February 02 2010
Hidden away in the maze of winding alleys that flank Spitalfields Market, Kate Evans’s Georgian-fronted boutique Precious seems almost to take a step back in time. “We’ve tried to keep it in line with the heritage of the place,” says Evans of the former sweet shop, now stylishly fitted out in silks and antique furniture. “I always feel a shop should try to ‘express’ the area, which, in our case, is quite eclectic – it’s urban and very individual, and I think our customers appreciate the fact that it’s a little bit secret.”
Evans opened Precious, her first boutique, in 2006, having spent 19 years at Harrods, working her way up from the shop floor to fashion buyer, and a further four years at Harvey Nichols manning the International Collections for its six branches.
“When I was buying for Harvey Nichols I could indulge more, but now I have to be super-selective,” she says. The result is an expertly curated collection of niche labels and standout pieces from catwalk designers’ quirkier sister lines. Pink silk “princess” dresses (£495) from Moschino’s Cheap & Chic range sit alongside chic duck-egg blue coats (£515) and printed silk shift dresses (£285) by See by Chloé, which are offset by directional items such as sharp-shouldered evening tops (£195) and slouchy boyfriend jackets (£395) from McQ by Alexander McQueen.
Work-to-evening dresses are a staple of Evans’s well-heeled clientele, and the shop’s selection includes those by Diane von Furstenberg in bold paintbrush-print designs (£295) and Grecian-style ivory (£385), as well as silk colour-block dresses from Antwerp label Essentiel (£175). Slouchy separates from Californian label Poleci (from £155) and By Malene Birger boyfriend blazers (£219) are juxtaposed with Sportmax’s glam lace corset cocktail dresses (£475) and suede open-toe shoe-boots from Cleo B (£245).
The smoky-sweet scent that pervades the shop’s two floors comes courtesy of Evans’s mother, Angela Flanders (whose eponymous shop is on nearby Columbia Road). Started as a range of home fragrances 25 years ago, the scents feature offbeat notes such as tobacco in Oudh Noir (£55, 50ml eau de parfum) and musky ambrette seeds in Moroccan Rose (£45, 50ml eau de parfum), a scent created especially for Evans.
She has a magpie’s eye for costume jewels (thanks to a stint as a jewellery dealer) with a preference for pieces from young British designers, such as the watch-face Perspex bangles (£175) and diamanté cuffs (£195) by Nicholas King, who recently launched his debut collection after having worked with designers including John Galliano, Donna Karan and Alexis Bittar.
“Ultimately, I just buy what I love,” says Evans. “There’s always the debate: is buying an art or a science? But at the end of the day it’s really about going with what you believe in.” A formula that seems to be serving Precious well.