I hear you knocking...

Voyage has a new menswear shop. But will they let you see it? asks James Sherwood
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Indy Lifestyle Online
VOYAGE is fashionable London's bete noir. It is up there with Titanic and Diana conspiracy theories as a dinner party topic. The Chinese whispers about Voyage's door policy - membership card holders only - have reached fever pitch. Never have so many women fumed about a shop so few have actually experienced.

Nothing gets up a trendy Londoner's nose like being turned away at a door, especially when that door is the one to 115 Fulham Road. Curiosity got the better of Real Life when the invitation was extended to view the new menswear collection, opening its own space at 175-177 Fulham Road.

Of course it is humiliating to stand on the street, peering through red-tinted glass, until the doorbell is answered. But what a kick when you actually get in. This is step one of the Voyage seduction routine. Rocky, son of Voyage designers Louise and Tiziano Mazzilli, is fronting the menswear boutique. His shock of multi-coloured hair and youthful appearance is instantly disarming. That's step two. Head-to-toe in Voyage's unstructured layers of embellished, antique fabrics, he is a walking advertisement for Voyage's bohemian, slightly hippie-chic style.

The shop itself is an eclectic grab bag of fittings bought from the Paris night-club, The Lido, "when the Lido was still chic and quality," says Rocky. En masse, the clothes resemble Stevie Nicks's walk-in wardrobe: beads, floaty chiffon tea gowns and antique lace underskirts With the enthusiasm of a labrador puppy, Rocky displays hand-stitched kimono coats, delicate drawstring pants with velvet trim and the signature cardigans for men. "Every piece of Voyage is unique. Nothing is mass produced. Quality over quantity," Rocky coos, happily.

OK, so we know the quality and the philosophy is admiral. But why the attitude? "You've got to understand that Voyage customers can be here for a couple of hours," says Rocky. "They need personal attention. They are prepared to spend a lot of money - tens of thousands in a day - so we don't want a shop full of browsers."

But what about the woman who is prepared to spend money and can't even get through the door? "In Italy, you can tell by the furs, the bag, the grooming that someone has money. In London, the woman with the M&S bag may have thousands to spend. The woman with the gold card may have nothing. So everyone is treated the same."

You could see Voyage simply as an extremely sharp marketing operation. After all, people always want what they can't have. If a masochistic yearning is prolonged, then it is all the more thrilling when it has been satisfied. But once inside, it's a family affair. Incense burns and assistants waft around looking thoroughly chilled out, but not unapproachable. Tiziano Mazzilli treats card holders as extended family.

And you could never accuse Voyage of simply keeping out the riff-raff. Fashion designers are persona non grata here, and fashion editors are no more welcome. There is method in the apparent madness of Voyage's discriminatory door policy. Do fashion editors bitch about banging on the door Christian Dior couture in Paris and not being let in? No, because they can get in, even if the woman on the street can't. What really irritates fashion people about Voyage is that they are neither wanted nor needed.