Little can compare to the refreshing combination of tarte au citron plus Earl Grey and Le Monde on a rainless afternoon at one of my favourite London hot-spots, Maison Bertaux. The 136-year-old patisserie on Greek Street run by actresses Michelle and Tania Wade has been the perfect location for many a memorable conversation at a table for four, with close friends who have fallen equally in love with the gateaux, the impromptu second-floor gallery, and the unfailingly charming staff. I’ve logged in numerous hours on premises and tasted practically the entire window display; and not too long ago before unwillingly setting off home down Charing Cross, I discovered one of Soho’s best kept secrets right below: the Shop at Maison Bertaux. The boutique located in the basement of Maison B was opened back in September 2006 by Pippa Brooks (singer from new wave All About Eve Babitz) and Max Karie (fashion retail marketing guru), and is slightly similar to Brewer Street’s The World According To… in terms of what it offers. Stocking extremely well-selected pieces with obvious good taste and attention to detail, the available ranges from A.P.C., Eley Kishimoto, Obey, and Sonia by Sonia Rykiel. The Shop’s overall style is eclectic, glamorous in personality but not ostentatiously so, and is not exclusive to one age — whether that be in female age group or era in fashion. And unique accessory pieces by Vivienne Westwood, Yura and Princess Tina are some of the finest the city has to offer.
Along with Tocca products and Madame à Trois crockery trios from the 1920s-1960s, it all adds extra flair for indulgence and gift-giving, as well as maintaining personal style without yielding to any given trend. Admittedly I’ve admired the aesthetics of design-couple Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto for quite some time (also recently appointed as the new design directors of French House Cacharel). So when I found out the doily-patterned logo was designed by Kishimoto herself, I was ecstatic (shown above) — especially as it stayed true to the overall Bertaux brand heritage. The cake box bearing her insignia design for giftwrap makes for wonderful packaging, and the influence doesn’t stop there: the wallpaper and printed wood included in the boutique’s décor are straight from Eley Kishimoto headquarters. But probably what I find most irresistible in-store is the street-art line of t-shirts from Obey. Yes, that’s the same Obey of artist Shepard Fairey and Obey Giant, the graphic campaign exploring phenomenology and attempting to spark discussion regarding the nature of advertising and political propaganda through production of their own propaganda — a campaign in which no motive is obvious, thus challenging visual perception and attention to detail. In fact, it was Shepard Fairey who truly inspired the Barack Obama campaign poster movement through his own designs (see ‘Vote demographics’ for more detail).
Considering most shops these days tend to operate more like Costco (Zara, Primark, Accessorize, you name it), the Shop at Maison Bertaux is a breath of fresh air in the midst of the congested city centre. Which makes the news that it will be closing down in two weeks’ time all the sadder. Unfortunately, Brooks and Karie have decided to discontinue their venture after two happy years of satisfied customers, and I sincerely hope the credit crunch has nothing to do with it… In any case, there will be a sale until the remaining stock sells out, with Eley Kishimoto on thirty percent clearance — so most definitely worth checking out whilst in town this upcoming week. On the bright side, as a result of the success of Maison B’s blog, Madame (Ms Brooks) and fellow contributers will be continuing their insightful discussion and miscellany on the brand-new site ‘Madame says…’. And to commemorate, a short video below featuring Madame and Maison from spring last year in Soho…
Sarah Badr © MMVIII
Chez Maison Bertaux – 27 Greek Street, W1D 5DF
See also: Shop at Maison B (Blog)