May 23 2013 Latest news:
Monday, February 11, 2013
In the latest of our interview series with Hampstead independent shopkeepers, Fiona Aitman reveals why her mother’s memory lives on in fashion boutique Miriam London
After spending her childhood on glamorous shopping trips to the Continent with designer Nicole Farhi, it’s no wonder that fashionista Fiona Aitman’s boutique of haute couture pulls in an all-star crowd.
Pop star Sarah Harding, radio DJ Sara Cox and model Melanie Sykes can often be found rifling through the carefully selected labels at Miriam London, in Hampstead, but it was a tragic event which saw Fiona take up the reins at the Heath Street shop.
Rewind 20 years and the boutique, run by Fiona’s mum Miriam Schutzmann as Arc en Ciel, attracted a much quirkier crowd with its “bohemian, modern and fresh” style.
The likes of actress Helena Bonham Carter used to rely on the niche fashion house for pairs of chunky boots, and others would flock to the shop for its famed Chacoque dresses brought over from Paris.
Strong-armed into service behind the counter was a teenage Fiona, a student at the Lycee Francais, who would often snatch a few hours sleep in the storage room when she was supposed to be working.
Fiona went on to the London College of Fashion and enjoyed a short spell in PR before having children. It seemed that she had been lost to the fashion world for ever. But in 2006 Mrs Schutzmann died unexpectedly, leaving the business to her daughter.
“A month before she died she made a comment about wanting me to have the shop if anything should ever happen to her,” recalls Fiona, 37.
“But I couldn’t keep it as it was, because I wouldn’t have been selling to my age group. It was a little bit of a wrench to change it but it was exciting and scary at the same time.”
Later that year she relaunched the shop and rebranded it Miriam London, in memory of her mum.
She spruced up the collection, introducing fresh lines with emphasis on the sartorial offerings being more “relaxed and fun”.
Today you will find Los Angeles- based Coco Lala items hanging alongside Italian Pinko with a host of independent jewellers’ creations thrown in for good measure.
The collection is inspired by Fiona’s shopping expeditions with her best friend Candice and her mother, fashion designer Ms Farhi.
Mother-of-two Fiona, who lives in Mill Hill, said: “I think they inspired me and so did my mum.”
The fashionista has just given the shop’s website a makeover and is planning on expanding the store’s underwear range, which seems to tickle her customers’ fancy.
“This year hasn’t been the best, but we have lots of exciting things planned and we want to expand,” added Fiona.
* Miriam London is a member of the NW3 Hampstead Business Association. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.nw3hampstead.com, or follow NW3 on Twitter at @NW_3Hampstead.