In Memoriam: Maureen Doherty, Genius, Beloved Founder of Egg Trading London
We were saddened to learn of the recent passing of Maureen Doherty, the founder of London store Egg Trading. For those who haven’t yet had the experience of visiting this magical store, tucked away in an unassuming mews behind Belgrave Square in Knightsbridge, now is the time to go. As Remodelista editor Christine Chang Hanway puts it: “Egg was always more than a shop. It was Maureen’s view of how the world should be: creatively engaging on every level, whether you were an artist, designer, or client. Maureen’s ability to transform her vision into the soul-enriching and calm oasis that we have all come to know and love is her greatest legacy.”
Photography courtesy of Egg unless otherwise noted.Above: Maureen Doherty, who was affectionately known as M, Mama, Dodie, or Mo, died unexpectedly in November at the age of 70.
Maureen studied at the London College of Fashion before helping to establish labels such as Fiorrucci, Elle, and Valentino in the UK. She then relocated to Paris to work for the emerging designer Issey Miyake, who went on to become a life-long friend. Maureen set up three of Miyake’s stores in London before returning to England to work for the high street retail chain Jigsaw. One year later, in 1994, she left Jigsaw behind and opened Egg, with the sole purpose of realizing her vision of what a shop should be: a place for “the beautiful and everyday.”Above: Clothing and craft, displayed the Egg way.
From the outset, Egg stocked timeless clothes and objects, including Maureen’s own playful, beautiful designs, which were often inspired by workwear from around the world. (We’ve read that she once stocked butcher’s smocks from London’s Smithfield Market and that “customers thought they were Miyake.”)Above: “Maureen embraced the inside/outside nature of the building by flinging open the doors into the mews, tucked away almost secretly behind the grandeur of the Berkeley Hotel and Belgrave Square,” according to Christopher Howe. Photograph by James Brittain.
Volume and shape, weight and color defined Maureen’s designs, which were untouched by trends and made to last. “These are clothes that get better with time,” according to the Egg website. “They are loved and distinctive, often passed down through generations. They are for men and women, young and old, large or small. They become your own.”Above: “Cotton and ceramic and silk, buttons and silver, string and soap and flowers, coffee and colors and laughter,” the ingredients with which Maureen was able to “make the world more beautiful,” her daughter, Jessica Walker, told Remodelista. Above: Stripes and khaki, hung side-by-side.
Designers and creatives come to Egg for what Maureen described as their “weekend and at-home clothes.” Tilda Swinton, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, and Maggie Smith all shop here. (In fact, Maureen dressed Maggie Smith entirely in Oxfam for her role in Alan Bennett’s film The Lady in the Van.) In 2017, then-UK prime minister Theresa May was photographed by Annie Leibovitz for American Vogue wearing a red Egg coat and cashmere jumper.Above: A rarely seen photograph of the studio process at Egg.
Maureen was also a great supporter of craft. Egg was conceived as an exhibition space for young makers, including the author and ceramic artist Edmund de Waal, who had his first solo show here. The Japanese potter Keiko Hasegawa spent a year making and arranging 1,000 pots in rows across the white shop floor, while the master silversmith Bill Phipps displayed “hand-forged silver spoons big enough for giants to stir their tea.”Above: A joyous display of garments at Egg.
A sensory playground, the shop positively encourages riffling. “Egg is as much about the senses as the view,” reads the website. “Coffee is freshly brewed and meals are cooked in the kitchen upstairs. Egg has always been a haven, a secret in the centre of London. It is a story of craft and color, youth and experience, giggling and learning, that makes Egg so inviting.”
We heard of Maureen’s death via a heartfelt @eggtrading Instagram post. Reading through the innumerable comments, we decided to ask those who knew her to share some of their memories.
Jonathan Tuckey, architect
Jonathan Tuckey worked with Maureen on the restoration of Egg HQ: “My first communication with Maureen was a perfect reflection of her ebullient energy and enthusiasm,” says Jonathan. “I received an email in the early hours of a balmy June morning in 2012,” he recalls. The email simply read:
“My name is Maureen Doherty; I have a small shop/space in Kinnerton Street. Would you have time to discuss a project nudging our space into this century?? Your work shows great sensitivity and I would value your time to see our building, which was originally a dairy. My budget is small but hope you would find this project interesting!!”
Jonathan recalls: “We met the following week and sat outside the shop drinking gin and tonic while the delightful theater of Egg life circled around us. We connected immediately and soon after started on what would be a joyous project in the years to come.”Above: Maureen’s living space above the shop. In our previous post on the project, Remodelista’s Alexa Hotz wrote: ‘The brief was both ambiguous (‘the pottery finishes of Lucie Rie, a ball of string’) and exacting (‘Must have fire. Must have water. Must have a bathhouse. Enormous showers. Must bring the light in’).” Photograph by James Brittain.
