LONDON – Maureen Doherty, a maverick retailer who helped build the Issey Miyake brand and who founded the Egg destination boutique in Belgravia, died at 70 on November 18, her family said.
A great believer in craftsmanship, 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.
At Egg, there has always been plenty to see and touch, including clothing from small Japanese, Italian and British labels and the Egg brand, as well as unique pieces of hand-blown ceramic and glass.
Having worked with big brands and retailers in England and France, Doherty was committed to keeping Egg small. He focused on timeless style and craftsmanship long before it became fashionable for retailers to mix design, homewares and clothing in-store.
“Egg’s philosophy is, for me, to treat a store like life,” he said. “Real life, not counter-scented shows and exclusive deals, but freedom and laughter with an honest, professional and compassionate approach.”
Doherty’s vision was to sell “the beautiful and the everyday” and focus on “the pure enjoyment of form, color, material and manufacturing,” according to his company.
As soon as Egg opened its doors, Doherty began attracting customers looking for a calm and comforting way to dress, including Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Miyake and Joseph Ettedgui.
In 1995, Doherty told WWD that “all the designers come here for their weekend wear and home wear.”
Karan became very friendly with Doherty and said that 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 many. Not only did I shop there, but I loved the creative experience that she created and fostered at Egg. Her fashion was timeless and loved by many, especially everyone on the cobbled street where Egg stands. I will always use their egg pieces. My heart goes out to all the people at Egg. I love you forever, Maureen,” Karan said.
It wasn’t just designers who fell in love with Doherty’s artistic and delicate aesthetic. Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson have shopped at the store.
Moira Benigson, founder of executive search experts MBS Group, said she still has some of the first pieces she bought from Egg when it opened, a pleated pink silk dress, denim skirt and shirt. She said the knitwear offering has always been incredible.
“I adored that store, and Maureen was one of a kind: quite crazy, nonconformist, a genius and a force of nature,” Benigson said. “The retail and creative world has lost a shining star who inspired so many people.”
At Egg, the focus has always been 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 the jacket of a French gardener.
At one point, Doherty was selling butcher’s smocks in London’s Smithfield Market, telling WWD: “Customers thought they were Miyake.”
Featuring a mosaic of clothing, pots, books, boots, scarves, bags, jewelry, and pencils, the shop has also doubled as an exhibition space, hosting the first solo show for author and ceramicist Edmund de Waal.
Egg was also a place for young creators and designers to experiment. In the space of a year, Keiko Hasegawa made 1,000 pots and arranged them in rows on Egg’s floor, while master silversmith Bill Phipps hand-forged giant silver spoons for display in space.
Fragrance maker Lyn Harris, founder of Miller Harris and Perfumer H, said she deeply admired Doherty “and her impeccable taste. The vision of her was so far ahead of anyone else’s. She made me believe in my own creativity.”
Harris added that Doherty spearheaded “a unique fashion and craft movement that stood out from all the big brands and made you sit back and admire. She had the magic. Her wonderful spirit and vision was a joy to embrace every time she saw her in that beautiful space that she created. She will forever be in our hearts.”
Doherty, who studied at the London College of Fashion, began working in the industry in her late teens. She helped create brands like Fiorrucci in the UK market and set up Elle and Valentino stores in London.
However, in the early part of his career, Miyake was the center of his professional world.
Based in Paris, he worked on special projects for Miyake ranging from ballet costumes to new store openings and the L’eau D’Issey fragrance and bottle.
He 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 partner with architects.
He also introduced Miyake, by then a close friend, to potter Lucie Rie. His various collaborations were on display at Egg and included Miyake jackets trimmed with Rie ceramic buttons.
After an apprenticeship to pottery in France, Doherty returned to England and briefly led design operations for the Jigsaw retail chain.
After a year, she quit and opened Egg with her business partner, Asha Sarabhai, which made clothes for Miyake and Hermès in India. His vision of his store was always very clear, and he never really sought to expand beyond Belgravia.
“We don’t go by design,” Doherty told WWD in 1995. “It’s about the senses and comfort, not personalities. Egg is about being anonymous and feeling like he’s been here forever.”
Egg reopened this week after a brief period of mourning Doherty’s death, and there are plenty of future projects in the works in store and online.
Doherty is survived by her daughter Jessy Walker and two grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are still being finalized.