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Almost any book on fashion legends will have an instant audience and especially at this time of year, says Robin Dutt.

With international fashion catwalks having very largely returned following various Lock Downs and Slow Downs and the homogenising nature of Zoom shows, we might be able to be a little more confident in the future of fashion. Many publishers are planning several fashion titles to whet the appetite as part of this return to flair and fit. Part of Frances Lincoln’s series about fashion greats, ‘Icons With Attitude’ these two livres de poches (for so they are) are manageable and fit perfectly into this season’s capacious raincoat pockets. The subtitle (with obviously more in the pipeline, one presumes) is ‘What Coco Chanel/Alexander McQueen – ‘Can Teach you about Fashion’. But don’t let that put you off. These are not designed for the student alone and contain page after page of delightful quotes, stories and, of course, images – some seen for the first time for many readers. Ms Chanel, it would seem, has much to say on every subject in the fashion arena and some gems include these – ‘Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman’, ‘Adornment, what a science! Beauty, what a weapon! Modesty, what elegance.’ and ‘The best colour in the whole world is the one that looks good on you.’ Sound advice and views, indeed.

From McQueen, we have observations such as, ‘Clothes and jewellery should be startling, individual’, ‘I use things that people want to hide in their heads. War, religion, sex:’ and ‘When you see a woman in my clothes you want to know more about them’.

Caroline Young penned the Chanel book and Ana Finel Honigman wrote the McQueen and, in relatively short texts, cover much ground, reminding the reader of the lasting legacy of two very different and two highly respected talents, the world over. The archival shots of Chanel are especially engrossing and perhaps to be expected, the ‘shock value’ catwalk imagery of McQueen, worn by celebrity models such as Stella Tennant, Kristen McMenamy and the much missed fashion icon, Isabella Blow who bought McQueen’s final college runway collection. In the former, we see the couturier at work in her atelier, lounging at home in timeless luxury or modelling her own creations in her early days, by the sea. McQueen’s catwalk shots remind of his dark and dangerous edginess incorporating tailored military suiting, bondage influences or the use of bones and horns, feathers and lace which somehow do not look surreal or out of place at all.

So whilst these are not ‘How To’ books (even though some may still feel they might have an element of this) it must be remembered that both contain material which really does conjure the spirits of these two stellar artists whose take on individuality and glamour whilst being so different is not at odds when it comes to creative vigour and verve.

Coco Chanel and Alexander McQueen published by Frances Lincoln, £12.99 each.

Almost any book on fashion legends will

It’s always a problem. Snaffling away evening trinkets by the bedside table, writes Robin Dutt.

Why only the other night, this writer thought he lost his 1930s sapphire ring which only on returning to the scene of the ‘crime’ (and resigned to its loss) discovered it between the creased sheets of a worrisome bed. The answer to assuage concern must be Ettinger’s collection of elegant goat leather boxes with a reassuring snap fastening which will store your night time jewels, ensuring you will only have sweet dreams.

Whilst the concept of a bedside leather box or tray is nothing new, the company gently reminds that as a gentleman and perhaps, that (still) gentleman having enjoyed an evening’s revels must take care of his jewels. A signet ring seems wedded to the pinky but what about studs, tie bars, stick pins? There are especially 18th century stories a-plenty concerning those who sought out the cleaning jobs at grand houses and semi palaces, where they could be sure that amidst the detritus left by pleasure and combing through filth and vomit, there just might be lost diamonds and gold accessories which fell from wigs and coats in abundance. Nice work if you can get it, as someone once sang…

Ettinger’s boxes are made from this versatile Capra leather and lined with butter soft suede, the former being available in jet black, forest green and marine blue. And the newest addition to the range is the oblong valet, the ideal place to keep jewellery, watches and pens and even spectacles. How many times have you lost yours temporarily down the back of a sofa? It happens! Robert Ettinger commented: “We are always excited when launching new products, collections and colours but this new Capra Ecru really is a lovely combination of colours and materials. It is also the only collection where we have a contrasting leather and suede combination as usually, we complement the two.”

