Mayfair has undergone quite the facelift over the past decade. Once typified by art and antiques dealerships, it has now evolved into one of London’s leading luxury destinations, and this transformation can be attributed to one solitary spot of London’s most illustrious neighbourhood: Mount Street
Words: Mark Kebble
As one of the UK’s most in-demand up-and-coming fashion designers, it’s little wonder that people are excited about Sophia Webster opening a retail unit in Mayfair. Her shoe designs are always striking and the recently launched handbag collection has added yet another string to her bow. But why Mayfair?
London’s most prestigious address has undergone a retail transformation over the past decade, overseen by the Grosvenor Estates team – who have owned 300 acres in Mayfair and Belgravia since 1677 – and it all starts with one particular street…
‘Mount Street is a good example of the change here,’ explains Keith Bailey, Location Director for Mayfair at Grosvenor. ‘That evolution probably started in 2007. Back then Mayfair and Mount Street was typified by a lot of art and antiques dealerships, some so private they didn’t have direct access to them, you had to ring a doorbell to get in.
‘Now it has evolved into one of London’s leading luxury destinations and the real trigger for that started with three things. First of all, Marc Jacobs came in and was a big catalyst for change; then the Connaught, which was refurbished around that time and gave a real shot in the arm to the district; and the third was our improvement of the streetscape.’
The changes are clear to see. Outside the Connaught, for a start, is a sculptural feature called Silence by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, which ‘just sets off the public realm in the street’ says Bailey. Mount Street, just round the corner, is now home to the likes of Celine, Ralph Lauren, Christian Louboutin and the aforementioned Marc Jacobs, certainly backing up Bailey’s claim that is now a leading luxury destination in London.
‘From the outset with Marc Jacobs, it was his first London flagship store and that has set the tone for how we have developed the retail offering,’ Bailey says on the strategy for bringing designers into the area. ‘For a lot of the commercial stores we have an influence over, we do try as far as possible to maintain it as a kind of boutique, one-off store feel. On Bond Street there are a lot of big names of course, but they have multiple stores. Marc Jacobs started that and set the direction, and we stayed true to that.’
From the outset with Marc Jacobs, it was his first London flagship store and that has set the tone for how we have developed the retail offering
What’s interesting is the so called ‘Mount Street effect’, where the connecting roads have had something of a resurgence too. Carlos Place, opposite the Connaught, is now home to the likes of Roland Mouret, Jessica McCormack, Solange Azagury-Partridge and Jenny Packham, and as we head down Mount Street and take a seat outside the Audley pub, there’s plenty more to see.
‘On South Audley Street there has been quite a lot of change over the last few years,’ Bailey explains. ‘Frette will soon be trading down here, and Balmain further down just demonstrates there is a demand for international retailers looking to have a presence around here.’
Bailey does believe it is in part down to the transformation of Mount Street, but of Mayfair in general. Grosvenor Square is home to a host of developments in the works, and with Crossrail arriving just off Oxford Street that’s set to bring a whole new influx of visitors to the area. Despite the added tourist draw, Bailey is keen to point out that residents are always at the top of their priorities, which includes keeping an eye on the amenity retail offering.
‘If we lose an amenity retail, we always look to replace elsewhere in Mayfair,’ he explains. ‘A good example is Allen’s [the popular butcher’s], which as a result of their business no longer being sustainable here have moved down to Nine Elms. We can’t disclose who will be taking over their premises, but we are looking to replace it with that style of operation. It was a butcher’s before, so the new retailer has elements of that too, a delicatessen-style operator. We are mindful that we need to retain certain elements for the local residents.’
All parts of Mayfair have their own particular attractions, but Mount Street is a very important part of what makes this London’s most prestigious address today
Although Bailey is keen to stress that all parts of Mayfair have their own particular attractions, he does admit that Mount Street is a very important part of what makes this London’s most prestigious address today – and its impact, as highlighted by the impending opening of Sophia Webster’s boutique offering, shows it won’t be slowing down any time soon.
‘It’s really exciting to have such a wonderful up-and-coming fashion designer coming to the area,’ Bailey enthuses. ‘We are looking at spreading the retail offering down the side streets, building on the success of Mount Street. As long as we do it in a way that’s sympathetic to the residents in those streets, it’s something that we are keen to do.’