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February 2012

Marcelle SymonsIt's the element of surprise that makes customers return over and over again. When you enter D&Me, a four-storey townhouse in South Kensington, you are not quite sure what you are going to find as you work your way along the rails. There is a good mix of the classic and the quirky – Goat dresses, Helmut Lang jackets, a Rebecca Taylor top – with friendly assistants who will guide you if you want them to or leave you alone if you prefer. The shop was opened five years ago by Marcelle Symonds (right), who has a retail background that includes Prada, as well as running the Paul and Joe franchise in London in the 1990s.

The ready-to-wear collections are spread over two floors, but if you follow the trail of vintage dresses hanging on the walls and stray upstairs, you will discover the secret of D&Me's success. The small room at the top is packed with vintage clothes waiting to be worked on by Symonds' team of seamstresses. 'I have this phobia about vintage looking like vintage,' Symonds says. 'The length is wrong, the shoulders are wrong. If it's frumpy or a few too many frills then I will alter it. I tend to tweak most things.' Her own label of reworked vintage clothes – One Vintage – is a phenomenal success, selling not only at her shop but also on her website and at net-a-porter, where it is has been a bestseller since 2010. These are one-off items, with tunics selling at about £350 and dresses closer to £900, made from vintage fabrics but with a contemporary edge. Symonds likes the fact that as a small shop, she can provide a personal service. She knows about 30 per cent of her clients by name, many of whom enjoy home visits where they can try the new collections. 'We work very closely with our clients,' Symonds says. And that makes all the difference.

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