Off the back of an 18-year career as a trend forecaster and journalist, Fiona Harkin decided to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and move to the seaside town of Rye. Wanting to be creative on her own terms and showcase the beautiful products she had discovered on her travels, she opened her own boutique. The result was Marsha By The Sea, a charming shop filled with simple yet quirky seaside-inspired products.
"There are always key ingredients in a great retail experience; these include newness, quality, great service and - most importantly - a respect for our social and environmental footprint."
"I cannot remember what lured me to Rye. All I know is that I ended up here after escaping from London one hot summer's afternoon, wandering the cobbled streets, and it felt like home.” I spent over 18 years working as a trend forecaster and journalist. I never set out to do that job but I did set out to follow what truly interested me. So, by way of a BA in Art History from the Courtauld Institute, an MA in Fashion Journalism from Central St. Martin’s and a whole load of work experience gigs and jobbing in retail to pay the bills, I ended up working with words, trends and tech. Unofficially, this involved dancing to Boney M’s Rasputin on a table in a Moscow nightclub; being given a virtual makeover in the online world Second Life while fending off indecent digital proposals; trying to cut it in a ‘boy’s own’ world of chinos, Swiss Army backpacks and check shirts at various North American tech conferences before ‘women in tech’ became a thing; being covered in fake tan for The Sun; queueing until 3am in Texas rain nursing a pulled pork sandwich and a coronorita just to see my ultimate film crush debut his latest arthouse flick; being allowed into one of Rio’s largest favelas to meet the talented women making the most beautiful clothing; getting lost photographing a cemetery in Buenos Aires; and having milk poured on my cornflakes by an immaculately turned-out waiter at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris. In the Noughties, I ended up working on a new trend forecasting site which, on paper, was my ideal job – plus shares. In reality, it was the ninth circle of hell. Add to that a bout of ill health and – bingo! – I’d hit burn out. I left my job, and my career. It got messier before it got better, but the better bits involved moving to the ancient seaside town of Rye, East Sussex. Facing a long commute to London to work and a lack of enthusiasm for my previous career – plus a baby to work around – I had to make my own opportunity in Rye. I used a small but meaningful inheritance as the foundation for a business of my own. I opened a store. And then I opened a holiday let. The store, Marsha by The Sea, celebrates life on the shoreline – a place where I found beauty and peace. It offers womenswear, menswear, kidswear, beauty, fragrance, books, gifts and homewares - all aiming bringing a seaside state of mind into our customers’ everyday lives. I strive to make it as sustainable, ethical and environmentally-friendly possible. I love being my own boss. I love being creative on my own terms. I love discovering new brands. I love sharing my joy at living beside the sea with our customers. I hope that I have created a unique proposition with Marsha By The Sea; a brand that offers a new kind of lifestyle appeal celebrating the quirky side of coastal creativity. But most of all, I hope you like it!