Architecture Art Design Fashion Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

Campbell-Rey + The London Edition Hotel Fitzrovia London

Club Fenderland

The multi use lobby of The London Edition was a popular concept when it first opened. A decade later, the vast space is still buzzing. It encompasses workspace, a bar, a lounge area next to an open fire, reception, billiards and – from tonight – a Christmas tree designed by Campbell-Rey. The design studio founded by Duncan Campbell and Charlotte Rey takes a seasonal bow to Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s 1816 set design for The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with its oversized Murano glass baubles in colour and mirror finishes dangling between decorations hand painted to resemble lapis, onyx, marble and malachite. The gilded star atop the tree comes straight from one of the artistic Prussian polymath’s Queen of the Night’s Hall of Stars drawings. To celebrate the unveiling of the Christmas tree, guests are serenaded by a haloed cappella choir while devouring canapés and downing cocktails.

Design Fashion Hotels Luxury People

The Londoner Hotel Leicester Square London + Hale Zero

You’re Driving Us Crazy

“Would you like Champagne?” proves to be the perfect entry to the perfect party. This is gonna be epically crazy – we can tell already. Do you remember when the festive season started in December? Or when Christmas trees had red and gold decorations? And the weekend began on a Friday? Well deep breath. November is the new December. Black and white is the new red and gold. And tonight, Monday is the new Friday.

Fashion designer Huishan Zhang dreamt up the most monochromatic Christmas tree imaginable for The Stage (isn’t that the world?) bar of The Londoner Hotel, Leicester Square. The black and white party dress code has been mostly adhered to with a few notable exceptions. Glam squads have been busy. Lady Elspeth Catton (played brilliantly by Rosamund Pyke in Emerald Fennell’s baroque comedic thriller Saltburn) with her “complete and utter horror of ugliness” would approve.

After black cod lime and Bloody Mary avo tartare entrées, Yasmine and Yuzu Margaritas, Lychee Rosé and Monte Velho Branco are pumped into us and before we know it we’ve been swept up to Eight (the height’s in the name) bar. What fresh heaven awaits? Celestial socialites and power creatives Pippa Vosper and Susan Bender Whitfield are getting ready to fill that penthouse dancefloor. Troops! You have your marching orders! Get to it!

Hale Zero is whipping up an absolute musical storm. Fresh from playing at the Beckhams’ Netflix party, the trio is always raring to go. The brilliant Brixton brothers get to the remixes, the grooves, the mashups, all the tunes with that vigour of tonight we are all “forever young”! And then without warning the whole floor erupts into synchronised dancing to Beyonce’s Crazy in Love. “Would you like more Champagne?” For the first time ever, no, we’re too busy dancing! As Lady Elspeth likes to say, “How wonderful!”

Architecture Art Country Houses Design Fashion People

The Lenox-Conynghams + Springhill Moneymore Londonderry

Living Life on the Hyphen

Last of the line to live at Springhill was Mina Lenox-Conyngham. She was known as a great storyteller, even if occasionally recollections would vary, and recorded her memories for prosperity in her 1946 pot boiler An Old Ulster House and the People Who Lived In It. The delightful Springhill, now owned by The National Trust, never looked better than at dawn two springs ago. It is pure three dimensional reticent charm, falling somewhere between a grand farmhouse and a modest country house; like its last owner, living between two worlds and two words.

Stephen Gwynn provided the foreword: “Here is a book to rejoice anyone who desires to see light thrown on Irish history nonetheless revealing because it traces through nine generations the fortunes of a leading Ulster family and of a great Ulster house. The Conynghams, who became later Lenox-Conyngham, acquired land in County Derry and managed to hold it. As the years went on they were linked up with almost every prominent family in the Province and had their part in all the outstanding events.” The Lenox-Conyngham family came to Ulster from Ayrshire so really they were Scots-Irish rather than Anglo-Irish.

“Or again we have a full inventory of the plenishing – indoor and out – which furnished out Springhill in George III’s day,” ends Stephen. “In short here is a whole mine of information which tells us above all what sort of lives a representative Ulster family lived once Ulster became what we mean by Ulster – and lets us know also what kind of men and women it bred.”

Lyn Gallagher has written about the house a couple of times. In A Tour of the Properties of the National Trust in Northern Ireland, 1979, she notes, “‘To build a convenient house of lime and stone two storeys high’ was one of the obligations put upon ‘Good Will’ Conyngham when he married Miss Anne Upton in 1680, and it would seem that the charming house of Springhill dates from this period. To the rear of the house is the Bower Barn, one of the earliest buildings to be erected at Springhill, and the long narrow windows in the walls show it to have a purpose for which easy defence was not an insignificant factor. It is a house of enormous simple charm, and the warm atmosphere of old wood in the interiors is not dissipated by the fact that Springhill boasts one of the best authenticated ghosts in an Ulster home – seemingly a mother who lost seven children through smallpox still moves around here.” Dorinda, The Honourable Lady Dunleath, who spent many a childhood summer here, rolling her eyes, was more sceptical: “Aunt Mina had a good imagination!” Dorinda was not impressed when the bedroom she always stayed in at Springhill was designated “the haunted room” by The National Trust.

