Connolly

431391-760-0
The name Joseph still resonates in London, despite his untimely demise ten years ago. Joseph Ettedgui started his retailing career on the King’s Road in the early 70s. He stealthily entered the London style consciousness over the next thirty years. London, in the so-called Swinging Sixties, had turned a bit dreary by the seventies and the only glimmers of bright light were the first small retailing ventures that a charming, rather short, cigar smoking, French Moroccan named Joseph had founded. When I had to buy some clothes for my very tall older daughter, not even yet a teenager, I went off to Joseph to buy into his look: Tight short mini dresses, t-shirts, trousers, man tailored jackets, belts, boots, slouchy sweaters. He sponsored many new designers with a modern sensibility, including the first Kenzo shop on Sloane Street. In his beautifully designed spaces, women — young and old — rubbed elbows in a totally egalitarian way, buying into his utterly wearable, slightly androgynous look. Joseph was London’s tastemaker Supremo and we monitored his progress, both in fashion and in architecture, in all the smart glossy magazines. I think he was the single most influential person in making the calla lily into a decorating statement rather than something funereal! How I longed for a black and white drawing room, replete with superb vintage photographs, kitted out with glass and chrome tables (by Andree Putnam) and a single stunning calla lily. (Of course I immediately came to my senses, and reverted to the Colefax and Fowler chintz and silk curtain look, but that is another story entirely.)

Eventually, he sold out his retail operation and looked elsewhere to pursue, with his wife, Isabel, a new venture. This new shop was first housed in a Belgravia Mews and called simply, Connolly, after the family of leather makers he so much admired. If you had leather seats in your Bentley or Bristol, they came from the Connolly family. Their quality recalls the finest skins from Hermes. I can remember my first visit to buy something…anything really: There were belts, bags, scarves, gloves, sporty shirts and soft leather car shoes with rubber studs on the bottom, all with the same informing intelligence and high quality. It was rather club-like in feeling, but universal in its appeal. They then opened a larger and more comprehensive shop on Conduit Street in Mayfair. I am still wearing the thinnest of black cashmere turtlenecks from those days. Then, alas, the dream came to an end when Joseph passed into history, (look him up on Wikepedia). The shop closed. Those who cared about such things lost track of Isabel, his widow, and Connolly.

Now miraculously, Connolly is back on Clifford Street off Bond Street with Isabel in charge. All the beautiful bags are back. There are gorgeous cashmere throws in black and white tartan. There are stunning soft trilby hats in ice white, khaki and black. There are warm and cosy gloves (so hard to find) and totes for the most discerning customers. In addition there are two sections most enticing. The first is a small selection of ready-to-wear for men and women in navy, black, and white. Stunning tailored jackets and coats in cashmere, the thinnest lamb shearling, trousers and wide pleated skirts are elegantly displayed. In the atrium there are gorgeous objects for the home, crytal and silver, horn and crocodile, fine leather writing tablets, and beautiful lacquered boxes. Across from the atrium is a home furnishing selection, very austere, but interesting for the modern taste.

The staff are young, helpful, and smiling. I ran into friends who were on their way out with their packages. I was sorely tempted and will return to buy some Christmas presents. The high streets and fashion streets of London are full of expensive gear. The big names dominate. The small entrepreneurs, just as Joseph did in the early seventies, are beginning to enter the consciousness again. They fill a gap. They have a sense of the unique, the precious. They sell something other than branding. The label is YOU.

4 Clifford Street
London, W1S 2LG

For more, please see their website.

Kaaren Hale

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