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.
The blur of old and new architecture, public and private space, external and semi enclosed is so well handled in the rebuilding of Görtz Palais and what lies beyond. In a highly complex case of town planning par excellence, the central archway of the rebuilt Görtz Palais leads through to a sloping corridor lined with shop windows which in turn opens into an arcade with arches on one side open to Bleichenfleet Canal. Steps lead onto a series of interlinking courtyards: Stadthof, Treppenhof and Bleichenhof, all wrapped in an abundance of ceramic tiled walls. An archway reveals the best open space of all: the courtyard of Hotel Tortue. Piped classical music adds another thrill to the experience. They do it better here.
Fashion over adversity. This season is all about silhouette. Nobody – and we mean nobody – does silhouette better than Mary Martin London. Especially when montaged against the shape of history. This lady’s for turning – heads. Form doesn’t always follow function when it’s following a flight of fancy. Headdresses are a necessary accessory when it comes to haute – and we mean haute – couture. University of fashion.
No justice no fashion. How many people does it take to do a Mary Martin London fashion shoot? Counting. A host. A fashion designer. A fashion photographer. A fashion photographer’s assistant. A set photographer. A videographer. A lighting technician. A stylist. Two makeup artists. Two hairdressers. One headdress stylist. Four models. A ballerina. A chauffeur. A muse. That’ll be 20. Oh plus five security. Make that 25. Big wigs plus fashion’s finest. Everyone authentically leading their best London lives up a level. Forgetting fiction, correcting the truth. A September Sunday. No just as fashion.
On location at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Westminster. By 9am the collective creative energy is palpable. Ballerina Omozefe is practising her moves while classical music reverberates off the marble Durbar Court. “I’m dazzled by this space. It’s amazing!” She shares, “I started learning ballet aged four. I’m five foot six inches but I’ve an unusually long inside leg measurement of 33 inches. Resilience is so important for the amount of training you need to do to be successful. You need the ability to endure pain. It’s constant training – like being an athlete. Odette and Odile in Swan Lake is every ballet dancer’s dream role!”
“This is like a film set! The lighting is lovely!” exclaims leading photographer Monika Schaible upon seeing the Grand Staircase. More exclamations follow when half Lebanese half Sierra Leonean model Yasmin Jamaal surprises in a regal black and crimson extravaganza. “TC! Totally couture!” Yasmin responds, “I feel like a queen.” Cecil Beaton said of Tallulah Bankhead, “Her entrance is always dramatic.” Yasmin, anyone? Not content with setting the catwalks alight, Yasmin has hit the silver screen. She appears in the new James Bond film No Time To Die. Her summary is: “It’s a really exciting movie. There are a lot of stunts. Working with Daniel Craig was so interesting.”
Leila Samati is another international model. Originally from the Algarve in Portugal, she came to study International Business in London. “My favourite models are Naomi Campbell and Adriana Lima who modelled for Victoria’s Secret.” Leila can add the “super” prefix to her job title: she’s been crowned Miss World, Miss Africa Great Britain and Miss Guinea-Bissau. “Mary’s dresses have amazing details,” she observes. “You can tell the hard work that goes into pieces she produces. They’re so elegant.”
The third female model on today’s shoot is Londoner Kiki Busari. “This is my first shoot with Mary. She’s so creative. I’m loving the whole period theme. It’s like an historic costume drama!” Kiki adds, “Mary is the hardest working designer I know.” She can’t wait to show her young sons Saint and Angel the stills. Freelance stylist Joel Kerroy is here “to make everyone and everything camera ready”. When not perfecting shoots, Joel puts together look books for the likes of Jeff Banks and Burberry. He thinks, “Mary’s clothes are so elegant and extravagant. They’re eleganza!”
Mary reveals, “The Georgian fashion shoot that my muse Stuart Blakley modelled in last year filled me with inspiration for the period theme. The Return Collection is Marie Antoinette meets tribal meets avant garde.” Unbelievably the outfits showcasing the collection at this shoot were all designed and made by the fashion artist in just under three weeks. By early afternoon, the shoot is in full swing. There’s nowhere grander or more entrenched with story than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and there are no grander clothes more entrenched with story than Mary Martin London.
