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By Robin Dutt and Milly Lee

Stephen Webster is one of the bright stars of the jewellery firmament.  In the wake of today’s easily appraised and expensive jewellery pieces (often for little reason) with prized nomenclatures, he has created a glittering universe of his own.

That is not to say that his name is not, of course, recognised as a brand.  But…it is to say that the efficacy of his design always comes first.  His pieces are memorable and magnetic and so his ‘label’ as such, effects confidence in the buyer – knowing she and indeed, he is purchasing the distinctly unusual.  But it is also, so much more.  These are sculptures to wear.  Unsurprisingly, he has won British Luxury Jeweller of the Year Award 3 times and many others too.

webster_WebWebster’s early creativity found outlets at art school and there was a point when he might have been a fashion designer.  Thank goodness he didn’t, for adornment of the body is his natural forte.  In fact, he says, ‘I was offered many times to do clothing but  that process was not for me.  But people often say, if I wore that necklace…I wouldn’t need to wear anything else..’  Quite.Stephen Webster’s jewellery is hugely eclectic but whatever the inspiration for an individual piece or whole collection, the identity of the creator is evident. – the items cross reference over time. His female jewellery is delicate and lavish and embraces hints of the siren and temptress. His male jewellery features sprites, skulls, crosses and mini shark jaw shapes ‘biting’ into jelly-coloured gems.  Pendants, rings, cufflinks and bracelets make up the range.All of these provide perfect foils to judiciously chosen shirting and fine suiting. Most of the time, the wearer or observer won’t be immediately aware of them. But he knows they are there – luxurious last details.And a pair of gargoyle masks on the cuffs of a fine evening shirt? Makes a change from the ubiquitous gold oval.

He alludes to how things in general have changed, especially for men when it comes to adornment. In relatively recent times, male jewellery wearers might have been considered ostentatious, especially when a signet ring and a watch were really the only adornments deemed permissible.  Wearing jewellery, Webster maintains (of a certain water of course)  makes the person look more ‘lively.’ This sentiment is shared by Vivienne Westwood who once said ‘ If you wear interesting clothes, you will have a more interesting life.’

tiepin_WebTypically, for an artist of his calibre, one might expect a panoply of inspirations..  In Webster’s case,he adores brilliant madcap nudist poet William Blake, David Bowie whose song ‘Lady Stardust’ became the theme of one jewellery collection and so many more.But his enduring obsession is the sea and its curious  lifeforms.  He collects blown glass fish table  sculptures, typical of the 1950s and 60s in rainbow swirls or plain hues and points to a vast metal yellow fin tuna he created for Selfridges to highlight the plight of this endangered creature.  Never happier than by the sea, he records that he once lived in the middle of Canada which he found unbearable, and moved to somewhere quite the opposite.  The name started with a ‘C’ too.  California.

The room where we are sitting, enjoying Webster time is atop royal jewellers, Garrard, just off Bond Street.  That room is bristling with books and images and filled with light.  It is not the beautiful chaos one might expect of an artist’s think-tank bureau but it suits him.  There is method in his sanity.


Jewellery, he feels today in general, is more of a commodity than ever, where the luxury market has taken over the empire of gems in a way that is unprecedented.  He alludes to a time when jewellery giving and owning was very different.  An engagement ring, a wedding ring – and, as controversial as it may sound now, the ‘things bought by the husband.’ Archaic yes.  But true.

Naturally, he is well established on the celebrity scene.  He has made stunning pieces for amongst others, Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Pink and a host of the rock and roll tribe. Discerning male collectors include Elton John, Johnny Depp and Mickey Rourke.  But he cites his first stellar client as Hollywood legend, Elizabeth Taylor.

Always  conscious of the way jewellery holds stories for the generation which purchases it or inherits it, he selects names for his themed collections to tempt and beguile.

But always, it’s back to water and the surprisingly real mythology of the sea.


By Robin Dutt and Milly Lee Stephen Webster

By Tom Corby

The gentlemen’s clubs of London are among the most hallowed institutions in town, and although a degree of modernisation has crept in through their portals, they unashamedly remain, in these days of fashionable inclusivity, almost exclusively the preserve of men.

They have, some for 300 years, been the haunt of kings, princes, prime ministers, bishops, the famous, and the infamous. The history of England is enshrined in what would seem to many to be anachronistic enclaves of privilege. Conspiracies have, inside their discreet walls, been hatched to topple governments, broker mega financial deals, change the course of politics, and plot espionage.


