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Fashion People

Wilhelmina Blakley + Lavender’s Blue

Forever Ballroom Dancing

Wilhelmina Elizabeth Blakley © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Rarely does a wicked soul inhabit a beautiful body and thus external beauty is a true sign of internal goodness.”  Baldassare Castiglione 1528. Wilhelmina Blakley is demonstrably one such soul. Blessed with exceptional beauty, she was the life and soul of 20th century Belfast. A true legend.

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Architecture Fashion Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

Chelsea Harbour Hotel London + Mary Martin London

All Sweets

There are human whirlwinds. There are female tornados. But nothing can prepare us for the arrival of Mary Martin London at breakfast, morning coffee and car onwards to meet and greet Mayor Sadiq Khan, full throttling through the Chelsea Harbour Hotel and leaving a fiery trail of merriment behind her. The lady is on top (of the hotel; of the world), on vision, on game, on fire. She’s reached dizzying heights and we’re not just talking about our penthouse view overlooking the marina. “I was born a diva!” Mary exclaims embracing the panorama. This ain’t her first rodeo and it sure won’t be her last. All morning, Britain’s leading black fashion designer entertains and educates and generally is the star of the show.

Life hasn’t been slow behind the scenes for us this season either. Saturday mornings learning about the art and chemistry of Kent winemaking on the 2.8 hectare Barnsloe Vineyard. Later, sampling anse and mushroom broth with a lemon zest at Frog and Scot in Deal. “It opens up the palate really nicely!” declares Lady Dalziel Douglas. “Dover is where it’s at next!” she whispers, giving away an estate agent’s secret. Then there was tasting the sabih and shakshuka at The Palomar on Rupert Street, Soho, prepping for Tel Aviv. Not forgetting chilli zucchini fritters at Charlotte’s Cloud, the nearest stop off from St Luke’s Church Chelsea, after listening to Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag by organist Rupert Jeffcoat. Gosh, how much staccato’d syncopation can you fit into one Sunday morning service? Capriccio by John Ireland – Deal’s answer to Hamilton Harty (great composer; Georgian townhouse blue plaque) – will be played next week.Next there was Annabel P’s crushing Instagram moment at supper in The Ivy Tower Bridge when the waitress destroyed a photogenic moment by pouring red moosh all over the Centre Court Melting Ball bombe. A flight later, Belfast meant downing the Donaghadee Daiquiris at The Cloth Ear and shooting the Ballyhack Breeze at Horatio Todd’s. Back to the English Capital. James Sherwood’s 1975 Discriminating Guide to London Fine Dining and Shopping contains sections on Where To Eat… “in blue jeans”; “if you’ve come into an inheritance”; “if you want to dance”; “outside”; and “in the company of beautiful people”. Two restaurants listed for beautiful people that we love and are still going strong are Daphne’s and San Lorenzo. But if you really want to try on those blue jeans having just got freshly loaded and are ready to dance outside with beautiful people, there’s nowhere like the private roof terrace of Chelsea Harbour Hotel when Mary Martin’s in town.

Fellow breakfaster, model, animal and children’s rights campaigner, Janice Porter speaks out, “Once met, never forgotten! It was my privilege to meet the actual Mary Martin on Saturday 27 July. Her smile was overwhelming and her face simply radiated joy for life. As we enjoyed a hearty breakfast her laughter filled the hotel as she recalled outrageous incidents from her childhood and spoke of her recent university graduation. It wasn’t though until I visited her collection in St James’s and watched her at her sewing machine that she really came to life. Her dresses, I hesitate to call them that, rather than stunning artistic creations, took my breath away. Mary is simply a star. She’s an intelligent, witty, beautiful self made woman proud of her ancestors. I stand by her!”

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Black Heroes Foundation + Mary Martin London

Matters of Fact

“Just don’t give up what you’re trying to do,” believed the American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. “Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” Every month should be Black History Month. But not every day can be National Windrush Day. To mark the 73rd anniversary of the Empire Windrush ship docking into Tilbury, bringing workers from Caribbean countries to help fill postwar British labour shortages, Black Heroes Foundation opened an exhibition in central London on 22 June. Chair of Trustees Joyce Fraser explains, “I set up Black Heroes Foundation in memory of my late husband. Recently, we entered a competition organised by Westminster City Council for a pop up in Piccadilly. We were one of 11 successful applicants out of a total of 120.”

