Afew years ago, while on a business trip in the South of France, I unexpectedly found myself with the larger part of a day free to do as I pleased. Having seen everything I wanted to in Nice, I hopped over to Monte Carlo in the principality of Monaco. The playground of the rich, famous, and royal, it’s a tiny part of our planet that I have always been fascinated by.
My love for the ocean resulted in hours spent just staring at the multitude of yachts and super yachts docked in the harbour, while the petrolhead in me squealed in delight with every supercar that roared past. Naturally, the fashionista in me spent the rest of the time gawking at all the fabulous designer brand shops lining the streets. All in all, it was a fabulous (albeit typically touristy) day in Monte Carlo.
In hindsight, the thing that fascinated me the most was how a street filled with designer clothing was the norm in Monte Carlo. It reminded me of the old adage that true style and luxury isn’t ostentatious and in-your-face, but subtle and elegant. To this day, the elegant streets of Monte Carlo, with normal shop windows and small signs next to the doors, remain the picture of style and elegance that I keep with me.
This is the same feeling you would get when you turn into Jarvis Street in Green Point, Cape Town. The more modern visage of the Cape Quarter on your right may distract you, but if you take a step back and focus on the left, the fabulous old houses could easily double for a European street scene. You may also notice a specific white house with a large, but unpretentious black sign reading “Maison Mara”. If you’ve never stopped and visited, I urge you to do so the next time you are in the Green Point precinct.
Owned and managed by Kelly Withey, Maison Mara is a concept store birthed from Withey’s many sojourns between Cape Town and Paris. She grew up on local soil and moved to Paris to study fashion design, but while there, she discovered that her passion actually lay in buying. Maison Mara is the manifestation of this passion. It is a space that represents everything she wanted to bring with her from Paris.
Maison Mara presents ready-to-wear women’s wear, accessories, and cosmetics, all handpicked by Withey. It’s not just about the beautiful clothes, though – you can also find candles from Costes and Lola James Harper at Maison Mara, as well as cool fashion magazines like Purple, Pop, and Spleen Factory, not to mention the best art books from Phaidon.
With Summer around the corner, Withey has added a wide selection of new items to Maison Mara that presents lovers of beautiful things with an opportunity to build on their favourite looks and to add new favourites to their collection. This very concept is also true for Withey.
Narrowing down her favourites for the new season – all of which are available at Maison Mara, of course – the first item she highlights is the Veja Holiday sneakers in Nude. “They are mindfully and ethically created in Brazil from leather which has a
low impact on the environment,” she says. “I like sneakers that you can pair with a dress to give your outfit a bit of an edge, but are still feminine. The fact that they are eco-friendly just makes me love them even more.”
But what about those beautiful summer evenings when sneakers need to make way for something a bit more elegant? “My dream going-out shoe is the Maureen leather heel with pointed toe and leather arched straps by Malone Souliers,” Withey says. “Apart from their obvious aesthetic qualities, they are just so comfortable. Inspired by cleavage, they are both sexy and elegant.”
Subscribing to the idea that one’s wardrobe basics should be up to date, Withey is a big fan of Petit Bateau. “I can’t live without my Petit Bateau basics,” she emphasizes. “The brand offers the best quality cotton T-shirts and traditional marinières, and they are truly timeless – I have the round-neck cotton T-shirts in every colour and stripe available. They match with everything and are kind to your skin.
“I also love having a versatile jacket to wear with layers in Winter or over your shoulders in Summer,” she adds. “This season the Kenzo Khaki Bomber is my favourite. It features an off-centre front zip panel, and I love the fact that you can remove the panel to wear it open.”
Because Withey’s personal style revolves around simple styles that combine into a sleek, modern aesthetic, it comes as no surprise that she considers a statement bag a must-have. This season, she is head-over-heels in love with the J.W. Anderson medium-sized Pierce Bag, which is available in dusty pink as well as in black and white – Withey’s personal favourite. “Monochromes match so well with denim and simple tees, and the size is perfect – it’s big enough to be an everyday bag without turning into a suitcase.”
Withey’s love for all things beautiful is inspiring and strangely contagious. Mixed with her own impeccable sense of style and a keen eye for timeless elegance, these elements merge inside Maison Mara to create a treasure trove of amazing things hidden in plain sight in the heart of Green Point.
For more information, please visit www.maisonmara.co.za.