NEW YORK — Looking as youthful as she did when she left New York for London several years ago, Marie-Chantal of Greece holds court in her new, pristinely white children’s clothing store on the Upper East Side, carefully positioning the racks of exquisitely tiny sweaters and miniature trousers. The sliver of a boutique is a quiet sanctuary from the busy traffic on Madison Avenue, just the way a princess would have it.
The blonde heiress, looking off-duty chic in a blousy Stella McCartney top and white cargo pants, flew in from London to personally open the doors of the shop. Though her Marie-Chantal line has been carried by Bergdorf Goodman and Calypso for a number of seasons, the boutique is her first foray into the American retail scene. (She has other Marie-Chantal shops in London, where she lives with her husband and four children, and in Thessaloniki, Greece). That’s not all, however: A fourth is set for Athens next month and there are plans for more in the future. Perhaps Los Angeles, where her baby sister Alexandra has just moved?
For now, however, M.C. (as she is known to her friends) is concerned with the task at hand: moving product. It shouldn’t be too hard a sell with items like herringbone peacoats, silk party dresses, and irresistible slip-on shoes placed neatly around the store. The overall look is more boarding-school chic than downtown playground. Angelina will probably not be shopping here for four-year-old Maddox, though Gwyneth might stop by for young Apple.
The heiress is also introducing children’s luggage, bedding and fragrance to the label. “The hard part is keeping up the momentum,” she acknowledges, reminiscing about the buzz that went around the brand at her first trade show five years ago at the no-frills Jacob K. Javits Center. “In America, everyone wants to know about what’s new,” she says, adding that her booth was busy all day. “I hired all my girlfriends and they helped me sell.”
These days she relies on her nine-year-old daughter, Maria-Olympia, for business advice. “She’s very vocal,” the princess points out. “At nine, they know what they like to wear.” In fact, the wool crochet poncho hanging on the wall was a direct request from the young fashion arbiter.
This story first appeared in the August 15, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Another thing Maria-Olympia would like to request of her mother? That they return to New York. “My kids love New York,” she says. “They miss it. [Maria-Olympia] remembers her school and her friends.”
And what about mom? “I do miss New York, I miss the beat,” she admits, snapping her fingers like a Sixties beatnik. “London’s quiet, it’s different. But we’re there for a couple of years and then we’ll see.”
For now, she’s simply enjoying being back in the city, shopping, hitting up pharmacies for “the little things you can’t get [abroad]” and dining with friends. She’s in town through the end of the month, save for a quick jaunt down to the Bahamas to meet her sisters and parents. Then it’s back to London so her kids can return to school. But they won’t be sporting Marie-Chantal.
“They wear a uniform,” she says.