Just a few days ago Uruguayan-American fashion designer Gabriela Hearst opened her first European outpost. Located in the former premises of Brown’s Bride, at 59 Brook street, the 17th century Georgian building stands proudly across from one of London’s glittery landmarks, Claridge’s Hotel.
Designed by Sir Norman Foster, the store is spread over two-floors, ground and basement, it feels calmly welcoming when you walk over the porch. Flooded with plenty of natural light streaming through floor-to-ceiling windows, it showcases the multi-faceted talents of the woman with a big surname, who prefers her work to speak about her talent & sustainability efforts that have been at the core of her brand from day one.
Having built a loyal following of international wealthy clients (because her clothes are undoubtedly expensive), for now half of sales come from Gabriela’s bags that are as distinct as the fingerprints. The store carries a vast selection of them, including the best-selling Diana bag, named after breathtakingly beautiful American singer Diana Ross, its shape reminiscent of the open bellows of the French accordion.
The golden railings of clothes almost look like displays of museum pieces because of the space between them, making sure each one has a chance to catch a potential customer’s eye. With white wall background, unobtrusive but perfectly positioned lighting and plenty of wood, as well as custom made Benchmark furniture (made in Hungerford from a tree that recently came down in a storm), the store expertly highlights the elegance of Gabriela’s clothes, bags and shoes impecably.
As you you take the staircase to the basement, your eyes are drawn to the bookcases, displaying books, porcelain figurines and shoes. I have to say the combination of proportions, lighting (artificial light is on automatic dimmers) and materials spotlight the shoes to perfection, letting each speak volumes in silence of the quality and thought that clearly goes into designing each pair. The focus here is on timeless design that you will love wearing for years to come, instead of ‘here today, gone tomorrow’. This is something that Gabriela Hearst feels particularly strongly about.
You will also find the art. Some paying homage to the country of her birth, like the beautiful tapestry that hangs upstairs, brightly vibrant colours enhanced by the natural light irrespective of the weather outside. Other pieces, like the regiment drums and porcelain figurines of soldiers, to the history and culture of Great Britain. Both coming together perfectly, like pieces of the puzzle.
Another wonderful touch was the resin and Francisco Costa‘s new beauty oils on the low table by the sofa downstairs. Francisco, a veteran of fashion design, last year challenged himself to change direction by creating a beauty brand Costa Brazil paying homage to his country of birth. His beauty offering is still quite new, so it takes a connoisseur, as well as a true supporter, to put the products on display. That truly feels particularly endeering, particularly when fashion still has a fairly cut-throat reputation.
What also makes Gabriela stand out from the vast tribe of modern fashion designers, is her use of luxurious natural fabrics and materials, like cotton, cashmere and leather. Quality is of paramount importance and while £1,000 for a cashmere sweater is a lot of money, Gabriela said in her recent interview to Harrods Magazine (where her brand has a concession) that a customer can expect it to last for many years. When you walk around the store, exploring the designs, surrounded by the cultured elegance, the feel of each piece gently caressing your fingers or body, when you try them on, it certainly makes you contemplate not just the designer’s creative process, but the value of the pieces she creates. In Russia there has been a saying dating back decades “I am not so rich to afford poorly made clothes”. I think there is some merit to it.
Gabriela Hearst boutique, 59 Brook Street, Mayfair, London