Memorable fashion moments are fleetingly created and permanently captured. Omozefe’s tippy toed croisé, plié and grand jeté. Yasmin working a dress of straw. Leila balancing a gargantuan Georgian wig on her head. Hassan strutting his stuff. Kiki taking a selfie with a Victorian bust. And the final memorable scene: the alternative royal family proudly descending the Grand Staircase illuminated by late afternoon sunlight. It’s as if Armand Constant Milicourt-Lefebre’s portraits of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie have sprung to life and – joined by two Dauphines – been augmented by greater beauty, exquisiteness, relevance, and contemporaneity. High above in the golden coffered dome an inscription glitters: “Praise Thee O God Yea Let All The People Praise Thee O Let The Nations Rejoice And Be Glad”. Far below, everyone is present. Everyone is on point. Everyone is in awe. By 5pm it’s a wrap. Time to party.
“What an anointing to be filled with God’s joy!” rejoices Mary. “It gives me great pleasure to create. It’s emotional. I’ve done fashion shows and shoots all over the world. I’ve been to Ghana, South Africa, south of France, you name it, I’ve been to a lot of places. I express myself in my clothes with my moods: happy, sad, crazy, kooky, whatever it is you know I just express it on my clothes. It’s just a natural thing for me. A lot of people seem to love the eccentric clothes I make and you know I love showing the clothes and I love the catwalk. But I’ve never shown at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before. What a privilege. This is a first! It’s all exciting for me! I’m on point!” Cecil Beaton said of Tallulah Bankhead, “Her vitality is dynamic; she can sustain fever pitch ad finitum.” Mary, anyone? At the wrap party everyone agrees this is the start of something big. Really big. First comes the Black History Month exhibition in Foreign and Commonwealth Office. And there’s more, much more to come. Justice fashion.
“You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” croons Lisa-Marie Presley. You ain’t. And you won’t. Not yet. For Mary Martin London is busy sewing up a storm for her forthcoming fashion feat: The Return Collection. This comes hot and heavy on the haute heels of her last extravaganza Blood Sweat and Tears. This time it really is all about power dressing. And the corridors of power are about to be torn up by the thrust and throttle no room for boondoggle of a Mary Martin London show. “If our myths and truths are only another exotic blossoming, the free play of possibility,” writes Marilynne Robinson in The Death of Adam, “then they are fully as real and as worthy of respect as anything else.”
Show. Not merely catwalk, for Mary will as ever be mixing decks in between directing the lighting, sound, photography, choreography, and always, laughter. There is really only one space that can hold its own for her solo show. Enter Durbar Court. “I like that the heads of the East India Company leaders will be looking down on my catwalk!” Mary howls laughing. “History and all that!” The Court was first used in 1867 for a reception of the Sultan of Turkey. King Edward VII threw his Coronation party here in 1902. Ms Robinson again, “At best, our understanding of any historical moment is significantly wrong, and this should come as no surprise, since we have little grasp of any present moment.” More recently, President Trump gave a speech here; Victoria Beckham showed last summer; Vivienne Westwood before that; but this is a first: a black female designer holding court in Durbar Court.
There’s so much art and sculpture and history layered with meaning and misapprehension in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. En processional route to Durbar Court is the Muses’ Stair. An octagonal glass lantern lighting the Portland stone staircase is decorated by Canephorae, Roman goddesses of plenty, floating over cherubs representing Roman virtues. Portraits of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie hang between red Devonshire marble and grey Derbyshire marble Corinthian columns.
“Dare to be you!” Reverend Andy Rider preached in his last sermon as Rector of Christ Church Spitalfields. Over 100 years ago Lady Sybil Grant wrote in her self hagiography, “Provided that we are a star we should not trouble about the relative importance of our position in the heavens.” Fastforward a century or so and Mary is confident of her place in the firmament. And daring to be Mary Martin London. The creation of Eve. “We should be thankful that our cinematographic life in London still affords the quality of mystery and unexpectedness,” proclaimed Lady Sybil. Big statement.
Big statement architecture requires big statement fashion. Another interjection from Marilynne Robinson, “It all comes down to the mystery of the relationship between the mind and the cosmos.” First there was The Black Dress: “I see through a dark cloud of black mist.” Then The Red Dress: “The tainted bride is no longer a virgin.” Next came The White Dress: “I dream of memories when I was a Queen.” There’s only one dress left. The Rainbow Dress: “It’s finally coming – the biggest and the best! The Rainbow Dress will open The Return Collection!” the fashion artist declares. “A world champion ballerina will combine Tai quan dao and African dance on the catwalk. I’m bringing it in a bit different! People haven’t been out so I’m going to give them an amazing show. The Return to Africa. I’m out of the box!” Out of the box and into the Court. “Just A Dream” mourns Lisa-Marie Presley. Not for Mary Martin London. She is all about turning dreams into fantasies into realities into myths and truths. An uncommon wealth of talent.
