Meet Alice: Bringing the great English countryside into your home
22nd May 2018
Homes are special places, each containing a unique story within. One of the ways we shape that story is by filling our homes with items that mean something to us, from family photos to living plants to designer furniture.
Recently we’ve been thinking about the people that craft those items - who are they, and why do they dedicate their lives to helping make our homes unique and special? In this short series, we speak with some of those people about their passion and why they do it.
Inspired by her love of the outdoors, combined with a sharp eye for interior styles, it’s only fitting that savvy businesswoman, Alice Sevier, is the brains behind Wingfield Digby, an online boutique offering sophisticated home and fashion accessories.
Not only do her unique products use game bird feathers, many of which are set into glass, but her range of polo-esque belts and ties feature intricate animal designs, appealing to those who appreciate the finer things in life.
As Alice says, “Game bird feathers are not just for the country, they’re equally at home in the boardroom as they are in the field.”
It all evolved when she started experimenting with feathers at the kitchen table and it wasn’t long before she was designing stunning pieces with precision. Within five years, Wingfield Digby became a limited company and now, in its eighth year of trading, is a popular British brand, gracing the homes of those with a passion for elegance and captivating interior designers.
Its reputation is travelling far and wide, for many of its discerning buyers live overseas – all eager to fill their homes with charming items and add a touch of the quintessential English countryside.
You may have feasted your eyes on some of her unique items in one or more of the 40 UK and European stores that they’re stocked in, such as Percy Bass on Kensington’s fashionable Walton Street, Fenwicks and Highgrove. Prince Charles himself is a personal fan, having invited Alice to exhibit at a private sale at Clarence House.
Exhibitions are at the crux of her business strategy and she can often be found at many iconic sporting events - Badminton Horse Trials, the Festival at Cheltenham and the Goodwood Revival, to name but a few. This also explains her expanding, star-studded customer base.
The day-to-day running of the business happens in an old industrial building located in a leafy part of Wandsworth which is where I catch up with her. She is, how I imagine a female founder of a successful brand to be, classic and glamorous.
What motivated you to set up Wingfield Digby?
Despite graduating in chemistry, my first job was in online marketing - a change in direction but I knew I wasn’t destined to be in a lab. I’ve always had a fervor for entrepreneurialism and an affection for feathers. The two seemed to align and I saw the chance to create a range of feather filled goodies and, at the same time, build a luxury brand.
How does the brand name resonate with you?
It’s my maiden name and was my surname when I started the company. I brainstormed potential brand names but, this just works - it’s traditional and starting with ‘wing’ is rather appropriate.
What’s it like working with family?
It’s very much a family business. Harry, my husband, helps with IT, design and advising. My father steps in during the busy Christmas season, gathering feathers and manning the dispatch team. Although it’s wonderful to spend time together, it’s not really quality time. It can be difficult separating home time from work time, because everyone’s so driven.
Why are your products influencing home decor?
Everyone loves feathers and seeing them celebrated. They’ve been overlooked for a long time and we give them the spotlight. It’s flattering to see my products in people’s homes. They’re often used as part of a natural theme with plants and stone, and look fabulous mixed in with wood and leather.
What’s your most treasured piece?
Tough question. I’d have to say my early designs, the table mats. I’ll never forget the thrill of cracking those first few pieces which is why I kept them back for myself. I’m also fond of the Guinea Fowl photo frame, the Green Pheasant table centre and the Guinea Fowl/Green Pheasant tray.
Where do you go for creative inspiration?
It seems to follow me around and I have eureka moments all over the place. I always carry a measuring tape so I can size up new products and ideas.
What draws you to the countryside?
The wildlife, the open space, the views and the fresh air. We’re currently living in London but plan to move back to the country in a few years’ time. I’m a country girl at heart.
Is your home your sanctuary?
Absolutely. People describe it as calm and stress-free, although with our one-year-old daughter that’s not always the case! It’s full of love and homely with neutral colours, greys and subtle blues, soft lighting and textured fabrics, which all create a relaxed vibe. Plenty of our products feature and we’ve maximised the sense of space with mirrors and carefully arranged furniture to ensure it’s plentiful, but uncluttered.
What’s your perception of traditional British living?
Comfortable and cosy - a roaring log fire, throws, cushions, books and interesting objects. Just like my own style. As for British living itself, I get to visit some of the most alluring parts of the UK, enjoying the hospitality of friends and family.
The business is flourishing, what are your plans for further expansion?
When I reflect on how it began, it seems surreal. With a range of 80 products and new ideas in the pipeline, it’s going from strength to strength. Mirrors with spirals of feathers in their frames and hurricane vases with long tail feathers encapsulated between two layers of glass, is just a taster of what’s to come. The brand is proving popular in the US, so we’re hoping to launch stateside.
What’s the secret to your success?
Exclusive merchandise, hard graft, an amazing team and a loyal customer base. I believe that being the designer and creator, gives the brand authenticity, character and continuity.
Where do you hope to be doing in ten years’ time?
Still running the business with a global presence in department stores and a reputation for excellence, while retaining the characteristics of a family-run business.
This article was written by Philippa Hennessy, an award-winning lifestyle and travel writer and blogger.