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New owner takes the reins at Solo, Mumbles

Solo clothes shop in Mumbles has a new owner. Following the retirement, after 40 years, of founder Lynne Kettles, Lynne’s long-time friend Helen Bowden has taken over the business.

The new role marks a change of direction for Helen, whose previous career spans the charity sector, the media – she was station director at Swansea Sound/The Wave and content editor at BBC Radio Wales – and promoting the Swansea Bay City Region as Chief Executive of Swansea Bay Futures and a founder of 4theRegion. She is also a voiceover artist and a director of an e-learning platform.

Helen has become a familiar face in the shop lately, helping to build Solo’s social media profile and learning the workings of the business.

“Lynne has done an excellent handover, helping me feel confident in taking the reins,” says Helen. “I don’t want to change fundamentally what Lynne has done with Solo, because she’s built an amazing business with plenty of wonderful, supportive customers. These are people who want to buy great clothes from brands you’d struggle to find elsewhere, and at a sensible price point.

“I will be keeping the brands our customers love, but also introducing new finds that will broaden the age range we cater for, offering exciting finds for younger customers too.”

She adds that she will be keeping the personal touch and sound shopping advice for which Solo has become known.

“It’s one of the things that’s made Lynne’s business so successful,” she says. “I want to provide a personal shopper-style experience for customers who want some help finding what suits them, and what goes together.

“One thing that will really help me keep the personal touch is the fact that Lynne’s team of staff are staying on – and I know I can rely on them to look after our customers brilliantly.”

Helen adds that now is a good time to take on Solo, due to its location and the fact that shopping in Mumbles is thriving.

“Solo slots in nicely with the brands we have in Mumbles now, from the independent boutiques to the stores like White Stuff and Joules. They all offer something different, and Solo is perfectly located on Mumbles Road, which has become a focal shopping area since the opening of Oyster Wharf.”

However, she will not be relying solely on local footfall. She also plans to start an e-commerce site, making Solo’s curated selection of clothing available online to people all over the UK.

“We have a superb range of clothing from some fantastic British and European brands many of which are only available through independent boutiques, and we want to make it easy for people to browse, discover and shop online,” she says.

“I’m especially looking forward to going to clothes shows and sourcing the next season’s clothes – I’m passionate about clothes and buying is like being a kid in a sweet shop.

The clothes have to be ordered six months in advance, and I’m enjoying predicting what people are going to be looking for. I’ve always read a lot of fashion blogs and been interested in what people are wearing, so this a good fit for me.”

She plans to stick with favourites such as Danish brand Robell, whose trousers are always a big hit with Solo customers, while adding edgier items too.

“I’m introducing German brand Soya Concept and I’m really excited to be liaising with local designer Leslie Jones, who makes gorgeous coats, linen trousers and jackets. We’re going to be launching them with a show at the Langland Brasserie.”

This, she adds, will be the first of many shows.

“Lynne has made Solo famous locally with her regular charity fashion shows and that’s something I’m going to continue. We’ll be raising funds for Faith in Families, a local charity fighting child poverty. It’s a cause very close to my heart because I’m one of its trustees.”

Most of all, Helen is looking forward to getting to know Solo’s customers, old and new.

“I love being able to find something for women who are not quite sure what they want or don’t think they’ll find anything to fit, and seeing them go out happy. Every day you meet different people and it’s a pleasure coming to work here.”