In a quiet corner of Mayfair, there’s a street that looks as if it’s been preserved under a Victorian bell jar, featuring Italianate and Franco-Flemish red-brick buildings, wide pavements and window boxes spilling geraniums and petunias. Among the oldest canopied shops on Mount Street are the Mayfair Pharmacy, with its enamel and badger-hair shaving brushes lined up in the window, and Allen’s of Mayfair, the 170-year-old butcher’s shop famous for its hung Scotch beef, salt-marsh lamb and grouse—favorites of London foodies including Prince Charles.
But this isn’t just another quaint pocket of London. Look a little closer, and there’s Marc Jacobs’s first store in England, which sits next to antiques dealer Kenneth Neame, whose windows are filled with tiny porcelain dogs set on gilt-edged mahogany armchairs. There’s also Emperor Moth, a quirky Russian clothing store with a surreal mirrored interior. At night, Scott’s, the newly reopened fish restaurant, is drawing London denizens including Kate Moss—who celebrated her birthday this year at the gleaming oyster bar—Jemima Khan, Lady Antonia Fraser and Harold Pinter. “The street is suddenly alive with celebrities,” says Jo Hansford, a hairdresser with a Mount Street salon who counts the Duchess of Cornwall among her clients. “The paparazzi are up here all the time.”
In the past year, Mount Street, 10 minutes from Bond Street—where Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren have shops—and a short walk from Berkeley Square, has been undergoing a quiet transformation, which began when Marc Jacobs moved in to a former antiques store in February. It was a left-field choice for the designer, since most of his peers have gravitated toward other, more centrally located Mayfair streets, including Bond, Bruton, Albemarle, Dover and Conduit. But that didn’t matter to Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs. “This area has more charm and appeal,” says Duffy. “There’s a garden around the corner. I like having a garden nearby. The retail spaces here are also beautiful, deep and interesting.”
Indeed, the Marc Jacobs shop boasts rich parquet flooring, grand Palladian windows at the back and period marble mantelpieces. Since Jacobs planted his flag, other fashion and beauty labels have rapidly followed. Balenciaga, Christian Louboutin, Dunhill and Aesop, the Sydney, Australia–based natural beauty line, have just secured spaces on the street, while Annick Goutal, the Paris fragrance house, is in talks about opening a store. Clements Ribeiro and Oscar de la Renta are among the many firms rumored to be looking for shops here too.
But Marc Jacobs isn’t the only spark behind the transformation. The owner of Mount Street, the Grosvenor Estate (its chairman, Gerald Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, is Britain’s richest landowner), has in the past two years actively sought to attract a mix of established and emerging fashion, jewelry, beauty and food stores in order to bring the street back to life. “We would not expect to see the same brands [that are] on the main thoroughfares, but rather niche brands,” says Keith Wilson of Wilson McHardy, retail leasing agent for the estate, who adds that what appeals to such brands is the “quintessential Englishness” of the street.