A NEW era has started for an iconic building at the heart of Ilminster Town Centre.

The courtyard of the Cornhill building, formerly the headquarters for Gooch and Housego, has been transformed by Somerset fashion designer Alice Temperley.

The new project, called Phoenix Studios, opened its doors on Saturday, and at the heart of it is the new World of Temperley Somerset.

The company has packed up its London home of 21 years and relocated its headquarters to Ilminster town centre.

Alice said: “Somerset is the birthplace of the brand and the place that breathes life and magic, passion and freedom into my soul.

“To find a space with such character and a real connection to what the brand stands for, that offers room for the business and the brand community to grow is an incredible opportunity. We have always sought to share the Somerset dream with the world, and this is how we’re going to do it.”

The 22,000 square foot Victorian building will be a multi-purpose headquarters, housing a design atelier, training workshop, and a store with current collections and archive pieces.

There will also be a bar, the Somerset, which will serve cocktails and cider from Alice’s parents’ Somerset farm where she grew up.

In the next phase of development the building - which has formerly served as a magistrates court, a clothing factory and a laser technology factory - will be renovated to house the brand’s photo production, warehouse, and some manufacturing.

Alice Temperley founded her label Temperley London in 2000 after graduating from the Royal College of Art.

In 2006, she launched Temperley Bridal, and now has fashion stores in London, Dubai, Qatar and Ilminster.

A spokesman for the brand added: “The World of Temperley experience has been conceptualised to keep pace with the new expectations of luxury in a post-pandemic world - more sustainable practices, more comfortable elegance and more lifestyle offering.

“A bespoke service making use of deadstock fabric will truly connect the customer’s own creativity with the handcrafted artistry of the brand, as well as limiting waste.

"The transformation of the building has been a labour of passion for Alice together with her boyfriend and co-investor Mark Cresswell.

"The process from inspiration to actualisation has blazed at a rapid pace, all within the time frame of a certain global pandemic."