It has been claimed that the recruitment and movements of the traitor spies Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, and Anthony Blunt were orchestrated from the bar of White’s, the origins of which date back to 1693 when it was founded as a hot chocolate house by an Italian choclateer Francesco Bianco. His name translated into Francis White ñ and thus White’s soon graduated to more intoxicating practices, notably heavy drinking and gambling.

Gambling became part of it’s fabric, and in the 18th century, William Hogarth’s series of cautionary paintings The Rake’s Progress, the Rake is driven mad by losing his fortune at the gaming tables of White’s. Regency dandy Beau Brummel helped seal the reputation of the club for high stakes gambling. At other times he would sit, surrounded by his cronies, at it’s bow window watching the world of fashion pass by, and no doubt making unflattering remarks about the style of someone’s coat or the fold of their cravat.


While cultivating its raffish elements, White’s has always seen itself as a distinctly political club, although now there are fewer Tory MPs among the membership. The drinking is less wild than in the 18th century, but the bar remains open at all hours of the day and night. Previous members include the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo, George lV, William IV, and Edward VIl, who was probably one of our most clubable and pleasure seeking sovereigns.

Prince Charles is a member and held his champagne-fuelled stag night at the club before his wedding to Lady Diana Spencer. Then there are the Prime Ministers, every single one from Robert Walpole in the early 18th century to Robert Peel, in the mid nineteenth.

Queen Victoria’s favourite, the flamboyant Benjamin Disraeli remarked that there were only two things that an Englishman couldn’t command – being made a Knight of the Garter, England’s oldest order of chivalry, or being a member of White’s. Both were equally distinguished and virtually unattainable. In more pragmatic times, David Cameron tactically resigned his membership when Leader of the Opposition because the men only club didn’t fit with his vision of modern Conservatism.

All the London clubs have their own particular character. The Garrick, for instance, was founded in 1831 for men from the arts, especially the theatre, and even today has its fair share of thespians as members. A visitor there once remarked that he felt that he was about to witness “curtain up.” But the club also attracts men of letters. Charles Dickens, HG Wells, and the poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rosstti are among it’s alumini.

It was named after David Garrick, the great actor-manager who dominated the London stage in the 18th century. It’s members love the Garrick passionately, and when the actor Sir Donald Sinden died he was buried in a coffin painted with the colours of the club’s tie, salmon and cucumber. When the former Labour MP. Bob Marshall-Andrews proposed that women should be allowed to join earlier this year, the vote was 172 against and 156 in favour. Among those supporting the motion were the actors Stephen Fry and Hugh Bonneville.

At the Reform, the atmosphere is in line with it’s progressive heritage, and, in 1981, was the first of it’s kind to admit women as members. The only requirements for membership are character, talent and achievement. The Carlton was founded by Tory peers and MPs, and it still has a Conservative political alignment.

Clubland has it’s own word when members decide whether, or not, they like the cut of another fellow’s jib. This word is “blackball.” The story goes that Jeremy Paxman was blackballed from joining the Garrick on the grounds that he was “rather full of himself.

Members of the Athenaeum were horrified when Jimmy Savile was elected, and this long before whispers were current about his posthumous reputation. They expressed the view that the tracksuit wearing DJ would not be a natural habitue of a club that had counted Sir Winston Churchill and Lord Curzon, one of the last Viceroys of India and a Foreign Secretary, as members. But the only reason they didn’t veto him was because he was nominated by Cardinal Basil Hume, then Archbishop of Westminster. It was too embarassing by far, as in accordance with the rules, Cardinal Hume would have had to relinquish his membership if his nominee was blackballed.

Gentlemen’s clubs defined the man, and offered an escape from domesticity. They provided an all male environment, something members were used to from their school days, and the food was probably not much different either! But I doubt that the present generation of club wives, would calmly accept, as their forebears had done over the centuries, the explanation from their husbands that: ‘I’m dining at the club tonight. Please tell cook’.

By Tom Corby The gentlemen's clubs of London

By George Chamier

If you had been a man about town in the Regency period you would probably have bumped into Lord Byron, in a club or a gambling den, or at a society party. You would certainly have known his name, for after the publication of his poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage he became an overnight celebrity – the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography calls him ‘the most brilliant star in the dazzling world of Regency London’.

Handsome, dashing, talented and witty, Byron appeared to have the world at his feet, but he was addicted to gambling, and without an income to fund the extravagant lifestyle expected of a man of fashion, he ran up huge debts. Hard pressed by creditors, the obvious answer was marriage to an heiress, and in 1815 Byron married, at Seaham Hall in Northumberland, Lady Annabella Millbanke.

