It was during a late-summer interview last year, conducted over a leisurely cup of tea in her Putnam Valley cottage, when fashion designer Jane Wilson-Marquis spoke of her next goal.
The British-born fashion industry veteran, who splits her time between the Hudson Valley and Manhattan, talked of a burgeoning collaboration with fellow Brit Adrian Littley of Oliver Littley, a London-based company devoted to “exquisite tailored clothing” for gentlemen.
They hoped, she said, to secure a place that would become “a destination” on the Upper East Side, a welcoming space where both women and men could find made-to-measure, bespoke and custom clothing in a creative atmosphere.
Fast forward to an April afternoon, one of the rainiest in recent memory, that finds WAG turning a corner on East 76th Street to see the inviting entrance of oliver + jane. It was Wilson-Marquis’ plan come to vivid life, complete with the Union Jack providing a backdrop to the fashions in the window of the chic, industrial-influenced “atelier-slash-boutique.” Its history, she shares, includes most recently an art framer but also a late-19th century foundry. Wilson-Marquis realized the spot was ideal as it shared a history with neighboring British pub/restaurant Jones Wood Foundry.
“This was to be,” she says with a laugh. “That’s what sort of started it, the whole British thing.”
Opening its doors in February and building toward a grand opening, oliver + jane offers a relaxed-yet-exciting atmosphere.
After all, it’s not every day that you can not only purchase clothing but also be integral to its very creation.
Every piece here is customizable, from fabric to lining to buttons.
Both she and Littley welcome input, equally happy to share their expertise to craft singular results.
For his part, Littley — who deals with the top names and finest materials and served as tailor and adviser to “The Crown” for Lord Mountbatten — says his offerings are “for the chap who really understands he’s buying something different.”
During our visit, Wilson-Marquis was still regrouping after a special appearance at The Global Fashion Forum held in the city.
“It wasn’t just a fashion show. It was really a statement about my wedding and evening line.”
Across all her designs, Wilson-Marquis specializes in distinctive clothing, whether it’s a businesswoman’s jacket with an unexpected touch, a vibrant coat an entertainer will wear onstage or a bridal gown with personalized accents.
Wilson-Marquis, who for many years produced hand-beaded eveningwear with a business partner out of a SoHo salon before going on to her namesake design firm, walks us through the street-level boutique floor to the lower level where we settle into easy chairs to catch up.
“It’s comfortable down here,” she says of the private fitting area filled with sketches, samples and mannequins. “You can try on things.”
Wilson-Marquis says her work — and the outlook at oliver + jane — is fresh.
“I think the whole fashion industry, it’s got to change to suit the times,” she says.
People live differently and want different things.
“I like the idea of having a shop where you can buy all seasons.”
In addition to her own designs, the boutique offers a select group of custom, independent designers — and is open to adding more. There are dress designs from Karen Roberts, hats from Ellen Christine, a milliner who has exhibited with ArtsWestchester, and luxury cashmere from Jennifer Tyler. Wilson-Marquis says she’ll soon showcase fine jewelry from Cold Spring’s Manya & Roumen, featured in WAG’s April issue.
The offerings at oliver + jane, she adds, answer a growing trend of people seeking quality over quantity.
“If they’re going to spend money, I think they want something special and, with made-to-measure, it can become that.”
She encourages women to try this new way, even if they’re unsure. They just may be surprised.
“When they start talking, they know what they don’t want.”
And she is there to offer guidance.
“You can be really honest, because I don’t have to sell ‘what’s on the rack,’” she says.
There’s none of that usual sales pressure.
“You’re meant to be helping women look good.”
To that end, she maintains a core line.
“If you like a jacket, you’ll always be able to buy it.”
After all, whether it’s the women she’s dressing or the men patronizing Littley, here it’s all about crafting a signature style.
As Wilson-Marquis says, “You own it. It becomes your look.”
Oliver + jane is open by appointment (including evenings) at 401 E. 76th St. in Manhattan. Walk-ins are welcome 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends. Call 212-452-5335. For more, visit oliverandjane.com, janewilsonmarquis.com or jacketsnyc.com.