Stock may be thin on the ground in the designer’s first standalone store but the surroundings and visual merchandising provide plenty to catch the eye.
For a large number of women, mention of the designer Roland Mouret brings to mind an image of a square-cut neckline and figure-hugging dress. The garment in question is called the Galaxy dress and apparently it does things for a woman that other dresses don’t.
Follow this up with the information that Roland Mouret has just opened a store on Carlos Place in London’s Mayfair (opposite the Connaught hotel, dahling) and you’d expect to find something pretty fancy. This, after all, is just around the corner from Mount Street, the current London touchdown point of choice for luxury brands such as Lanvin, Christian Louboutin and Marc Jacobs, so a posh fit-out is almost de rigueur.
And the store does not disappoint. This used to be the Mauritanian Embassy and is a Grade 1-listed Edwardian building - giving the brand a distinct architectural advantage. It is also a six-floor edifice and Roland Mouret occupies each level, but only the ground and first floor are used as retail space.
Roland Mouret, the man, rather than the brand, had a falling out with his business partners in 2005 and, until he went into business with entertainment mogul Simon Fuller last year, was unable to use his own name. Now he is back and designing using the Roland Mouret moniker and, although his collections are sold around the world, this is the only standalone store. The Roland Mouret collection is also sold in Selfridges and Harrods.
Key looks and merchandise mix
First things first. The Galaxy is probably the first thing the shopper will see when entering the store. It is in the room to the left of the entrance hall and sits alongside two other signature dresses. Available in petrol or black, it’s the top-priced object in the room and can be yours for £1,450. A helpful member of staff commented that the store had been selling “three to four of them a day” since opening - a tidy sum from a single perimeter rail. The other two signature dresses are the Pigalle - a taupe number in crêpe wool, priced at £1,250 - and the Moon in orange, fuchsia and navy at £1,050.
Move from this small room of signature dresses and you are into the womenswear and menswear mainline, where a pure cashmere top, for example, will cost £320 - about par for the course at this end of the market. Information is offered by the same member of staff that the collection is not targeted at any particular age range. But in the wood-panelled menswear room, at the back of the shop, there is a printed silk top that looks like the kind of thing that would find favour with Riviera gigolos of a certain age.
Upstairs, it’s more womenswear, with an offer that includes everything from a ‘power mesh’ body-sculpting top at £275 to full-length dresses. The palette is kept tight with turquoise, eau de nil, fuchsia, black and cream dominating.
This really is a less is more store - one of the rooms downstairs has 37 garments, while another has considerably fewer than 20. And all of the stock
is displayed side-hung along the perimeter. This leaves the centre of the shop free for retro furniture and Dalí-esque visual merchandising props, including cases of small stuffed birds set against the wall, a lobster embedded in a Perspex block and a bird cage that takes the form of a 19th-century French château.
If you are going to do opulence and minimalism under the same roof, the visual merchandising props will sort the Galaxys from the minor constellations. In this instance it is very well done. And although you might like to see more product, what is on show is in a setting that makes you feel relaxed and even a little louche in a rather camp Côte d’Azur sort of way.
At this level, good service should be a given, although it frequently turns out that it depends on the sizing-up procedure that takes place as you walk through the door - another way, perhaps, of saying that if you look rich you’ll be looked after.
To its credit, there is nothing of the kind at Roland Mouret, where you are met with a friendly smile and shown round, even if you arrive in your cycling gear. It’s also impressive that refreshment is offered and you are encouraged to relax. This is about gentle seduction. Clothes bearing the kind of price tags seen at Roland Mouret do require selling, but there is a real balance to be struck between pushiness and giving the customer room to breathe. It is achieved with seeming ease by the friendly staff and there is no sense of intimidation in the process.
This is a very appealing and grand address to start with, but what has been done is to provide a kitsch retro 1960s and 1970s feel to the interior with original period lighting features and sofas in iced velvet on the first floor. What is interesting is that while this kind of treatment could run the risk of overpowering a beautiful building, it doesn’t and the use of props and lighting is done with great care so this is not the case.
Anyone visiting will feel they have become an extra in a Sean Connery Bond film and you almost expect Blofeld and a white cat to be seated in the next room. If you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this store very much.
Would I buy?
Maybe and maybe not. The interior is urbane and the staff are both on brand and welcoming. This should add up to
a purchase, providing the stock measures up, and for the most part it does. The collection, for men in particular, is a somewhat disparate series of pieces, however, and it could be a little hit or miss.
That said, if you move in the rarefied circles that can afford this kind of thing, then there will probably be something that will turn the gaze. And if there isn’t, there are lots of new things to come this season, according to the staff.
A newcomer in Mayfair’s designer village proves up to the task of making a splash in a neighbourhood filled with the well-crafted, the expensive and the beautiful. It is an elegant addition to the area.
Address 8 Carlos Place, London W1K
Number of sales floors Two
Former use Mauritanian Embassy
Ambience Bond girl meets Edwardian gent
Exterior Classic Mayfair Edwardian - you could easily miss the fact it’s a shop
Standout feature A bronze banana palm light (pictured top right)