George_Gordon_Byron,_6th_Baron_Byron_by_Richard_Westall_WebThe marriage did not last but it did give rise to a fascinating legacy. Byron’s mother was a Scot, a Gordon from Aberdeenshire, and the poet spent his childhood there. At the wedding, in recognition of his Scottish ancestry, Byron offered his guests SPEY whisky from Harvey’s of Edinburgh. ‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know’ he may have been, as his lover Lady Caroline Lamb said, but the poet certainly appreciated his dram – and he generously sent casks of the spirit to friends who could not attend, including King George III, then resident at Kew Palace, where a replica cask still stands. Two hundred years later, the Speyside Distillery is commemorating this royal gift by launching Byron’s Choice, a limited edition single malt ‒ just 1,200 bottles will be available this Christmas. Speyside is one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries, and certainly its prettiest, a traditional stone building set in woodland on the banks of the River Tromie – from where the distillery draws its water ‒ at the foot of the Cairngorm Mountains near the village of Kingussie. Fans of the TV series Monarch of the Glen might recognise it, since this is where scenes set at the fictional distillery of ‘Lagganmore’ were shot. I was lucky enough to visit Speyside recently and taste many of their whiskies under the watchful and experienced eye of distillery manager Sandy Jamieson, ‘the man behind the magic’. Sandy spent much of his career working for big distillers, but there was ‘too much button-pushing and computers’ he says. He describes himself as feeling rejuvenated now that he has returned to the roots of distilling in this small hands-on operation.

Speyside Distillery is very much a family affair, with links going back to that Byron wedding. Harvey’s of Edinburgh, who supplied the whisky, now own Speyside, and its CEO is John Harvey McDonough, the eleventh generation in the family business. In another intriguing connection, Alec Harvey, John’s grandfather, in the 1920s was based at Seaham Hall, where the wedding took place. He exported whisky across the Atlantic, its ultimate destination the USA, then suffering under Prohibition – and among his customers was Al Capone.


So, about the whisky? All SPEY malts are pretty special. Chairman’s Choice reflects a tradition dating back to 1787, when John Harvey, then chairman of the company, selected a batch on Christmas Day to be drunk exclusively by the family. Today, his tenth generation descendant, John McDonough (the CEO’s father), makes that choice, now available to rather more lucky drinkers. Then there’s Royal Choice, only available in the shops attached to Historic Royal Palaces, such as the Tower of London and Hampton Court. I particularly enjoyed the SPEY 18-year-old, matured in vintage sherry butts, sweet and velvety smooth.

But the most intriguing of the lot is the new offering, Byron’s Choice. All SPEY whiskies look good ‒ their distinctive tall bottles come from a French maker specialising in perfume containers ‒ but Byron’s Choice has an extra touch of elegance because of its unusual colour.

Held up to the light (as one should always do with a fine malt), it has a pinkish tone, something like a rosé wine or the colour of a salmon after a week or two in the River Spey. The colour comes from the spirit’s ageing in port casks and the taste is sweet, fresh and fruity, a perfect introduction for the malt whisky novice but interesting for old hands too. One feels that Byron himself would have approved.

Byron’s Choice will be released in early December, priced at £95 a bottle. For stockists contact the distillery on

By George Chamier If you had been

By Robin Dutt

Within the Savile Row fraternity Malcolm Plews, pictutured, commands great respect, something of a tailors’ tailor, with long experience in and around the Row, a Royal Warrant, and now with a sitting in Sackville Street. “I work mainly from home,” he explains, “having converted my garage into a workshop. I can look out over the countryside and there are no interruptions, it’s wonderful. That’s where I make my patterns and do the cutting. I come here to see my customers and do fittings. I love it.”

He came here when he moved out of Welsh & Jefferies a year ago, preferring to be on his own, but also enjoying this facility for meeting customers in congenial surroundings with fellow craftsmen. Many master tailors, as he points out, work from home, having been priced out of the Savile Row area.

“It’s a shame,” he says firmly. “There are lots of really good cutters and businesses no longer able to stay here. When I started work in Savile Row, there were many small units. It means that youngsters today haven’t got the fantastic teaching opportunities that these small workshops provided. Savile Row used to be synonymous with good tailoring, quality and fit. Now, a lot of it is about who has the best marketing man or woman.”

He started with an apprenticeship at a tailor’s in his home town of Bexhill, taken over by Gieves & Hawkes. At the same time, he attended a tailoring course at Shoreditch College and won the College Shield in 1964. Recognising a rising talent, Gieves asked if he would like to come to their Savile Row headquarters.

