Last week saw the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Futures Awards presented to Farfetch and a group of other digital fashion pioneers, hard on the heels of the release of net-a-porter’s Net Set app. Are we moving ever further away from a face-to-face shopping experience? Having just experienced a particularly dismal clearance sale in London that attempted to sell damaged stock at inflated prices in a jumble sale environment, I’m ready to embrace innovation but not sure I’m ready to shift online yet.
Big companies on social media is nothing new: the question has always been how to turn interactions into sales and it will be fascinating to see whether the Net Set is successful. Perhaps I’m an anomaly but, like fashion-loving friends, I still prefer the bricks and mortar experience. Rather like seeing the shows live, nothing replaces seeing the product, touching it and experiencing it direct. Its an efficient way of screening out the things that should work but just don’t and its an instant arrow through the heart when you meet the piece (often the one you’re not expecting) that you love.
The best boutiques assault you with a multi-sensory experience. There is something to intrigue the eye, a scent evocative of the season, and just the right level of ambient hubbub to entice your curiosity. They present an inviting social prospect – something that is friendly and welcoming but manages to be aspirational and inspirational at the same time. They present their stock to encourage imagination, offering the new alongside the familiar. We walk out with a purchase and a million ideas for using our existing wardrobe better. So easy peasy, huh? Well here are a few that do all that for me….
Mouki Mou, 29 Chiltern Street, London W1 – artfully designed as a series of small rooms drawing you in like a labyrinth, I always just want to move in. It has a perfectly curated stock of unusual or hard to find labels from Japan or the US, including Arts & Science, The Elder Statesman, and Sacai. Every visit brings fresh inspiration.
Laura Lee, 42 Monmouth Street, London WC2H – the only shop I’ve had to enter by doorbell that felt immediately friendly and welcoming. The ladies who work here are perfect ambassadors for the delicate jewellery and the floral window displays are often worth the trip on their own.
Dover Street Market, 17-18 Dover Street, London W1 – its either a large boutique or a small department store but the modular layout and mixture of new and vintage stock make it feel smaller and more intimate than it is. The window always holds a feast for the eyes. Inside you’ll find the new, the challenging, the beautiful, the practical and always things you won’t see elsewhere.
Tit fer Tat, 5 Paved Court, Richmond TW9 – a really beautiful, old-fashioned hat shop in a pretty backstreet with well-selected stock ranging from practical luxury to the splendid but all highly wearable without being overwhelming. Super-friendly and welcoming.
Finally, a proposal: the hybrid. I used to live near a tiny café that doubled as a florist. It was an absolutely charming combination and I’m surprised not to see this done more often: it ought to be a crowd pleaser. My own personal nirvana would be florist + boutique + café/bar, with stock including jewellery, books and mags as well as clothing and accessories, vintage and new. Add an intimate, clubby atmosphere and regular events and parties. Now that would really be a social medium for shopping.