Discovering Delvaux

With 186 years of heritage under its belt, Delvaux, the Belgian leather goods house, continues to celebrate the beautiful, often exotic skins and full-grain leathers, all made by hand in Belgium and France.

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‘Le Brilliant’ Bag

For those who like their handbag to keep everyone guessing, the allure of a subtle aesthetic is where smaller heritage brands excel. For them, discreet luxury comes naturally.

Delvaux is one such leather house, which has managed to stay under-the-radar and maintain an element of mystique. It is the oldest leather goods brand in the world, having started making handbags and small leather goods as far back as 1829.

At the Bond Street store, which opened last year, Delvaux’s Artistic Director, Christina Zeller is buzzing about the place. A tall, striking blonde, today she is dressed in a white shirt and long cut-off denim shorts. An impressive white Perspex necklace, covering most of her neckline and upper chest completes her look.

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Zeller joined Delvaux at the end of 2011, having previously worked at Karl Lagerfeld, Lacroix, Lanvin and with Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy. The first thing she points out is that she is a businesswoman, not a designer, but she knows exactly how a handbag should look and function.

For Zeller, it’s the little things that count – from the way a bag opens, to a pop of colour or the slight repositioning of a shoulder strap. By refreshing (as opposed to producing new designs each season), each bag remains true to quality, just like a finely tuned Jaguar car. This level of craftsmanship also ensures that each Delvaux design is as exquisitely luxurious inside as it is out. The entirely hand-made process takes between six and 25 hours to make.

No sooner do I blink and Zeller has picked a white ‘Le Brilliant’, one of Delvaux’s most iconic designs, off a shelf. First designed by an architect in 1957, Le Brilliant is composed of 64 pieces and this season features a soft rubber clasp. She then shows me how proportions and fine detailing can transport this classic design from one season to the next. “If you imagine the clasp in gold or silver, it’s an entirely different bag,” she says.

As for Zeller’s part in driving sales she adds: “My challenge is to help reinvent Delvaux, not destroy its past but to bring modernity and irreverence. We don’t make ‘It Bags’, we create a beautiful classic product that can seduce both young and old.”

This may be an old brand but it is up with the times. Recently it has embraced social media, Instagram especially, which is proving successful in reaching a younger audience. And, as if right on cue, a young woman wearing jeans and Stan Smith trainers steps in front of one of the store’s full-length mirrors and tries on a tan-coloured cross shoulder ‘Madam’ bag. “See!” says Zeller, tilting her head in the woman’s direction.

But younger doesn’t necessarily mean trend-led. “We are not a fashion brand that has to constantly churn out new pieces. We are a leather goods company with the luxury of having time on our sides. If we decide we are not happy with something and want to keep working on it indefinitely then that’s what we do.”

 

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Shop Tactics with Trevor Pickett

Trevor Pickett has played an important role in the Mayfair community since launching his eponymous luxury leather goods brand in the Burlington Arcade in 1988.

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One of the last remaining retailers in the UK to ensure each bag, belt and wallet is made in England, Trevor has been working with many of the same small specialist workshops and individual craftsmen for more than 28 years. He is also a patron of the Tate, where he especially enjoys curated tours of modern British art shows.

Trevor recently moved into a new three-storey emporium at Albany, 10-12 Burlington Gardens. With views up Savile Row into Rope Walk, he has found a fitting home for his historic, sumptuous and whimsical shop. With its bijoux leather library for bespoke projects, art gallery and elegant entertaining space, you could almost be Alice in Wonderland.

Below, Trevor gives us a unique insight into Bond Street’s ‘aristocrats of the retail world’, as he likes to call them. He also reveals his favourite new stores, which lend a contemporary slant to the more traditional line-up, and reflects on how London’s best-known thoroughfare for luxury has maintained its cutting edge, since he first arrived here, 35-years ago.

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Images © Ruth Ward

 

Colefax & Fowler 

Colefax & Fowler is the Grande Dame of interior design. Who has not dreamt of being Fowlerized? The famous and much celebrated ‘Yellow Room’ is the inner sanctum – the hub of Colefax & Fowler’s world. I am lucky enough to know a lot of the team and see their work in their homes and in the homes of their most discreet clients. If I wanted a Colefax & Fowler commission, I would struggle to single out a member of the team. Or, does one buy a dozen houses and let each designer loose on one of them? I guess it is spoiling to have been allowed into this world – this mystical private club.

