January 20 2010
Lucia van der Post
Carmen Busquets is one of those percipient beings who seem to know just where things are heading, way ahead of the rest of the pack. She was, for instance, one of the original investors in Net-a-Porter and is still one of the main owners and supporters of the brand. Meanwhile, sometime after her initial adventure with Net-a-Porter, she took a long hard look at where real luxury was going and decided that it had absolutely nothing to do with the whole celeb culture, with wanting to wear what Cheryl or Posh or any of the other inhabitants of Heat, Grazia and all the rest were wearing and everything to do with subtle, understated quality and most particularly with things that were bespoke and individual. She is a passionate fan of fine craftsmanship and wanted to “encourage people to explore their own individual creativity by inspiring with the stories” behind the brands.
To this end she came up with CoutureLab, which was more than just an online shop for people with fat wallets – it was also intended to be a place where truly creative designers could sell some extraordinary pieces that wouldn’t be available anywhere else. She therefore had some pieces by little-known designers such as Maurizio Galante (first picture), Lydia Courteille and Christian Astuguevieille, she sold a lot of L’Wren Scott’s amazingly elegant and beautifully cut dresses (though they weren’t much good if you weren’t reed thin and tall to boot), as well as collections of designer jewellery, re-worked vintage pieces and extraordinary furniture, objets, glass and silver.
All this could be seen at the Hollywood Road showrooms in Chelsea by appointment and bought online and it soon garnered a little fanbase for those who were prepared to pay for serious quality, real innovation with an added injection of excitement. Now it has ventured into Mayfair – onto Davies Street to be exact – where her interesting take on luxury can be seen and bought.
She has brought over, for instance, Charvet shirts (£265) and their fine cashmere and silk ties, the brand of King Edward VII, Kennedy, Somerset Maugham and a host of other discerning customers. The ready-to-wear shirts are made of fine-as-fine cotton, have a French-style (ie slightly wider) collar, mother-of-pearl buttons, and, though it is famous for its immense range of white fabrics, it also has pinstripes, checks and other colours. For bespoke shirts, though, you’ll still have to go to Paris.
But look out, too, for innovative, designer jewellery (one of her deep interests), as well as soft-as-butter Tomas Maier sweaters, Ann Demeulemeester’s jackets for men (second picture) and women; men’s stylists are currently drooling over her “Rimbaud” coat made from wool, linen and alpaca, £950. There is also clothing by innovative young designers such as Derek Lawlor (third picture).
For men, there are some extraordinary cuff links, carved out of black onyx, white gold and rock crystal and other interesting materials (prices start at £195). Trawl the website and you’ll find that style writer Simon Mills has picked Bottega Veneta’s Moro Messenger Bag (£1,430) and a lovely black leather Pilot Trolley (£1,294) from CoutureLab Travel as his favourite pieces. Check them out and you’ll see why. The Pilot Trolley is beautifully crafted and is part of CoutureLab’s own small range of luggage – all really well thought-out. Prices start at about £1,200.