Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business

05 January 2018

Revival Retro: an award-winning London boutique creating timeless styles for every figure

Rowena Howie, founder of Revival Retro London boutique
Rowena in front of the Revival Retro London boutique

Have you ever struggled to find a stunning retro outfit that looks great, but won’t fall apart when you wear it? Do you often feel like all that gorgeous vintage clothing is just a size too small? Fear not, because Revival Retro, a London-based vintage boutique shares your frustrations... and stocks the very best in modern day reproductions or reinterpretations of original 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s designs sourced from all over the globe. The outstanding service Revival offers in their central London boutique has won them not one, but two Time Out London awards!

We caught up with the owner of the company and past Innovating for Growth participant, Rowena Howie, to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey and hear her top 3 business resolutions for 2018.

Hi Rowena! Can you tell us a little more about the Revival Retro business?

For the discerning woman who despairs with the trend led, throw away fashion available on the high street Revival Retro is the place to go to for high quality clothing designed for women with curves. We all want to feel confident, comfortable and stylish and our staff care about finding you the outfit that fits and flatters your figure. That’s why a trip to our London boutique is such a special experience, the team’s genuine passion and expert knowledge often inspires customer’s to give us glowing reviews and recommend us to others.

What inspired the creation of your award-winning boutique?

An attempt to buy specialist swing dance shoes from America gave me the idea. I bought three pairs not knowing that the US has different shoe sizes , unaware I would pay additional import taxes and fees and not realising that by the time the order arrived in the UK the returns period would have already elapsed. My frustration led me to ask why are these products not available in London or at least the UK. I hated internet shopping, and could see the demand from fellow dancers so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I purchased £500 worth of stock on a credit card and sold the shoes to friends and acquaintances in dance class. Once I was known as the ‘shoe girl’, people started asking me if I knew where to find suitable vintage clothing. As swing era originals were hard to find, I researched reproduction vintage clothing which had significant benefits: it could be washed and worn repeatedly by dancers. When (non dance) friends saw what I was wearing and liked it I knew that I had a business that could take me beyond my niche!

Revival Retro Boutique's shop in London and pictured with staff members

How did the Business & IP Centre and our Innovating for Growth programme help you along the way?

From the very beginning I used workshops at the British Library to further my knowledge about running my own business. Long before I ever opened the bricks and mortar store I was examining the viability, profitability and likelihood of scale for the venture. I started the business because I was thirty something and couldn’t envisage ever owning my own home on the salary I was earning. The drive for me to learn and grow was fundamental to commercial success of the business, helping me achieve my personal goals.

What are your tips for the perfect vintage party dress?

Feel fabulous! Don’t get too hung up on a theme, dress code or what everyone else is doing. If you feel good and have a smile on your face, everyone will compliment you on how amazing you look.


Revival Retro Boutique London's product example
The Bombshell Sequin Gown is a staff recommendation for a show-stopping party dress

And finally, as we look ahead to a new year full of opportunities, what are your top 3 business resolutions for 2018?

It’s all about content not keywords for the website in 2018! We well be reviewing our messaging to make sure viewers better understand the what, where and why.

For marketing we are going to use our best assets (our staff and our products) to convince new audiences they should visit the boutique: we will be popping up in selected spots all around Greater London.

Last but not least, we will develop our own range of clothing further. Greater control of our product range, delivery dates and pricing without competing with other online retailers of the same goods gives us an advantage especially if we continue to listen to feedback of what our customers expect.


Ewa Domaradzka, Commercial Marketing Manager 


Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more here.

European Regional Development Fund Logo

This programme is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the British Library.


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