Sibel Rutherford - Tarporley's queen of fashion
PUBLISHED: 00:33 23 November 2013 | UPDATED: 19:15 24 October 2015
Sibel Rutherford is determined to make all her customers look and feel fantastic and they soon get used to her straight talking
Fashionista might be the word that springs to mind when meeting Sibel Rutherford, the dark-haired doyenne of three boutiques in the delightful village of Tarporley.
Perched on a chair next to her devoted husband, Gill, she’s understatedly dressed in jacket, trousers and shirt by her favourite designer Marc Cain yet exudes the crisp elegance of a person at ease in the fashion world.
But ‘no’ she insists, although her shops are filled with beautifully made, fabulously desirable clothing, she will not be a slave to the trends, nor would she expect her customers to walk out in something they don’t feel fits in with their lifestyle.
It’s a modus operandi that has paid off for her because over the past seven-and-a-half years she has not only retained customers but is constantly winning new ones too.
As most women know, there are few things worse than being pressured into buying something up-to-the-minute only to get it home to have it forever hang in the wardrobe like a reproach. But if Istanbul-born Sibel gets her way, that should never happen because her priority is making women look and feel fabulous.
‘Let’s say if you have big hips, which I have, and the peplum dress is in fashion, when I put it on it makes me feel double the size. It is about what suits you, what makes you feel five stars,’ she explains.
‘ This area is not London, women want clothing that makes them look good and that they won’t see anyone else wearing at the same event.’
Rewind back to nine years ago and Sibel wasn’t in fashion at all but working in the pharmaceutical industry and had moved to Tarporley with Gill because of the demands of the job.
But her sense of style which she says she gets from her mother, clearly marked her out for a different kind of career.
‘When I was working in Turkey the UK people always admired my clothes,’ she reveals.
‘One night we were walking through Tarporley and we saw this shop. I remember, it was midnight and so the following day we came to look inside...’
The rest as they say is history. Sibel and Gill bought the shop, named it Si Belle - a playful take on its owner’s name - and succeeded in transforming it into a destination boutique, filled with gorgeous clothing and accessories.
‘We took the business, closed it for five or six weeks and everything changed from the walls in the fitting room to the flooring. Then, on opening day, I was so nervous. I didn’t even know how to use the card machine. I had to learn and every day, I am still learning.’
Now Sibel’s regulars may not quite identify this novice filled with trepidation with the straight-talking style guru she has grown into today because if there is one thing you get from her it is honesty about the way you look. That, to her credit, is what makes her customers come back time and again.
‘British culture is very different from Mediterranean culture,’ she explains.
‘We like hugging, chatting and being straight with one another. We’ll say “This skirt doesn’t suit you,” for example, whereas British people are completely different. They’ll say “it is OK”...no, it is not OK... you have to be honest.
‘I think the first day my customers met me they thought “who is this abrupt person?” But when they find out more about me they begin to understand me and they now say jokingly, “Is this ok mum?” and we begin to know each other as friends.’
It is seven-and-a-half years since the Si Belle boutique opened and others have followed: Papillon which stocks beautiful occasionwear and mother of the bride outfits and the new casual daywear boutique, Bots and Tops, both in Tarporley.
‘I don’t think I have any label from when we opened this business,’ says Sibel.
‘Since then, I have completely changed the labels because you have new customers and you also have your regular customers . Your regular customers don’t want to see the same thing because they already have those things and the new customers want something different from the high street.
‘When I go to the showrooms and they say “This is one of our best sellers” I say it may be in London but in a small village near Chester not at all. You need to know your customers and the area where you are.
‘Of course I feel 100 per cent responsibility,’ she concurs.
Running a boutique is very demanding and Sibel has said she may sell the business in the future. ‘We’ve been here seven-and-a-half years and only took a holiday two weeks ago because when I am not in the shop and my regular customers come in and I am not around, they leave. I have become a personal shopper, so much so that if you were my customer seven years ago I can tell you what you bought from me. So I’ll say “You already have this one don’t spend money on that.”
‘I want you to feel absolutely a million dollars whether you’re famous or not - and I’m from a different culture so I don’t know who is famous anyway. Everybody is the same when they come into my shop.’
Si Belle, 50A High St Tarporley CW6 0AG