This seriously glamorous Manchester fashion boutique has dressed some of the world’s biggest stars – and every item of clothing is hand made right here in the city centre.
The Dolls House has quietly won a huge army of fans across the world with its individual and sassy designs, all created and designed at the Bridge Street emporium.
A-listers like American style sisters Kylie and Kendall Jenner and Kourtney Kardashian, pop superstars Shakira, Rihanna, Cheryl Cole, Kylie Minogue, Little Mix, Jennifer Lopez and actress Elizabeth Hurley have all worn the glitzy designs created by The Dolls House founder Rebecca Henry.
Rebecca created her fashion label in 2012, when she was based in the Northern Quarter. She had previously been working as a fashion agent, selling small independent brands into big stores. But, fed up of having to chase payments from suppliers, she decided to start her own brand instead – and The Dolls House was born on Tib Street.
Rebecca says: “From the start I wanted the label to be totally made in Manchester, with everything made in house. And it’s still like that today. We have 19 machinists working for us now in the city and I create between 30-45 new designs every six weeks so it’s just a continuous process.”
As soon as she launched the brand, it began to catch the eye of Manchester’s fashionistas and celebrity crowd, all attracted by the individual designs. Soon it catapulted on to an international stage after it featured in style bibles like Vogue and on the cover of Elle and American superstars commissioned designs.
Two years ago, Rebecca moved the business to Bridge Street, creating a lavish cream boutique complete with plush seating and chandeliers to showcase her brand.
The Dolls House’s super-glamorous collections include signature styles like fringed jumpsuits, famously worn by Kylie Jenner and Rihanna, sequinned skirts and dresses recently worn by Real Housewives of Cheshire star Tanya Bardsley, and stylish fitted trouser suits.
Its Instagram feed has helped launch the brand to a global audience – and led to reality star Kylie Jenner, one of the world’s most famous women, approaching The Dolls House for some bespoke pieces.
Rebecca said: “We got a message New Year’s Day saying she loved the brand and wanted a few pieces so we sent some things over and she’s gone on to wear our brand a few times now. One is even featured in her 2019 calendar. To this day we still get orders from people saying they’ve seen her pictured in it – it becomes a continuous best seller.”
But one of the downsides of being an independent designer is that Rebecca’s designs get copied by bigger online fashion sites.
Rebecca says: “All of our designs are unique, so it’s frustrating when we get copied – and it does happen a lot. When it first started happening I went to solicitors, but it wasn’t cost effective to try and fight it. It’s hard, we are always under pressure to come up with something new and we maintain a very high quality. To then see others copy it in a cheap, low-quality version is very disheartening.
“That’s why I want to keep everything made in Manchester, because this way we can keep the quality and fabrics the highest possible quality.”
Rebecca first moved to Manchester for university, where she was studying to be a barrister. But a part-time job in Selfridges at Manchester fashion label, Vicky Martin, saw her bitten by the fashion bug. When she won a promotion, she gave up her degree to concentrate on fashion full time.
In terms of her what inspires her designs, Rebecca cites her family as her biggest fashion inspiration.
She says: “My mum has always had the biggest influence on me. She has the best wardrobe and had amazing things in the 80s and 90s. And my gran worked in the cotton trade in Manchester so it almost feels like coming full circle.
“I don’t copy anything from the catwalk or any other designer and that’s what makes us different. It’s glamorous but quite classic.”
Rebecca, 39, lives in Worsley with her husband Rick and their two daughters.
As for the future of the business, there are plans to open a second boutique in Marbella, and she has received several offers to create a capsule collection to be sold internationally too.
80 per cent of the business is now online, but Rebecca knew it was important to keep a physical presence on the high street to showcase her brand. In the boutique, fashionistas can snap up a host of the brand’s key styles, priced from £120 for trousers and £280 for jackets through to £320 for fringed dresses. The most expensive item is the fully fringed jumpsuits at £700.
Rebecca says: “Some people will say why do you charge so much? But we’re different because of the extra fabric and handiwork that goes in to every piece. People don’t believe we make everything here ourselves in house – until they come into the boutique and hear the machinists busy working downstairs!”
The Dolls House, 67 Bridge Street, Manchester