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Apartment C – ‘A fashion retailer that just happens to sell lingerie’

G&Ts with a side of scandal… a sneak peek into the world of 'Vogue's favourite lingerie boutique'…

Written by Kate Ingram

still corners singer

Illustration by Joana Faria

At the top of Marylebone High Street lurks a lingerie shop with attitude. Surrounded by fashion-favourite names and organic cafés, generic it’s both niche-market neighbour and rebellious relative. Meet Apartment C, ‘a fashion retailer that just happens to sell lingerie’. And a lot more besides.

Invited to join Apartment C’s owner Kenya Cretegny for a teacup of G&T, I arrive  feeling excited, curious and thrilled to escape London’s relentless chills. While my eyes dart around the dramatic window-display, the door opens and I’m cocooned by an intense warmth that’s almost hypnotic. Falling further under Apartment C’s ‘spell’, I recline on a cherry-coloured chaise longue while Kenya explains her design-inspiration: “the home of Serge Gainsbourg” meets “the apartment of Coco Chanel at the Ritz”.

Photographs by Kate Ingram

Forget white-washed minimalism à la nearby boutiques. Here, it’s black walls, wax candles, red-tinted photographs and “a bit of taxidermy”, creating a boudoir-showcase for lacy, racy and eye-catching lingerie. Yet this is no ordinary ‘boudoir’; it’s grown-up and fashion conscious. No red-light-seediness or clichéd kitsch. Escapist? Definitely. And, deliciously naughty. But it’s also a place where you “feel free to stay and visit for a while”. Boys are welcome too.

Illustration by Matilde Sazio

A Central Saint Martins graduate, Kenya always envisaged Apartment C as a concept store, designing interiors herself, “right down to creating foam board models of the space”. First stop from the high street is the “Lounge”, where lingerie displays are instantly different, adorned with dramatic jewels and paper eyelashes. Walk through to the “Library” and discover a treasure-trove of accessories, swimwear, fashion books, trashy romance novels and G&T’s served from a retro 1930’s bar (an enviable eBay purchase). Furniture, generally, is a cool blend of Art Deco and 1960’s pieces, which seemingly never belonged anywhere else. I sense that the “Library” is Kenya’s favourite part; almost the inner workings of her imagination, to which you are granted access. Play along and purchasing possibilities are endless; who’s thinking about the rain, or recession now? With soft carpet underfoot and French perfumes spritzing the air, I’m soon agreeing with Kenya’s friendly team that I could happily move into this stylish apartment, I mean, shop.

Illustration by Cat Palairet

So, which lingerie labels are seducing the Apartment C woman (or her G&T-fuelled lover on the chaise longue)? While “primary focus” is upcoming talent, Kenya and her team stocks “fashion-forward lingerie brands that [they] consider innovators”. A diverse selection, including Princesse Tam Tam, Stella McCartney, Lascivious, Fleur of England and Marlies Dekkers, appeals to many forms of femininity. Kenya shares insightfully: “women are multi-faceted and sometimes we want lingerie that is romantic, sometimes it’s fashion-focused and sometimes it’s sexy…and sometimes we just want to sit in something lovely and comfortable and have a cup of tea.” Save for a few ‘dominatrix’-style pieces, there’s nothing too intimidating about Apartment C, nothing too outrageously sexy. Even the mannequin ‘posing’ provocatively on the bar, appears refreshingly innocent. Particularly so, considering other, more overt versions of sexuality, which reinforce the psychology that women only wear lingerie for someone else. Kenya longs to change such attitudes. Wearing good underwear for yourself? “It’s like saying I love me. We all need a bit of that!”

Illustrations by Joana Faria

Kenya has become a self-made ambassador for emerging lingerie designers, but  her finely-crafted backdrop to the bras and bodices has likely led to equal recognition (namely, “Vogue’s favourite lingerie boutique”). Where did the concept for Apartment C originate? Copenhagen. “We heard the most glorious party… the tinkling of glasses, music playing softly in the background, the quiet rumble of voices and then deep, throaty laughter….the whole experience felt so decadent and wonderful and alive.”

Ah, the mysterious ‘C’ refers to Copenhagen? Or, Cretegna? Neither. It’s based on Kenya’s discovery that people living in ‘Apartment C’ always seem to host the best parties! Kenya’s passion for her business is tangible, from meticulously arranged costume jewellery, to spacious changing rooms, to her personal style: “…dependent on my mood, and what kind of conversation I would like to have with the world on that particular day.” Well today, Kenya’s skinny leather trousers worn with A/W 2010 aplomb are pitch-perfect ‘Apartment C’. Feminine, but strong. Sexy, but not too much. Fashion-forward and charismatic, despite  extraordinary surroundings. A fashion retailer that just happens to sell lingerie? I couldn’t agree more.


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4 Responses to “Apartment C – ‘A fashion retailer that just happens to sell lingerie’”

  1. Great post! Makes me want to stop by and visit the shop.

  2. Barbara in Southampton says:

    Great writing Kate! Apartment C is obviously worth a detour when in London – a place to escape to and linger longer when in town -a definite for the list of ‘must do’s’.
    Great photos too – Keep Writing Kate!

  3. [...] According to their philosophy, “Apartment C is about hanging out in your knickers, drinking gin out of a teacup, and reading the Last Tango in Paris out loud“, which sounds fabulously lazy and appealing in every sense. I love their pieces. Some are sexy, others are girlie, but they’re all delicate and very well crafted. Check out the whole article on Amelia’s Magazine. [...]

  4. Helen says:

    Love your article…can’t wait to read more! And visit apartment c of course xx

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