GREAT Britain on Madison Avenue Rules Through Sunday

British Consulate
All photos Laurel Marcus
(Click on images for full size views)

“The British are here, the British are here” proclaims Madison Avenue. Beginning Thursday through Sunday the 8th, the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) in partnership with the GREAT Britain campaign is featuring GREAT Britain on Madison Avenue in which 20 stores hold various activities, as well as gifts, promotions and in-store treats in its British merchants stores. Those participating are located from East 57th to East 86th Streets including Agent Provocateur, Alexander McQueen, Anya Hindmarch, Asprey, Barbour, Belstaff, Dean & Deluca, Erwin Pearl, Jeeves of Belgravia, Jimmy Choo, Jo Malone London, John Lobb, Joseph, L.K. Bennett, Molton Brown, Mulberry, Roland Mouret, Shi London and The Lowell (they will hold a real tea-time) and The Surrey Hotels. The event benefits Historic Royal Palaces ( which conserves and maintains various historic sites such as the Tower of London and Kensington Palace.

Family photos

I attended a press breakfast at the British Consulate in the Beekman Place area yesterday with a panel organized by Walpole UK, an organization that drives business development in the UK and export markets. Walpole was in the news a few days ago as they held their Luxury Awards gala in which Victoria Beckham won for British Luxury Brand of the Year against heavy hitters such as Burberry, Roksanda, Bentley and Alexander McQueen.

Breakfast settings

At the breakfast my tablemates included Amy Rosi, who does the publicity and comes up with the concepts for these events, a representative from Elite Luxury Lifestyles Magazine, a reporter from WWD, and a representative from Luxury Web Magazine. I guess you could say that the theme was Luxury with a capital L. Unfortunately the breakfast itself was not so luxurious. Steering clear of the runny scrambled eggs and ham, I opted for a mini chocolate croissant, fresh fruit and yogurt. Most disappointing: the tea was lukewarm at best leaving me to wonder if you can’t get a good, steaming hot cup of tea at the British Consulate, where can you get one?

Matthew Bauer of Madison Avenue BID

As a panelist pointed out, Madison Avenue is the home away from home for British luxury brands. In fact, Madison Avenue accounts for $25.5 billion in revenue, representing the highest concentration of the $73 billion total US personal luxury goods market, so they know where their scone is buttered. Matthew Bauer, president of the BID, mentioned that there are currently seven British brands going through a major expansion on Madison, indicating that this is a great place for them to be. Next we heard from the panelists including a family spokesperson for Ettinger leather goods; Halcyon Days (enamel boxes and music boxes with “all three royal warrants” (that is a good thing, actually a sign of excellence indicating that all the key members of the royal family have endorsed and used their products), Bremont watches, and Clive Christian Interiors and Kitchens. A few vendors had small displays of their wares in the Penthouse space overlooking several fabulous landscaped and furnished terraces. A piano showcased the “family photos” including a signed photo of Kate and Will and little Prince George and a separate photo of Harry.

Halcyon Days display at the breakfast

This event was two years in the making, and according to Amy Rosi it was organized to offer a “taste of Britain in the contemporary style of today, going beyond heritage to contemporary.” The panel discussed the four hallmarks of British luxury brands: Creativity, Innovation, Design and Craftsmanship. Each brand spokesperson went on perhaps a bit too long about specifics to their company and about the British aesthetic in general. “The British love rules” said Jerome from Ettinger “but they also love breaking the rules.” He mentioned Paul Smith suits as an example of a classic suit but with a bright purple lining which alludes to the wit and whimsy in British luxury. “They will make it beautifully but not make it fussy.”

Agent Provocateur

After that about a dozen of us were rounded up into Ubers and Lyfts (after a fight with an Uber driver) eventually making it to the promised land despite midtown traffic. Our mission: to visit four of the actual stores. First stop was Agent Provocateur, one of the few stores on Madison that I can say I’ve never stepped foot in.

It was a bit of an eye opener to view tasseled pasties, crystal blindfolds and gold handcuffs so early in the day, along with racy lingerie that would make a Victoria’s Secret model blush. We were given bags of Prestat Chocolates. Just so you know, a 10% discount is being given on any purchase, just as long as you don’t show me what you bought.

Our second stop was to L.K. Bennett (655 Madison Ave), one of Duchess Kate’s favorite shoe and clothing shops. They will be offering free manicures courtesy of Butter London and will donate 10% of  purchases to Historic Royal Palaces. They had some interesting literature there about current exhibits at Kensington Palace including Princess Diana’s clothing and a look book of celebs wearing their clothing. Bloom Gin will be serving a signature cocktail for those wishing to quaff a bevvy.

Alexander McQueen

We journeyed up the street to Alexander McQueen where we were asked if we’d like some English Cider or chocolate truffles. The thing about the McQueen store is that even the front door handles are awesome and it’s always fun to go in and gawk at the clothes, jewelry, shoes and handbags. They moved from 14th Street about two years ago to this uptown space complete with unique architecture. Make sure you check out the ceiling detail by the columns which was specially designed by Sarah Burton with a feather motif.

Anya Hindmarch

Lastly we ended up at Anya Hindmarch (795 Madison Avenue) where, surprise! there was more chocolate as well as a master craftsman upstairs ready to emboss any product purchased in-store that day for free (normally $30 a line). For an additional fee you can have a leather piece embossed with your very own signature which according to a manager there can be tedious. She recounted how it took several hours for a customer to write out “Will You Marry Me?” in just the right penmanship for the cover of an engagement ring box. All together now— say “Awww” (I know I did)!

Master craftsman

For more information on the events being featured in the individual stores go to

– Laurel Marcus

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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