London calling Fashion duo hit the King's Road
IT pays to be fashionably brave -- just ask Dublin mother-and-daughter team Fran and Laura Nolan.
They ignored the style police who told them were "mad" expanding their clothing brand into Britain in recessionary times -- and, last night, the dynamic duo from Sandycove were celebrating a hit on one of London's most competitive retail territories, the King's Road in upmarket Chelsea.
London celebs including MTV presenter Laura Whitmore, her handsome Dolce & Gabbana model boyfriend David Ghandy and former Spice Girl Emma Bunton turned out for the official opening of the first Fran & Jane boutique outside Ireland.
King's Road, or KR as it's called by fashion insiders, has been the launchpad for many household names. Mary Quant opened her first boutique, Bazaar, there 55 years ago and Habitat's Sir Terence Conran chose it as the location for his first coffee shop, later opening his flagship Conran store there.
The Nolans already have 10 Fran & Jane boutiques dotted around Ireland and trading in London has proved "a real eye-opener", says Fran, who has been in the fashion business since the 1970s.
The London customer is a hard-nosed magpie who wants glamorous going-out clothes rather than casual clothes "and eats up bling accessories like cuffs". There's also a size issue when it comes to retail patterns, with sizes 8 and 10 selling out first in London, compared to sizes 12 and 14 in Ireland. "Everyone told us we were mad opening in London, but we spent 18 months looking for the right location and now we've become something of a destination store," said Laura (24). Her mother developed the Fran & Jane brand with Jane Baker in 2002, who runs two stores in Ireland, and based on their Chelsea experience the Nolans confirmed they plan to open more branches in the UK. "We wouldn't have any interest in opening more stores in Ireland, good times or bad, because we don't want to saturate the market -- we want to keep that special boutique feel, " said Fran. "The whole process of opening a new shop was much easier in London and the landlord was anxious to do everything possible for us. Rents are better here. They have been exorbitant in Ireland for the last 10 years.
"I think landlords at home will have to lower rents or there will be ghost towns. "