In Castle Coast and Cottage: The National Trust in Northern Ireland, published 13 years later, Lyn along with Dick Rogers writes, “It may be fanciful to say that a house is friendly and welcoming, but if any house fits that description, it’s Springhill, just outside Moneymore in County Londonderry. A straight avenue leads to the simple, open façade, flanked by two long, broad pavilions, with curved gables which look as if they are holding out arms of welcome. The house has an immediate charm on the affections of the visitor; it is something to do with its age – 300 years of one family’s occupation – and something to do with the scale and the charm of small details, like the arched gateway, with a curly iron gate, at the top of a flight of worn steps leading from the carpark into the wide enclosed forecourt, with immaculately raked gravel.”

They’ve more to offer: “Springhill is essentially an Ulster house. Architectural historians have commented on the slightly hesitant way in which the basically classical front is treated – with narrower, two paned windows in the centre, a typical 17th century Ulster feature – and have noted how the 18th century bow extensions give it more assurance. One commentator, Alistair Rowan, describes it as ‘one of the prettiest houses in Ulster, not grand or elaborate in its design, but with very the air of a French provincial manor house.’ Its lack of pretension is its hallmark, and the rear of the house is described as ‘a comfortable jumble of roofs, slate hung walls and chimneys … with a big round headed window on the staircase the most prominent feature.’” A vintage photograph shows the window frames painted fully black rather than just the outer frames black which created an even more distinctive appearance and greater contrast with the white walls. The photograph also shows the pavilion wings were left unpainted which emphasised their subsidiary role to the house.

“Fabulous finials!” exclaims Nick, a character in Alan Hollinghurst’s 1998 novel The Spell. He could have been talking about the roof decorations of the pavilion wings of Springhill. The finials encapsulate the dichotomous essence of the house: they are grand but are embellishing functional farm outbuildings. Author and former Architectural Editor of Country Life magazine, Jeremy Musson, told us when researching Springhill he learned that Mina Lenox-Conyngham had reversed her mother-in-law’s arrangement and swapped the more recent furniture on the main two floors with all the “old fashioned 17th century furniture” stored in the attic. “The family never threw anything out!” Jeremy records. The library collection of over 5,000 books (some with calfskin covers) on everything from theology to ornithology is one of the best of its kind in Ulster. On the raised ground floor, the contrast between the 17th century entrance hall, staircase hall, study and library with the 18th century drawing room and dining room is one of scale, grandeur and decoration. Dark panelling and lowish ceilings in the former; chunky cornicing and high ceilings in the latter. Jeremy’s piece on Springhill was published in “the recording angel of country houses” (his words) of Country Life in 1996.

We first visited Springhill 30 odd years ago, armed with a polaroid camera. That photographic record, which shall remain unpublished, was of mixed result. Our second visit, in 2010, this time armed with a Canon camera, was on a particularly unphotogenic day of pale grey skies. Thank goodness for the sun blessed spring of 2022. You can never have too much of a good thing, so our latest visit is on another sun struck day, this time in the autumn of 2023. A walk round the gardens; a browse in the second hand bookshop; a look at the costume museum; a tour of the house; coffee and cake in the converted stables. Life at Springhill is immeasurably good.

Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Africa Fashion Week London 2023 + Mary Martin London

Angelic Forces at Work and Play

Mary Martin London headlined this year’s Africa Fashion Week London. Mary’s fashion is never superficial and always thought provoking, making statements on social and historic issues from class to slavery. She explained to us, “My collection this year is called Divine Intervention. It’s about a dream I had of the angels in heaven. Everything was cream and gold – it was an amazing experience. So my collection is all cream and gold. My final catwalk piece this year was the Ozone Dress. Swiss model Aïda wore a white wig with twigs coming out of it symbolising the clouds of pollution rising from the earth. The glittering dress is a copper earthquake. This is what is going on in the world. We need to stop it or the human planet will look like that!”

Two other models walking for Mary Martin London were six footer mother and daughter team Renée and Janeé Knorr. As well as being an international model, Renée is the founder of Global Women Wealth Warriors. “Our ultimate purpose is to help others to become whole in finance and spirituality as well as mental and physical wellbeing.” Based in New Orleans, Renée uses her 14 years’ banking experience to teach financial literacy. She recently told Peachtree TV, “The meaning of being a global woman is to harness beliefs that allow you to soar without any regrets. I am a global impact thought leader in fashion, finance and wellness.” She flew from Tanzania via Dubai to be at the fashion show. “Connecting with the motherland is so important. But I’m grateful to be here right now in London!”

International model, basketball player and burgeoning businessperson Janeé, who is based in Atlanta, added, “Other countries underestimate the power that African fashion has. I watch many top designers at work and when it comes to African designers they truly are about energy and innovation. Mary has that vibrance and power too. I am so proud to be wearing clothes from the latest collection. Her dresses move so beautifully on the catwalk. They’re so elegant yet easy to wear. I’m excited!”

And sure enough, the Divine Intervention Collection is earth shatteringly heavenly. The word “angel” is mentioned 290 times in the Bible. It looked like a few were visiting the human planet as the models glided down the catwalk in a glow of effervescence. Renée did fierce in one of Mary’s famous masks. “This is very appropriate,” she had told us backstage. “We love mask balls in New Orleans!” Janeé strutted her genetically blessed stuff. And then came Aïda Ouro Madeli. Time stood still as she posed in the Ozone Dress. This dress constantly changed colour as it reflected lights and cameras flashing. It appeared to spark and ignite. Mary is all about the metaphor. The Ozone Dress reflected all of us; we are in this together; and we all can have our angelic moments.