The Foundation is a community based charity for the development and promotion of talent, together with cultural and artistic initiatives in the community. And as Joyce succinctly puts it, “A world where Black Heroes are acknowledged, respected and celebrated.” The Chair’s late husband, Peter Randolph Fraser, known to all as “Flip Fraser”, was the first Editor of The Voice newspaper and joint creator of the show Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame. The ground floor of the exhibition is devoted to the Windrush Collection and the Black Heroes Wall of Fame.

The Windrush Collection includes a living room, bedroom and kitchen furnished with typical West Indian items from family portraits to a porcelain book of the 23rd Psalm. A commemoration of Flip Fraser is joined on the Wall of Fame by inspirational people from the past and present: the Classic Collection, London’s Great Women of Colour and Wandsworth People. Take Harriet Tubman. She was a slave born in Maryland who fled to the free state of Pennsylvania in 1820 aged 29. She returned to Maryland over the next decade to rescue both family members and friends at great peril to her life. Harriet was buried with military honours in Fort Hill Cemetery New York in 1913. As African American civil rights activist Asa Philip Randolph observed, “Freedom is never given; it is won.”

“My heart will always be in Brixton,” Olive Morris, a heroine on the Wall of Fame, once said. Born in Jamaica in 1915, she came to the UK aged nine. Her first home was off Wandsworth Road and she went to Lavender Hill Girls’ School. As an adult living in Brixton, her activism took off. Olive was involved in many campaigns including the scrapping of Suspected Person Laws which permitted police to stop and search anyone suspected of loitering but was used indiscriminately against black people. She died in 1979.

A showcase of some of the dresses of the UK’s leading black fashion designer Mary Martin London is on display on the mezzanine level of this exhibition at 12 Waterloo Place. “I’m thrilled to have been asked to be part of this important event,” Mary confirmed. The designer is providing demonstrations each day on how her clothes are actually made: the sewing machine is clearly on overtime. Pointing to one of her pieces she exclaims, “It’s called the Death of a Queen as it nearly killed me making that dress!” Attendance has been lively. Westminster Councillors were at the opening and the flow has been constant ever since – the exhibition lasts five weeks. Heather Small, the Voice of M People, and soprano Nadine Benjamin are two of many well known supporters to enjoy it so far.

Councillor Matthew Green, Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning, pointing to Mary’s Marilyn Monroe Dress exclaimed, “A faux foxtail. Oh golly! Has somebody worn that? This is all so fantastic. I’m really pleased to see the whole exhibition too.” Councillor Louise Hyams, Deputy Cabinet Member for Communities and Regeneration, added, “I’m also really pleased to see the exhibition. It’s beautifully choreographed for the venue and so interesting. Mary’s show is great: she could easily harness her creativity into the world of film costumery.” No doubt Councillor Hyams would agree with Dr Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut, who believes, “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”

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Architecture Art Design Fashion Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

Luton Hoo Bedfordshire + Hertfordshire + Katie Ice

Hoo’s Who

Seriously. It was that good. The revivification of Countess Markievicz. Luton is the new Paris. Katie swapped a runway for the runway. The revolution has begun. Game on. As for the legendary niche leap….

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Art Fashion Luxury People Town Houses

Fathomless +

Substantial Faded Pageantry

Call it a nascent realisation, coming from somewhere and heading somewhere, mixing with the multihyphenates while sojourning in cloud capp’d towers and gorgeous palaces. Such stuff, radiating a seductively dark gorgeousness.

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + The Collections Preview

No Ordinariness

Saints and collars. Carriage and gait. The deportment of culture. Narrative express. Mesmeric couture. Grace is grace.

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Art Design Developers Fashion Luxury Restaurants

Mary Martin London + Stuart Blakley

That Jacket

Some days you just got it. Lifestyles Magazine America is dedicating its latest issue to Mary Martin London. The renowned fashion and entertainment publication is distributed in 39 countries. Chief Operating Officer Anthony Alexander explains, “We just love Mary’s personality. And when we saw her clothes we were amazed! We’re bridging the gap between exposure in the US and the UK.” As Elizabeth Bowen wrote some 90 odd years ago in The Hotel, “Gratifying how one’s intimate world contracted itself, how one’s friends wove themselves in! Society was fascinating, so like a jigsaw puzzle!”

