Sophie Merchant’s cute little Notting Hill shop Merchant Archive has long been many a fashionista’s go-to destination for design ideas. Since 2007, it has been selling a small but carefully chosen collection of antique and vintage clothing, which Merchant sources herself. Vogue fashion director Lucinda Chambers, Kate Moss and singer Florence Welch are all said to be fans. On any given day you might find a 1920s oriental lamé cape (£1,050), a Lanvin-Castillo wedding dress (£2,250) or a 1930s pink-beaded tea gown (£980).
After years of providing design inspiration for the world’s leading fashion houses, Merchant decided to develop her own line of clothing that combined her love of vintage with modern wearability. First off, she created a coat influenced by an Edwardian ladies’ motor coat (£895). Then came beautiful dresses, tops and trousers made using Swiss lace and fine silks. Look out for what Merchant calls her Hero dress in emerald-green cotton/silk with a floral lamé insert (£895, pictured), a fantastically useful emerald-green cotton/silk summer coat (£585) and a very glamorous white linen skirt that has an overlay of white lace (£1,425).
This is not directional fashion, but the pieces are stylish and idiosyncratic, perfect for the set-piece events of a British summer – a wedding, country-house opera or garden party, for example. There are also some collared floral-lamé jackets (£585), which are so beautiful they would make the most everyday little black dress look alluring. And, as Merchant only does small runs, you are unlikely to see these clothes on anyone else.