The Shop Small Series

Supporting independent businesses has never been more important, so as part of a new monthly feature we will be shining a light on the amazing boutiques across the country. From fashion to homewares, we aim to introduce you to an array of talent and lust-worthy labels…

Having spent years working in the fashion industry, nothing has ever brought me more joy than discovering an up-and-coming designer, a new venture or someone on the cusp of brilliance. It’s like the start of a story I can’t wait to read, which is why I’m a huge supporter of small lifestyle shops. More often than not, these tiny hubs found on our local high streets are not just our gateway to both global and homegrown creators, they’re also the result of a dream and sheer determination. Ask any successful entrepreneur, including The Handbook’s founder, Elly Stancliffe, it takes more than luck; it takes 100% commitment. With that in mind, why would you not want to shop local? Well, in the first of our Shop Small Series, we want to introduce you to three women-run small businesses that are not just inspiring, but also guaranteed to reinvigorate your wardrobe.

Scroll To Shop Small…

32 The Guild

Following a move from London to Northampton, Zoie Walker was missing an inspiring, directional ladieswear store. So she opened one herself. 32 The Guild opened its doors with a simple premise: beautiful, staple pieces to treasure day by day. “In my previous career, I worked in footwear design, production and fashion styling,” says Walker. “I feel that I was always destined to utilise all this experience to create 32 The Guild. Ten years on, through constant evolution and learning, we have never been in a stronger position. I feel very proud.”

She credits a brilliant all female team in making it happen with a constant emphasis on quality and craftsmanship paired with a personalised service, something that I can attest to as a very happy customer. Walker serves up an eclectic mix of design and fashion from a selection of brands and suppliers from around the world, including Isabel Marant, Day Birger, St. Agni and Vanessa Bruno. 

Tempted to follow in her footsteps? “I would advise going for it,” encourages Walker. “Obviously there is a financial risk, but it’s always better to give something a go than wondering what if. Nothing beats creating something that people really respond to, and being your own boss is pretty special. Ultimately, independents are so important. Without them, our town centers will lose their identities. They are so much more than bricks and mortar; they are inspiration, creativity, community.”




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32 The Guild opened its doors in May 2013, and thanks to founder Zoie's keen eye, it continues to offer a unique handpicked blend of women's fashion, footwear, accessories, denim and gifts.

The Mercantile

Based at Spitalfields Market in the East End of London, The Mercantile was set up by Debra McCann and her husband Thomas. With a background in product development and clothing, McCann saw a gap in the market for beautiful considered fashion at affordable prices. “We are product nuts, love our textiles, know the cut of a garment, understand technical detail and if a garment will last,” says McCann. “We are not into transient trends and fickle fashion.” 

The laid-back store is a haven for vintage, contemporary and unique labels, such as Belgium-based, Bellerose and French labels Sessùn and Ba&sh. “A lot of our brands are women owned, a lot share the same passionate, creative vision as we do and it’s important we get on. It’s not just about commerce,” she admits. And on the topic of shopping small, the Mercantile team could not be more impassioned. “Independents are the lifeblood of the retail scene here in the UK. They create individuality on our high streets and have a huge impact on local economies and employment.”





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The Mercantile London predominantly works with women-owned brands and in-store you'll discover an eclectic mix of labels including Dawn x Dare, Bellerose, Stella Nova and American Vintage.

Ozzie & Clémentine

Cambridge-based friends Emily Pugh and Sophie Bedford share a love for French-girl style, so combined their skills to launch Ozzie & Clémentine, an online boutique stocking mostly small French labels. Pugh began her career at Vogue House nurturing her love for interiors and fashion, while Bedford spent ten years working in the City with a secret desire to do something more creative. “We started Ozzie & Clémentine so we could bring affordable Parisian-style clothes to our area of Cambridge,” explains Bedford, who also happens to be half French. “We wanted our online business to offer all the features of a good local boutique: a beautifully curated collection from different brands with personal style advice on offer, too.”

“Our style inspiration comes from Parisian women, like actress Marion Cotillard, and their ability to put outfits together so effortlessly. We choose brands that deliver flattering designs that you will wear again and again, won’t cost the earth and with strong sustainability goals.” Their favourite styles from their new collection are the FRNCH Capucine Shirt with its rainbow stripes, Louise Misha’s André Reversible Jacket and the beautiful Annouck Dress with its signature floral embroidery. “Still to come, we have a new brand called Louizon on the way,” shares Pugh. “We chose the brand for its eye-catching summer dresses. Think chic ‘70s sundresses, floral prints, ikat patterns and beading. Totally dreamy.”

The pair are also quick to recognise the unique aspect small independents offer in comparison to large retailers. “Independent boutiques put their customers at the heart of their business and support their suppliers too,” says Pugh. “If you’re considering doing something similar, we would definitely recommend it. So many of us hesitate and let the opportunity pass us by. It is hard work, but you can work on your own terms, so if you’re juggling a family as well, it offers a lot of flexibility. Good Luck!”



If you're after Parisian style, then you will love Ozzie & Clémentine. The online boutique serves up a mix of unique, French brands including Louise Misha, FRNCH and Grace & Mila.

The products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however, The Handbook may make a small commission on some of the products purchased through affiliate links.

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