Rakishness June 2011

Dear Rowley,

No, darling, it’s not a photograph of my latest civil partnership. The chap at my side is Alexander Kraft who hosted the Sotheby’s Monaco Real Estate launch in Paris last week. I was there in my capacity as editor-at-large of The Rake who co-hosted the event with Rolex, Ralph Lauren, Edward Green and Cifonelli. The Roller was a vintage model shipped over from Sotheby’s London for the day as decoration and a good time was had by all. I love Paris, don’t you?

June is shaping up as rather the month for travel. I had to come back to London on Friday to do a book signing at Hatchards – snapshot enclosed of my Barbara Taylor-Bradford moment scribbling in copies of Fashion at Royal Ascot: Three Centuries of Thoroughbred Style - but I won’t be in town for long. On Thursday I am going back to Florence after an absence of four years. It was back in 2006/7 that I spent many weeks in Florence preparing the London Cut exhibition at Palazzo Pitti. Feels like another lifetime.

The London Cut: The Master Tailors of British Bespoke was the first major retrospective of Row tailoring and the first time anyone had access to all of the archives not to mention the opportunity to commission over forty bespoke suits for display. The exhibition and accompanying book was commissioned by Pitti Immagine Uomo: the biannual men’s fashion forum that I’ve been reporting from for the Financial Times and International Herald Tribune for over a decade.

I have not been back to Florence since the opening night of The London Cut when it was inaugurated by Prince Michael of Kent and celebrated with a magical black and white ball at the Palazzo Corsini for 800 people. What a night that was. Can’t say I remember very much over and above being bear hugged by Ozwald Boateng and dancing a rather saucy Tango with my date Frederica. I’ve enclosed a snap of Frederica who single-handedly helped me dress The London Cut. Between us, we must have smoked thousands of cigarettes and drunk endless espressos until our work was done. Made up for it at the ball though.

The weekend has been spent getting some very much needed sleep and victuals at the home of my better half in Clerkenwell with the phone switched off and no laptop. Taking a break from technology is incredibly satisfying. I am so looking forward to being in Florence again.

On my first visit to Pitti Uomo all those years ago, I remember my hostess Sibilla said she didn’t know why they bothered booking a hotel room for me because I was barely in it. I’ve calmed down considerably in the intervening years and am more likely to be found sipping a Negroni on the terrace at the hotel come midnight not careering round town on the back of a Lambretta.

There was marvellous news from Henry Poole & Co – the founding father of Savile Row – last week. You know I’ve been working on a five year restoration and cataloguing project for their historic collection of customer ledgers? The books date back to 1846 and there are over 120 of them that haven’t been studied since. The histories I am uncovering are truly fascinating.

I found a marvellous story about an Austrian Princess who was named in the Poole ledgers. She was the sister of the Austrian Ambassador to Paris and burnt to death when the Embassy was immolated during a ball to celebrate the marriage of the Emperor Napoleon and his second wife Marie Louise. The Princess went back into the burning building because she thought one of her daughters was trapped in one of the state rooms. All of her children had, in fact, escaped and the Princess was only identified by a heart-shaped diamond necklace upon which she had had the names of two of her daughters inscribed.

These are stories that will make a possible Henry Poole & Co exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts next year a winner. That’s the good news. The President of the RA is a Poole’s customer and might have found us a window to ‘put on a show’ early next year. Florence couldn’t have come at a better time because my dear friend Patricia Carruthers – who was my chaperone in Florence for many years at Pitti – has tracked down one of the biggest collectors of opera memorabilia in Italy. He has a vast collection of pieces relating to Maria Callas and you know that’s my next big project in early July: buying art and antiques for the Maria Callas Signature Suite at the Savoy. I’ve already got some fabulous pieces for the Callas Suite but think the Florentine collector could be the cherry on top of the sundae.

Isn’t Robert Peston an impressionist’s dream? I’m just listening to him on Radio 4. He makes Brian Sewell – God bless him – sound perfectly unaffected in comparison. I had a lovely letter from the Duke of Dev this morning thanking me for the advance copy of Fashion at Royal Ascot and looking forward to the book launch at Heywood Hill in July. I heard with interest on Radio 4 this morning that luxury goods Made in Britain was booming and bucking the flatlining economic climate at present. This bodes well for my next Thames & Hudson book provisionally titled Handmade in England. Until next time…