We met with one of our brilliant London stockists; Sam and Sophie from The Cross in Holland Park, to find out a little more about what goes on behind the scenes and how she’s created such a vibrant boutique that’s been in the heart of Clarendon Cross since the mid 90’s.
When did you open The Cross & why?
Sam: I opened The Cross with my best friend, Sarah O'Keefe 25 years ago. We knew many local designers and artists at that time who were struggling to find retail outlets to sell their work. We were emerging from a big recession and in those days shops were only interested in stocking you if you already had a retail presence. We understood how frustrating this was as we were designers ourselves. We opened a pop up shop, opposite to where the Cross is now, for 3 months. It was an immediate success as people were delighted to discover a store selling unique and beautiful artisanal pieces. This positive experience gave us the confidence to sign a lease for the shop space across the road.
What is the inspiration behind the interiors?
Sam: We wanted the interior to have a simple white washed feel. The perfect backdrop for all our colourful clothes and accessories. We painted the floor white as we had run out of money, we simply had no other option at the time but it worked so well we have stuck with it all these years. We did not want any flash interior fittings and opted for old mirrors and shelving from brocante markets and junk shops. We were lucky enough to have de Gournay design some exclusive wall panels for us in a collaboration with Dosa. We also worked with muralist, Tanya Thompson, I particularly love our hand painted stairs that she did for us
What’s do you look for when buying new lines for the store?
Sam: The most important question we have to ask ourselves is "Do we LOVE it?" You have to feel that initial rush of excitement when you see the collection. It has to be foremost an emotional experience, the practical questions are secondary.
Do you have a typical customer?
Sam: Every customer is different which is what makes our job so interesting. We love our customers. They all share our ethos...They are not into fast and disposable fashion. Our customers enjoy buying beautiful pieces that they hope to own forever, not just for one season.
What do you love about the M.A.B.E Bessie top that you are wearing today?
Sam: I love my Bessie top! I adore the freshness of the blue and white print and the feel of the lightweight cotton. It is a classic piece that is perfect for this transitional time. I can wear it now with a cashmere cardigan and it will keep me cool in the (hopefully) hotter Summer months.
How long have you been working at The Cross and why did you start working there?
Sophie: I've been working here for 12 years this summer and as the buyer for 9 years. I wanted to work here because I loved the eclectic vibe and the neighbourhood feel to the shop. After all these years I couldn't imagine working anywhere else.
Describe a typical day at work
Sophie: One day of work at the Cross is never the same! Most days I'm on the shop floor sorting our exciting new deliveries, re-merchandising the shop with our amazing team. In buying season, Sam and I are out and about in appointments all over London and venture to Paris and Milan for fashion week!
What do you love about the M.A.B.E Orli Print Dress that you are wearing today?
Sophie: This is the most comfortable and flattering dress. I bought a similar style last summer by M.A.B.E. in a pretty blue stripe. I'm so happy to add this vintage-inspired floral print to my collection!
What’s your favourite thing about working @ The Cross
Sophie: I love how it never gets boring, each season continues to surprise and delight me. As a multi-brand boutique, we have a lot of creativity over our curation and we are always on the hunt for imaginative design. Above all, I love my team. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working with amazing talented people.
Why do you think customers come back to The Cross
Sophie: We adore our customers and have such lovely relationship with them. We love getting to know their individual style and our buying is very much tailored towards our clientele. Throughout the pandemic, we felt so fortunate to have such kind and supportive customers, and we really missed our daily interaction with them! It's much like being a hairdresser, we hear all our customer's trials and tales! I think they return time and time again for not only the collections but for the service and friendliness they get here.
Why do we love Snoopy so much?
Sam: Snoopy is and always will be a classic. We have all grown up with Snoopy. Snoopy makes us smile, laugh and brings us joy and happiness. Whatever age we are.
Sophie: It taps into a nostalgia we all have! Snoopy is also so positive, which is what the world needs right now!
What do you love about Holland Park?
Sam: What's NOT to love about Holland Park? Let's start with the beautiful Park itself...I spent a lot of time there with my daughter during the first lockdown.It is a special place for us. I love the combination of independent shops in that area, in particular the food shops. I can buy all the food I need on my way back home. I love walking through the neighbourhood, some of the houses are so beautiful and the blossoms that line the streets in the Spring are stunning. Our initial customers were all locals and I am proud to say that many of them are still shopping with us. There is a strong sense of community in Holland Park, to me it is a home from home and I care very deeply for this neighbourhood.
In 5 words describe what makes The Cross so special.
Sam: UNIQUE, CHARMING, DESTINATION, JOYFUL, A REAL TREASURE TROVE.
Sophie: CREATIVE, ECLECTIC, UNIQUE, WELCOMING, BEAUTIFUL
Thanks to all the team at The Cross. Head to there amazing shop and check it our for yourself!
The Cross - 141 Portland Rd, London, W11 4LR