Today is a “retail day” and I’m off to my store on Draycott Avenue. Years ago I would walk down Walton Street and Draycott Avenue, just behind Harrods and spend hours discovering all the little independent shops, small art galleries and interior design stores. The James Perse boutique also has a great collection of comfy T-shirts and sweatshirts.
My store is placed between two fashion behemoths, J Crew and Joseph. People walk in, some discovering the brand for the very first time, others who have seen it in Harrods or on some island in the Maldives, Thailand or the Seychelles. I look around me and listen, taking mental notes of their every move so as to better understand what makes a woman tick. I have so much to learn – designing and manufacturing are one thing, retailing is another.
Too often, the customer will say she is too fat, too curvy, too tall, too short… not many seem happy with what they are. Thankfully, I have a great team. Meddhi and Mirella love the brand and know how to attend to a customer’s needs – something that’s becoming rare in the industry; for me shopping is often an unpleasant experience. It’s hardly surprising that Net-a-Porter is doing so well.
For lunch I head to Roka, a restaurant owned by my friend Arjun Waney (along with Zuma, The Arts Club and my favourite London restaurant, La Petite Maison). The food looks so simple when you are sitting down at the table, but when you know how much it takes to give each and every customer a satisfying dining experience, I can only say, “Bravo, Arjun.”
A few years ago, I was on the beach at the Amanpuri resort in Phuket speaking to Arjun, telling him excitedly about this wonderful little Italian restaurant I’d discovered in Marylebone called Il Baretto. “You must try it,” I said. Arjun looked at me and simply replied, “I own it.”
That story comes back to me over dinner with my lovely friend Jo Hales, who was my Marks & Spencer buyer for years. When my son left Hong Kong to study here, I had to find an English retailer that I could design and manufacture for. M&S became my excuse to come to London every five to six weeks. Jo and I have this routine when I come to London. We meet at my apartment for “sushi night” and talk about our mutual fashion businesses. But tonight, we’ll go to Il Baretto…