You never quite know what’s around the corner when it comes to Chipping Norton designer, boutique owner and ECN member Julia Cook.
First it was Tickittyboo, Julia’s unique little shop selling children’s fashion, baby clothes, toys and accessories.
Now it’s Tickittyshake, this Summer’s exciting new milkshake bar selling a mouth-watering range of smoothies and creamy concoctions for both children and grown-ups – including all the retro humbugs, aniseed balls and jelly babies your heart could desire.
Julia was a hit with the kids at the recent #Superdoodle event, giving away sweets to youngsters as they chalked the Middle Row cobbles to mark Chipping Norton’s entry in the GBHighSt Awards.
Next? Another special children’s venture is due for a Chippy launch within the next couple of years – but Julia’s keeping mum about the details. Don’t we all love a surprise?
Read on for our Q & A with Julia, who’s slowly building her Tickitty empire in the nicest possible way.
What got you interested in fashion and design?
“I’ve always loved fashion, drawing, painting, materials, arts, crafts, music – you name it. Anything creative, and I was there. I’ve always been musical, originally playing clarinet and piano. I could never stop drawing when I was a child – I turned my wardrobe into a studio where I drew comics. I always wanted to be a designer. My dad said to me, when you go to get a job, you need to do what you enjoy, and that advice has always stayed with me.”
How did you pursue your dream?
“I’m originally from Kent. I went to Uni to study fashion and textiles, and when I graduated I went to Holland on a year’s work experience placement. I was struck by the bold, risky way the Dutch use colour – in a different way to us. I came back to the UK to work at Mothercare. I then joined Oilily, working for the high-end children’s brand which was the best grounding ever. They enticed me over to Holland again, where I ended up living and working for the next seven years. My Oilily years were hugely creative, and really helped bring my designer talents to fruition.”
How did Tickittyboo originate?
“I developed my own range of children’s designer clothes called Tickittyboo back in 2002. I came back to the UK as there were better funding options for under-30s, and following intensive testing through London’s Royal College and the Prince’s trust, I won a grant to get my Tickittyboo designer range onto the market. I went from 12 test garments to 120 garments with eight agents worldwide. My clothing range ended up being sold in Italy, Spain, France, Japan, Australia, America, Korea, Dubai and Kuwait. I ended up with several fashion and export awards, a team of people working for me, a factory and rented studio – and I knew I had to take a year’s break, because the pressure was huge.”
Did you then launch in a new direction?
“Yes. I moved to Chippy six years ago, then opened my own shop in Middle Row selling children’s wear and accessories – Tickittyboo – close to three years ago. This allows me to sell my own designer line, along with gorgeous, quality fashion such as Hatley, Olive & Moss and Powell Craft, also organic brands Frugi and Toby Tiger.
“Tickittyboo’s success inspired me to open Tickittyshake in July as I have a really sweet tooth! I’ve always loved milk shakes, and wanted to create a place where children could gather and have fun. A unit in Middle Row became available, and it’s great having both my shops so close together. Opening weekend it was pouring with rain, and we still had queues all the way down Middle Row, so it’s definitely proving popular!”
How are your businesses faring at the moment?
“Tickittyboo has established a loyal customer base and makes a huge effort to build relationships. We gift wrap every purchase and take time to understand what people need. We make sure there is a variety of price points in the shop to cater for everyone. From £1 – £250! It’s an Aladdin’s Cave and we always have a happy fun day at Tickittyboo, so if you just fancy a natter & a browse, pop in! “Now I have Tickittyshake too, and it’s off to a great start. We’ve had fantastic interest and support so far, and plan to adapt what we offer to suit the seasons – watch out for delicious hot chocolate concoctions as the weather gets colder!”
Are people generally ‘shopping local’ rather than leaving town to shop?
“Our customers certainly come to us for something special and unique, and to support their local community. It’s also a 20-minute drive to Witney or Banbury, so ideally we want to offer as much choice as possible for Chippy shoppers. We sell a range of clothes, toys and accessories online, and keep customers updated on Twitter and Facebook.
“ECN is a great way to encourage people to support their local shops and community, and we’re supporting as many local events and ventures in Chippy as possible.”
What’s the best thing about living in Chipping Norton?
“My friends and my Tickitty shops. There’s a strong sense of community spirit here. The town is walking distance from my home so I’ve never felt lonely. I used to work from home every day and, with a former partner working away, I was afraid I’d get lonely. In the beginning I used to just take a walk into town and was always greeted by a friendly face.
“I love the Theatre and Whistlers, Bitter & Twisted and the Blue Boar. I also love being able to go on long walks with my dogs. I can always find what I want shopping in Chippy. Whether it’s an everyday food shop, a gift for someone or a treat for myself! I love the market too.”