LONDON — Marylebone, the residential London neighborhood located between Selfridges and Baker Street Tube station, is getting buzzier by the month with a number of openings by small brands with niche retail concepts and a focus on craftsmanship.
The neighborhood is already known as a high-end lifestyle hub, with businesses including André Balazs, Chiltern Firehouse, Matchesfashion.com, Bella Freud, Trunk Clothiers and a mix of contemporary labels such as Sandro, J. Crew and L.K. Bennett.
The three newcomers are Cutler and Gross; Álvaro, and Slowear, and all are seeking to blend into the village-like atmosphere.
British luxury eyewear brand Cutler and Gross has opened its first vintage store on Church Street, minutes away from Marylebone’s famous antique market.
The space, which spans 440 square feet, features more than 300 styles of vintage eyewear handpicked by creative director Marie Wilkinson and has a museum-like feel with wooden displays and vintage chandeliers.
“For me, vintage glasses are about style, uniqueness and objects of desire, tracked down by the keenest of collectors. So we wanted a welcoming gallery space suitable for our Thirties mahogany cabinets of curiosity,” she said.
Collecting is a big theme that runs through accessories designer Álvaro Gonzalez’s shop: He lives a few blocks away from his newly opened Nottingham Place boutique and he filled the new space with an array of objects he’s collected himself from flea markets around the world.
Each piece on display — from the doorknob to the centerpiece showcasing the brand’s signature sandals — has a story to tell. “You come here and you understand the world of Álvaro. The Internet cannot give you that,” said the designer, who launched the label in 2013.
The store’s interior is a blend of minimalism and old-school Italian elegance harking back to the time he worked as a freelance accessories designer in Rome for the likes of Valentino, Emilio Pucci and Tod’s.
There are dusty pink walls and exposed shelves filled with shoe boxes reminiscent of old-fashioned footwear shops. Stools have hidden ladders inside to reach the highest shelves while a Fifties cabinet bar has been repurposed as a cash desk.
Another highlight is a raw, cement round table with tree trunk legs that Gonzalez transplanted from the garden of his home outside Florence to use as a display.
Prices range from 295 pounds, or $362, for a pair of the brand’s signature sandals to 995 pounds, or $1,432, for a pair of shearling boots. Stockists include Browns, Intermix, Colette and Barneys New York.
Gonzalez, who served as design director of accessories at Jimmy Choo from 2002 until 2010, said he is in no hurry to pursue other store openings.
“I really believe in having one store that shows your philosophy and then going online, or into multibrand stores,” he said, adding that he believes in stores like Matchesfashion.com. “It’s what I call the Italian way of a multibrand boutique, they go through the world and do the editing for the customer.”
A few blocks away is another brand that focuses on Italian craftsmanship. Slowear, the Venice-based men’s wear retailer that owns the Incotex, Zanone, Glanshirt and Montedoro brands, has opened its second boutique in the British capital, on Marylebone High Street.
The company’s president, Roberto Compagno, said the location dovetails with the company’s aim to create an intimate feel. “The idea is very simple: create a welcoming, comfortable, homelike ambience,” he said.
Creating a full shopping experience is another focus for the company, which partnered with Murano glassmaker Carlo Moretti on a 15 day pop-up. Going forward, it plans to host in-store beer-tasting seminars with an Italian artisanal beer factory.
“We want to make sure that we are nurturing customers’ curiosity and urging them to stay within our world,” Compagno said. The shop itself has a warm, vintage feel, with large wooden cabinets and a cozy corner featuring a small library and a selection of photographs on a pistachio green painted wall.
Other key Slowear retail locations include Milan, New York and Tokyo. The company plans to focus on expanding further in Europe and the U.S., with other recent openings including Vienna and Munich.
“We do not intend to become a globalized brand, opening stores to us means being accessible,” Compagno said. “We open a store for our customers, not for a will of expansion at any cost. Our two major centers — also in terms of turnover — are currently in Milan and London, with New York growing unexpectedly well. This second store in London will make a difference in our portfolio.”