So, whilst one won’t quite vote for abstinence when it comes to a night’s jolly, if you have an Ettinger at home, you won’t lose your diamonds in the sheets – or anywhere else, for that matter. Rest easy, as you turn out the lights…

Capra Ecru Small Stud and jewellery Box £120
Capra Ecru Large jewellery roll – £160
Valet trays from £105

It's always a problem. Snaffling away evening


It is surely a given. Unless your choice is supremely judicious, a bag can simply ruin the silhouette of your suiting. You don’t need a cross-body to trammel your intent – useful as that can be for shall we say, a hands-free experience?  Even an example carried in your hand might ruin, that all important ‘line’.

I have always been a fan of elegant bags – streamlined, linear, reliable, glossy. But I have learnt a most important lesson, which to most will or could seem obvious. The more capacious, the more cram.

I have a small collection of vintage briefcases – and one especially for musical scores, with the tell-tale steel bar.  They are of no particular provenance, but the Dolphin label, handmade example delights and also the Parisian Texier document case with the retractable handles so you can carry and clutch.

And then, my sturdy barrel-chested Italian opera star of a conveyance, my cherry-black Condotti, with the Arctic white overstitch, hinting at a suiting pin or chalk stripe looking at any moment to break into ‘O Sole Mio’!  Another for high days and holidays is a Moroccan saddle bag studded with ancient coinage.

If you are in the market for a good bag for whatever purpose, do have a checklist of how you’d like it to perform for you. For me, the inclusion of an outer pocket for the newspaper and immediately get-attable choses is an instant attraction and of course, it has to be streamlined.

Somehow (beloved of the French and Italians) the ‘clutch’ bag with a wrist strap does a suit no favours and, however masculine might be one’s bent, a simple thing like this spells ‘fey’. And of course, there is nothing wrong with that if, fey’s your way.

So, thank heavens that Sandquist is on hand – literally. A particular favourite with the style brigade who like their generously styled box bags which are thankfully deliberately anonymous, these accessories complement your suits and add an elegant dimension of their own.

They may be roomy but crucially, they are slim too. Could this be really possible? Yes. Sanquist bags make you seem that you are carrying a work of art, in the finest, minimalist taste.

Sandquist is renowned for being ground breakers in the eco-friendly stakes, too and their Soho-based boutique has a more than fine selection of cases and bags for the discerning gent.

All products of the brand are made using organic cotton or vegetable-tanned leather and all synthetic materials contain recycled fibres. These bags are so metropolitan, so simple and classic that, in some cases, playfully oversize, they still look totally correct.

And they won’t ruin the cut of yer jib.


THE LAST DETAIL: By Robin Dutt It is

Artist and graphic designer Darshana Shilpi Rouget set up her boutique-cum-studio last year to an enthusiastic welcome in style cognoscenti circles, writes Robin Dutt.

Previously a creative director and graphic designer for luxury brands such as Tiffany and Cartier, her mission is to encourage the wearing of iconic artworks to inform anything from a simple ‘T’ to a formal suit. The artworks are printed in limited editions by a skilled family of Italian artisans in Como, Italy – renowned for its exquisite silk products, the world over. To see ‘Como’ on a label is as a hallmark on silver or gold.

“The scarf is the canvas,” says Rouget. “It is a simple square – allowing creativity by the user…how it folds, how it drapes…It’s about exploring art in a different way – on an intimate, personal level.”

This wearing of art puts in mind, to this writer, the seductively sinister Roald Dahl short story about a poor artist whose talented (and unrecognised friend) tattoos a striking image onto his back which much later is regarded as a masterpiece and almost without price. The consequences, if they are known will spoil the whole – but may be guessed at. But there are no sinister twists and turns here at Alba Amicorum – but there is seduction – the pure pleasure of wearing historical and contemporary art and parading the genius of the creator in any way you choose. It is true that we mostly turn to scarves as barriers to the cold but, in this case, we are invited to indulge whim and caprice. And that’s no bad thing!

Perhaps the most striking images are those from the iconoclastic genius, Man Ray (1890-1976) who is best remembered for his contribution to the Dada and Surrealist art movements. In particular (although he regarded himself as a painter) it is his photography which has become memorable and some especially timeless and iconic, such as ‘ Le Violon d’Ingres’ (1924) showing a woman’ in a turban whose back indeed, resembles the instrument in the title. Then there is the evocative ‘Glass Tears’ (1932) which shows a partial face with a focus on heavily lashed eyes and perfect ‘moonstone’ cabochon lachrymose domes. In both cases, Man Ray’s expert lighting highlights the differing dramas.

