by Meredith Fisher
Marylebone might be front and center on London's shopping circuit, but two of the area's latest additions—Jezebell and KJ's Laundry—stand out not just from the neighborhood crowd, but also from the rest of the city's boutique offerings.
The first, a collaboration between a former fashion publicist and a one-time stylist, has a stock list that reads like a Who's Who of fresh talent from Paris, London, and New York and has a distinctly rock-star edge (it helps that one owner's husband plays with a little band named Coldplay). The other was born from a friendship and a desire to bring the names of barely known—and totally unknown—designers to an audience who's really interested. Whether the opening of these two very different shops by two different groups of women (within six months and three blocks of each other) is coincidence or not, it makes a shopping trip to Marylebone that much more essential—and efficient.
Any story that begins with a vintage Alaia dress and a pair of YSL wedges is bound to have a happy ending. But when Joanna and Kate Brindley met ten years ago while admiring each others' fashion sense, they didn't know that the ending would be one of London's most welcome new boutiques. "Jezebell was born over a lunch at the Covent Garden Hotel two years ago," recalls Kate. "Joanna and I had been toying with the idea of opening a shop for years as we kept saying we could never find a place to buy labels that not everyone else was wearing in London."
To that end they've filled their racks with some of the most sought-after U.S. designers—Phillip Lim 3.1, Vena Cava, Loeffler Randall—and more established British brands such as Rupert Sanderson, Georgina Goodman, and Camilla Starck. "We always look for designers whose work has a timeless element to it and a point of difference," says Kate, and this translates to the international roster of names, too, including that Karen Walker, Little Miss Italy, and Anna Corrina. While the two owners would love to take on more established labels ("Stella McCartney really makes clothes London girls like to wear"), they'll continue to nurture younger designers and enjoy watching them evolve into the inevitable Next Big Thing.
K (Kate Allden) and J (Jane Ellis) have definitely put a spin on the quiet block of Marylebone Lane since opening this past spring (April 2006 to be exact). The two friends found inspiration for their shop from other independent boutiques like Steven Alan in New York. "We both felt that there was brilliant opportunity to set up a London boutique that stocked exclusive labels and supported new and up-and-coming designers," says Kate and Jane.
With that in mind they've brought in an array of international designers, some of which border on the unknown and others that have already become wardrobe standards. On the exclusive side are Australian designer Lee Matthews, the widely popular Parisian kicks from Bensimon, and structured purses from Erva, a small Spanish brand. Other musts include 1921 denim, London lingerie label Spanx, and beauty products from the Los Angeles-based Lather. For the two friends, creating a casual and relaxed environment where they could display their finds was paramount, and the result is like walking into the ultimate best friend's closet—well, one with fabulous taste, of course.
Two new boutiques not to be missed in Marylebone.