Architecture Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Africa Fashion Week London 2023 +

The Heritage Generation

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Africa Fashion Week London upped sticks from Freemasons’ Hall Covent Garden to the Institute of Directors Pall Mall: from the Grand Lodge to the Even Grander Lodge. Three days packed to the Corinthian cornice. The ground floor was filled with a bazaar, the staircase became a photoshoot set; upstairs, it was all about the gallery for socialising, Abura Cocktail and Art Bar (Procero gin from Nairobi or South Africa Xwai rum anyone?), another bazaar; makeup salons and changing rooms popped up in the ancillary wing; and of course the vast saloon looking across Waterloo Place to The Athenaeum Club was – lights, cameras, curtains pulled, action! – transformed into the coolest catwalk in town.

Dr Mark Prince OBE, CEO and Founder of the Kiyan Prince Foundation, spoke movingly to us all at the opening of the conference on his work supporting young people. The charity was borne out of tragedy in memory of his 15 year old son’s murder in 2006. “This is God’s creation!” he exclaimed opening his arms to the room. “We feel like family tonight. I was misplaced – I was homeless at 15 yet I changed my life around. God put Kiyan on earth to do good things and we are still doing good things through the Foundation in Kiyan’s honour. My best friend now is the Master of the Universe.” Charity and fashion can go hand in hand.

After this thought provoking speech, Queen Ronke, Founder of Africa Fashion Week London and the Adire Oodua Textile Hub (which empowers female entrepreneurs), introduced a panel probing the most pressing questions of the day. Is Africa fashion’s final frontier? Is there a growing consumer market in Africa ready to buy? Can Africa realistically serve the international market? Whatever the answers are, Africa Fashion Week London is playing a leading role. The four Corinthian columns of this movement are African Sourcing for African Development Sourced in Africa, Made in Africa, Trade in Africa and Build in Africa.There were over 30 spectacular catwalk shows. Creative Director of Iffizi and human rights lawyer Sandra Vermuijten-Alonge stormed it in high energy style. Taking a bow, she put the run into runway, somersaulting down it in truly acrobatic style. Sandra bears more than a passing resemblance to the singer Pink so she was on form in her pink top, skirt and matching trainers. She lives in Victoria Island, Nigeria. Sandra shared,

“Iffizi is made to measure fashion for bold and fabulous ladies: made in Nigeria, designed in Belgium. We use African fabrics and tailoring infused with European style. Iffizi is for women who embrace their own identity and want to dress with elegance, grace and a big smile! There’s no ideal shape as ‘big fashion’ would have us believe. Iffizi puts women first, delivering exclusive custom made clothes that fit women and not the other way round. Our fashion is what I want to wear to work and to go out, feeling confident and feminine. Iffizi exudes a positive – we are one people. Let’s make this world a brighter place!” As for the name, Iffizi combines Efizy which in Yoruba means “cool, trendy, stylish” and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence which represents European historic culture. One third of Iffizi’s profits are reinvested in youth employment schemes training tailors and providing master classes in fashion. The handshake of charity and fashion once more.

There were so many other memorable catwalk moments. Mumini’s unveiling of the Sierra Leone flag; Elpis Megalio’s skeletal frame skirt; Ruby Dawn’s leopard skin short shorts; Enadia Igbin’s sheer red dress; Hertunba’s model designer fusion; Abaake by Equip’s age is no barrier. Menswear was well represented too. David Wej revealed his latest men’s collection. He established his eponymous brand in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2008. His seventh international outlet is on Great Portland Street London. Hanging high up on the wall of the saloon in a gilt frame, Sir Luke Fildes’ 1908 portrait of Queen Alexandra stared down with unmoving eyes.

Music played an even bigger role at this year’s event. Live drummers kept us all in party form. DJ Homeboy rocked the catwalk with Afrobeats and remixes from trance (for Elpis Megalio’s show) to chilled (for Ik-Pen’s). Old school favourites added spice such as Abba’s Xanadu (for Iffizi) and Alice Deejay’s Better Off Alone (Pa Masu). Best of all the final and most fabulous of all the designers – who could that be? – had her own theme tune by DJ Déjà Vu. Mary Martin London shares her knowledge and skills with the elderly at a local community centre in southeast London, when she isn’t working on her latest haute couture collection. Her charitable efforts in educating young people in Ghana has earned her the honorary title of Queen Mother bestowed upon her by Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.

Art Fashion People

Africa Fashion Week London 2023 + Portraits

The Fashion Despatches Have Begun

A day at the face track.

Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Queen Ronke + Lavender’s Blue

Haute Monde

Ife is an ancient Yoruba city in southwest Nigeria believed to date from between the 10th century BC and 6th century BC. It has a population of just over half a million and is located about 220 kilometres from Lagos. Ife is famous as a centre of the arts, especially for its ancient bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures. Queen Ronke Ademiluyi-Ogunwusi of Ife is the contemporary embodiment of this creativity, in serene and regal form. Her Royal Majesty was born into royalty as a Princess (her great grandfather was Ooni Ademiluyi) so marrying the 51st Ooni of Ife, counted first among the Yoruba monarchs, continues her life in palaces, when she’s not travelling for work.

After studying law at Thames Valley University she decided to follow her passion and work in fashion. “I’m in love with Western designs but I look to Africa for inspiration,” Queen Ronke shares. “Africa has 3,000 tribes and each tribe has its own unique fashion culture. In Nigeria we have around 500 ethnic groups all with their own fashions. I think we are only scratching the surface so far with African fashion!”

