Essex boutique owner Debra Seller celebrates 40 years in the fashion business

Debra Seller, owner of womenswear boutique Debra Chigwell, marked 40 years in the fashion business recently with a celebratory party. Some of the shop’s most loyal customers – including reality stars Amy Childs and Frankie Essex – attended the glamorous event at Chigwell Golf Club.

After walking down a red carpet, guests were entertained by fireeaters, stilt walkers and a Patsy Stone impersonator as well as live music from singers Moni Tivony, Lauren Halil and Haifa. Throughout the evening attendees were also served free flowing drinks and Instagram-worthy canapés as they celebrated Seller’s memorable milestone. “We wanted to thank our customers for all their support over the years,” says Debra. “The shop has survived three recessions and now Brexit uncertainty, but we’re still here – I think that’s definitely something to celebrate.”

The invitation asked customers to wear their ‘favourite Debra outfit’, which unearthed some dresses dating back more than 20 years. “It was fantastic to see all the dresses I’ve sold over the years. Not one person turned up in the same outfit – I think that’s pretty amazing,” says the owner.

Seller started working in fashion buying and manufacturing when she was 19 years old. In 1981 she opened her first eponymous boutique in London’s Gants Hill, which was followed by another shop in Chigwell and Brentwood three years later. The original Chigwell boutique is still trading today and has gained a strong reputation among the area’s locals for its product selection and bold visual merchandising.

Seller travels extensively on buying trips to hand-pick her collections – creating a unique edit from around 80 different suppliers each season. Most of its pieces are imported from Italy, France, Greece and Spain while the owner also works directly with brands to create her own unique designs. Debra Chigwell is also renowned for its personal customer service, which includes altering dresses with spare fabric the owner purchases from suppliers and tailoring garments so they fit shoppers perfectly. Seller also regularly sources special pieces for individual customers and offers a photograph styling service for women who can’t visit the physical store.

The womenswear independent doesn’t sell its products online and has no plans to venture outside of bricks-and-mortar retail. It does, however, have a strong social media presence on Instagram and Facebook. “I don’t think our business model suits e-commerce,” Debra explains. “Our pieces are exclusive and we only stock each garment in a couple of sizes. We also pride ourselves on customer experience and styling advice and I don’t think this could be achieved at the same level online.”