LONDON – Maureen Doherty, a maverick retailer who helped to build Issey Miyake’s brand and who founded the destination boutique Egg in Belgravia, died aged 70 on Nov. 18, her family said.
A big believer in craft, comfort — and the power of calm — Doherty opened Egg in 1994 in a converted dairy on Kinnerton Street in Belgravia after a career working with brands as diverse as Issey Miyake and Jigsaw.
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At Egg, there has always been much to observe and touch, including clothing from small Japanese, Italian and British labels and the Egg brand, as well as one-off ceramic pieces and hand-blown glass.
Having worked with big brands and retailers in England and France, Doherty was committed to keeping Egg small. She focused on timeless style and craft long before it became trendy for retailers to mix design, homeware and clothing on the shop floor.
“The philosophy of Egg is, for me, to treat a shop like life,” she said. “Real life, not shows with perfume that smells of accountants and exclusivity deals, but freedom and laughter with an honest, professional and compassionate approach.”
Doherty’s vision was to sell “the beautiful and the everyday” and to focus on “the pure enjoyment of shapes, color, materials and making,” according to her company.
In 1995, Doherty told WWD that “all the designers come here for their weekend and at-home clothes.”
Karan became a close friend of Doherty’s, and said she will be greatly missed.
“Maureen had a heart like no other person. Every time I visited London I went to Egg. Maureen was London to me, and to so many. I not only shopped there, but loved the creative experience she created and nurtured at Egg. Her fashion was timeless and loved by so, so many — especially by everyone on the cobblestone street where Egg is. I will always wear her Egg pieces. My heart goes out to all of the people at Egg. Love you forever, Maureen,” said Karan.
It wasn’t just designers who fell for Doherty’s arty, soft-edged aesthetic. Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson have all purchased from the store.
Moira Benigson, founder of executive search experts the MBS Group, said she still has some of the first pieces she purchased from Egg when it opened, a pink silk dress with pleats, a denim skirt and a shirt. She said the knitwear offer has always been incredible.
“I adored that store, and Maureen was one of a kind — quite mad, a maverick, a genius and force of nature,” said Benigson. “The retail and creative world has lost a shining star who inspired so many people.”
At Egg, the focus has always been on volume, color and comfort. Over the years, many of the collections have been inspired by workwear from around the world, such as the white uniform of a Rajasthani milkman, or a French gardener’s jacket.
At one point, Doherty was stocking butchers’ smocks from London’s Smithfield Market, and told WWD: “Customers thought they were Miyake.”
The store, which carries a mosaic of clothing, pots, books, boots, scarves, bags, jewels and pencils, has also operated as an exhibition space, showcasing the author and potter Edmund de Waal’s first one-man show.
Egg was also a place for young makers and designers to experiment. In the space of a year Keiko Hasegawa made 1,000 pots and set them in rows on Egg’s floor while the master silversmith Bill Phipps hand-forged giant silver spoons for display in the space.
Fragrance maker Lyn Harris, founder of Miller Harris and Perfumer H, said she deeply admired Doherty “and her impeccable taste. Her vision was so ahead of anyone else. She kept me believing in my own creativity.”
Harris added that Doherty led “a unique fashion and craft movement which stood out from all the big brands, and made you sit back and admire. She had the magic. Her wonderful spirit and vision was just a delight to embrace each time I saw her in that beautiful space she created. She will be forever in our hearts.”
Doherty, who studied at London College of Fashion, began working in the industry in her late teens. She helped to build labels including Fiorrucci in the U.K. market and to set up the Elle and Valentino stores in London.
Fellow retailer Joan Burstein, the founder and honorary chair of Browns, said she remembers when Doherty was starting her career at Elle, a rival boutique in London.
“I always admired her taste as a buyer, holding steadfastly to her point of view which was always about finding small, unknown designers and supporting them. Her individuality will be sadly missed,” said Burstein.
As the years passed, Doherty focused increasingly on one emerging designer in particular, Issey Miyake.
Based in Paris, she worked on special projects for Miyake ranging from ballet costumes to new store openings and the L’eau D’Issey scent and bottle.
She also helped the designer set up his three stores in London. The first was on Sloane Street, and Doherty hired David Chipperfield to design the store at a time when it was unusual for retailers to team with architects.
She also introduced Miyake, by then a close friend, to the potter Lucie Rie. Their various collaborations were showcased at Egg, and included Miyake jackets adorned with Rie’s ceramic buttons.
After a period of learning to make pots in France, Doherty returned to England and briefly headed design operations for the high street retail chain Jigsaw.
After a year, she quit and opened Egg with her business partner, Asha Sarabhai, who made clothing for Miyake and Hermès in India. Her vision for the store was always crystal clear, and she was never really looking to expand beyond Belgravia.
“We aren’t designer-based,” Doherty told WWD in 1995. “It’s to do with the senses and comfort, not with personalities. Egg is about being anonymous and a feeling that it’s been here forever.”
Egg reopened this week after a short period of mourning following Doherty’s death, and there are many future projects in the works in-store and online.
Doherty is survived by her daughter Jessy Walker and two grandsons. Funeral arrangements are still being finalized.
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