Meet the Stockist: Pussy Boutique

Meet the Stockist: Pussy Boutique

Alice Barnes, 23 February 2021

 There’s nothing we love more than rummaging through racks and sifting through shelves in eclectic independent stores. It’s even better when we spot some Tatty Devine gems amongst the goodies. Knowing that some of our favourite shops stock our jewellery fills us with SO much joy and we are so excited to sit down and chat with one of our longest stockists and amazing lady, Nicky from Pussy Boutique down in sunny Brighton.

 Hi Nicky! Can you sum up Pussy Boutique in five words?
Eclectic, queer, friendly, funny, feminist. Not funky. Definitely not funky.  

  

How did you come to own your own shop in Brighton?
In 1997, Britain was coming out of a recession and rents were cheap-ish; there were no premiums being charged for shop leases and Brighton was an exciting town - it just seemed very do-able.  Three of us raised some cash - I think it was less than £5,000 altogether. 

I was at university at the time and invested some of my student loan.  We did a bodge-y shop fit  (the To Let sign that we used to cover up a hole in the ceiling is still there, actually!) and ordered some kitschy stock in from the US that two of us had seen on a trip. We barely had any actual merchandise but we did have some great props, like my 1969 Keracolour globe TV that sat in the corner. 

 The name and the style attracted attention and we got stock on sale or return from artists at Brighton art college and local dealers.  Because the rent and rates were cheap, we weren't under too much pressure and could afford to be a bit experimental - or rubbish - depending on how you look at it!  

We had live events, female Elvis impersonators and scantily-clad women in windows.  Although I hadn't planned to, after finishing my degree, I started working there because it was a lot of fun. 


Although we’re not able to travel and visit new places just yet, we’re still able to look ahead and be hopeful for Spring/Summer plans... So, what’s your ideal day out in Brighton? We want the inside knowns on ALL the best shops, cafes and strolls to be had please.
I'd start the day by taking my dog, Bertie, up to beautiful Stanmer woods for a bit of tree hugging. Then back into town for breakfast at Billies on Upper North Street. One of their massive farmhouse hashes will either set you up for the day or leave you needing a bit of a lie down. 

If I was feeling a bit flush, I'd do a spot of fancy clothes shopping at Sirene and Nola in the North Laine, followed by a rummage at Snooper's Paradise for some vintage tat - absolutely my favourite pastime.  It's got to be fish and chips for lunch - sit down at the Regency or take away from Bankers and eat them on the beach. 

Back into the North Laine for a little drinkie at the Basketmaker's which has been my post-work pub for the past 20-odd years.  There are so many great pubs in Brighton.  I asked our shop staff for their recommendations and we got awfully home-sick for them: dirty pints at the Prince Albert, the time capsule that is the Bow Street Runner (the regulars have been there for 50 years at least), the Bottom's Rest for a sunny pint, or, if we're going sophisticated, the Black Dove in Kemp Town for fabulous cocktails. Dinner at Riddle and Finns for fish or Terre a Terre for incredible vegetarian food.  

If you've got the stamina then there are still some lovely small music venues in Brighton - though sadly many fewer than there were - the Hope and Ruin, Chalk, the Green Door Store...... sigh....the absence of live music is one of the things I miss most in lockdown. 

As one of our brilliant long-standing stockists, can you remember the first pieces of Tatty Devine you bought for Pussy Boutique, and let’s get to the point… which is your favourite piece?
I think the first pieces were the plectrum necklaces and leather cuff bracelets with dangly records.  Tatty Devine are always so innovative and their ability to come up with new ideas, season after season, is astonishing.  


Every collection is new and fresh, it's never derivative and, best of all,it doesn't date. I have pieces from way back that I still wear.  I have a lot of Tatty Devine - I might try something on in the shop and somehow forget to take it off and before I know it, it's home with me! 

 I have a lot of favourites - necklaces mostly - but the one I wear most often is the Tiger Necklace! It's such a versatile piece and adds a bit of oomph to any outfit. I always have a good day when I wear it.  


It’s such an amazing achievement to have an independent boutique for so many years.  What has made Pussy such an institution, and have you got any tips for fellow indie stores out there? 
24 years! Good customer service is a massive part of it.  We have customers who have been visiting the shop since week one. I love that. We're lucky that Brighton is a town that really believes in its independent stores.  We never take that support for granted. 

Find and keep good staff who are happy in the job. My current staff have been really supportive during the lockdowns; keeping in touch, checking on the shop, coming up with ideas. It sounds corny but there is a Pussy family of past and present staff who are all still connected.  