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Heather Small + Mary Martin London

One Morning in Heaven

Ever since Heather Small unleashed to the world her unbelievable vocal range with the ultimate Eighties remix Ride on Time (accurately described back then as “a payload of pure euphoria”), she’s been forever moving on up, projecting a pure renaissance. Oprah Winfrey chose her British Olympics Games solo single Proud as the theme tune for her chat show. As well as being the frontispiece of the internationally successful band M People for decades, Heather’s own career has remained stunningly stellar. “I step out of the ordinary | I can feel my soul descending,” she sings in her extraordinary anthem Proud. In her next hit Close to a Miracle the opening lines embrace hope, “It could all be so beautiful | Like a ray of sunshine | From the inside looking forward | With a whole different view.” Today Heather is dressed head to ankle in Mary Martin London. She’s working those Jimmy Choo heels.

Londoner Heather Small is the petite toned embodiment of empowerment blessed with an orchestra of a voice and a down to earth yet megawatt presence. Yep, she’s stunning. “The love we have for each other should be regardless of colour or creed. I’ve grown up in a society that doesn’t reflect me. I’m a dark skinned black girl. I’m a proud sista! Everyone should be proud. I’m in control. I’m aware of who I am – I am very happy with that. Fashion means quite a lot to someone like me in the music industry. Fabric, cuts, the way fashion makes you feel.”

“I met Mary at a fundraising event,” reveals the legendary singer. “Mary spoke quite a lot – so do I! She’s got a wonderful brain. Mary is very very observant – any situation gives her inspiration. She reimagines her surroundings as a piece of clothing. A feeling, a vibration. That’s what I noticed about her. Mary’s clothes are ultra creative, a really good cut. It’s always about the bigger picture with her, more than fashion. There’s a bigger statement at the heart of them, what it’s like to be different, marginalised; she’s an inspiration, it’s more than apparel. It’s about sisterhood! Let’s laugh. Let’s have continuous applause by putting a crown on each other’s head! Above all have fun. Mary’s as mad as a box of frogs!”

Rising up, Heather confirms, “I do believe in God. We are put on earth to fulfil a purpose. We need to learn how to be the best to ourselves and each other. Take yourself to a higher place and touch others. I believe in the goodness of people. Always tell the truth because anyone who hears the truth whether they want it or not they take notice… Singing has been a passion all my life. Mary’s clothes represent me.” Angel Street is an address and an address and a dress.

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Brenda Emmanus + Mary Martin London

An Infinite Pool of Talent

Broadcaster and journalist Brenda Emmanus OBE was the BBC’s Arts, Culture and Entertainment Correspondent for 18 years. Right now, she’s busy working on a range of projects including an ITV documentary to mark the late Princess Diana’s birthday. Brenda is a friend and client of Mary Martin. “I can’t remember exactly when I met Mary. I knew her on the scene, the celebrity community of people in my life network. Mary just appears in your life! Once she’s in she makes an impression. She’s a generous friend, an open person.”

They share a major interest in common: a passion for fashion. “As a child I cut out dolls from magazines and dressed them up. I’ve very eclectic taste. My work in the newsroom is quite formal but my role allows me to be much freer to wear more what I like. I’m mainly a lover of dresses although I do love trousers – the androgynous look – too. I love dramatic dresses that really embrace fashion. I’m up for drama on stage but go casual at the weekend. I’m stimulated by the visual, beauty and art.”

“I love the childlike quality to Mary’s apparel,” reveals Brenda. “She doesn’t use design patterns; she just creates from the heart. Mary’s impulsive – she likes to try things like a child with paints. She’s passionate and curious about everything: Pop Art, the Renaissance, music. She works as an experimental artist. Like most geniuses she’s not afraid to try and fail. She takes you out of your comfort zone. Mary allows me to pull out my inner diva, to go wholly out: she’s all bells and whistles! She’s fearless with high drama and that’s what makes her fun, mad fun!”