“Of course I did! But it was pretty hard. I had to move from home and find a bedsit to live in London. But I loved coming to Savile Row then and still love it today. It’s not like a job – it’s just something I like doing.”

During his time at Gieves & Hawkes, he learnt all aspects of tailoring, benefitting from the firm’s speciality in military uniforms. From there, he had a stint at Nortons, and then thought it was time to start on his own.

“I took a shop on the Row, which was great. But we had to get out when the building was to be redeveloped. “

The Row then was still very much a village, peopled with “proper tailors”, he remembers, and with much camaraderie. Michael Skinner approached him to join Dege, where he was production director for a number of years, and then he went to Welsh & Jefferies.

This is where Royal recognition came, when he was granted the Royal Warrant as military tailor to the Prince of Wales, a Warrant he still retains. Clearly proud of this achievement, he maintains that code of restraint that is traditional in Savile Row when talking about any customers. Other illustrious clients remained with him when he decided to start up on his own again last year, many from the US, and he has been gratified and pleasantly surprised by the numbers of customers who have sought him out.

“There was a rumour that I was retiring. Well, I’m clearly not. I’m still a student of the craft, and I’m keen to pass on my knowledge to the next generation of students. I have some young cutters come to my home for training. I love the trade and enjoy tailoring today as much as I did when I started. I’m happy.”

And he looks it, a relaxed and affable man, the quintessential Savile Row craftsman, a Master tailor, and, as one of his peers put it, “a really nice bloke”. There’s no greater compliment for an Englishman.

By Robin Dutt Within the Savile Row fraternity

By Robin Dutt

Granny Takes a Trip was at the very heart of the cultural revolution that hit London in the Swinging Sixties, a small shop with an outsize influence that was launched in early 1966 by a young trio, including tailor John Pearse, pictured above.

Now ensconced in a tranquil establishment in an 18th century precinct of Soho, he lead a peripatetic existence after early training in Savile Row, where his mentor was the Duke of Edinburgh’s tailor, Teddy Watson at Hawes & Curtis.

“I learnt to cut and to sew and to fit, and then, after a few years, got the travel bug and so decamped to St Tropez,” he says.

After summering in the South of France, he returned to London and had a fortuitous meeting with a couple of vintage clothing collectors, who were looking to open a shop. When they found he knew about tailoring, they asked him to join them. With £40 from his father to cover his share in the business, he was in.

The shop went on to provide the essence of anarchic London style of the time, colourful, flamboyant, outrageous, for both sexes, under the styling inspiration of Pearse. The initial vintage stock gave way to include tailored lines and shirts, and it became the place for anyone with pretensions to style to shop. He stayed for a few years, then was off again.

“I went to Rome, no, Paris first. Then in Rome I met Fellini, and he told me I could be a great film producer. I did some acting, and there was a French contingent filming and I thought, well, this would be better than being in the fashion business.”

So next he went to the US, where he met up with Andy Warhol. He made a film, and remembers the screening with wry amusement. “You could here the sound of chairs creaking and see silhouettes passing across the screen, as people left!” There were other sojourns in LA, in Berlin, Cannes…

Somewhere in the mid-70s, his travels were interrupted when someone approached him and said ‘You made me a suit in the 60s. Could you make me one again.?’

“So I did. And then I did some others, and it just took off.”

For a decade, his circle of acquaintances/clients kept him busy, including a raft of famous names, Jack Nicholson included. Then, somehow, he was back in London, and moving into his present premises in 1986.

“I am very happily ‘retired’ here,” he says. “Some of my old customers continue, some even bring their off-spring. Others might read about me and come along; others just find the shop as they are passing. I’d rather hang out here than in Savile Row – it is more exclusive.”

He produces a collection of one-off ready-to-wear designs, which includes some distinctively patterned shirts, and great knit ties, as well as suits for men and women, and coats. But bespoke is the mainstay, accounting for 80 per cent of his business. He uses interesting cloths, some with bold patterns or colours, a relaxed flair in his designs. He runs a hand over his creations in that caressing way of a diehard tailor and clearly still loves his craft.

“I cut and fit, but I don’t sew any more. Really, style is my forte. Most customers like my style – and they get to talk to me, which may be good or bad!”

Two or three times a year, he and his wife head for their house in Uruguay for a month at a time. But no, he won’t be retiring there.

“I retired to come here,” he says, standing in the doorway in bright sunshine. “Yes, Soho is changing but change is inevitable. We must count our blessings.”

By Robin Dutt Granny Takes a Trip was