US Vogue: by Mark Holgate, Fashion Features Director
Fashion loves a big expansive gesture, but a small one can be pretty impactful, too. A case in point: The eponymous label launched in 2016 by Melanie Press out of her tiny store in northern London’s leafy Primrose Hill, with its dollhouse streets and park on the doorstep, a park forever mythologized by David Bailey’s moody 1964 portrait of boho icon Marianne Faithfull. An alum of Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren, Press set up shop in 2007, slap bang opposite the Triyoga studios (where locals like Gwyneth Paltrow, unsurprisingly, and Kate Moss, surprisingly, were habitués). She arrived just as the neighborhood hit its High Sienna period, when no element of Sienna Miller’s wardrobe—the hippy vests, the diaphanous vintage dresses, the scrunched, sun-weathered lace blouses—went undiscussed or undocumented.
Some of that look and spirit pervade the new collection Press is about to release, offering up a whiff of those decade-ago days which are starting to feel relevant all over again. “There’s a very specific way that London women now dress,” she says. “They take a jacket—a bomber, a blazer, a biker, it doesn’t matter—and then wear it with an underwear-inspired dress and some sneakers. Some of this look was easy to find for my shop, but the things that were feminine and effortless . . . they were missing.” Here’s some of what Press has created to fill that void: a soft blouse inspired by an old YSL one she owns and a shirred skirt that can double as a dress, both in a snow leopard pattern; a tea dress dappled with a minute daisy motif, what she calls a “non-print print,” it’s so discreet; and a pin-tucked, lace-trimmed blouse, the kind of thing you’d give your right kidney to find one early Friday morning at Portobello Market. Forget about the ’90s: It’s time to be obsessed with the noughties. Wear those Ugg boots with pride!
Truth be told, the Press collection underscores a whole other phenomenon that’s going on right now: women busy designing for women, strictly focused on their real needs and desires. In that respect, Press joins the likes of everyone from Johanna Ortiz to Emilia Wickstead, Rosie Assoulin to Galvan London. She herself has been known to bring in half-finished samples to get reactions from those who shop with her, acting as impromptu focus groups. What sets Press’s label apart is the way it takes an obsession with bygone detailing, picked up not only from working with fellow obsessives Lauren and Jacobs, but also from her vintage-collecting mother, and makes it practical: The pieces come with pockets into which you can slip an iPhone, they can be easily laundered, and they employ a lot of bias cutting so that, according to Press, with only two different sizes she can cover everyone from a size zero to a size eight. Already, newer Primrose Hill types are picking up on the collection. “I’m cringing at the name dropping,” Press says, laughing, but Ruth Negga, Rachel Weisz, and Helena Bonham Carter are all converts. Small is clearly no impediment to success.