Brenda explains, “I host a lot of awards and red carpets. Two days before one of my events I needed something… and a ballgown appeared from nowhere! That’s what’s amazing about Mary, creating an outfit from scratch within a day or two. Thanks to her I looked great on stage presenting the Screen Nation Awards. Mary makes you try stuff you probably wouldn’t think of trying. She’s like a motor. But she values my opinion – we have an exchange of ideas.”

Mary is not a wallflower,” smiles the broadcaster and journalist. “She’s a whirlwind; you know when she’s present. I learned that Mary studied really late overcoming a challenging childhood through dreams and ambition. She’s found herself. She has a clear vision of what she is as a designer. Mary has a rightful place in the world of fashion. What she’s achieved in such a short time, going international! She sees joy in everything. A crazy but extraordinary woman! She’s very resilient. Self triumph over adversity.”

Like Mary, Brenda acknowledges her own spirituality. “Experience higher being,” she recommends. “I have learnt to trust my inner voice, my intuition. Media is so impressed by the outer world but the inner one is so important. Life is a journey. Be true to your own spirituality. Surrender to the path the universe has mapped out for you. I meditate a lot for calm and peace. Be still – there’s so much to learn. Reset who you are. Value art, love, people, creativity. We’re not on this planet for a very long time.”

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + Friends

Rising Up

“Fashion is the barometer of the age to accentuate the personality.” So claims high profile lawyer and President of Octopus TV Andrew Eborn. “Mary is a tornado of talent. She’s a larger than life character – she makes her presence felt! She might be loud but there’s a genuine creative side to her. She’s a fascinating individual. I love Mary Martin London clothes. They have a free style belonging to that mad crazy world of hers. I work with a lot of major stars in the music industry.” Household names. “I also host the Andrew Eborn Show on Stella Television which features people like Charles Spencer and Suzy Quatro. But the Mary Martin segment is a complete moment of escape!”

Award winning Film Director Stephan Pierre Mitchell believes “fashion reflects our time” but “I make it my own”. He continues, “I don’t think there are rules. I don’t like to conform. I rip up my own jeans. I play around with fashion hence why I get along with Mary. I met her at London Fashion Week. I immediately liked her vibe. She’s got layers. She’s not boring. She’s up my street. Mary’s clothes are spontaneous, fun, bold, colourful… tells me a lot about her. I really admire her work; she’s very special. MML is BLF. Big! Loud! Fierce! I see so many energies flying up and down.” Stephan advises, “Be truthful with yourself. When we create from a true source, we heal. Don’t think of the end result, come from a truthful place.”

Mary’s former fashion textiles Senior Lecturer Emma Carey has turned her artistic hand to interior design: “My real passion is for the print.” Emma recalls, “Mary’s life story was amazing. I found her fascinating and all the things she had been through. I was intrigued and wanted to understand more. I soon learned Mary embraces learning and new things.  She’s a powerhouse with no real self pity. She’s very creative, very excitable, brimming with energy. She says whatever she thinks, always the truth. She makes amazing prints! Mary’s clothes are like Mary, full of life, expressive, not wallflower clothes. They’re loud, out there. Her personality does come through in her clothes.”

The whole crew really has landed, an underground artists’ salon. Model and Director of Dam Model Management Hassan Reese strikes a pose outside, arms folded to reveal just a glimpse of Mary’s inaugural hand printed T shirt range. He shares, “Mary is unique! She represents tradition versus newness. She has an innate sense of Africa. Mary has African roots in her catwalk. Seriously, I feel nothing but love for her. Thank you Mary! I love that you have taken me on board. I feel so privileged and happy.” Late afternoon, model Katie Ice arrives wrapped head to toe in Louis Vuitton before revealing a Mary Martin London dress. Soignée has a new. “I first met Mary at a charity fashion event,” she remembers. “I immediately realised her clothes are so sophisticated – those fluffy dresses! – so unusual, so new, so different, then everyone copied them.” We’re rushing off to The Hoo next. “I’ll be free to pop in for some Champagne,” confirms Katie. “Life runs fast let’s celebrate it! It’ll be wonderful to see you and friends, it’s been a while.”

