With the college focused on our move to Stratford, I am always thinking East and rarely get a chance to venture West of Oxford Circus.
However, I had known Simon Burstein, former chief executive of Browns, had opened a new boutique on Connaught Street, just off Edgware Road and wanted to pay him a visit.
I met Simon through this mother Joan Burstein, the founder of Browns who did so much to support young fashion talent from Ralph Lauren to John Galliano. We both share a desire to support young designers, so we still meet up to discuss this.
Simon’s latest venture, The Place, is a concept store which stocks only three to four brands with a real focus on the relationship between handcrafted skills and new technologies.
There isn’t really any better example of this than Alice Archer, whose designs are the main focus of the store.
Royal College of Art graduate Alice Archer is a highly skilled embroiderer who codes computer programmes which translate her hand-embroidered stitches into digital software format.
Alice uses this process to translate the surfaces of oil paintings she has been inspired by into embroidery, with results that are incredibly beautiful.
Her work makes embroidery not only relevant, but also desirable in the modern fashion industry by combining new technology with traditional handcraft.
Other brands include accessories from Leathersmith of London, made at a bindery in Canvey Island, Essex – also owned by Simon; Launer, supplier of handbags to the Queen for over 40 years; and Sofie d’Hoore, a Belgian designer creating clean-cut, timeless designs, who I first heard about from Egg.
You can tell from the selection of items that it’s fine craftsmanship that Simon is really passionate about.
This is also underpinned by the fact that underneath the shop is a basement studio where Alice Archer works. Being able to meet the designer or see them in action is so important in high craftsmanship – it allows you to really understand the techniques and time that has gone into making an item and more often than not persuades you to make a purchase!
I think in a similar way to how Browns has always been recognised for its pioneering selection of clothes, Simon, by focussing on the marriage of craft and technology, has a similarly exciting and innovative collection.
The shop’s location did remind me somewhat of Browns too. There are a number of independent boutiques around Connaught Village (Lucy Choi & Kokoro), and the area has an off-beat charm, that perhaps South Molton St once had too. Go and take a visit!