Jonathan continues: “Even in the early days of meeting Maureen, it was apparent that we were on the same page both creatively and professionally. Maureen was a consistent advocate of appreciating the detail within seemingly ordinary objects. She challenged our practice and echoed our ethos of maximizing the potential of existing structures.”
Jonathan gradually transformed the Kinnerton Street dairy into a whitewashed “urban hut” organized by a series of timber containers. “A perfect example to evoke Maureen’s humor came during the construction of her home,” says Jonathan. “We set up a camera to create a time-lapse of the interior progress on site, and it was a comical surprise to see Maureen instigate an impromptu dance with Ryuta (the project architect) and her Egg team, all dressed in white gowns. It offered a much-needed laugh after trawling through the huge amounts of footage!”
“Maureen was remarkable in her outlook on life, and her humor was infectious,” says Jonathan. “Even her emails were a dose of poetry that could light up a long day.” He shares another short but memorable missive:
“Hello, These lights look perfect and delicious!!! Shall we rob a bank?!?? I have always wanted to be a getaway driver!!!! Maureen X”
Lyn Harris, perfumer
Lyn Harris met Maureen at Kinnerton Street in 1995 while still a student: “I just fell in love with what she was doing,” she recalls. “The uniqueness of her style and how she displayed her brands. And the building just blew me away. The fact that she lived upstairs so she was completely interacting with the pieces and the space: She was Egg. It just left me breathless.”
“I think Maureen and this era of retail have been instrumental to how I have developed my own retail concepts over the years,” Lyn reflects. “It was this belief in your own individual thought process and translation of fashion that really inspired me to do what I am doing today.”Above: A lump of soap made by one of the worlds oldest manufacturers of glycerine soap. This is one of the items to feature in a recent edit of Objects sold at Egg: “Objects are part of daily life,” Maureen said at the time. “If we love function and beauty, then this may be all we need.”
Izabella Doyle, designer
Izabella Doyle, creative director and cofounder of Wright & Doyle, recently met Maureen after being summoned to Egg HQ. “I met her at a point when, personally, I just needed someone to believe in what I’m doing. She provided that and more. On arrival at the shop, I introduced myself, to which Maureen said: ‘Are you mad Bella? I’m mad Maureen.’
“I had an unforgettable few hours with her,” Izabella continues. “She really put me through my paces, and after much debate, thought, and consideration, she made an amazing order and filled me full of exciting thoughts with great plans of collaboration for the future. I felt like I had met an old friend, but for the first time.
“When I left her studio, Maureen had written a to-do list for me on her wall: to call Luncheon and Hole & Corner and ask them to write a piece on Wright & Doyle; to organize a launch, with our mutual friend Leila doing all the food and drink; to do a hat collaboration with Horisaki; and to meet up with a friend of hers who lives near me in Dorset. I feel like this was Maureen in a nutshell: a force of nature, full of warmth and wit, such a spark.”Above: Cotton and silk garments hang on a sun-dappled wall.
Christopher Howe, antiques dealer and furniture designer
“Maureen walked into my little shop in Bourne Street 30 years ago,” recalls Christopher Howe. “I will always remember our shared style of shopkeeping: We loved the old, pared-back quality of our respective shops and appreciated the humble utilitarianism of the pieces we sell, old and new. We shared an unorthodox and very unbusinesslike approach, a curious fascination with rudimentary materials, essential to daily life yet having a ‘lastability’ and an ability to age beautifully. But above all, we shared a love of the craftsmanship.”Above: A working corner of Maureen’s home, which is furnished with French antiques. Photograph by James Brittain.
“When we first met,” he continues, “Maureen was already accomplished and highly esteemed in the fashion world, so to receive her support and encouragement meant a lot to me then, starting out, as it always will.”
Like others, he recalls with fondness his visits to Kinnerton Street: “On walking into Egg, Maureen invariably put me in a jacket (I have several). They are all still amongst my favorite and most-admired clothes, especially a brown cord jacket which is falling to pieces. But the most memorable moment was the time I walked in on a cold January afternoon. Maureen immediately wrapped a very long multicolored scarf around my neck, saying: ‘You must have this, Christopher! A real granny knitted it.'”Above: A typically intriguing display of art and accessories.
Maureen’s daughter, Jessica Walker, shared with us these words on the bright future of Egg:
“‘Just get on with it!’ Mama would say. And in that spirit, Maureen had begun living in the country, drawing plans for a quieter life between London, Scotland, and maybe India, while the Egg family sailed on.
Maureen’s life-project continuing is made possible by her nature: talking, sharing, supporting, laughing, storming ,and mentoring.”Above: A preview of the new collection.
For more on Egg, see An Urban Hut in London by Jonathan Tuckey for an Under-the-Radar Design Doyenne and Shopper’s Diary: A New Line of Objects for the Home from Maureen Doherty of Egg in London.
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