My Week: Georgie Cooper of Pretaportabello

The fashion graduate turned retail entrepreneur talks nude pleated skirts, screaming babies and the current threat to Portobello Market.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
I never used to be a morning person. Since starting Pretaportobello though, I've had to learn to be. Most days I cycle into the office at around 8am. I'm a lot more productive in the mornings. I have more energy and it just feels like there are fewer distractions.

I work with my twin sisters, Lisette and Victoria. Pretaportobello is a family business. And with the arrival of my new little niece, there are even more of us in the office. My other sister has a little one on the way too, so it's going to get even more crowded! When the baby cries, it can be hard work but we recently discovered a trick: if we leave a hairdryer on, she drops right off to sleep.

I started the business back in 2008. I was fresh out of uni - I have a fashion degree, but I couldn't get a job anywhere. My sister had the original idea. We always used to go to Portobello Market together and pick up lovely things. Our friends would always ask where they were from, but either didn't live in London or couldn't really be bothered to go. It seemed a natural idea to create a website to put all the stock under one roof, so people could buy beautiful, hand-made goods without slogging through the market.

Four years on, we've expanded. Now Camden, Spittalfields and Brick Lane markets are all on our books, we even stock some traders from markets in Australia. Every week, we try to visit all the markets (only the ones in the UK; a weekly trip to Sydney would be rather expensive). Were like talent scouts, meeting new designers and asking them to come on board. Once we've got a new batch of stock, the samples come in for sorting and photographing. I'm the creative side of the business, so I mastermind the shoots and do illustrations for the website.

We try to choose pieces that are on trend because it grabs us column inches in the press. But often, it's hard to predict. Back in April we fell in love with a nude-coloured pleated skirt. It sold out instantly and the press were wild about it: we were featured in the Sunday Times Style Magazine and Grazia - it was crazy. None of us are trained trend-spotters, we just use a mixture of personal taste and luck. Some of it is obvious: buy warm things in winter, lighter fabrics in summer. We've just brought in a new, thicker blue and green pleated skirt that we hope will have the same success as the nude version!

I love working with my sisters, I really don't think I could work with anyone else. We do bicker, but that just means we get things off our chest. No one seethes about anything and arguments are forgotten really quickly. I had to go to an event recently on my own, which was new for me. It was the everywoman awards: we were up for the entrepreneur of the year category. Meeting people and talking to strangers isn't really my strong point, but I found it confidence-building to go solo and I met some really interesting people.

I'm not really involved in an entrepreneur scene. My sisters and I are a kind of unit. Although we have a great relationship with some of the traders - it's wonderful when you introduce yourself at a market and a designer goes, Oh, I know who you are!

The upheaval at Portobello Market at the moment is a little worrying though. Traders are being forced out because stall-holders are abandoning the expensive hand-made goods for cheap and cheerful mass-produced items. Portobello is in our brand name, and it's a wonderful place, so we really want the market to survive.

Find out more about Pretaportobello

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