Even if you did peek through the railings at the gorgeous restored villa at number 564, complete with manicured lawn and a cockatoo on the front porch, chances are you’d dismiss it as a high-class home, thanks to the heavy iron gate and total lack of signage.
This under-the-radar approach suits Shanghainese founder Jane Zhang; after a decade of running ‘no-name’ shops her latest project, a multi-brand womenswear boutique, is more of a luxury affair. Instead of heavy foot traffic and speculative browsers, she’s relying on a word-of-mouth approach to attract a more discerning clientele.
Set over the ground floor of a converted Concession-era villa, the space certainly has more than a whiff of exclusivity. Dark wooden floors, seats shaped like oversized pebbles and ceramic teapots lend a sparse, Zen-like feel characteristic of local interiors firm KUU, the Japanese-Singaporean team behind the revamp. There are plenty of nods to the store name (‘cotton field’) in the canvas-covered walls, vases of cotton wool-sprouting twigs and hand-stitched calico totes – there are no naff plastic bags here.
When it comes to the items on sale, there’s nothing so tawdry or obvious as a clothes rail, either; garments are either displayed like artworks on walls, or concealed behind panels, waiting to be discovered. Currently the store carries just twelve designers – most are Shanghai exclusives – selected for timelessness and quality. ‘We’re not interested in fads or trends,’ says manager Tiffany Lee. ‘We want people to look at the clothes first, then the logo – we’re trying to subvert the natural order.’
The roll-call of largely European designers, including Rundholz (Germany), Album di Famiglia, Lucio Vanotti, Alessandra Marchi and Masnada (Italy) and Peachoo + Krejberg (France) may not ring many bells, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find serious design pedigree: one half of Peachoo + Krejberg is Kenzo Homme’s former creative director. Top quality, natural fabrics – merino wool, cotton, animal horn – are a given across the board, with pieces built to last. A comforting thought, considering the hefty price tags.
We love Lucio Vanotti’s utilitarian classics, which boast just enough of a twist to keep them interesting: perfect trans-seasonal pieces include a soft cotton shirt-dress (2,900RMB), which would work well over tights for the autumn, or a beautifully cut belted blazer in dove-grey wool, complete with a dramatic high collar and kimono-style fastenings (2,850RMB).
The store’s keystone label, German husband-and-wife team Rundholz, is more directional but no less covetable. Think slouchy, mannish jackets, exaggerated silhouettes and extravagantly gathered hems in a largely subdued palette of navy blue, moss green and black, enlivened by the occasional loud plaid or fire engine red.
The store’s standout piece, though, is a sumptuous shearling-front coat by Alessandra Marchi, with the whopping 18,800RMB asking price putting it firmly in investment piece territory.
There’s also a small selection of accessories, with eyewear brands including Conservatoire de Lunettes International and Kuboraum. We particularly like Rigards’ heavy vintage-inspired frames (3,680RMB), carved from buffalo horn and specially designed for shallow-bridged Asian noses.
Zhang plans to host pop-up shops and mini-exhibitions in the store’s lovely grounds, so watch this space. And if you don’t fancy rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi, private shopping appointments – complete with canapés and a personal stylist – can be arranged.
By Selena Schleh