Stepping Out. February 2017.

Dear Rowley,

I haven’t been in one of those ‘sky is blue, moon is new’ moods for such a long time. For both of us, winter in London is like salt on a slug, darling. Seasonal affective disorder isn’t even in it when you know you’ve got shades of grey stretching in front of you for months. But with blue skies over Bloomsbury Towers today, it appears that all is well with the world.

Do you know, when I first signed to produce Sartorial Treasures: Jewellery for Gentlemen with Thames & Hudson I questioned the appetite for such a book. Having completed three shoots with the breathtaking Andy Barnham, my enthusiasm for the project is as high as an elephant’s eye. We photographed at Henry Poole, Turnbull & Asser and Sir Tom Baker – keeping it well in the family – and have I think found new ways for men to wear jewellery.

It seems to me that the desire is there but the look has been limited to rock star, Hip-Hop, Boho and Bling hence the title Jewellery for Gentlemen. That’s not to say the pieces I have chosen are polite or modest. There will be a lot of diamonds in this book but not necessarily all white. I have been taught a lesson by styling pieces designed by Solange Azagury-Partridge, Shaun Leane, Theo Fennell and Stephen Webster (the London Leopards) about what their gentlemen prefer.

You know that antique jewellery is one of my passions as is bringing the lapel pin firmly into the man’s world. It’s all about language. I borrowed a sensational sapphire and diamond Art Deo Boucheron line brooch from Harry Fane that sat beautifully at the top of a Tom Baker suit breast pocket. Sold as a brooch perhaps not but as a cocktail suit pin? I learned from the antique jewellers Wartski, Lucas Rarities, Bentley & Skinner and Hancocks that white diamond brooches and hair ornaments from the Belle Epoque period translate well to black tie.

Specific motifs such as the star burst, the crescent moon, insects, reptiles and birds belong on a black or midnight blue grosgrain lapel. One of my favourite shots so far is of a relatively modest pin from Bentley & Skinner: two green glass grapes suspended from a yellow gold and diamond vine. Pinned to a Poole emerald green satin shawl collar, that little piece of heaven brings the smoking jacket to life.

I have thus far avoided shooting the super classics: the horn button cufflink, the crucifix pendant, the plain band of yellow gold and the pearl tie stud. The idea is to surprise and inspire not linger in the safe zone and be apologetic about the subject. The cufflinks and stick pins I have chosen are miniature masterpieces that presuppose the tie, buttonhole or French cuff is a blank canvas to show them off. Three of my favourites thus far are Stephen Webster’s black diamond gargoyle links, Francesca Grima’s chalcedony and diamond humbug links and a knockout early 20th century platinum and diamond Chaumet link from Hancocks in the Burlington Arcade.

It was fascinating to see how the jewels reacted to classic tailoring at Poole’s, Turnbull & Asser’s jazzy autumn/winter 2017 collection and Sir Tom’s dark materials. For the latter shoot, I brought-in a number of my ‘Northern Line’ (DJ and waistcoat) suits that Tom has cut for me over the years. My ribbed green and black silk Northern Line made for the Savoy launch party of Savile Row: The Master Tailors of British Bespoke was a knockout canvas for Solange’s cabochon emerald and black gold ‘Villain’ pendant.

As Cupid Stunt would say, ‘I’m telling you the plot’ so no more sneak previews for now. By the end of next week I should have finished the Louis Vuitton Guide to London 2018 and will be attacking Jewellery for Gentlemen with a vengeance. I honestly have not felt as energised by a project in years: gratifying considering last year I had one foot on a banana peel and the other on the edge of the white cliffs of Dover.

I liken last year to one of those nightmare sets of tennis when you just can’t string the points together. You can ace, you can nail a passing shot and you can finesse with a lob but whatever you do you can’t win a game. The solution is to hang tough and wait for your opponent to start getting careless or losing power. As in life, I believe tennis is a game won or lost  by the mind. You can defeat yourself without a positive mental attitude.

Also as in life, a tennis player’s success depends on who you have in the box supporting you. The Sherwood Massive have cheered me on so many times when I wasn’t even in the game. Of course you also need someone to give you a pep talk and a rub down after the match. Speaking of which, I am stepping out again and he might well be the reason one of my editors asked if I’d had Botox the other day because I was looking so free of care.

Well, I’d better rest my quill for now and get back to Vuitton. Off to Derbyshire tomorrow for a week without distraction to finish my knitting and wake-up every morning with two wet tongues in my ears. Don’t get excited Rowley, I am talking about Bertie and Wooster my parents’ Cavapoodles. Until next time…