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City Living May 2007

City Living Magazine features HaveToLove boutique owner Kate Walton take on personal style, in their May 2007 Issue.

Living In Style

Karen Wilson meets as fashion designer whose sense of style pervades both her home and new store in Gosforth.

Anyone walking into deisgner Kate Walton's Gosforth shop for the first-time would be forgiven for thinking they's stumbled into her living room.

OK so the rails of clothes are a bit of a giveaway, but Kate's love of vintage style - combining over-sized black chandeliers and black and white flock wallpaper with fuchsia feature walls and exposed wood floors - permeates all aspects of her life.

In fact a quick peek in her two-bedroom flat just a few streets away reveals a space eerily similar to her revamped shop HaveToLove, which sells designer clothes including * Victoria Beckham Denim, StyleStalker, MiH Jeans and By Malene Birger.

"Im always on the lookout for things for my apartment," says Kate, 25. "When I recently flew back from Australia my case was jam packed with cushions and finds from antique shops. It is a mix of furniture I spotted in a showroom in Paris, cerise pink sofas, crystal chandeliers and silk throws to vintage finds, pink roses and peonies, fashion books, prints and a wall of photos of friends, family as well as black and white prints."

And her personal fashion style, which she describes as "quite individual - classic with a hint of quirkiness", make her 'fit' the whole look of the shop too.

The Northumbria University fashion marketing graduate and former Westfield School pupil opened her store in September 2006, after transforming a rundown tool hire shop.

By that time she had already attracted considerable press interest for her range of bags created for Graduate Fashion Week in 2004, for which she was shortlisted for the TopShop Accessory Award.

Made from leather, ponyskin and crocodile with vintage charms, beads and tassels - they can now been seen on the arms of celebrities such as Cheryl Cole, Peaches Geldof and Sophie Anderton. Kate is selling them through outlets across the UK, Ireland and in the Middle East, as well as her own store.

"I met Peaches at The Grazia Awards, where I was nominated for a female entrepreneur award," says Kate "She asked me to make a one-off bag for her in patent leather.

"Cheryl came into the shop and chose a day bag called Positano and a Vienna champagne bag as a Christmas gift for Victoria Beckham. Sophie Anderton went for a bowling ball style bag called Roma.

"There is a growing demand in Newcastle for high-specification, bespoke fashion pieces. People increasingly want something that no one else has got."

One of Kate's greatest skills is being able to grasp every possible opportunity for publicity - a talent no doubt honed during her year's placement at Hugo Boss. A prime example is getting her bags displayed on ITV2's WAGS boutique (her friend Heather Swan is a contestant on the reality show and the girlfriend of former Newcastle footballer Michael Chopra)

Apart from the odd Saturday job at Fenwick and Russel & Bromley, Kate is in the enviable position of always having been her own boss. And she probably gets it from her parents - both of whom run their own businesses.

"My parents are my mentors" she admits. "My dads been a property developer for 25 years and ny mum runs the spa at the Gosforth Marriot"

Additional start-up advice has come from Northumbria University's Enterprise Campus team, as Kate explains: "Not only did it provide me with crucial marketing materials in the first few months, I have also been on the receiving end of professional public relations and communications consultancy support. This kind of specialist guidance is expensive and not normally the sort of luxury new businesses like mine can afford."

Although Kate's life may seem glamourous - she's just come back from Australia and makes regular trips to London, Paris and Milan visiting leather fairs and potential buyers - in reality its an awful lot of hard work.

"It takes up so much time," admits Kate. "I work six days a week and often in the evenings." She catches my look of concern before adding "But I do have a social life!"

And despite travelling to London everyweek, Kate loves Newcastle and sees no reason to move for the time being. "There is no reason why an international fashion business should not be based in Newcastle," she adds "In terms of fashion it's up and coming like Leeds and Manchester."

As the future, Kate is ambitious. "I'd like to expand the business and sell my own collectionof clothes and loungewear next year, as well as opening further shops."

She's certainly off to a great start. As I leave, I ask her what she has learned from all those fashion shows and trade fairs. What will we all be wearing next season? "Minis," she says quick as a flash.


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