Despite the impending arrival of fast-fashion giants Uniqlo and Primark, Boston is in the midst of a luxury retail boom. The upscale clothier Vince announced that it will open a flagship store on Newbury Street on May 23, Italian retailer Bottega Veneta is opening a store at the Heritage on the Garden building this fall, and the ultra-luxe Hermés is expanding. Also moving into larger digs on Boylston Street is Anne Fontaine, the queen of the white shirt.
She opens her newly expanded store, with matte lacquered walls decorated with brass and satin glass, this week. It’s modeled after one of her concept stores in Paris. The new store not only reflects Boston’s growing retail cache, but also Fontaine’s growing line. She’s moved beyond white shirts into skirts, dresses, handbags, and now shoes. We spoke with Fontaine this week by phone as she was rushing around Paris.
Why she chose Boston as the city to open her first US boutique in 1998: “The Boston shop is very important for me. The city feels more European to me. It’s a good fit for my aesthtic. It’s difficult to explain. I love the city. It’s not huge. Boston feels like a more charming city, and many of the people are more kind. The attitude in Boston is very friendly. It’s very different from New York, so this is where I wanted to begin.”
Why she’s expanded her line to sell more than white shirts: “My clients asked me to do more, because they really like my style. They said to me, ‘Anne, please do more than shirts, because she I love the shape of your blouse. Make a dress, make a skirt. Please make pants.’ They said ‘I love your ideas.’ In the beginning, I put a collection of collars in the window of my shop. It was just for presentation, for the window. And my customers wanted to buy these collars. So now I’m selling them. Now it’s pants and skirts. I’m also making a limited edition line, it’s more like couture, called Les Precieuses.”
Why she was inspired to start making her white shirts: I never found something to suit me. I designed my own white shirts by accident. I moved to France [from Brazil] when I was 18 to study biology and never intended to become a fashion designer. My husband’s family owned a shirt factory in the early 1990s. The decision to start our own brand was mostly to preserve the artisans in France. The concept of all white began one day when I went into my mother-in-law’s attic. I came across an old trunk where I found only white shirts that my husband’s family had produced for other brands. From that moment I knew we had to create white shirts only. It made so much sense for me as my love for white comes from my homeland of Brazil, where white is the color of happiness.