Let’s get down to the dreaded Covid chat - How has the pandemic pushed you out of your comfort zones? And what are you excited about for 2021?
The lockdown has given me a bit of time and distance to think about how the website looks and how the physical space of the shop works. We've had half of a shop refit (I work painfully slowly on decisions like that!) and the rest will be done before we reopen. I've had to get a lot more organised in order to trade better online. Previously, online was just an add on really, but it's made us realise that it needs to be more central to the business. 

I do think there are some positives that will come out of the 'death of the high street'. That's not just caused by the pandemic of course but changing shopping habits have been accelerated by the pandemic. Rents will have to come down, or at least stop rising, and hopefully small independents can find places in which to thrive. 

While we are all certainly shopping online, those of us who are working from home are also shopping very locally and small stores have benefitted hugely from that.  


You are renowned for having such an eclectic mix in your shop, how do you decide what to buy?
I LOVE a bargain. Charity shopping is my favourite thing to do. It's very important to me that the things I buy for myself are good value and I assume most of my customers feel the same way. So, even if a Tatty Devine Statement Necklace is a pricey buy for someone, the fact that they will still be wearing it in 20 years makes it a bargain. I like to do that thing where I divide the price by the number of times I've worn or used something and it works out at a penny a time.  

I love trade fairs.  I love the thrill of the chase.  I like to find things that other people won't.  At some trade fairs there are halls and halls where the designer-y types don't go because they're a bit naff or whatever. I like to find that naff unloved thing and make it shine! 

I don't like products that take themselves too seriously.  I like them to have a sense of humour.  Not just funny cards or slogans - though I do love those - but playful design that makes me smile.  

Keeping in the loop culturally is more important to me than knowing about labels or designers or what's in fashion.  Art galleries and museums, films, music and books all inform my buying choices.  

I've loved Moomin books since I was a child.  Initially we had to import products from Finland - since then, of course, it's become huge in terms of merchandise. When Tatty Devine did their Moomin range it was our dream of a collaboration! Our staff find products too - our popular gin mayo was found by B and Lou on a trip to Amsterdam.   


Sounds tasty! We love a good playlist in our Tatty stores, what music sets the scene in the shop? 
It depends who's working and what day of the week it is!  
B loves the French radio station, FIP and 80s movie soundtracks.  
Kate is partial to a bit of Japanese Krautrock, the Black Keys, Father John Misty. 
Lou is Tamla Motown, Northern soul, Kinks and classic sixties stuff, Sault, Baxter Dury, Fat White Family, Juniore - a bit of Primal Scream and 90s Britpop at the weekends..... 

One of the pleasures of working in a small shop is being able to play what you want.  Personally, I love a bit of French chanson, Dusty Springfield, Lee Hazlewood, Serge Gainsbourg, Steely Dan..... I follow Joe Mugford on Spotify who has a series of playlists called Soft Music for Hard Times which are wonderful.  

We have good conversations about music with customers, and even the occasional singalong.  I have a very sweet memory of a lovely moment with 8 or 9 customers singing lustily along to Dream a Little Dream by the Mamas and Papas!   

If you could Supermarket Sweep any store, which would it be?  
I've just moved house so it would probably be somewhere home-y, rather than a clothing or fashion store.  I'm obsessed with tiles as I'm doing up a bathroom and all the ones I love are like, a million pounds per square metre. They're heavy though, so maybe I couldn't get away with enough.  Am I over-thinking?! 

I live in St Leonards and there are some wonderful galleries and vintage shops here:  Endlings on Courthouse Street is a favourite,  Omega on the seafront.  Or, no, wait!  A nursery at a fancy garden like Great Dixter or Sissinghurst.  There's no end to my avariciousness when it comes to plants! 

What would you spend £10 on?
Ten bunches of lovely sunny daffs. 


If Pussy Boutique had a theme song what would it be?
That's a tough one! At the moment it's Joni Mitchell's Morning Morgantown. In the first lockdown I decided to get to know the work of some artists that I didn't know much about. I was missing the busy bustle and jolly friendship of our little North Laine community really badly, and the first time I heard this song, which describes that familiar routine of the opening up of little shops and cafes in the morning so well, I burst into tears.  The small joys of shopping, finding a table in the shade and watching the morning on parade have never seemed so precious as they do now.  

Aw, we’re feeling sentimental. Thanks so much for chatting with us Nicky, we can’t wait to come and visit and check out the refurb ASAP! Make sure to follow Pussy Boutique on Instagram and check out their amazing online store!
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