What I Know About Style

Sophie Merchant, Merchant Archive

Merchant Archive

September
8

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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