November 29, 2021

Cl Youth Theatre

Fashion, The needs of women

Redditch Kingfisher shop loved by Alison Hammond goes viral with ‘real women’ catwalk videos

Meet the Redditch clothes shop owner – dressing celebs from Alison Hammond to Suzanne Shaw – who’s become an online sensation for his fashion shows featuring real-life customers instead of models.

Neil Bhardwaj, who runs Riley Boutique in Kingfisher Shopping Centre with his sister Pritika, has made such an impression with his Facebook Live fashion shows using ‘real women’ that each gains up to 50,000 views.

Featuring Neil and various customers, women have travelled from across the country to the Worcestershire store to experience Neil’s ethos of “wanting women to feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman on the most amazing shopping spree ever”.

Read more: From palm trees to the Queen and TOWIE – a look back at Redditch Kingfisher Shopping Centre

Neil, 30, and Pritika, 34, from Oldbury, set up the family business in 2014 in memory of their father Raj Kumar Bhardwaj and attracted celebrities like This Morning presenter Hammond and actress-singer Suzanne Shaw, whose mum also uses the store.



Neil Bhardwaj and his sister Pritika Bhadwaj, from Oldbury, who own Riley Boutique in Kingfisher Shopping Centre.

Although they had a shop in Gracechurch Shopping Centre, Sutton Coldfield until last year, Covid lockdowns forced them to close it in favour of selling more online instead – which is when the live videos really took off.

“When the pandemic struck, our stock rooms were full so we had to adapt and went online, doing things like fashion shows and video consultations and we sold the lot,” said Neil. “The stock room was empty.

“Our shows are about using real women and not Size Zero, because they aren’t everyday, real people,” said Neil.



Alison Hammond shopping at Riley Boutique when it was at This Morning Live although the store is based at Kingfisher Shopping Centre, Redditch.
Alison Hammond shopping at Riley Boutique when it was at This Morning Live although the store is based at Kingfisher Shopping Centre, Redditch.

“We offer clothing for all shapes and sizes and anyone who watches our fashion shows sees real shoppers who come into our store and give up their time to show people what they are buying.

“If people see clothes on different customers then it relates to them. A woman came in from Northampton and said she’d seen the videos and knew she had to come into the shop as she wanted to find clothes that made her feel something.

“We’ve dressed Alison Hammond and Suzanne Shaw, who came to us for a dress to wear at the Hello Inspiration Awards because her mum used us; but I treat everyone the same, whether they are a celebrity or not.”



Alison Hammond with Neil Bhardwaj, who runs Riley Boutique in Redditch's Kingfisher Shopping Centre.
Alison Hammond with Neil Bhardwaj, who runs Riley Boutique in Redditch’s Kingfisher Shopping Centre.

Suzanne turned heads at the Hello! Inspiration Awards with the decadently patterned maxi dress and simple black heels from Riley Boutique. She even messaged from the taxi ride there in her outfit to show how it looked.

Riley Boutique also attracted a visit from Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two presenter Rylan Clark-Neal who had a mooch around when they had a stall and were involved in the This Morning Live event.

“We are very much a styling service for all our shoppers. That’s the ethos we have lived by and why we have outlived many bigger stores. It’s what women are yearning for.



Rylan Clark-Neal with Neil Bhardwaj and his sister Pritika Bhadwaj, from Oldbury at Riley's Boutique stand.
Rylan Clark-Neal with Neil Bhardwaj and his sister Pritika Bhadwaj, from Oldbury at Riley’s Boutique stand.

The boutique used to ask customers if they would take part, but online events are so popular that now shoppers are asking Neil if he needs them.

Suffering with weight from a young age, Neil explained that he knew what it was like to have no confidence.

Because of that, he intentionally hires store staff with backgrounds in care and nursing rather than sales “as they have a great way with people while giving honest advice”.

Sourcing products from across the UK along with Italy,Paris and Germany, the boutique prides itself on offering clothes people won’t see everyone else wearing.

Neil adds: “Although we are still trying to get back to levels we were at before the pandemic,I’m not disheartened because I love clothing.

“This isn’t a job for me, I just love dressing people.”

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