MY LIGHT BULB MOMENT
Natalie lake, 59, founder of the clothing brand Really Wild, lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, tim, and has two daughters, alice, 29, and Hattie, 26.
I GREW up in a very sporty family — my mum rode, my father was a keen fisherman and my brother won a rugby scholarship. I was always the artistic one and was happiest when drawing. I went on to study design.
After I had my daughters, I set up an interior design business from home. Really Wild was not part of my career plan. It evolved when a friend invited me to a charity clay pigeon shoot. I had recently turned 40 and decided I needed a challenge, so I signed up for some lessons at the Royal Berkshire Shooting School.
To my surprise, I had good handeye co-ordination. I joined the Really
Wild Girls Club there, which I loved — but I didn’t love the clothes. They seemed to be scaled-down versions of men’s clothes, with no thought for femininity or fit. My breeks (short tweed trousers) were so baggy they made me look like Charlie Chaplin!
Women who were serious about shooting had to go to expensive designers or have clothes specially made. That was when I had my light bulb moment: I wanted to make wellfitting country clothes that were also stylish enough to wear into town.
I sketched out ideas and found a tweed mill to help me develop my designs. Two directors of the shooting school also agreed to back me.
I took my first collection to the Game Fair at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire in 2004 and it sold out, with such great feedback.
Kate Middleton — whose family lived nearby — helped us at the fair, and she’s gone on to wear many of our pieces.
When the financial crash hit retail in 2010, I found myself with hundreds of unsold coats and jackets, which was a wake-up call not to over-order any one style. I learned my lesson and broadened my range, offering limited pieces in each design, which resulted in a covetable exclusivity.
We have a strong international following, particularly in the U.S., as well as shops in and near London.
Founding Really Wild has taken me from my drawing board to the Great British countryside. I can finally say I’m as sporty as any of my family — and still an artist at heart.