The location of Melanie Press’s shop is a reflection of the labels she stocks: it’s in hip but homely Primrose Hill, but just off the main drag. Likewise, her brands are not quite big names but cool and intriguing.
Her pedigree offers a clue – after graduating from Saint Martins, she designed in New York for Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs, both past masters at classic with a big creative twist, then with Clements Ribeiro at Cacharel in Paris before working for Whistles as a buyer and creative director. She opened her store in 2004 in the area where she grew up, “where I personally know a lot of my clients – working women with a little freedom in how they dress, who go walking on the Hill with their kids at the weekend”. She started with big names but has changed with the Zeitgeist. “People are now interested in authenticity – quality clothes that get better as they’re worn,” she says. “How they feel is as important as how they look.”
The shop, with its rubbed-paint window frame and wrought-iron gate, is decked out in neutral greys and a wealth of characterful fittings – wirework tables, old wooden display cases, silvery paisley wallpaper, a Will Broome mural and the original worn-concrete floor.
The three rooms are a voyage of discovery. Cool and casual rules the front, from Golden Goose’s soft and crinkled, dark checked shirts (£198) and artfully beaten-up cowboy boots (£643), to parkas such as Woolrich’s fur-trimmed style (£589) or PRPS’s version (£399). There’s a great selection of jeans, from the latest easy slouch by PRPS (£329) to Current Elliott’s skinny “tregging” design (£189), plus Vanessa Bruno’s tasselled and lived-in take on a Birkin-style bag (£499).
Next comes informal work gear that creatives love: Jasmine de Milo’s velvet-trimmed boyfriend tuxedo (£489), Pringle 1815’s navy cable knit with military trim (£195) and refined shirts from Italian brand Pomandère, including a specially made tunic top embroidered with a vintage fragment that Press found (£141).
The final room is a mix of soft party wear – Jasmine de Milo’s grape silk-satin strapless dress (£537) or Vanessa Bruno’s grey jersey dress with black-lace trim (£258) – and snug daywear such as APC’s fitted tweed hacking jacket (£335) or trench (£412), and Bruno’s slightly 1980s leopard-print sweater (£162). Press also has her own range of shirts and skirts, MP (from £99), and offers informed advice on vexed questions like the best jeans fit, often at private evening events. No wonder local girls Sam Taylor-Wood and Gwen Stefani love this one-stop shop for non-logo style with individuality. Equally, those with less fashion flair cannot fail to be inspired.