IT IS PRONOUNCED VOY-AHZH—BUT IT'S STILL A TRIP. Run by husband-and-wife designer-owners Tiziano and Louise Mazzilli, a couple exquisitely attuned to the Zen of high-end shopping, Voyage, the oh-so-trendy clothing shop on London's Fulham Road, is not for the faint of heart or the slim of wallet. To be granted admittance to the emporium, where the Mazzillis sell their signature crumpled lingerie dresses and skimpy sweaters and T-shirts, you must ring a bell. Service is one-on-one, so if the eight or so salespeople already have their quota of customers, you're asked to wait—outside. Unless you're a competitor, that is. Then you're turned away at the door. "We won't allow any fashion people or designers in," says the 40ish Tiziano. "This is not a school for others."

But even if you pass muster and make it inside—where crushed velvet and silk drape the walls, world music pulses on the stereo and incense fills the air—more scrutiny awaits. All customers may peruse the shop's loft space and ground floor, but the basement is invitation only. "Downstairs we put the latest fabrics and shapes," says Voyage's manager, the Mazzillis' daughter Tatum, 18. (Her brother Rocky, 16, also helps out, lately by creating designs for Voyage's T-shirts, which start at $265.) "If [shoppers] don't find anything they like upstairs, they won't find anything downstairs."

That's never been a problem for stars like Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise and Juliette Binoche, who are frequent visitors. Nor is the fact that the clothes come in only one size (drawstrings and elastic waistbands allow larger sizes to indulge) and one price range: exorbitant. A slip dress of floral silk can fetch over $950, while a coat of silk crepe lined in red chiffon and lace goes for $2,640. Men get the same treatment. A yellow cotton Nehru jacket with maroon satin lining will set them back $1,272.

"Voyage is one of my favorites," says Tori Spelling. "Their dresses are perfect for travel. They're light, pretty and comfortable."

But, says Tiziano, although Voyage's influences are polycultural, "the important idea is of traveling inside yourself, not outside. We want to please a particular type of customer, one who has been through everything. They can wear what they want."

The Mazzillis, needless to say, were born to wear their own clothes. Tiziano, the second of three children from an upper-middle-class family from Udine in northern Italy, never felt at home among his countrymen, not least because they didn't appreciate his unconventional fashion tastes, which ran to bright-colored overalls with the tops cut off and suspenders. "The Italians were provincial," he says. "They looked at you to fit you into a category." Forging a career in the music business, he was on a trip to Brussels in 1977 when he met Belgian designer Louise Michielsens, now in her 50s, the youngest and, she says, "most creative, crazy and happy" of five daughters from a middle-class family. Tiziano's first thought, he recalls, was, " 'What a stylish person.' It was just something that appealed, a vibration." With similar ideas about clothes, as
well as a pleasing yin-yang—"I am stronger," says Louise, "he is softer. I'm a little more modern, he is more romantic"—they wed in 1979. Their age difference was never a problem. "I like young people," says Louise. "They give me young blood."

Settling in Rimini, they spent 10 years working for designers such as Cerruti and Valentino before deciding to go solo. In 1991 they picked London as the perfect spot to sell their distinctive clothes. "We loved the eccentricity," says Tiziano. "The ones who come into the store with holes in their sweaters are the ones who are rich."

Smart move. With $10.5 million in sales last year from their store and upscale stateside outlets such as Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman, the Mazzillis, who currently rent a five-story house in Chelsea, hope to buy a home—their first—where they will live with their four dogs. "All we want is a roof and four walls," says Tatum. "We can create all the rest."

TOM GLIATTO
NINA BIDDLE in London

  • Contributors:
  • Nina Biddle.