One of her royal roles is as Cultural Ambassador and in 2016 she visited President Bola Tinubu (then Lagos State Governor) to explain the initiatives of African Fashion Week Nigeria which she had just established. “Immediately he supported it,” Queen Ronke confirms, “and also reached out to others who could support it because he believes in the creative sector. He knows the development a nation can gain from small and medium enterprises. If you look at the fashion, hair, makeup and music industries you can see how the value chain grows our national wealth tremendously.”

Queen Ronke is at the Institute of Directors on London’s Pall Mall for Africa Fashion Week London which she launched 12 years ago. It has grown from strength to strength year on year and now hosts 30 catwalk shows, a conference, an awards ceremony and retail outlets. Her Royal Majesty looks suitably resplendent in her own designs. She confirms, “My position comes with my appearance as the wife of the King. You must keep up that appearance because you’re representing your husband wherever you are. If you’re dressed in jeans or not dressed in a proper manner it would have an adverse effect. People feel that being born royal I must always know better.”

Africa Fashion Week London is now Europe’s largest showcase of design from Africa and the African diaspora. “It’s a collaborative catwalk, exhibition and business development programme,” she summarises. “I want to highlight emerging designers and bring awareness of Africa’s burgeoning fashion industry to the international market.” The life and work of Her Royal Majesty Queen Ronke Ademiluyi-Ogunwusi of Ife combines beauty and intelligence, style and substance, heritage and commerce. And she knows how to make an entrance.

Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Design Museum London + The Offbeat Sari

Indian Spring

Unravelling its forms, revealing it as a layered metaphor for the subcontinent, an exhibition at the Design Museum London brings together 90 of the finest saris of our time from designers, craftspeople and wearers in India. The sari is an unstitched drape wrapped around the body; its unfixed form has allowed it to morph and absorb changing cultural influences. Versatility is key: it can be wrapped, knotted, pleated, tucked or divided in two, either highlighting or concealing the body. Contemporary designers are experimenting with hybrid forms such as sari gowns and dresses as well as innovative materials like woven steel and distressed denim.

Curator of The Offbeat Sari exhibition Priya Khanchandani says, “The sari is experiencing what is conceivably its most rapid reinvention in a 5,000 year history. It makes the sari movement one of today’s most important global fashion stories yet little is known of its true nature beyond south Asia. Women in cities who previously associated the sari with dressing up are transforming it into fresh everyday clothing. For me and for so many others, the sari is of personal and cultural significance. It is a rich dynamic canvas for innovation, encapsulating the vitality and eclecticism of Indian culture.”

The most striking piece was made for the billionaire businessperson Natasha Poonawalla to wear to the 2022 New York Met Gala. An embroidered tuile sari with a train designed by Sabyasachi Mukherjee was worn over a gold Schiaparelli bodice, bridging the gap between fashion and sculpture. This was stylist Anaita Shroff Adajania’s interpretation of the Met Gala dress code Gilded Glamour. All bases are covered at this exhibition from haute couture to street fashion. There’s even a sari for rock climbing.

The exhibition isn’t just about the finished products: Ajrakh is an ancient method of hand carved wooden block printing that traditionally uses motifs based on Islamic geometry. Sample blocks are on display. A silk sari may be typically designed using a dozen or more blocks and then will undergo a complex process of printing and dyeing using natural pigments. The Offbeat Sari is yet another revealing fashion exhibition at the Design Museum London.

Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + Sustainability

Harbour Lights

Back at our home from home, Chelsea Harbour, we catch up with the Queen of Fashion. It’s the eve of Africa Fashion Week London – she’s headlining a catwalk of Africa and the African diaspora’s very finest. Before all the glitz and glamour, funk and fantasy, jazz and pizzazz, Mary talks to us about the serious side of her fashion artistry: sustainability. At the most fundamental level, her clothes are made to last. But there are multiple layers (pun) to her green credentials.

“I care passionately about sustainability, the environment, the climate emergency and nature. My eponymous fashion label Mary Martin London (MML) reflects these passions. MML could easily stand for Materials Made for Life! I also greatly care about Africa and again my clothes reflect this interest. While many of my models are either from Africa or the African diaspora, I employ and attract a diverse talent: one of my first catwalk models was Polish while I also have mature female Irish clients.”

“I am from a family of 13 siblings and am the second youngest of six sisters so as a child I got used to wearing ‘hand me downs’. I would give these fifth hand clothes my own spin by adding individual accessories. I have been collecting old fabrics from the 1970s. I recently bought factory leftovers of linen which I will use for my next collection.”

“My Queen of Africa dress is an aesthetic interpretation of the countryside: the colourway of this dress represents brown for earth, green for grass and yellow for the sun. My Cecil the Lion dress came about when I heard the tragic news story from Zimbabwe of a lion maimed and killed by a recreational big game hunter. Layers of tulle around the neck and shoulders represent Cecil’s mane. The back of the dress has got the silkiness and fineness of the lion’s body.”

“I also draw and make my own prints. For my first men’s collection, I designed a print called Slaves in the Trees. I researched the Himba Tribe in Namibia and discovered they use a lot of orange face paint and hair mud. Orange is for the vibrance of earth and black is for the unseen missing elements. Orange represents the sun, the happiness outside. The print also commemorates the suffering inflicted during the slave trade.”

“Many of my dresses have historical inspiration which ties in with the sustainable use of recycled materials and reimagining vintage pieces. Last September I organised a fashion shoot of The Return Collection at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This collection was in part inspired by Georgian costume and aristocracy. Except in my imagination the black models are now the reigning grand aristocracy! The Grand Staircase and Durbar Court provided the perfect backdrop for these extravagant clothes. The collection reuses sequins from old costumes.”

