Kilver Court Designer Village
is a dangerous place. I popped in for a quick nose around this morning and left three hours later with a new pair of boots, a giant Neom candle, a True Grace room diffuser and a cashmere jumper from Bamford. Not to mention the Bayswater bag I almost fell for until common sense prevailed (it is January after all).
A recent, hellish sales shopping trip with my daughter – Southhampton’s Quay West between Christmas and New Year, beyond packed, full of rubbish, like a living nightmare – had pretty much put me off physical shopping but Kilver Court in Shepton Mallet is the exact opposite of the sales experience. Yes it has brilliant discounts (usually 50% or more) but everything is beautifully displayed, think more boutique than outlet centre, the staff are friendly and helpful, and, crucially, there are some very tempting brands here.
It’s a couple of years since my last visit and I see that Kilver Court has seriously upped its game. Alongside the early staples of Mulberry, Margaret Howell, Toast, MiH, LK Bennett and Jack Wills you’ll now find jumpers, scarves and beanies from Chintl and Parker, boots from Seven Boot Lane, cashmere from Johnstons of Elgin, jackets (and more) from Joseph and Agnes B, jackets, dresses and tops from Bamford (beautifully made, phenomenally expensive but here at Kilver with 80% off). And that’s before we’ve got to the men (Sunspel, Tricker’s, Rapha, the cult bikewear label). I wasn’t expecting to find so much but the quality is high and the deals are pretty amazing, on almost every turn there’s something new to agonise over.
Kilver Court Designer Village is the brainchild of Mulberry founder Roger Saul who opened the first Mulberry factory shop here back in 1997. Ever evolving, it’s very much a family business, Roger’s wife Monty looks after the interiors brands in the Great House, Roger is in the process of creating a new nursery and garden centre which opens in March (think Petersham Nurseries reinvented for the South West) and their son Freddie oversees the main designer village.
In the Great House, you’ll find the Harlequin café (great coffee and cakes and a log fire) and a treasure trove of food, beauty, gardening and interiors products making this a good present pit stop – high end, brownie point scoring things from the Neom range – candles, room fragrance, bath oils – which won’t break the bank. My 3 wick Contentment candle (delicious) retails at around £45 but is just £25.50 at Kilver Court. There’s Ren handwash for £8, gorgeous glassware from Gisela Graham (royal blue water tumblers £1.99 each), chocolates from Fortnum & Mason. I wish I’d thought to do my Christmas shopping here, I could have nailed most of it, without spending a small fortune in about an hour.
The impending big freeze is well catered for with a new outlet from shearling specialists Gushlow and Cole – unbelievably soft and ethical (it uses by-products instead of fur and dyes in ethical tanneries) gilets, hats, gloves. There are gorgeous camel coats from Margaret Howell, cashmere beanies from Joseph and Chintl and Parker, every cut and colour of sweater – though the emphasis is on the classic – scarves, an entire rainbow of thick, cosy socks.
Regeneration is at the heart of Kilver Court, the former textiles fabric is being painstakingly restored by the Sauls and the outlet centre also flies the flag for British and wherever possible ethical design. The focus is on quality with labels such as Goose and Bamford, who use organic cashmere, while classics from former seasons are represented as statement pieces. Indirectly Kilver Court shines the spotlight on high fashion with its ludicrously fast turnover. Why chase the next big thing, when instead you could have a wardrobe of impeccably made staples for a fraction of the price?
Kilver Court invites big name brands to hold a 2 or 3 day sale several times a year. Next up, at the end of the month, 29-31 Jan, is Paul Smith. Think the Nottingham designer's razor cuts - jackets, trouser suits, shirts for men and women - and prepare to sharpen your elbows. You have been warned.