What I Know About Style

Sophie Merchant, Merchant Archive

Merchant Archive


Sophie Merchant, owner of vintage and contemporary lifestyle boutique Merchant Archive, finds it difficult to part with her vintage treasures and name-drop

Have you always wanted your own boutique?

I come from a farming family in Somerset, so when I was 13 my dad said that my brother would inevitably take over the farm and asked me what I would like to do. I knew that I wanted a shop.

How did you go about it?

I’ve always made things and loved fashion, but I was a bit of a party girl. Then I trained in dental hygiene and I still work a couple of days a week in Harley Street – I can’t leave my clients.

Why did you choose Kilburn Lane?

It chose me! I was friends with the man who used to run a furniture store here, but he gave it up for a creative director role and gave me two days to decide. I came in here with a little wardrobe of clothes and I can’t believe how it’s taken off over the last two years – I’ve found my thing.

Can you name-drop a few fans?

I always feel uncomfortable doing this… Roisin Murphy visited yesterday; Kate Moss and Kimberley Stuart also shop here. Stylists, fashion and interior designers come here regularly, too.

How would you describe your style?

Vintage with a contemporary edge.

Who are your favourite designers?

Ossie Clark – his clothes move beautifully and don’t date. I love the beauty of Yves Saint Laurent – he was a master. Bordelle, based in Notting Hill, creates amazing stuff.

What is your favourite era for fashion?

I love the decadence of Victorian times – the fashion is as beautiful as couture, but at a fraction of the price. Everything from that period a one-off and has survived the test of time. Twenties and ’30s stage burlesque is such fun. I think ’30s fashion hangs so beautifully and I also love the simplicity of ’40s fashion. I like vintage clothes to look like they’ve been worn; I want people to enjoy their clothes.

What are your fashion no-nos?

Don’t try to be someone you’re not.

Who are your style icons?

Coco Chanel and Charlotte Gainsbourg. I like the effortless, demure look of red-lipsticked, fag-smoking French actresses.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Lychee martinis and Marlboro Lights.

What’s your current bestseller?

Fleet Ilya’s cuff clutch [£495].

Have you ever struggled to part with an item of clothing?

That’s something I’ve had to get over. A stylist noticed it once when she was buying a Victorian seaside skirt – it was red and white striped like a deckchair.

Merchant Archive, 320 Kilburn Lane, London, W9; www.merchantarchive.com; 020 8969 6470

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