“I continue to research and look for new methods to reinvent old materials in exciting ways. My passion for sustainability, the environment, the climate emergency, nature and of course Africa drives me to be ever more creative, stretching my imagination and skills. I make clothes to last: they represent the antithesis of the throwaway culture. Mary Martin London is all about making the world a better, more exciting and more caring place for current and future generations.”

Design Fashion People

Pavlo + Piccadilly London

Always in Season

London Fashion Week has barely ended before Africa Fashion Week London begins. Just enough time for a shoot with Pavlo in the park. It’s the September and October issue really.

Architecture Art Design Fashion People

Design Museum London + Alexander McQueen + Rebel Show

Rebels With a Cause

The John Pawson redesigned monument to minimalism has taken on a whole new splash of colour and pattern. Making waves at the Design Museum is Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion sponsored by Alexander McQueen. Dynamic, daring and determinedly rebellious, this show invites visitors to get on a Septemberfest rollercoaster of a ride. The press breakfast (avo prods and fruit torpedoes – fashionistas need to keep trim) – is full of everybody one should know on the elite fashion circuit.

Tim Marlow, Chief Executive of the Design Museum, shares with us, “We’re delighted to be collaborating with the British Fashion Council to showcase and explore the youthful energy, creative vision and rebellious spirit that is so central to their NewGen programme. Visitors are going to be stunned by many of the instantly recognisable fashion items on show. We hope they’ll also be captivated by the breadth, depth, diversity and world class talent that has emerged from the London fashion scene in the past three decades.” Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council, reciprocates, “We’re thrilled to be collaborating with the Design Museum to celebrate our wonderful NewGen initiative and its influence and legacy over the last 30 years.”

And stunned we are – what a show! All 300 or so designers who benefitted from the rightly celebrated NewGen grant funding programme are referenced. Lee Alexander McQueen was the standout talent from the first NewGen cohort. Archive pieces and photomontages give insights into his – to put it mildly – nonconformist work. ‘Art Show’ celebrates London’s art education establishments and features more talented alumni. But this is no passive exhibition. It’s full on interactive. ‘Backstage’ is all about artificial reality sponsored by Snapchat. Before long we’ve donned designer motorcycle helmets, had our faces painted and entered a cyber world of fun. That’s before shaking our booties to Eric Martin (Technotronic) in the ‘Club’ inspired by those 90s temples of decadent dance, Heaven and Turnmills.

Next comes ‘Runway’ where dozens of mannequins are frozen in time mid strut. Collections by J W Anderson, Wales Bonner, Craig Green, Christopher Kane, Meadham Kirchhoff, Sinéad O’Dwyer line the catwalk. Wait, there’s more! ‘Changemakers’ celebrates NewGen designers doing just that since 1993 – confronting the norms, fighting against stereotypes – in performance and politics. Sarah Mower, British Fashion Council Ambassador, tells us more, “It’s impossible to underestimate the influence London has on Britain’s fashion talent. It’s a city that produces wave after wave of young designers who value originality, wearing what you believe in, and tackling social issues to make a better world. The city’s art schools, clubs and catwalks are brought to life like never before.” Marjan Pejoski’s Swan Dress is one of many eye catching pieces never before on display in London. Born in Macedonia, the designer studied at Central Saint Martins before unveiling his first show in 2001. That same year, Icelandic singing sensation Björk famously wore the dress to the Oscars.

Colour Explosion’ revels in just that. Clements Ribeiro recalls, “Colour was massively unfashionable at the time. Everything was grey, downbeat, raw edged or minimal. We decided to go against it with colour, cashmere stripes, clashing prints and luxury. We called it ‘clumsy couture’. Colour turned out to be our superpower.” Fellow designer Craig Lawrence created huge knitted colourful forms in materials such as sweetie papers. He reflects, “My Ribbons Jumper and Leggings are like a big creamy strawberry marshmallow. That summer I was an ice cream man in Ipswich. Somehow, the extreme lollipop colours, stripes and bobbly bits sort of seeped into my Central Saint Martins holiday project.”

We’re at the Rebel press preview with another super talented member of the Martin family. Carrying on the fearless rebel tradition, Eric Martin’s sister, fashion artist Mary Martin, says, “I’m the middle child, the seventh of 13 children. We’re all very creative. I’m loving this show – it’s absolutely fabulous! I studied fashion at the University of East London and launched my label Mary Martin London in 2018. It’s fascinating to see this record of rebelliousness at the heart of London fashion. I like to see my clothes as carrying on that tradition, flying the flag.” Literally – one of Mary’s early dresses was a reworking of the Union Jack. We check out Russell Sage’s upcycled Union Jack jacket which Kate Moss modelled for a Vogue cover back in the day. Then it’s on to the next show. The waves haven’t stopped rolling in the capital.

Art Design Fashion People

Pavlo + Mayfair London

A Muse in a Mews

Parees is on her way from Paris (via Calais of course) so today it’s all about Ukraine’s Next Top Model. In between shows (it’s London Fashion Week) Pavlo strikes poses, works his angles and delivers for the lens.

