As Mary Queen of Scots said (in a cod French accent) ‘in my end is my beginning’. There must be more than a few hookers down Half Moon Street who embroidered a sampler with that one. Granted, the Scot’s Queen was speaking minutes before having her head lopped off in Fotheringay Castle. However, there is something to be said for the sentiment. If you, like I, are a project person then you know close bonds are formed when working on a new venture much in the spirit of theatre folk working towards a first night. When the show’s over you move onto the next family and form new bonds.
I remember the late fashion editor of The International Herald Tribune Hebe Dorsey saying ‘if it all comes to an end, and my dear it always does, I managed to have a good time’. Sometimes it’s hard to let go when you’ve had a particularly high old time but it is folly to be sentimental when the credits have already rolled. All you’re left with is a damp handkerchief and an empty box of popcorn. So it’s rather a thrill to be opening new windows rather than wanting to hurl oneself out of them.
To stretch the actor analogy, there’s no saying one doesn’t find oneself in a new production with old friends. That’s a lesson to make sure one always leaves on good terms, no? The launch of The Perfect Gentleman is a case in point. The Paris launch at Ralph Lauren’s Left Bank flagship is now in the diary for the 29th of November. My friend Hugo ‘Parisian Gentleman‘ Jacomet entered the lists like a white knight and made it happen. He didn’t need to but he stepped up to bat. That’s what friends are for.
Surfing on the goodwill, I sent the Italian edition of The Perfect Gent to my Italian mother Contessa Sibilla della Gherardesca; the communications director of Pitti Immagine Uomo. You’ll recall it was Pitti who rebooted my career when they asked me to curate the Savile Row exhibition The London Cut at Palazzo Pitti back in 2007. I’ll always be grateful to Pitti for opening new windows. Well, Sibilla showed the book to the big boss Raffaello Napoleone and they are going to host a signing at Pitti Uomo in January. Cue eight bars of ‘we are family’.
Do you believe in fate? I do. While planning the Paris launch at Ralph, I had an email out of the blue from a guest at my Savile Row book launch in Paris (at Old England) in 2010. He snapped a copy of The Perfect Gent in a swanky Madison Avenue bookshop sandwiched between J. K. Rowling and Peter Ackroyd (a gruesome thought) and said he is now managing the Ralph flagship on Madison. So perhaps we’re off to JFK in the New Year for another TPG event.
One of the benefits of age is joining the dots between past and present. I had a day at Henry Poole & Co in the archives this week and heard the thrilling news from my friend Keith ‘Head of Ceremonial Tailoring’ Levett that he’d had a telephone call from one of the curators at Chatsworth House. It transpires that a wardrobe full of the late Dukes’ uniforms and servants’ liveries had come to light: the lion’s share being tailored by the founding father of Savile Row: Poole’s.
Well, I dove into the basement ledger room like a rat down a drainpipe and found a timeline of orders from three generations of Devonshire Dukes. We have been invited to view the collection in the New Year. As you know, my parents live on the Chatsworth Estate. I used to sketch in the grounds as a child and more recently returned for lunch with the present Duke and Duchess at the invitation of my beloved Mrs T the Duchess’s niece.
It is my suspicion that every stately home in England possesses precious pieces tailored by Poole’s for masters and servants. It’s all there in the ledgers. Wouldn’t that make the exhibition to end all others about the history of Savile Row? We’ve already discovered Poole coronation robes from the 1902 in the Marquess of Cholmondeley’s collection and I think this is just the tip of the berg. I got rather excité just thinking about it.
I’m currently working on a feature for The Rake about the greatest dandy portraits painted by the Count d’Orsay, Boldini, de Laszlo, Sargent and Warhol hence the two happy snaps of dapper chaps enclosed with this letter. The first chap is Sir Philip Sassoon (an Anderson & Sheppard man) who in the first half of the 20th century was one of the richest, gayest society joy boys in London. The portrait was painted by Sargent. It would have gone into The Perfect Gent but we couldn’t afford the picture rights.
The second portrait is Tamara de Lempicka’s Cubist masterpiece depicting her lover the Marquis de Sommi in 1925. He looks like a gigolo but was actually awarded the Legion d’Honneur for bravery in World War I and was married to one of the Pignatelli princesses. Never judge a book by its cover, eh? So what else is new? I had lunch with the delectable Joan Rolls; communications director of Van Cleef & Arpels who has given us four passes to the Van Cleef The High Art of Jewellery retrospective at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. The catalogue is an absolute cracker: one of the most exquisitely illustrated books about jewels with provenance, history and mystery. Beg borrow or steal a copy darling.