Design Luxury People

Jacqueline Duncan OBE + Inchbald School of Design London

The Graduates


There was even more than usual to celebrate at this year’s Inchbald School of Design Spring Lunch. Over 80 percent employment success rate for last year’s crop of graduates (the post boom national average hovers below 30 percent) would be enough for most schools to uncork the champers. But there’s more. The trailblazing founder and Principal, Jacqueline Duncan, has ensured the school has now remained top of its game for more than half a century. There’s more still. The icing on the baked vanilla cheesecake with berry compote is Jacqueline has been awarded the Order of the British Empire. Her husband, Colonel Duncan, raised the toast to her accomplishments at the Cavalry and Guards Club on Piccadilly.

3 Jacqueline Duncan Inchbald

Looking immaculate as ever, in between courses of home cured gravadlax, asparagus, charred artichoke and quails egg salad followed by poached salmon and fennel carpaccio, Jacqueline revealed the origins of Inchbald. “My first husband (who died recently) Michael Inchbald and I had a big house in Chelsea. We’d a 40 foot long drawing room. Upstairs was a big apartment on the first floor. We had dances there but otherwise it was an empty space.” Jacqueline soon had plans for putting it to good use.

“I’d no managerial experience. Before getting married I worked as a secretary and then I became an antiques dealer.” This didn’t hinder her deciding to launch the first interior design school in Europe. The year was 1960. “It was terrifying! I needed seven students to cover costs for the first term. The Monday before it opened I had my first applicant. That was all. But by the following Monday I had eight. It did become less terrifying as time went on. The following September I had 40 students.” Inchbald was the first of its kind to offer interior designers qualifications leading to professional status.

So what is the secret of her success – and longevity? Turns out to be a mixture of things. “I employed very good lecturers from the outset. Most of them were practising designers themselves. We ran a very successful PR campaign. It was fantastic! I didn’t lose a night’s sleep. It was a lot of hard work though.” The hard work has paid off. Inchbald’s syllabus now ranges from postgraduate and masters courses to introductory online courses. The internationally renowned school embraces interior design, interior decoration and garden design. It’s long outgrown Jacqueline’s former first floor apartment. “We now have six directors at our school at Eaton Gate and Eccleston Square,” she confirms.

An OBE for services to design is the latest and greatest accolade to be bestowed upon the debonair doyenne of design. “I stick with quality! It’s terribly important to me. Other people don’t. I’m so particular about quality,” Jacqueline emphasises. This is the lady who told Mrs Thatcher to go get her hair sorted and gave the then prime minister the name of her own hairdressers. Mrs T was spotted in the salon the following week. “Extending the perception of quality is Inchbald’s underlying philosophy. It’s been a lifetime’s work.”

Jacqueline Duncan still carries out her Monday and Friday morning walkabouts of Inchbald. She’s a lot to be proud of as the school continues to go from strength to strength. Alumni set up their own practices like Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill and Nina Campbell or go to work for high end companies such as Candy & Candy. But instead she is incredibly modest. And great fun. “Is your grandmother still working?” she asks with a twinkle in her eye.

Jacqueline Duncan OBE Principal Inchbald


David Plaksin + Erarta Galleries London

He Has Form

1 David Plaksin Erarta

Around Berkeley Square is a little piece of Londongrad. Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the Evening Standard, has an office off the square on Hill Street. Waterstone’s, with its five storey flagship store on nearby Piccadilly (check out that view from the fifth floor bar!), is owned by Yeltsin’s friend Alexander Mamut. Also on Piccadilly is the Russian food shop and café Caviar House & Prunier. Oligarch and restaurateur Arkady Novikov’s eponymous brasserie is on Berkeley Street. Opposite Novikov is London’s finest contemporary Russian art gallery Erarta. With a penchant for private views, Lavender’s Blue report from Erarta’s latest show.

2 David Plaksin Erarta

Structure by David Plaksin celebrates the artist’s fascination with graphic design and photography. A new body of work, it also represents his artistic sensitivity toward visual objects with strong associative potential. Plaksin graduated from the prestigious Serov Leningrad Art College in 1957 and from 1975 onwards he was part of the Leningrad Gorkoma artistic movement. In 1980 he became an active member of the Union of Russian Artists which allowed him to join the National Federation of Artists a decade later. Despite his membership of various groups, Plaksin does not align himself with any one group of St Petersburg artists. His atypical experimentation with various painting media allows for a constant rebirth of form and content over the course of his long career.

3 David Plaksin Erarta

In addition to his ongoing engagement with oil and tempura, during the Soviet era, Plaksin worked as a book designer and illustrator. He drew typography by hand, cutting and gluing shapes together to create graphic compositions. The material quality of language continues to interest the 77 year old artist. Language for him is aural, oral, cultural, visual, literal and metaphorical. It’s part of socio political history. Letters can be objects just as words and concepts can be abraded beyond their original meaning. His overriding interest in representation, semblance, transformation and ultimately meaning has led him to fuse form and subject. In Structure, calligraphy is magnified to architecture and architecture is reduced to pattern. His ten monochromatic and five polychromatic digital prints onto aluminium line the walls of Erarta.

A 20 piece artwork called Sankt-Petro-Lenin-Burg spells out the hyphenated history of St Petersburg, formerly known as Leningrad and prior to that, Petrograd, before returning to its original name in 1991. The names and evocations of the city are used to depict both urban and national identity. The Communist buildings which form the basis of Plaksin’s Architecture series were built to represent strength and power. But he breaks them apart. Brutalist, Constructivist and Stalinist buildings take on a decorative role. The lattice-like framework of built form is raised, rotated, made transparent and overlaid. Approximations of letterforms appear, their apparent alphabetic simplicity belying ever intensifying depth of meaning.

4 David Plaksin Erarta

Erarta’s flagship, the Museum of Contemporary Russian Art, is housed in a late Stalinist classical building of palatial proportions in St Petersburg. Buildings, like letters, tell stories. This one says Soviet era in its rustication and rows of columns but above the parapet electric red lettering proclaims E-R-A-R-T-A. A new era, a new use, a new name. Indoors, simple white walls and lighting allow the art to speak without interruption. The Erarta Museum is the largest private museum of contemporary art in Russia, exhibiting over 2,000 works by 150 artists across five floors. Erarta Galleries, already established in London, New York, Zürich and St Petersburg, are opening in Hong Kong in 2013.