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Donna Ida, London

With jeans filed on shelves according to fit, this boutique prides itself on being a library of women’s denim

Donna Ida Thornton has always had an enterprising streak. After an unedifying experience trying to buy jeans in a well-known London department store, the former marketing expert with no previous experience in fashion decided there was a gap in the market for a specialist denim boutique.

She opened her first Donna Ida store in Chelsea, west London, in October 2006 and its ranges, service and general style savvy made it an instant hit.

Just two years later, Thornton set up a transactional website and became one of a small clutch of intrepid independents to open a store in The Village, the luxury zone of mega mall Westfield London in White City. Situated on the first floor of The Village, the 1,050sq ft store counts Sienna and Savannah Miller’s Twenty8Twelve label, French bridge brand Zadig & Voltaire and designer indie Larizia as neighbours.

The Westfield London store has been clocking up “solid weekly sales”, says Thornton, and she hopes those will pick up now Louis Vuitton has opened its hotly anticipated store in The Village.
Westfield London customers’ tastes and shopping habits are different from Chelsea shoppers, she notes. “Chelsea customers are more specific and we get more repeat customers. We get a lot of cool mums and people who come a long way because they’ve heard about us,” she says. “At Westfield London it’s more of a mix, but we are starting to get a following.” While the Chelsea customer is more clued up on washes and interesting features, the Westfield London customer is more interested in basics. “We’re selling Earnest Sewn and J Brand all day long,” says Thornton.
The key concept of the Westfield London store is what Thornton calls her “denim library”, where jeans are filed in bookcase-style shelving according to cut. The higher shelves are reached by ladder. Typically, customers will shop for denim by cut, explains Thornton, “but if they do ask for a brand it’s always J Brand.” Other strong sellers include Earnest Sewn, Serfontaine, Goldsign, Current/Elliott and Stella McCartney.

To complement the library, some denim is showcased by brand on feature tables, while clothing collections are merchandised on rails at the front of the store. But Thornton has one strict rule about the clothing she buys - it has to go with jeans, hence it is all tops and jackets from hip contemporary brands such as Elizabeth and James, LnA and Zoe Tees. She says: “People still try to sell us dresses and I always say no. I don’t want to be just another boutique, otherwise we would get lost. We need to stay true; we just want to do one thing really well.”

Essentials

  • 25 Approximate number of brands in store
  • 1,050sq ft Size of the Westfield London store
  • Two Number of Donna Ida stores in London

Donna Ida Westfield London, Ariel Way, London W12

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