In the car later, much later, Mary lets slip, “You are my number one. I’m making bomber jackets every winter now because of you. I’ll use a different pattern each winter but I’ll still make bomber jackets. I agree what you say about them being so flattering to the male form. It’s all happening!” The rising of the arising over the horizon. London passes by in a fluorescent blur. All the voices of the day and in our heads and on the reel will soon fit together as a meaningful mosaic, an electrified Catherine wheel of sorts.

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Architecture Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + Adil Oliver Sharif

The Turn of the Shrewd

On a cold wintry Saturday afternoon a former linen warehouse in Old Street London is all ablaze. Not literally on fire – the sparks flying are the creativity type. Afrobeats are vibrating across the attic floor below the exposed beams and bolts and screws. Something’s afoot. “Rolling, rolling!” orders the Film Director. A strong familiar voice echoes across the vast haunted space, “I love the camera! I can’t say I don’t! It screams at me! We need the drama for the camera! I love fashion! I love art! I love creativity!” Welcome. Maryland is back in town. The American philosopher Marilynne Robinson believes, “No one can anticipate your gifts because they are unique to you.” There will be lots of anticipation but no ambiguity in Mary’s unique first person narrative.

When the distinguished Director Adil Oliver Sharif was introduced to Mary Martin London through a mutual friend, the Lebanese Sierra Leonean model Yasmin Jamaal, he knew he’d struck camera gold. Adil has been filming interesting people over the last year or two. Mary’s his 66th interviewee, taking ‘interesting’ to a whole new level. She’s so interesting that Adil is now collaborating on a feature length film with Mary – and her friends, who include some of the biggest names in arts, culture and entertainment. This former warehouse is his studio and its flaxen heritage could hardly be more apropos as the backdrop to London’s leading black fashion designer sharing her story.

Everyone and everything are in flux as cameras, lights, seating, backdrops are arranged. And rearranged. And rearranged a little more. Adil is the ultimate perfectionist as is his team: assistant Racquel Escobar Rios and Director of Photography Nick Galbusera. “I love going deep,” confides Adil. “I love the complexities of the human skin and what reflects and swims deep within.” Mid afternoon and the set is ready for action. “Are we rolling? After establishing and managing my daughter’s career, I thought what can I do for myself?” muses Mary. “Hey! I’ll put my hand to sewing!”

Celetia Martin’s successful song writing and singing career has included numerous hit singles plus collaborations with the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Janet Jackson and Usher. She spent two years touring America with Groove Armada as the band’s lead vocalist. Celetia now manages rising stars herself. Not content with launching her daughter’s career in the arts, there was no way Mary was going to rest on her Grammys. So it’s not surprising she labelled the start of her career in fashion “a learning curve”.

“A lot of my mistakes were the making of my best dreams,” Mary recalls. “One of my first artistic realisations was the Fairy Tale Collection. It was all these fluffy free dreamers. I was backstage looking down as the dresses came out on the catwalk. All I could think of was am I crazy? But then everybody started clapping like in a Hollywood movie. From thereon it just started. A few years later I would get a degree in fashion and textiles with flying colours!”

“The drive behind the creativity of a show motivates me. And I love creating something from nothing. I never even like to know what I make. I like to surprise myself!” she relates. “My strength comes from God. I’m a great believer in God. I love God. He’s what drives me. That’s why I create. I’m unique. God made us all in His image yet everyone is unique. This gives me a sense of freedom and the ability to do things differently from other people. I’m a very very spiritual person. I do believe in the afterlife. I love being spiritual. I’m in this field walking, walking, walking… so pleasant being spiritual. Spirituality means a lot to me. God is my all in all.” Marilynne Robinson expresses, “I know what I want to do. I know what is mine to do. I know what is not mine to do.” So does Mary.

Her path to freedom and success hasn’t exactly been unsmooth. There would be a silver lining for Mary but in the beginning there was no silver spoon. She keeps going: “I’m from a family of 13 children. I was the seventh child – nobody took any notice of me. That’s why I’m an attention seeker now! A diva! I was born by the River Taff in Wales. It was beautiful. But I faced racism at school so I ran away. I ended up in a children’s home. Actually I was in about 10 to 15 children’s homes. I didn’t learn to read or write. Eventually I went to London to live with my aunty. Are we still rolling?”