Only Mary Martin London would conjure up haute couture hoodies with matching face masks in an increasingly byzantine world, introducing evanescent light into the Stygian darkness. Worthy of a Rizzoli monograph, Behind the Mask is futuristic fashion fusion taken to a whole new paradoxical level. Mary exclaims, “I just thought to myself I need to create streetwear for this time when we’re not allowed on the streets!” Face masks are the new matching fashion accessory. Socially distanced, a “drive by shoot” takes on a whole new meaning, channelling inner Fauda. Thanks Becks. Gucci velvet slippers model’s own.
Those cheekbones sharp enough to slice bread with… the thoroughbred aquiline nose… the gunshot grey and lilac hooded eyelids… the supremely elegant arch of her back… that majestic mane of silvery white hair… Her legendary beauty has been captured on countless occasions by the great and the good of the photographic world. But in the flesh she is even more enticing, more exquisite, more natural and best of all armed with a wicked sense of humour that celluloid could never capture. We fell about laughing as she exaggeratedly demonstrated some of her more extreme model poses. The secret of her suppleness? One hour’s stretching exercises in the morning, she confided. Over to Carmen:
“I have worked with all the best photographers long before digital photography came along. Back then, photographers talked a different language. I don’t consider images taken of me belong to me. They are the products of the photographers who are mental and spiritual sculptors. I don’t think about the labels people give me. I’m too busy. Have the passion to live. I never chose to be in my profession. I learnt to achieve. Life is worth living. Do some good when no one is looking.” Inspirational isn’t a strong enough adjective.
“I am still thinking of who I am. Think of who you are and where your passions lie. When young guys like you tell me I’m inspiring I know there’s hope for the future of this world. The idea is from 80 to 100 to slow down but quite sure how I’m not sure yet. I may be the last link to a golden age and I’m going out with my heels on. I love being silent. Take life seriously.” And with that, she burst out laughing.
Over numerous cups of coffee in her first floor kitchen, much laughter, and more than a few facetime calls with her numerous celebrity pals (putting the M into M People), the award winning fashion designer and creative extraordinaire shares her innermost thoughts with Lavender’s Blue.
“I’m Mary Martin London. Welcome to Maryland. My work is like an image of myself: a bit eccentric, a bit crazy, but sophisticated. It’s me, it’s my personality, it’s what I feel inside. A lot of passion goes into what I’m doing. I inhabit a world called Maryland. My inspiration is God. You know, my mother and father were ministers and I thought to myself: the first thing I learnt in the church was in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and basically God made us in his image. So I figured if God is the creator of heaven and earth, and he’s made us in his image, I am a creator as well. God is my creator and my inspiration.
Now my latest collection which I’ve done is called Blood Sweat and Tears and it’s really been blood sweat and tears and I wanted to dedicate this collection to the slaves because they worked hard for us to be here now. And you know you have to give a salute to those slaves who worked and were beaten and killed. You know we are still fighting the racism and everything else so I think to myself – I always have to remember where I came from: my ancestors were from Africa. This men’s collection is actually a salute! I did a screen print for my men’s collection called Slaves in the Field. You see the eyes coming through the trees. People are looking for them so I put the army print on the back.
Reclaiming Urban Jungle is one of my fabric patterns. It is inspired by the Amazon Rainforests. In current times we have become more aware of the effects of fast fashion on climate change. The beauty of nature of this print takes the form of abstract art in nature and surrealism. Reclaiming Urban Jungle represents the marriage of surrealism and the tropical rainforest. The lion is the King of the Jungle but in the jungle there are no crowns so the lion has a crown of bananas. I built up the leaves drawing them in layers and used special paint for screen printing.
The first collection I actually put together which was called the Fairytale Collection was big fluffy dresses. I did it all by hand couture. The reason I did it by hand was it was very therapeutic. So basically, I was working with my hands and it was helping me get through things. It was really really helping me and I thought, ok, make it the Fairytale Collection! I actually went to Ghana to do the Mercedes Fashion Week. I did the show over there and it was like – wow! – everybody was so in shock at the clothes I had brought, and that was the start. That was the key for me.
My favourite colour is actually blue. My mum’s favourite colour was blue because she always loved The Queen and The Queen’s mother and she always used to wear a lot of blue and that’s the reason I like blue. It was the only colour I used to see growing up. My mother and father came over to England in the Fifties and basically my mother wanted to be an actress and my father was an antiques dealer and he used to go around and come back with old clothes. We had a 10 bedroom house on the river and in the top of the attic my mother had a room full of beautiful dresses. I used to love the clothes up there. Me and my sister – we used to jump up and down for joy! It was like an in-house fashion show up in the attic.
