“Interesting and interested, dark and light,” says Sophie Merchant, founder of label and boutique Merchant Archive. “That’s how we describe our woman. She’s any age, from the 18-year-old daughter of a rock star to a 78-year-old ex-ballerina. She knows what she wants and that’s what I love about her.”

One can’t help but wonder how much of the Merchant Archive woman is a reflection of Sophie herself. Growing up in Somerset, she knew she wanted to be a fashion designer aged 13. “My dad sat me down and said, ‘Obviously your brother will take over the farm ; what do you think you might like to do?’ I told him I wanted to be a fashion designer. Dad looked at me like I was a bit mad – being a fashion designer is not very West Country.”

She detoured into dentistry, training as a hygienist and working at a Harley Street practice, but her heart remained in fashion. “I’m certainly no Central Saint Martins graduate, but I did evening classes there to satisfy that part of me,” she says. Putting her late-night studies to use, she began selling vintage clothes out of her bedroom.

“All I had was six pieces from my wardrobe,” she says. “Once I sold them I put the money towards buying more and began building my archive.” Then came a shop in a former Lipton General Store in Kensal Green. “The shop felt like a 1960s bohemian hang-out in those early days,” she recalls. “It was this revolving door of artists, models and musicians. Designers and stylists would come and use my collection for shoots and inspiration. Soon I found myself working with some of the biggest fashion houses in the world.”

Seven years on, Sophie has relocated her treasure trove to Notting Hill. The two-storey shop houses her archive as well as furniture, contemporary labels and her own line, Merchant Archive, now in its fourth season. SS15 takes inspiration from where it all began: her childhood home. She uses Swiss embroidery to mimic the pebbled driveway and captures the garden in handprinted roses and marsh-green Italian silks. “Given my history in selling vintage, we’re always looking back at the archive for references,” she says. “Everything has to be exquisitely made and from the most beautiful cloth – the garments should be forever. We’re making the future archive, if you like.”

Text by Nazanin Shahnavaz

Portrait by Brian Daly