Ever her glass more than half full, running over, Mary overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles. “Not being educated meant I had to force myself to do things in life. Not being able to read or write that well even now means my mind is more adjustable to shapes and how to put things together.” It’s the turn of the shrewd. As for the racism, “Don’t hate. Use your energy to find your creative self. Learn the essence of time – use your time well.” Mary volunteers at the youth mentoring Urban Synergy charity, encouraging children to follow her into the fashion industry. “We know nothing about the nature of time,” contends Marilynne Robinson. “Time in some sense exists simultaneously with itself. It’s not sequential in the way we experience it.”

“Fashion is an expression of myself,” Mary argues. “I’ve got a thing about fashion. I love texture – combine scuba with to see the way an outfit can move. Voila! Creative mind flow! That’s what I call it. I’m like a child in a candy shop when I’m in the middle of a fabric store. I could sleep with fabric. Real love. I’m attracted to creative people who are a bit different. I don’t do normal. I don’t do boring. Fame doesn’t mean anything to me. High regard for talent? I get that. I don’t want the fame. I just want God to have all the glory.” Marilynne Robinson suggests, “If there’s a place in heaven for the arts, that will be the hallelujah!”

“The major influence in my life has been myself,” Mary summates. “I challenge myself every day to be better, to change designs, to be the better me. I’m a free spirit! I live my life freely. Every day I wake up I’m happy to be alive. I’m a black woman, a strong black woman. There, I’ve let you into Maryland.” The afternoon closes and beyond the red brick gabled walls of the former linen warehouse, over a sea of grey tiled roofs, the mellowing sun sets over the city. On an attic floor in Old Street London, a Jamesian “cloud of music and affection and success” floats away: it’s a wrap.

 

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Architects Art Design Fashion Luxury People Restaurants

Sexy Fish Mayfair London + Annabel P + Mary Martin London + Peggy Gou + K Style + Maya Jama + Teddy Music + Gertrude Stein + Frank Gehry + Damien Hirst + Lavender’s Blue + Love + War + Peace

Annabel’s Party

Finally the limo pulls up on Berkeley Square and Annabel P dramatically disembarks dripping in diamonds. Cathedral school followed by the finishing variety has clearly paid off. It’s her role. Lavender’s Blue Directrice turned Diamonds Ambassadress turned Frontline Heroine has arrived. “Dahlings! One can never have enough class – or diamonds.” Clearly not. The doormen make way, the waitress beckoning to the best table in the house. Siberia where art thou now? “This is War and Peace!” Annabel declares scouring the wine list. “Champagne, dear Giuliano!” Meanwhile DJ Sophie ups the tempo downs the base. It’s a night off for Korean DJ Peggy GouK Style is so where it’s at right now – but Sophie is determined to bring the house down. This is going to be more disco than dinner.

Sometimes you really gotta go with it and order a pre dinner alfresco cocktail that matches the cushioned upholstery. Sea Breeze please or at least something ephemerally turquoise. Beetroot, carrot, ginger and orange detox elixirs soon cancel the boldness. For a hot minute. Annabel’s wearing Biba vintage, working it babes. Her fellow guest is as always rocking Mary Martin London head to toe. Annabel gets busy stirring up Insta Stories in between yellowtail tartar, smoked tofu and caviar followed by pink shrimp tempura. Maya Jama sends her love. Sexy Fish is after all the television presenter’s fav restaurant. Good friend Grime DJ Teddy Music of Silencer fame chimes in next. Everyone’s soon discussing menu tips. Mango and passionfruit, coconut and lemongrass or pineapple and mandarin sorbet? Decisions, decisions. “All three. Or is that six?” How does Gertrude Stein view dinner in her 1914 classic Tender Buttons? “Not a little fit, not a less fit sun sat in shed more mentally.”

Basement bound, a downward descent reverberating under a Frank Gehry crocodile past Damien Hirst mermaids before walking by those marbled bathrooms – salut Versailles – till the night relaxes into an embrace of unbelievably attractive seafood. Late call but Mary Martin London’s on the blower. “Fantastic! I cannot wait for our next interview. Let’s talk. I’m here and ready and want to talk about my amazing new dresses and fashion.” The limo pulls up on Berkeley Square and Annabel P dramatically departs dripping in diamonds and fantasy.

