She may be the new kid on the block when it comes to Bruntsfield’s designer fashion scene, but Arabella Irvine has a sense of style and sophistication that belies her tender age.
Still only 23, the former George Watson’s pupil has created her own elegant enclave with the opening of her first shop, Arabella Dresses.
Tapping into the growing demand for “red carpet dresses”, she specialises in high-end embellished gowns and occasion wear – perfect for proms, black-tie events and weddings.
It was her mum’s diagnosis with cancer more than a year ago that proved to be a defining moment for Arabella, making her realise that life was too short to follow the wrong path.
Experience in retail management had already given her the confidence and belief that she had what was needed to run her own business
“I took time out to care for mum and it gave me a year to reflect on what I wanted to do with my life, “ says Arabella.
“I had already dropped out of uni – not because I didn’t have the grades, but because I knew straight away it just wasn’t for me.”
Delighted to see her mum well on the road to recovery, she adds: “We are really close and opening the shop has helped us both through her illness, giving us something positive to focus on. Mum enjoys coming to fashion shows and helping me to choose the dresses.”
Her brother Peter has also been involved from the outset, provided marketing support, while gran Agnes (83) enjoys helping out with cleaning and “other things grans do”.
The shop opened in August, immediately catching the eye of passing customers and gradually attracting people from further afield.
“It has quickly become a destination shop with people making a special trip because they have heard about the dresses and want to see them for themselves,” says Arabella. “We are really benefiting from word of mouth as customers buy dresses and talk about them on social media.”
Ranging in price from £100 to £460 for a highly embellished gown, Arabella selects her dresses to combine glamour and quality with value for money. A special arrangement with her supplier also allows her to offer an exclusive range of dresses from designers Pia Michi and Loré that cannot be found elsewhere in Edinburgh. Arabella Dresses, 140 Bruntsfield Place, EH10 4ER, 0131 261 7304, www.arabelladresses.com. Open Mon, Tues, Wed and Fri, 11am to 6pm; Thurs, 11am to 7pm; Saturday, 10am to 5pm.