucher for a high street shop, her daughter had given her £30 in Lake District notes. She said she’d enjoyed looking through the places on the website that take the money and chosen us because she wanted to buy something that would look great and last a long time.
“Why shop in a chain store when you can come here and find something extra-special AND know you’re supporting local traders?”