Architecture Design Fashion Hotels Luxury

Dress + Stair

A Flirtation with the Baroque

Architecture Art Design Fashion Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

The Gore Hotel Kensington London + Mary Martin London

I’ve Always Thought You Have A Lovely Face and I Never Praise Anyone Easily

Angelika Taschen scribed 17 years ago in London Hotels and More, “Walking into The Gore is like visiting a loopy uncle’s house. The walls of the chandeliered reception are covered in gilt framed artwork. There are pictures of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, of children in buckled shoes and paintings of farm animals. It would all be overkill if it wasn’t so whimsical and delightful. The hotel’s busy restaurant, 190 Queen’s Gate, serves food sourced from UK farms. The Gore’s clientele is as eclectic as the décor. Supermodels and their rock star boyfriends hide out here when press intrusion gets too much. At the same time, you’ll find businessmen tapping away at their laptops, or you could come across an elegant woman, lashed in diamonds, mysteriously accompanied by a three tonne bodyguard. The rooms at The Gore are quirky and eccentrically furnished with an amazing collection of English and French antiques. The deluxe Venus Room has a huge antique bed, topped with raw silk swag and tails, which apparently belonged to Judy Garland.”

The Gore’s clientele is especially eclectic today. Although not a loopy uncle in sight. We’re lunching in the hotel’s 190 Bar surrounded by photos of the Rolling Stones hanging on the dark wooden panelling: they launched their album Beggars’ Banquet here in 1958. The last time we darkened the doors of The Gore was for the departure of Queen Elizabeth II. This time it is for the arrival of the Queen of Fashion. The Union Jack is flying proudly from the portico. A tricoloured reminder of Mary’s epic Union Jack Dress. Mary Martin is looking just a little rock n’ roll herself. Sometime somebody somewhere said architecture is the only art you can’t avoid. Tosh. It’s fashion. And Mary is out to make sure that’s the case. She’s all on for a bit of press intrusion. Where’s our three tonne bodyguard?

First off this month she is premièring a new collection in Brasília at the invitation of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the brilliant Brazilian President. “My new collection is all about nature. The dresses feature butterflies which are an expression of freedom, transformation, change, joy!” she explains. “I’ve used very earthy colours, gold and cream.” Hot on the (high) heels of this showcase she flies back to London for ‘A Fashion Experience with Mary Martin London and Friends’.

This momentous event in Soukra restaurant at The O2 in Greenwich celebrates her life and work as the English capital’s leading fashion artist. Mary will talk with TV presenter Brenda Emmanus and broadcaster Andrew Eborn about the stories behind her designs. Lights! Cameras! Action! The catwalk show will be highlights from her most recent collections. “Top American models are flying in specially for my show,” she relates, “to join leading European models. Angelic, Antonia, Bubu Jasmine, Hillary, Jessica, Kiki, Sue, Zavinta … It’s gonna be a truly international runway from Ukraine to the UK!”

Welsh singer and musician Noah Francis Johnson rings. He sings Everything’s Going to Be Ok down the phone so beautifully. “I am releasing my new hit record Immortal featuring Prodigal Sunn,” he says. “It’s a prayer to God; I studied as a priest.” Noah is a true polymath with a career stretching from being a professional mixed martial artist to becoming the World Freestyle Dance Champion. After supper, DJ Biggy C will get the crowd dancing. Singer songwriter Pauline Henry and poet Dr Lady Waynett Peters are just some of the other performers. “Because I’m a Christian,” Mary modestly says, “All praise is to my heavenly Father.” International star Heather Small is another of Mary’s music coterie and frequently wears her fashion art. Professional ballerina Sue Omozefe calls mid skiing on the Swiss Alps: “It’s madness on the slopes!” Photographer Adil Oliver Sharif is next on dial. All afternoon her phone buzzes with so many exciting people as to make Angelika Taschen’s description pale in comparison. Watch these spaces.

After fish goujons main course London’s best Bar Manager Sebastian Guesdon arrives with Eton Mess. He’s from Versailles so knows all about serving queens. “This dessert was originally invented when a meringue was dropped on the floor. This one was specially made and didn’t drop on the floor!” Sebastian teases. “We are relaunching Bar 190. It’s going to be even more about rock n’ roll with an Abbey Road theme. We’ll be hosting live music. And we are opening a new restaurant in our hotel in June led by Head Chef Frederick Forster. He has worked with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Michel Roux Junior at Le Gavroche.”

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Rothschild Boulevard Tel Aviv + Dreams

What  Matters Happiness is… Saturday afternoons spent on the dreamscape that is Rothschild Boulevard. Happiness extended is… Saturday evenings spent on the moonscape that is Rothschild Boulevard. In the middle of the road is a wide stretch of land for sunbathing, drinking, eating, gossiping, playing bowls, political demonstrating and this being Tel Aviv, racing motorbikes.

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Hôtel du Petit Moulin Paris + Christian Lacroix

We’re Here for The Ride

“Welcome to the Hôtel du Petit Moulin! We would like to thank you for your confidence and for choosing our hotel during your visit in Paris. Le Marais is full of history, wonderful shops, galleries, museums and restaurants. In fact, the building in which the hotel is set was originally the first Parisian bakery. This is where Victor Hugo would come to buy his baguette! Today, the original shop frontage remains, reminding guests of its former past as a ‘boulangerie’, protected under French Heritage. Make yourself at home, relax and enjoy a quiet drink at the honesty bar open from noon to midnight or head to the spa of our sister hotel, the Pavillon de la Reine, situated in Place des Vosges, just a 10 minute walk away from her and available to all our guests. Have a lovely stay with us.” Luc Guillo Lohan, The Manager.

