Cactus in Banbury, Oxfordshire is a womenswear boutique that fills a vast yawning fashion gap in a beautiful medieval market town that has fallen victim, in equal part, to town planners and big box retail.
My parents have lived in the area for twenty five years and I spent my teenage years wishing for a shop that sold clothes I wanted to buy. I usually ended up in Oxfam or in the army surplus store. More recently the chain stores have arrived, but the branches are small, and the buy generic.
And that's exactly why I am now a huge fan of Cactus. When I'm at my parents I don't want to have to drive 40 minutes to Oxford to buy clothes or presents. Its owners George Wisner, an ex BBC set designer, and his daughter Shelley have editorialised the boutique, with complete looks, combined from different labels, hanging from the walls, and lots of visual suggestions for how to put outfits together.
I always gravitate towards interesting costume jewellery, and Cactus' buy is particularly strong, and perfect for Christmas presents. Prices are in the £10-25 range, and there are great vintage pieces too. It's probably one of the best interesting & affordable jewellery edits I've seen in an independent store anywhere.
This is the perfect time of year to visit: when I looked around, there were silk chiffon party dresses, brocade jackets & lace guipure boleros from Darling from an astonishingly good value £65.
(Darling is one of my favourite pretty dress brands: the fabrics & styling would be at home at a price point two or even three time higher).
There are plenty of inexpensive accessories too:
They don't just stock party clothes: there's plenty of daywear from Ted Baker, Paige Jeans, Fenn Wright & Manson, White Stuff and Nougat amongst others.
Fenn, Wright & Manson coat
Cactus, 20 Parson's Street Banbury, OX16 5LY - 01295 262 805
Open Mon-Sat 9:30am-5:30pm
More Cactus photos here