LONDON — As Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece watches a new generation of women become mothers, she’s been rethinking the narrative of her eponymous children’s wear brand and unveiled a new look, with the opening of her boutique in Belgravia.
The store is located on the newly pedestrianized Motcomb Street, next to Christian Louboutin and Carolina Bucci.
“The brand is 18 years old and it needed a brig refresh because I’m now seeing some of my friends’ children having kids of their own, and buying my brand,” said Marie-Chantal, adding that she spent up to two years updating everything from the packaging, to the product and retail design.
Her stores in Notting Hill and South Kensington’s Walton Street have been shut, with the focus now on the new space, which aims to tell a story of childhood nostalgia, timelessness and the joy of dressing up.
“When you become a mother, you draw from your own childhood memories, so there’s this kind of nostalgia,” added Marie-Chantal. “Also, kids are kids. They should be cute and pretty and they love dressing up, so we want to be able to offer a little bit of everything, whether it’s a Liberty print or a beautiful soft tweed, a coat that reminds you of your own school coat, a little velvet detail.”
The store was designed in partnership with Fran Hickman, the interior designer who’s worked with the likes of Emilia Wickstead, Goop, Matchesfashion.com and Moda Operandi. There are soft wood details throughout, a mini seating area for kids to play and a back room filled with neatly merchandised shelves and a large stuffed toy shaped like the Little Prince hanging over the ceiling, that was taken from the childhood room of one of Marie-Chantal’s children.
“It has to be very precious, like a little jewel of a shop,” she added. “I think we are really going to be able to deliver our story to the new, young customer with this space. It’s also timeless because it’s for the kids, so it has to be sweet and soft.”
Marie-Chantal has been communicating with her customers in new ways, primarily via her social channels and web site. “I have always embraced social media. It’s about being able to curate this story line that is very much focused on the brand. I show a lot of my lifestyle because my name is above the door, I’m a mother of five, I am the person who is designing here, and I think that gives me an edge over the other brands.”
She added that a book about children’s manners is also in the works. “For me, I think teaching good values is a lost art. In a world where you have rude politicians the idea was to start with the youth and raise them. It’s a very gentle approach, and it won’t be about how to hold a knife and fork, but about teaching children how to hold onto their values and to be mindful of others.”
The brand has also been taking an alternative route to wholesale in order to stay in control, and is only working with a select group of retailers such as Harrods and the Tot. It offers them a small range of core pieces that never get discounted.
“The landscape of retail is changing and I want to own how I tell my story to my customers. You can sell your brand to a big department store and they then put you on discount within two weeks, which can damage a brand,” said Marie-Chantal, adding that she is instead focusing on growing selectively through collaborations, hosting trunk shows and growing the brand’s online business, which has a big reach in the U.S. and the Middle East.
She has so far collaborated with Silver Cross on a pram and Marks & Spencer on a more accessibly priced range, while she is also toying with the ideas of fragrance, furniture and bedding.