Heaven’s in the detail and the Hôtel du Petit Moulin delivers from bookmarks and business cards to brass door keys and petite boxes â picorer. Highlights of the room service from Restaurant Chez Nenesse on nearby Rue de Saintonge include entrées: salade des queues de langoustines (Dublin Bay prawn salad); plats: fillets de bar aux fines herbes (sea bass fillet, sauce with fine herbs); and desserts: mousse et sorbet chocolat sauce pistache (chocolate mousse and sorbets with pistachio sauce).

Filling a pair of 17th century buildings which couldn’t be more pre Haussmann Parisian if they tried, the ground floor was once a bar and a street corner bakery. Victor Hugo’s house on Place des Vosges is just around the corner. As Monsieur Lohan notes, the former bakery still retains a hand painted glass shopfront. There are just 17 guest rooms. One bedroom on the rez-de-chaussée. Four on the premier étage. Four on the deuxième étage stacked in the same layout as below. Four stacked on the troisième étage. One on the étage intermédiaire. Three on the quatrième étage. The architecture is full of original quirks from fragments of timber structural beams to windows floating between floors. The interior is absolutely fabulous Christian Lacroix sweetie darling.The haut couture designer clearly had a lot of fun dreaming up this Louis XV on an acid trip décor. The colourful chaos of the montaged découpaged toile de jouy in the main rooms contrasts with the calm of the white marble bathrooms. Top floor Room 402 is the largest guest suite and angles into the street corner with the best views, taking in a sweep of chimneys rising above the buildings lining Rue de Poitou and Rue de Saintonge. The mirrored ceiling provides an altogether different view, not least of the shagpile carpet. “Early to bed, and you’ll wish you were dead. Bed before 11, nuts before seven,” shrieked Dorothy Parker in her short story for The Little Hours for The New Yorker, 1933.

Nowhere does acronyms better than cultural Paris. MAD (Musée des Arts Décoratifs) is hard to beat. MAHJ (Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme) is exhibiting Erwin Blumenfeld’s photography. The Festival of (captured Light in the City of Light.

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Wild + Precious

Swimming in the Whirlpool of High Society

Who said we didn’t end up at midnight in Princess Diana’s fav Knightsbridge haunt San Lorenzo three years ago to the day? Or a month earlier join influencers for a day at the races? Or fast forward a few seasons to find ourselves singing black tied carols with London’s finest on Pall Mall till dawn? As for the maquillage, English Heritage have a lot to answer for… Tell us, what are you doing?

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King Charles III + Buckingham Palace London

All the King’s Horses

Where better to wave goodbye to the Second Elizabethan Era and welcome in the Third Carolean Age than outside Buckingham Place? Queen Elizabeth II Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory. God Save The King! Exquisitely uniformed bands from The Household Division, seven British Army Regiments serving the Monarch, liveried to the nines, play and march past. Each is a masterclass in music and choreography. Across The Mall in St James’s Palace, the terribly handsome Penny Mordaunt MP, Lord President of the Council, her mane swept back with a black Alice band, is opening the Proclamation proceedings. She lives up to her looks, speaking with polished authority. Bugles and trumpets sound. The King’s Royal Horse Artillery fire gun salutes at Hyde Park and the Tower of London, echoing across the crowd and down the River Thames.

A roar ripples through the crowd. The atmosphere is electric. Here he comes! A lorry carrying barriers turns the corner and comes into view, its driver waving regally. The crowd cheers and laughs. A young unfit looking guy breaks through the barrier and makes a run for it. An even more unfit looking policeman gives chase. The crowd cheers again before the guy is eventually toppled to the ground by five police officers further up The Mall.

The waiting continues. There’s a flurry of activity amongst the many security personnel. They’re all on their mobiles. Then at last the horse led convoy appears. The State Rolls Royce Phantom VI slowly drives past, enough to catch a glimpse of King Charles’ wispy grey hair. Hip hip hooray! And so His Majesty Charles III, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of His other Realms and Territories, King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, Supreme Head of the Church of England, Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces, starts the first day in his new job, aged 73, meeting Prime Minister Liz Truss and members of her new Cabinet in Buckingham Palace. What a short commute! What’s his job role? To weave a line through the tapestry of time. No pressure, then. Soon, it will be time to dust down the ermine. Where does pomp and pageantry better than Britain?

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The Old School Gortin + Rylagh Limekiln Tyrone

Best Days

The Auld Bank café and deli is such a roaring success that it will soon be joined by The Auld Forge, a country goods store. The Auld Bank is filled to the cornice with local produce: Armagh Bramley Apples, Black Fire hot sauce from a chilli pepper grower in Belfast, dulse from the North Antrim Coast, and wild garlic from Black Mountain Belfast. Who would have thought the single street Gortin deep in the Owenkillew River valley encircled by the Sperrin Mountains would become such a fashionable destination?

At the end of the winding mountainous road leading down from the Gortin Lakes into the village is a single storey white rendered slate roofed building. Provincial Ulster architecture at its best. It overlooks St Patrick’s Church of Ireland. The pillar box red painted doors at either end of the façade are a drive-by giveaway: it’s The Old School (gender segregated entrances for schoolchildren). Upon closer inspection a plaque over each door reads: “Beltrim National School 1899”. Beltrim Castle is the estate on the edge of the village. The eight bay Old School – or should that be Auld School? – is now a smartly kitted out holiday cottage to let. A combined reception room and kitchen is open to the beamed ceiling and there are two guest bedrooms.