Nobody knew me and my sister used to go up there and try on all the clothes and all the shoes. We loved dressing up; we loved glamour. They were big for us but we loved the clothes, the shoes. And that’s when I fell in love with fashion! Next year, now that I’m graduated, I want to celebrate and you know I really want to show people what I care about inside me. I want to show people what a show is all about. Just look out for the Mary Martin London brand!
Melba Moore is my favourite singer in the whole world.”
“I just made this top this morning. It has a mustard coloured velvet sleeve and a khaki lurex sleeve. The sleeves contrast with the gold and black stretch cotton bodice. I work with the fabric – I create and just surprise myself! I see myself as a fashion artist. I’m gearing up for a solo exhibition and a catwalk show. I’m seeing tulle hanging from the ceiling and my screen prints framed as art on the walls. I’ll do my collections the way they should be. And I’ve dreamt of the dress of all dresses. All the lights will be on it. This dress is going to be magnificent!”
It is just an ordinary Wednesday night at Mary Martin’s. Poland’s top model Katie and fellow runway success Yasmin from Sierra Leone and Lebanon are swapping notes and tips and dresses and jewellery. Dring dring. The phone goes. Afrobeats is blasting. Dring dring. It’s Teedum Nke-ee Mr Nigeria on the line. Good news from Ghana. In absentia, Mary has just been awarded the highest recognition in African fashion: the Continent’s Citation of Honour. And? “We admire you for your accomplishments, consistent efforts and contributions to the fashion industry both home and on the international stage. We say AYEEKOOO!”
“TheRue de Rivoliis very straight and unaltered from end to end: three simple storeys above an arcade,” according toNairn’s Paris. “But it feels quite different from the autocratic straightness of the 18th century. That was for show; this, basically, is for convenience, and there is a fine, underplayed urbanity in the wayPercierandFontaineconsistently refused to hot up what is in fact a very long elevation. Impersonal but not inhuman; the mile long covered street never gets on top of you, and life can take what shape it likes inside the framework.” Life takes on a luxurious shape insideNo.228 Rue de Rivoli: Le Meurice, an urbanVersailles.
Continuing the bookending theme of a year well spent: Easter in George V, Christmas in Charles V. The former, westward upstream of Notre Dame; the latter, eastward downstream. One, extrovert art deco; the other, discreet Swedish rococo. Charles V Hôtel is in St Paul, a village embedded in the city between the River Seine and Rue St Antoine. It’s on the site of Hôtel St Pol built by Charles the Wise in the 14th century. Even back then, St Paul was super fashionable. Later hôtels particuliers there are aplenty. Within a polished stone’s throw of Hôtel Charles V are Hôtel d’Aumont (now offices), Hôtel de Sens (now a library) and Hôtel Hénault de Cantobre (now European House of Photography). Next door to Hôtel Charles V is La Mâle d’Effeenne, fashion designer and visual consultant Nico Thibault Francioni’s treasure trove of a shop. Nico calls it a “univers de choix”. Ian Nairn wrote in his eponymous guide to the French Capital: “Paris is a collective masterpiece, perhaps the greatest in the world.” St Paul is a sophisticated slice of that masterpiece. Hôtel Charles V (petit boutique five storeys with just two to six bedrooms per floor) adds some fairy dust. Bises de Paris.
A lavish setting for a lavish gala. It’s a high octane international evening of accolades and industry recognition, of competition and celebration, of flowing wine and fine cuisine. A reception of award winning Tenuta Montemagno Relais and Wines precedes a cocktail party courtesy of “intricately realised” Silent Pool Gin (which turns out to be blackberry and damson gin liquors). Laura Scampini, proprietor of Tenuta Montemagno Resort, comments, “It’s a very nice occasion to be here this evening. Our resort is quiet, calm, very comfortable. We produce our own wine there.” The suspense gains momentum during the three course dinner (globe artichoke of course) before the ceremony truly gets underway.
It’s a serious global operation. Director Schlomo Gabbai explains more: “There are many awards in the world of hospitality. But remarkably the World Boutique Hotel Awards is the only one of its kind that takes the time, care, and in all honesty, pure joy, to visit each and every prospective winner. We don’t judge from afar. We feel the full experience – the rooms, the grounds, the lobbies, the private islands, wilderness tents and castles. We see the attention to detail in every stitch of fabric and every crumb of food. Most importantly, our judges are always moved by the extraordinary people behind each establishment, by the people who pour their hearts and souls into creating timeless memories.” This year there are 300 nominees from 80 countries.