It’s lunchtime on a spring day in Mount Street, and inside the Sautter cigar shop two men are puffing away and sipping coffee while reclining in armchairs amid shelves of humidors and Winston Churchill memorabilia. It’s not what you’d expect in one of London’s most stylish shopping areas, but Mount Street’s charm is that it combines cutting-edge fashion labels with a village atmosphere.
This is no accident. The Grosvenor Estate, which owns nearly all the freeholds, deliberately “curates” the street. “It’s important to Grosvenor to have the printer’s, the butcher’s, the cigar shop and the deli as well as the high-end fashion shops,” explains Helen Franks, head of commercial leasing at Grosvenor.
Mount Street runs between Berkeley Square in the east and Park Lane in the west and spills over into parts of Davies Street and South Audley Street. It has long been known for antiques shops and art galleries, along with traditional businesses such as the gunmaker Purdey. However it was the reopening of chic restaurant Scott’s in 2006 that kicked off the street’s reinvention, and the arrival of the Marc Jacobs shop in 2007 which inspired the Grosvenor Estate to encourage more fashion brands to move in. “Part of our strategy,” says Franks, “is to attract high-end luxury brands that don’t already have a presence in London, so that brand won’t be everywhere.”
Instead of being dominated by the biggest global brands, the street is home to some of the fashion insider’s favourite labels. Lanvin’s only womenswear store in the country is here, as is Balenciaga’s, along with Marc Jacobs’s hip young diffusion line Marc by Marc Jacobs, up and coming shoemaker Nicholas Kirkwood, historic French luggage brand Goyard and rock and roll British jeweller Stephen Webster. Oscar de la Renta is expected to open a boutique this year and the ultra hip French brand Céline, recently revamped by British designer Phoebe Philo, is also set to open here in the former premises of the Jordan International Bank at number 103.
Unlike the more obvious glamour of Bond Street, where shop windows sparkle with gigantic jewels, guarded by gigantic security men, Mount Street has a more discreetly luxurious atmosphere, with its tall red brick buildings, plants in pots and the water feature in front of the Connaught hotel. The tone is perfectly reflected in Roland Mouret’s shop on Carlos Place. The French designer’s signature hourglass shift dresses are displayed on geometric metal racks that resemble sculptures, the walls are wood panelled, and imposing Tudor-looking chairs are parked by a coffee table piled with art books: it feels more like a cross between an art gallery and a private members’ club than a shop.
Mouret himself regularly nips over the road for tea at the Connaught hotel, a favourite of the fashion industry. Anna Wintour often stays here, Donatella Versace, Marc Jacobs and Stefano Pilati, former designer at YSL, have hosted parties here. Many of the gilt-embossed invitations to shows are printed by the Mount Street Printers, set up in 1981. One 50th birthday invitation in the shop, dated 2008, is in the shape of a sports car and reads “Crisis, what crisis?”
Just in front of the Mount Street Gardens is jeweller Stephen Webster’s boutique. Webster, who selected the location because he felt “more at home with Marc Jacobs and Christian Louboutin than Chopard and Tiffany”, sums up the street’s appeal: “In this one street I bought my gun, I get my hair cut, I bought my luggage and buy most of my wife’s presents. As well as this I can always get fish and chips from Scott’s.”
Carola Long is the FT’s deputy fashion editor