The most idiosyncratically located picnic table in the area is next to the roof of Rylagh Limekiln. Down a narrow road leading nowhere in particular, this square stone stower built into the roadside slope encases an egg shaped chamber made of brick. A hole in its base opening to the road facing front allowed in air to assist combustion, and at a later stage in the process, the removal of the end product. Limestone from a neighbouring quarry was burnt with peat for a week inside the limekiln to produce a white powdered form – lime – suitable for agricultural and building use. Erected in 1800, the limekiln was restored 215 years later by a local group of volunteers ‘Friends of the Glens’. The lime may have gone, but the stone structure stands as a reminder of Auld Times.

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Chatsworth + Edensor Derbyshire

The Gilded Age

Everything about Chatsworth, one of England’s most famous grand houses, is on an industrial scale. Roundly: 14,000 hectares; 62 farms; three villages; 130 rooms; 17 staircases; 1,250 works of art; 12,000 books in the Library and Ante Library; and 700 staff. And one very large farmshop (think King’s Road Partridges takes flight to the Peak District). Little wonder the current Duke and Duchess, well past retirement age, have decided to step back from overseeing the whole venture. Like his mother the late Debo (the last of the legendary Mitford sisters), Peregrine “Stoker” Cavendish along with his wife Amanda are moving from The Very Big House to The Old Vicarage in one of the estate villages, the picturesque Edensor. Debo lived in one half of the subdivided dwelling. Inskip Gee Architects are reuniting the two parts of The Old Vicarage. “It is a house with service buildings that survives from the old town and predates the alteration of Edensor by the 6th Duke and Paxton,” the architects explain. “The transformation of the house as an Italianate villa in 1838 is representative of the recasting of Edensor in various picturesque styles as a model village within Chatsworth Park, carried out in 1837 to 1840.”

The 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire haven’t been averse to some dramatic interventions during their tenure. In 2010 they held a three day ‘Attic Sale’ of 1,422 lots including 34 belonging to Debo. For example, Lot 223: “A gilt-bronze mounted Meissen porcelain timepiece Louis XVI, provenance Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire (acquired in the 1960s), estimate £4,000 to £6,000.” There aren’t any actual attics at Chatsworth (it is flat and low mono-pitch roofed) but there are plenty of far flung wings and outbuildings which stored surplus trinkets and larger items. In fact enough architectural salvage to fit out the interior of a decent sized country house. “There simply wasn’t enough room,” the Duke notes. “We were never going to be moving to a bigger house!” More random was Lot 1412: “Six magnums of 1982 Dom Pérignon, estimate £1,250 to £1,800.” Lots 1419 to 1422 were vintage vehicles and parts.

Historian James Miller wrote the introduction to Sotheby’s sale catalogue: “Alliteration can be a dangerous thing: it can either overstate or oversimplify, but in the description of Chatsworth as the ‘Palace of the Peaks’ it does neither. Chatsworth is a palace: a huge, magnificent house, empowered in its own lushness. The phrase also encapsulates its position among the other Cavendish possessions, past and present. It is the peak amongst these that have included Burlington House in Piccadilly, Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire, Chiswick in Middlesex, Hardwick in Derbyshire, Holker Hall in Cumbria, Lismore Castle in County Waterford, Londesborough in the East Riding and Devonshire House in London.”

He continues, “These houses have all been centres of the family’s activities as builders and collectors over nearly 500 years, but at Chatsworth we now see its fullest flowering, incorporating elements of all these other family collections. Replacing Hardwick in the late 17th century, Chatsworth has been the principal family seat for the last 300 years and in the last 100 has been the repository of works of art emanating from their other houses. This has meant that over the years every nook and cranny of this ‘Palace of the Peaks’ has been filled.”

And finishes, “The past year has been spent carefully sifting through these items, retaining some of those objects which illuminate family history and selecting what has become the content of this sale. In assessing the objects, comparing them to similar items remaining in the collection, and through reference to the large number of inventories that have been kept on the various properties, it has been possible at times to identify who commissioned them and for which of the family houses, as well as finding out when they moved to Chatsworth.”

The £65 million proceeds of the sale funded cleaning the stone walls to reveal their original warm buff and regilding the glazing bars of the windows on the two principal floors of the south front (architect William Talman) and west front (architect probably Thomas Archer aided by the 1st Duke) in 25 carat gold leaf. “The house was built to show off,” affirms the Duke. The glass panes are bevelled and the internal windowsills are made of marble. There is one single pane window on the east front contrasting with the multipaned sash windows everywhere else. About one third of the house is open to the public. The private rooms are on the south and west fronts. The gardens closest to these rooms are closed to the public. This has the dual benefit of providing privacy for the Cavendish family and keeping the elevations clutter free of tourists.

One of the highlights of the tour is the Chapel. “This space is practically unchanged since the 1st Duke in 1700,” states Stoker. Except for one addition. St Bartholomew Exquisite Pain, 2008, is a life size sculpture cast in gold plated silver in an edition of three by Damien Hirst. The artist says, “I like the confusion you get between science and religion… that’s where belief lies and art as well.” St Bartholomew was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus and was meant to have been flayed alive and martyred. In this sculpture he stands shinily resplendent, holding his detached skin draped over his right arm and blades as a symbol of his sainthood in his left hand. Historical depictions of St Bartholomew showed anatomical detail combining art and science and this artwork remains true to that tradition. It is the standout piece in the current display of contemporary art at Chatsworth and is aptly placed.