A young visually impaired woman’s dream of opening a vintage fashion boutique has now come true. Tilly Dowler has been steadily losing her sight since the age of 16 when she was first diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a rare genetic eye disease that causes loss of central vision.
But she refused to allow his disability become a barrier. The brave 24-year-old will open Wanted Wardrobe, a pre-loved clothes and accessories store, in Castle Donington, at midday today (Saturday July 22).
The new store will primarily sell women’s clothing, with some men’s items available. It will feature many designer brands, including Ted Baker, Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss and Paul Smith, with all items selling for between £4 and £100.
The Clapgun Street store will donate 10% of its profits to charity who support people with vision problems. Tilly will run her new boutique alongside family friend Victoria Whittington-Parry.
Tilly, who was born and raised in Castle Donington, said: “Victoria and I are delighted to finally open our shop. It really is a dream come true. And I’m thrilled to be able to make a small positive impact by giving back to the community.
“There really is nothing else in Castle Donington quite like Wanted Wardrobe. Hopefully it will generate a lot of interest. I will add that I could not have done it without the support of Victoria.
Tilly, who has just taken delivery of a symbolic cane to let others know she is visually impaired, particularly in crowded places, said she and Victoria had pink stripes painted on the steps of their premises to make them more visible.
The checkout system will also be adapted to make it compatible with a magnifying glass application. And Tilly will use color-coded labels to help her differentiate between clothing sizes.
The fashion boutique will open for the first time at noon on Saturday (July 22) and trade until 6 p.m. Tilly will be supported at the grand opening by Paralympian and ex-Dancing on Ice star Libby Clegg, who has the same degenerative condition.
Tilly said: ‘I was first diagnosed when I was doing my GCSEs. It wasn’t too bad then – I just needed a bigger impression and to sit closer to the whiteboards. But now I’ve gotten to the point where I have to walk up the stairs very slowly. I’ve had it for so long, I just adapted.
Tilly has already gained plenty of experience buying and selling vintage clothing online, even while working in her previous jobs including at the Jet2 check-in counter at East Midlands Airport – a role she lost following the Covid pandemic.
“When the opportunity to take over a store presented itself, 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.”
Victoria said Tilly had a special talent for locating items and putting outfits together to help customers feel fantastic. The couple are very grateful to the local community for all the clothes they have donated to Wanted Wardrobe so far, and they hope the donations will continue.
They even had a CCTV system courtesy of local company HomeFit CCTV. After the opening event this Saturday, which will include DJ Neon Hustler at 3 p.m., the shop will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday each week.
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