Colefax & Fowler, 39 Brook Street

S J Phillips

I had a friend whose father showered her with jewels for her wedding. I can still picture the Georgian tiara with emerald acorns and diamond oak leaves that he gave her. It could cleverly be unhooked to make a set of earrings and brooch when she wasn’t in tiara-mood. Naturally it was from S J Phillips. The windows one sees from the street are but the tip of the iceberg. Going inside, is like walking into the finest jewellery museum such as the V&A. There are countless treasures including 18th Century paste buttons, Burmese rubies, and more tiaras, all from the cream of jewellery makers over the last two centuries. On a recent visit my favourite pieces were priced between £400,000 and £2.5 million – all with exquisite provenance.

S J Phillips, 139 New Bond Street

William & Son

When William Asprey (part of the seventh generation of the Asprey family to specialise in luxury goods), announced the opening of his new store William & Son on Bruton Street, there was a welcome sigh of relief. Opulent luxury gifting had arrived back in the neighbourhood. When I stopped by recently, I was given such a warm welcome – it was almost like a state visit! Newly opened, the store is totally contemporary and has a fresh feel, with the family’s stamp on the interior design. The products throughout the store are not only beautiful, but also very reasonably priced. It is a joy to have a competitor in our sector so close by as one can reassuringly enjoy sharing customers.

William & Son, 34-36 Bruton Street

Browes & Darby 

As a young boy in the 1980s, I was in awe of Browes & Darby. With its pale wooden floors, fantastic light, and a ravishing simplicity, I thought it was by far the most beautiful building on Cork Street. My only experience of fine art at that time was chocolate box lids – though even then I knew there was something about this gallery that resonated and inspired me to become a patron of the Tate. The Darby family remains at the helm of their business, which has allowed for the integrity of the gallery to continue. I always look forward to their exhibitions of both 20th Century and contemporary art. I am yet to buy a modern British painting from them, despite lusting after one.

Browes & Darby, 19 Cork Street

The Fine Art Society 

There are a number of buildings on Bond Street that were designed as galleries. Most are now gone but the Fine Art Society is in one of these buildings – redesigned as a gallery and given a new façade by the architect Edward William Godwin in 1881. It is nice to see that an independent gallery in its purpose-built home can survive and thrive on a street that is now predominantly fashion. Whilst the Fine Art Society’s roots are in the turn of the last century, it also shows contemporary artists and celebrates quality art spanning over 140 years. I particularly remember in the 1990s, Tricia Low selling her ‘coil pots’ there, for £3,500, which in those days seemed a fortune. Now I realise they were a bargain!

The Fine Art Society, 148 New Bond Street

 

Bond’s Best

Navy Floral Print Swim Shorts, Ralph Lauren Purple Label

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Whether chasing the perfect wave or applying the style factor to dry land, swim shorts are a colourful addition to your holiday repertoire.

The floral print on this pair from Polo Ralph Lauren’s Purple Label (£255) takes its cue from painterly watercolours. Cut to a flattering length from luxurious Italian nylon and topped with adjustable side tabs and central buckle closure, these swim shorts are guaranteed to make quite a splash this summer.

Ralph Lauren, No. 1 New Bond Street

Top Spin – Rooftop Hula-Hooping classes at The Berkeley

Tricycles, skipping ropes, and now hula-hoops. Once again the fitness industry is looking to the children’s playroom for new ways to get us adults in shape.

For a masterclass in the art of hula-hooping, head to the rooftop spa at London’s Berkeley Hotel. That is where you’ll find leading hula-hoop instructor Anna Byrne and founder of the HulaFit technique, running weekly 60-minute masterclasses from now until October 28th.

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According to the HulaFit website, hula-hooping can burn up to 600 calories an hour and sculpt the waist. Your muscles should retain early hoop-spinning memories – so one should get into the groove fairly quickly – just like riding a bike. Speaking of great swing, who can forget Grace Jones effortlessly spinning a hoop while singing ‘Slave To The Rhythm,’ at the Queen’s Jubilee concert in 2012?

Back at the Berkeley’s rooftop spa with its panoramic views of Hyde Park and Knightsbridge, guests and non-guests can experience a wide variety of hooping styles aimed at toning muscles and teaching new tricks. These start with the basic ‘Waist Hooping’, progressing to ‘Turning & Pirouettes’, ‘The Limbo’, ‘The Vortex’, ‘Body Wraps’ and finally, the ‘Booty Bump’. ‘Hoopers’ can also enjoy a relaxing post-hooping dip and a well-deserved poolside lunch. What’s more, you get to take your hula-hoop home with you.

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Need further encouragement? Next season’s ready-to-wear collections draw attention back to the waist after this summer’s more relaxed ‘70’s silhouette. Accentuated, nipped in, wasp-like, cinched… there’s only so much a big bold belt can do. So, let the spinning commence!

www.the-berkeley.co.uk/health-club-and-spa/