LONDON — While London isn't exactly known as the capital of beach culture, the city is becoming more of a destination for fashion swimwear with the opening of two new shops: Pistol Panties and Biondi.
Pistol Panties designer Deborah Fleming stitched her first diamante bikini for a Barbie Doll when she was growing up in Miami Beach; she launched the brand in spring 2003. Fans of her retro-inspired bikinis and innerwear include Kate Moss, Elle Macpherson, Jade Jagger and Sarah Jessica Parker. Glamorous Fifties' English beach resorts inspired the design of her first store, located on Westbourne Park Road in London's Notting Hill neighborhood, a fitting location to house a collection Fleming describes as "Joan Collins-style pool chic."
The candy-colored flagship features seashell chandeliers, beach hut-style changing rooms with deck chair-inspired striped curtains and a floor mosaic of a bikini just inside the entrance. Bikinis and swimsuits paying homage to Fifties starlets and Seventies celebrities drape from satin clothes hangers across ladders, while the label's caftans and beach bags are displayed against round mirrors resembling ship windows. The store also carries Pistol Panties' intimate apparel, as well as a selection of cover-ups.
Retail prices range from 79 pounds, or $137 at current exchange, for a triangle bikini with beading detail to 109 pounds, or $189, for the best-selling push-up bra and panty set inspired by Fleming's figure-skating childhood.
Fleming, who is half-British and half-Columbian, grew up in Paris, Los Angeles, New York and Geneva before moving here, where she has lived and worked for 10 years.
"I am inspired by the colorful and eccentric nature of Notting Hill," said Fleming, who started in the city designing wedding dresses and then creating children's wear for Disney.
Biondi, meanwhile, is designed to be a complete resort destination. After traveling the world as a men's wear buyer for Harvey Nichols, Claudine Davies was inspired to make pre-vacation shopping a more enjoyable experience, and this summer opened Biondi on Church Street in London's Chelsea neighborhood. The store is a one-stop boutique for everything from leather passport holders to bespoke bikinis. The store is named after the famed beach in Australia.
"I felt there was definitely a gap in the market for a store where you can get everything you need for your holiday, especially one with a pleasant environment, for those who don't enjoy the process of bikini shopping," said Davies, who also runs a U.K. distribution agency called View Studio for hard-to-find beachwear labels.Davies is selling swimwear brands Vix and Ondademar from Brazil alongside more traditional London finds; vanity cases and weekend bags from Anya Hindmarch, and leather diaries and passport holders from Aspinal of London.
Prices range from about $5 for a Cocoon miniature scented candle to $856 for an Alison Van Der Land nubuck leather weekend bag.
The store also carries Biondi's own line, which is designed by Jennifer Murphy, designer of U.K. swim label Storm in a D Cup, also sold in the shop. Together with Davies, Murphy sources pieces directly from vendors, such as leather thong sandals from Indian stalls, or creates pieces in the U.K. inspired by her travels, such as embellished chiffon caftans and printed cotton sequined skirts.
Prices for the Biondi line range from $35 for leather sandals to $104 for a chiffon caftan. In addition to the collection, Biondi offers a customized bikini service. A customers can present Murphy with an existing swimsuit they would like remade or one of her own design, and the store will create a Biondi bikini for her, for $260 and up.
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