Rock on Tommy 22nd May 2011

Dear Rowley,

In all the tra-la-la of having Suzi Perry in town this week, I haven’t had time to put pen to Smythson paper and tell you about Royal Ascot days and disco nights of late. Thursday saw Miss P and I decamp to Wiltons for a pow-wow with Sunset & Vine who produce the BBC coverage at Royal Ascot. To be honest, if they’d told us the powers that be had decided we needed to present the fashion dressed as Sponge Bob Square Pants this year, I would have only nodded and taken another fork-full of wafer thin gammon, poached apple and jus from the silver domed trolley that would have to be my last meal should I have to face the firing squad.

As is, plans for Royal Ascot this year are intriguing and exciting. I’m going to do a pre-recorded piece at Kensington Palace with the Royal Dress Collection curator Deirdre Murphy looking at their treasure trove of regal equestrian clothing. Can’t get a finer reflection of Three Centuries of Fashion at Royal Ascot than that. Also good news on a DVD I voiced, fronted by Jennie Bond, about Royal Wedding fashion. I’m going back to the edit suite to perfect the patter and am writing sleeve notes for the disc. Look out for it shortly in the stores Rowley if you can’t wait until I send you one.

So what of disco nights this week? Thursday was divinely decadent. After a final glass of fizz with Suzi and Mrs T at Cecconi’s, I hot footed it to Claridges where Miss Mingay was wrapping up two weeks of launching a new Aston Martin with the gentlemen of the British style and motoring press. I parked myself next to one of Aston’s directors and we went into a diatribe about the constant struggle it is to fight off the goths and vandals of mediocrity these days. Why does the world seek to find the lowest common denominator? Whatever happened to aspiration and celebrating excellence?

We agreed that whether one is talking about Astons or bespoke suits, there will always be air – however thin – at the top that people aspire to breathe. It is about time Britain stopped shining the spotlight on chavvy/hoodie/ASBO England and reminded itself that it is not a criminal offence (except for the PC, equal opportunity brigade) to stand up for elegance, quality and a little elitism. As Judy Garland said to the TV station who were seeking to can her TV series, ‘if you want the girl next door, go next door. Otherwise, gentlemen, I’ve got a show to put on’.

After Claridges, Lara and I hoofed it into a cab bound for the Fashion & Textiles Museum in Bermondsey where Cilla Black was opening the first major retrospective of Tommy Nutter and Edward Sexton’s audacious tailoring between 1969 and 1976. This narrow sliver of fashion history saw the peacock male rise again as he never truly has since. Nutter had the dreams and Sexton had the drive to translate them into cloth. And how! Remember the ivory suits worn by Mick and Bianca Jagger, John Lennon, Lord Montagu and Liza? All Nutter.

The opening was so crowded we’ll have to go back to really appreciate the achievement of the curators including Timothy Everest in excavating these precious pieces and presenting them as if the Tommy Set were dining at Provans on the Fulham Road in 1972. Edward was, of course, a guest of honour as was Tommy’s prolific client Prince Rajpipla. Ringo Starr made an appearance as did Stones manager Tony King and Nutters backer James Vallance-White. Cilla spoke poignantly about a friend who she said would have been Will to her Grace had he lived.

I was saddened that the speakers didn’t bring Edward Sexton on stage and acknowledge that this was an exhibition as much in his honour as Tommy’s. The most poignant moment for me was Edward and I sharing a cigarette outside the exhibition when a gob-smackingly gorgeous whimsical blonde walked past in a vintage Tommy ivory suit. ‘I can hear him now’, says Edward, ‘go on, Edward, introduce him to me’. As Edward rightly said, ‘we had a good time at the right time’. There is a tale to be told about Edward and Tommy’s glory days in the 70s. Perhaps it cannot be while most of the major pieces are still on the chess board.

Lara and I left the Nutter exhibition asking ourselves where Tommy, Cilla, Bianca, Prince Pipi, Edward, Tony and Ringo would like to lift a glass or three had Tommy still been with us. We decided on the Corinthia hotel recently opened off Whitehall. This glorious Edwardian monolith has lain dormant for years since vacated by the Ministry of Defence. As our black bus (taxi) approached the Corinthia’s grand entrance, we spotted multiple men in black with ear pieces forming a guard of honour with the top of the top London paparazzi waiting behind a velvet rope. Glamour wasn’t even in it.

Lara and I swept in only to be informed by the pap pack that George Clooney was imminent for a charity auction hosted by Mariella Frostrup. Le tout London social x-rays were there tootsed-up in Erdem, McQueen and Roksanda cocktail frocks. As we entered the bar at the Corinthia, we saw a devastatingly handsome young Arab sheik in gold-trimmed robes sipping a cocktail with a mystery blonde. There wasn’t a badly dressed person in the bar or in the magnificent Massimo’s restaurant gilded and lit like an MGM sound stage. What can I say but bliss darling?