Enter Simone Rocha’s flagship store on Mount Street and you will find yourself wandering around a softly-hued space observing sculptures, giant marble ottomans and even a gazebo, which houses mannequins dressed in Rocha’s Japan-inspired spring/summer collection.
Most women who try on her crinkly kimono-fabric flounce skirt or her obi-tied tech-nylon tunic will feel an instant affinity with her sweetly subversive codes of femininity. The store sits proudly on one of Mayfair’s most prestigious streets – a hop and a skip from the boutiques of such powerful brands as Loewe, Céline, Balenciaga and Marc Jacobs. Rocha doesn’t turn 30 until September 2016 and her first collection made its debut only five years ago: that she has already staked her claim on Mount Street bricks and mortar is a triumph.
A wave of openings
The store opened last September and follows flagship openings on Mount Street and intersecting South Audley Street by designers Christopher Kane, Roksanda Ilincic, Nicholas Kirkwood and Erdem Moralıoğlu, all in their thirties. The presence of these boutiques is transforming the area. Each store is highly individual, beautifully appointed and shows the many facets of London’s new face of luxury. The idea of owning a boutique in this kind of neighbourhood would have been just a pipe dream when these designers began their careers in east London warehouses and studios. The investment required is substantial. And yet, with backing deals from the fashion industry’s biggest investors, coupled with independent financial success, this generation of designers was able to take the plunge.
The architectural and artistic collaborations that characterise these spaces are impressive. Christopher Kane worked with minimalist architect John Pawson to realise the two-story marble clad temple that shows off his electrifying designs to the full. ‘I was getting tired of looking at everything but the clothes. Chandelier! Whoop! Sofa! Whoop! So many obstructions. I don’t want something that looks dated in five years. I wanted a carved-out, clean space in beautiful materials,’ says Kane.
Roksanda Ilincic, who recently dropped her surname from her eponymous brand, called on architect David Adjaye, a friend of hers, to work on her impressive boutique, which beguiles with textures, subtle colourways and metallic finishes. ‘I wanted a home for my clothes. There are many contrasts. From the moment you enter you sense an industrial, feminine and luxurious feel and downstairs there is a more discreet, warm, homely space. We do have customers that stay for hours,’ says Ilincic. In contrast, Kirkwood’s store features a floor-to-ceiling display of his playful sculptural heels. Each of the spaces is a testament not just to the brands but to their designers and the way they themselves like to shop.
While many of these brands are backed by fashion powerhouses, Erdem Moralıoğlu owns the entirety of his own company. This is unusual, but, supported by his impressive international clientele, he too has seen great success. Take a sharp left at the end of Mount Street and you will discover the genteel surrounds of the designer’s flagship, which he designed with his architect partner Philip Joseph.
Restored ironwork, artworks by David Hockney and Jean Cocteau and tropical foliage all contribute to a townhouse ambience that perfectly showcases his poetic, romantic designs. ‘There’s a marvellous Victorian fern garden, furniture I developed with Philip and 20th-century modern pieces from Sigmar on the King’s Road,’ says Moralıoğlu of the décor. Like the store, his creations deftly marry the desires of today with the handicrafts and silhouettes of a bygone era.
These environments bring the delight back into shopping and show off a richer array of products, designs and services than a department store might offer, including exclusive lines. Discover crystal tassel key rings and a newly launched line of trainers at Kane, languid blouses, swimwear and Ilincic’s famous occasionwear at Roksanda, and a debut shoe line at Erdem. That these brands are investing in unique bricks-and-mortar spaces is a testament not just to the creativity of those behind them, but also to the longevity of designers who were seen as the new crowd not long ago.