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Art Fashion Luxury People

Portrait +

All Too Human

Virtual vernissage of a vision of a visage. New normalcy for old masters. And a few new masters too. William Campbell, the highly distinguished framer of Marylebone London, advises a commanding dark stained wooden frame oozing oodles of definition. “The frame you have chosen is quite traditional so I think you should visually separate the canvas from the frame by placing it upon a mount. This will emphasise the edge of the canvas in a three dimensional manner. Raw black silk will work really well as the mount material. And of course it should all be protected by gallery glass.”

­Over to the artist, the highly distinguished painter of Pimlico London, who shares, “This portrait is quite abstract. It gives a suggestion of outline and face. But it’s really about texture and paint quality. I used a palette and knife. The three artists I was inspired by are Bomberg, Auerbach and Kossoff.” The checked shirt is a case in point: it’s reminiscent of David Bomberg’s stark and thickly built up colour. Frank Auerbach’s concentration on surface is wonderfully reimagined too. And Leon Kossoff’s figurative life drawings suddenly don’t seem a generation away. This portrait immediately radiates perplexing resonance coupled with a discursive inventiveness.

What does the sitter think? “I look very relaxed – exuding a certain nonchalance­. Maybe that was the intention! William Thuillier is a very clever artist. He’s really captured that moment. It was a very sunny afternoon and the light just streamed through the French doors of his incredibly elegant piano nobile studio. I remember we ha­­­­d several coffees and laughed a lot. There is something quite avant garde about my portrait. I hope it is hanging in my nephew’s offspring’s country house drawing room in years to come.”

Lavender’s Blue Art Director Annabel P – videographer, storyteller and socialite – knows her stuff. “I love the portrait! It’s so very you.” She soon sets about seamlessly filming the same sitter against the setting of The House of Lavender’s Blue. “I wanted to film you in a Lady Gaga sequence with­­ a period twist­­­. That’s very you too! You’re very informal yet you offer up so much to the canvas and camera. You’ve an easy unencumbered and beautiful presence to capture, even when you’ve donned your glasses ready for bed.” No show is complete without a Bill Brandt influenced self portrait. Visible virtuosity.

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People Town Houses

Mary Martin London Scarves +

The House of the Red and White Lions  

“We are having the best time ever!” proclaims the haute couture artist. “I’ve just won a Global Ovation Lifetime Achievement for Fashion!” Bravo! Mary is the Valkyrie of fashion residing over her very own Valhalla. This ring cycle ain’t gonna end anytime soon. Late to the game, the BBC is falling over itself to interview her and beef up its breaking news. Queue. Join. Next. The accolades keep pouring in: Costume Designer of the Year at the Global Community and Business Star Awards and Style Icon Honoree Excellence in Fashion Couture courtesy of the Global Style Icon Awards, to name yet another two.

Mary exclaims, “I would like to say thank you to the Global Style Icon Awards for awarding me the best designer – costumer designer! – for 2020 and 2021. I’d also like to say thank you to the Foreign Office for letting me do my virtual show in the building which was an amazing shoot in a beautiful place. And, yeah, thank you thank you that’s all I can say – I’m happy!” Mary explains more about that epic Foreign and Commonwealth Office shoot, “History had inspired me. I realised that Ignatius Sancho was an inhouse slave but was later set free and he was the first black millionaire in Britain. And he and his wife used to sell tobacco and everything from their shop which stood on the site of the Foreign Office on King Charles Street.”

She rolls, “I was the first black woman to do a shoot in there. What I did was reverse fashion and I put the black models on the stairs like they were the kings and queens. I wanted to show good images of black people in regal clothes – like black excellence – I’m a fantasiser! You should always be proud of yourself and who you are really.” Never resting on her many many laurels, the designer shares, “I love digital art! I started doing the art and people started to love my art just like they love my clothes so I thought why not? I’m doing some beautiful images and I’m also putting them on clothes as well as screen prints to hang on your walls.” That’s when she’s not conjuring up fluffy puffball dresses, a style Mary invented. It’s overture overload! A pressed foil wrap dress – another Mary Martin London trademark design – clings to a tailor’s dummy in the studio at the top of her townhouse, her very own Isolde’s Tower. And next season’s must have accessory is in the making: the outsized unisex bag. But her suitcases are packed: “I love Ghana! I’m going over there as soon as I can to do some fashion!”

