When I was staying in Jaipur earlier this year, I was transfixed by the stylish Janine du Plessis, who would come down to breakfast in our hotel wearing elegant dresses in cool indigo cotton with amazing embroidery details and interesting textures. I decided I needed to make her my friend, so brazenly went up and introduced myself to her. It turned out she was on a working trip to buy clothes for her lovely shop Jaadu, which means magic in Hindi, in Dulwich.
When started to chat and discovered we had many work friends and experiences in common, as before she became a pilates teacher (which accounts for her terrific deportment) and before she started Jaadu (which accounts for her enviable wardrobe) she worked in fashion. Even more coincidentally, we ended up sitting next to each other on the plane back to London, I’ve learned not to ignore such serendipitous occurrences, so I went over to Dulwich to learn more about her and her store.
Janine’s fashion pedigree is impressive, she started off in Butler & Wilson many years ago, then transferred to Browns, where she worked for the legendary Mrs Burnstein, and spent ‘Two amazing years” learning about style. Then the Danish entrepreneur Peter Bertelsen pinched her to work on his bold plan to change the way we shop, by opening individual designer boutiques for Giorgio Armani, Ungaro and Valentino.
Janine told me “Peter took the Italians and let them have a whole shop to put over their point of view, fashion wise. He really changed the way we looked at designer shopping and made Sloane and Bond Streets what they are today.” All of which must seem hard for anyone under 40 reading this to envisage, but I was actually working off Sloane Street in the mid 80s and remember the explosion of these stylish boutiques very well. I still have a scarf bought in a final reductions sales at possibly the first season of the Comme des Garcons store. “When I started in 1985,” Janine continued,”I had to beg Vogue to interview Mr Armani, who they’d hardly heard of. But when they realised how these Italians were brilliant marketeers with huge advertising budgets, they soon changed their mind.”
She then opened her own PR agency, and worked with some of my favourite brands, including Betty Jackson (come back Betty, we miss you), Workers for Freedom, Artwork, Anthony Price and a young start up called Jenny Packham. But, she said “After 15 years I’d had enough of fashion, so I re-trained as a pilates teacher, which I did for 12 years. Then somehow I started a pop up shop selling things I’d found in India, it was all quite coincidental, there was no real planning but it gathered moment and I now have a shop.” And what a lovely shop it is, nicely curated and full of wearable things, where Janine’s years of style experience shine through in the way everything works together.
Her boutique is run on ethical principles – she works with Indian based co-operatives and artisans directly – and it’s not a fashion shop, its about stylish living. She’s also keen to encourage grown up women to be a bit more adventurous with their style. “We are often so entrenched in what we wear, sticking to what we’ve always done,” she continues, “I encourage my customers to experiment, try things on and have a go at a new look because what you wear is very much an extension of your personality”
Most of her products are from India, “It’s such a fascinating country and I’d seen many of the designers I’d worked with get beautiful embroideries and fabrics to work with, so I went and started to meet people who were doing wonderful things. I started off in Lucknow, observing Nitin Srivastava and his family’s business, where I saw the possibilities, then I went to Jaipur and met the people I now work closely with.”
She admits it’s not been all plain sailing, with expensive mistakes made when she dealt with mass production middle men, so now she works with the artisans directly. “British women often think anything India is cheap and ethnic, but I wanted to show them the ancient crafts and exquisite techniques. You can put outfits together – one of my tops with jeans – and it’s look beautiful and individual.”
She nails a frequent styling problem I see on grown up women when she mentions skinny legs and baggy tops. “I’m an advocate of both layering and wider legged trousers because it’s all about balance, otherwise there’s a danger of the Max Wall look, where you appear top heavy. A wider legged trouser can give a much better, more elegant silhouette.”
“So many women think in order to look slim they need to wear fitted clothes. Absolutely not! Something that has a nice shape to it and maybe skims the body is so much more flattering and comfortable!”
The white loose linen Jaci trousers from Treaty Janine is wearing below her dress (and above here in blue) are a good example, they are super comfy and look great under long shirt tops or dresses. I’ve found clothes I’ve bought from Indian designers come up short on me (I’m 5ft 7) and so I always layer loose trousers or jeans underneath. They cost £86.00 and are generously sized.
Janine credits India’s National Institute of Design with producing some really talented new designers, one of her favourite currently is Chinar Farouqi, from Injiri and whose smocked and embroidered fine linen dress she is wearing in the top photo. “Chinar works direct with master weavers to create really beautiful designs and helps create a nurturing community to support them. I’m hoping to stock Injiri next season, it’s expensive but so unique and wearable.”
I ask how much is expensive? “I think that if you really like something and you think you might wear it a lot then price shouldn’t be the first consideration” she says, “but lets be realistic, everyone has a budget.” Injiri dresses are around £200 to £400, depending on the complexity of the fabric make up and design.
I think Janine’s own Jaadu range is very well priced for the quality, the madras check dress (above) £95, the colourful geo-print long sleeved top £38 (I so nearly bought this), gorgeously hand embroidered PJ sets are £56 and the pretty beach cover up – divinely hand embroidered – is £55. “When you see what the big designer labels charge, what I’ve got here is more individual and beautiful, hand stitched, hand made buttons, all those little details…”
I also loved the bright silk bangles, £3, from south India, which would add a stylish shot of colour to indigo when worn stacked up an arm. And the hand made, vintage sari necklaces from House of Wandering Silk are also a way of adding a touch of interest to a plain shirt or top.
If it’s still blisteringly hot when you are reading this, you might like the cute, comfily generous, printed cotton shorts, £26, which sell super-fast as nightwear, worn with a bright vest, to the women of Dulwich.
Janine also does lovely block printed cushions, scarves, china and other desirable items from India, as well as her newly launched Present range of wash bags and travel kits that would make great gifts.
If you are a Devon inhabitant or are venturing there for your summer holiday, Janine is about to open her second mini-store, within the Dartington Hall complex, which will stock summer weight linens from her Jaadu range.
Lucky Dulwich Village having this interesting indie shop on its high street, offering up such an original and well curated lifestyle selection. Find out more on the Jaadu website here, or contact Janine directly on sizes and availability here.