A partially sighted woman has shown great entrepreneurial vision by launching a pre-loved clothing store that will donate a portion of its profits to sight-loss charities.
Tilly Dowler has been gradually losing her sight since the age of 16, when she was first diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a rare genetic eye condition that causes loss of central vision.
But she has refused to allow her disability to become a barrier, and the plucky 24-year-old is this week fulfilling her dream of opening a shop dedicated to pre-loved clothing and accessories.
Wanted Wardrobe opens in Clapgun Street, Castle Donington, on Saturday, July 22, from noon until 6pm. Tilly will be supported at the grand opening by Paralympian and ex-Dancing on Ice star Libby Clegg, who suffers from the same degenerative disease.
The fashion store, which Tilly is running alongside family friend Victoria Whittington-Parry, follows her long-time passion for vintage and second-hand clothing as well as providing savvy shoppers with bargains during the current cost-of-living crisis.
Wanted Wardrobe will be donating 10 per cent of its profits to charities that support people with vision problems.
Tilly, who is Castle Donington born-and-bred, said: “Victoria and I are so excited to be finally opening our shop. It really is a dream come true. And I am thrilled to be able to make a small positive impact by giving back to the community.
“There isn’t really anything else in Castle Donington quite like Wanted Wardrobe. Hopefully it will draw a lot of interest. I will add that I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Victoria’s backing.”
Reflecting on her condition, Tilly said: “I first got diagnosed when I was doing my GCSEs. It wasn’t too bad then - I just needed larger print and to sit closer to the whiteboards.
“But now it’s got to the point where I have to take the stairs really slowly. I’ve had it for such a long time, I’ve just adapted.”
Tilly, who has just taken delivery of a symbol cane to make others aware that she is partially sighted, especially in crowded places, said she and Victoria were having pink stripes painted on the steps at their premises to make them more visible.
The till system will also be adapted to make it compatible with a magnifier app. And Tilly will use colour-coded tags to help her differentiate clothing sizes.
The new boutique will sell mainly women’s clothes, with some men’s items available.
Wanted Wardrobe will stock numerous designer labels, including Ted Baker, Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss and Paul Smith, with all items selling between £4 and £100.
Tilly has already gained a lot of experience in buying and selling vintage clothing online, even while she was working in her previous jobs including on the Jet2 check-in desk at East Midlands airport – a role she lost as a result of the Covid pandemic.
“When the opportunity to take on a shop came up, we jumped at the chance to join forces,” said Victoria, who knows Tilly through their respective partners.
“The beauty of Tilly having her own business is that we can adapt everything in the shop to make it easier for her.”
And while Victoria said one of her own pet hates about charity shops was having to dig through mountains of clothes, she said Tilly had a special knack for locating items and piecing outfits together to help make customers look and feel fantastic.
The pair are very grateful to the local community for all the clothing they have so far donated to Wanted Wardrobe, and they are hoping that donations will continue. They even had a CCTV system donated by local company HomeFit CCTV.
After the grand opening event this Saturday, which will include DJ Neon Hustler at 3pm, the shop will be open from 10am until 5pm from Tuesday to Saturday each week.