Right now she’s busy sewing up a storm: a private commission to design and make individual scarves for an Irish mother and her two daughters. The scarves feature Mary’s signature Slaves in the Woods pattern in each client’s favourite colourway. Welcome to the undisputed territory of Maryland. Earlier, the designer was partying with R+B singer Mark Morrison. Next, Kofi arrives and before long Mary is duetting down the corridor with the legendary rock singer: “Black is the colour of my skin | Black is the life that I live | And I’m so proud to be the colour that God made me | And I just gotta sing black is my colour | Yeah couldn’t be no other oh no | Black is my colour / Yeah yeah | Couldn’t be no other | No no no.” Kofi laughs, “Everybody loves Mary!” American dance and house singer Kathy Brown of “Happy People” and “Give It Up” fame rings: “It’s going to be a good year!”

Mary has been jazzing up her atelier of late. She scrawled “And behind the smile, beneath the makeup, I’m just a girl who wishes for the future” across a Katherine Hepburn mirror in her salon. And “Life is better when you’re laughing” over a Marilyn Monroe mirror in her studio. A humongous two metre tall carnation precariously balances over her materials cupboards. Like everything about Mary Martin London, it’s larger than life, carried on huge waves of Wagnerian music crashing on the ocean floor. Not everyone has “Talking to God” as their WhatsApp tagline. Not everyone is Mary Martin London. An afternoon in her company: well, it’s like living life in inverted commas.

Categories
Design Fashion Luxury Restaurants

Daphne’s Restaurant + Bamford Haybarn South Kensington London

Everyone Likes It Hot

Macaronis and cheese anyone? That’ll be our movie. Moving on, we’ve got the hottest table in the coolest restaurant on the hottest day of the year. More Sahara than Siberia. Hot in the city. While the Christian name “Daphne” is most recognisable as Tony Curtis’ alter ego in Some Like It Hot, “Daphne’s” belongs to Princess Diana’s fav Italian local. Founded in 1964 by theatre agent Daphne Rye, just when nearby King’s Road was gearing up to the era, Daphne’s has since become a South Ken institution.

The restaurant is in cool company. Bamford Haybarn, one of Lady Bamford’s forays into retail and a shrine to sensational scent, is three doors down. Joseph and Chanel, shops not people, hang out in this Draycott Avenue ‘hood. Serena Armstrong-Jones, Countess of Snowdon, had a charming eponymous gift shop on Walton Street back in the day when she was Serena Linley. Her shop has come and gone. As for fashion, Isabel Marant flies the flag on Walton Street these days. Daylesford on Sloane Avenue is another of Lady Bamford’s organic outlets. Its canopy announces an all embracing offer: “farmshop, café, bar, butcher, bakery, cheese, fish, larder, wine, home store”.

Under current owner restaurateur Richard Caring’s watchful eye, Daphne’s was given the full Martin Brudnizki treatment half a century after it first opened. The Swedish interior architect puts it succinctly: “Minimalism, maximalism, modernism, classicism – I’ve done them all. For me they are the four pillars of design. I take a bit of each and mix them in different strengths depending on the client.” Dublin born designer David Collins, who died prematurely in 2013, transformed a swathe of hospitality interiors in London. A fresh eclectic glamour upped the stakes and steaks at The Wolseley restaurant for starters and Artesian Bar at The Langham Hotel for nightcaps. Martin Brudnizki upholds that tradition, from giving minimalism a Scandi twist at Aquavit restaurant to maxing out maximalism at Annabel’s club.

Daphne’s interior floats somewhere between minimalism and maximalism, blending modernism with classicism. A vivid palette of pinks, yellows, greens and oranges recalls the hues of sun drenched Verona gardens and rooftops. The conservatory dining room is a light confection of bevelled mirrors, linen awnings, 1950s Murano chandeliers, modern European art and a baroque style green marble fireplace.

Effortlessly sophisticated, Daphne’s is neither the place to try out macaroni cheese nor entry level wine. Lunch is Pinot Grigio di Lenardo Friuli 2018 (grape expectations); scallops with chilli and garlic (park those kisses); ravioli with buffalo ricotta and asparagus (so this season); Wedgwood strawberry cheesecake (china town). And selection of Italian cheese (please).