Ruth's Ribble Valley based French clothes business expands to beat Brexit

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Enterprising Ruth Sweeten-Dewhurst was determined her business selling French clothes would not be beaten by Brexit red-tape.

So much so that the mother of three with a passion for fashion has met the challenge head on by expanding her sales patch.

Ruth, who lives near Whalley, has gone from selling French designed Captain Tortue clothes as a self-employed consultant in Preston, Ribble Valley, Blackpool and Burnley, to catering for customers from north of Watford to the Scottish borders.

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Ruth Sweeten-Dewhurst shows off clothes from the Captain Tortue collection            Photo: Kelvin StuttardRuth Sweeten-Dewhurst shows off clothes from the Captain Tortue collection            Photo: Kelvin Stuttard
Ruth Sweeten-Dewhurst shows off clothes from the Captain Tortue collection Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

When the clothes company, which is based in Aix en Provence, decided to close its UK operations earlier this year Ruth was devastated.

Ruth had grown her own business over a decade to become a business development manager building up her team and sales. She said she understood how Brexit red-tape and costs had contributed to the decision, adding: ”I felt so sad because I knew they were such lovely clothes that all my customers really loved. I got so many messages of support it was overwhelming.”

But after sharing their sadness a team of 19 consultants and UK managers joined together to create Tortue UK to keep the French clothes coming, altering the business model with clothes being imported to one central hub, but continuing to be self-employed.

Ruth has become a style consultant partner with the new all female enterprise. For Ruth, whose home is in Ribble Valley, it's a challenge, but one, given her background she should be well equipped to meet. Business is in her blood - her dad David and uncle Christoper ran the north west chain of Sweetens bookshops which had branches in Preston, Blackpool, Blackburn and Bolton and her mum June used to run the Preston Fishergate branch.

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Ruth Sweeten-DewhurstRuth Sweeten-Dewhurst
Ruth Sweeten-Dewhurst

Her parents live in France so she is a frequent visitor to the country. Ruth recalled how she discovered the French brand while looking to buy French clothes for her children some 12 years ago and became a consultant after being charmed by clothes which were stylish and “different from the high street.”

She added: “They are chic – just a little bit different than what you’d find in the shops. People are travelling quite a distance to come and see me at home.”

Ruth welcomes customers to her home boutique, but also does Zoom consultations for clients further afield and can take out clothes as a pop-up shop to customers’ homes for individual consultations or clothes parties.She said: "It’s exciting and exhilarating. I’m just excited to get out there and meet my customers and new customers and show off the new collections. We know there’s more demand out there...We need to make it work. We’ve to get out there and get the business.”

Ruth, who attended Clitheroe Royal Grammar School and studied French at Manchester University, previously worked in TV as a researcher, assistant producer and writer. She also worked in the music industry and as a translator for businesses. She now combines her fashion business with tutoring and teaching spoken French and can be contacted at [email protected]

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Ruth's boutique at her home in Ribble ValleyRuth's boutique at her home in Ribble Valley
Ruth's boutique at her home in Ribble Valley

* Captain Tortue was founded in 1993 by Lilian and Phillipe Jacquelinet and has companies in France and other European countries, plus exclusive partners, including the new affiliated company in the U.K.

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