Alba Amicorum takes its name from Renaissance ‘friendship books’. Young men and women in 16th century Europe would fill them with observations of the day and contributions from friends which now are thought to be an early variety of social media.

The company is releasing a limited edition of scarves in collaboration with the Man Ray Trust based on his original paintings and photographic works.

Alba Amicorum, 12 Kinnerton Yard, Belgravia, London, SW1X 8EB



Artist and graphic designer Darshana Shilpi Rouget

Tom Corby on how the Queen’s husband supported the star of the show without ‘getting in the way’

Prince Philip, who was on show for almost seven decades, was notable for his understated elegance, in no small measure assisted by his good looks and 31-inch waist. But when he married the-then Princess Elizabeth in November 1947, he had little in his wardrobe other than his well-worn Royal Navy uniform and some suits cast off by his father, Prince Andrew of Greece, which he had cut down to size. And as far as his “worldly goods” were concerned, those with which he was about to “endow” his bride, he had little more than his £11 a week Navy pay.

Bur what followed was a transformation scene, as the newly created HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, with the subsidiary titles of Baron Greenwich and Earl of Merioneth, stepped out to public scrutiny in a series of confident and knowing sartorial choices. Protocol demanded that he had to walk a few steps behind his wife; never overshadowing the lead player. He was also aware that he must never commit a style solecism, or by his appearance embarrass the image of royalty. By the time he stepped down from his royal duties in August 2017, he had carried out 22,219 solo public engagements, and he once wryly remarked that he had unveiled more plaques and cut more ribbons than any man living. In doing so he navigated the most challenging of dress codes. The brief was clear from the outset: he should be impeccably, yet unassumingly irreproachable in style, without drawing the eye away from one of the celebrated, most photographed women in the world.

His first experience of royal grandeur was the Queen’s coronation in June 1953 when he wore a hand-crafted robe from the London workshop of Ede and Ravenscroft. The firm’s ledger from that period records the making of a robe “in the best silk velvet trimmed with the finest Canadian ermine”. Ede and Ravenscroft, established in 1689 and robe makers to 13 successive kings and queens, also tailored Philip’s blue velvet mantle worn for the annual service and procession at Windsor Castle of the Order of the Garter, Britain’s oldest order chivalry. He went to Davies and Son for his ceremonial military uniforms, an example of which was his cavalry red Irish Guards tunic, glittering with crests, bullions, braiding, aiguillettes and embroidered epaulettes. He held 20 army appointments and rode every June in the Queen’s Birthday Parade – Trooping the Colour – later escorting Her Majesty in a small open carriage, a phaeton, built for Queen Victoria in 1842.

His naval dress uniforms were made by Gieves and Hawkes and, although he had no option in 1951 due to the failing health of George VI but to relinquish his active service career to enable him to become a full-time working partner to his wife, he continued to take an absorbing interest in the Navy, and all things military. He would wear the Household Division tie, a nod to his appointment as Colonel in the Welsh Guards, and he proudly wore a Grenadier Guards jacket given to him by the widow of a close friend who had served with him in his Navy days, who had scoured the world for buttons from each decade of the Queen’s reign. He was given the largely ceremonial role of Admiral of the Fleet in 1953, the uniform of which he wore when he escorted the Queen to and from Westminster Abbey at the time of her coronation.

He called on the skills and techniques of the many and palace-approved tailors in Savile Row. Perfectly cut suits, often fitted by his long-time tailor John Kent, first at Hawes and Curtis, a firm that had made shirts for the Duke of Windsor, then at Kent’s own tailoring shop, Kent and Haste. John Kent’s suits were a staple in the royal dressing room, but some of the suits hanging there were over 40 years old. John Kent ensured that Philip never went anywhere looking out of character. In his early years, the prince’s look was in direct contrast to the more reserved style favoured by George Vl, and also starkly different from the trendy US vibes of the Duke of Windsor, who favoured all things American, especially his wife, the twice-divorced Wallis Simpson.

For footwear, Philip went to Jonathan Lobb, a family-run business close to St James’s Palace. They made his first pair of boots, and gave them to him as a wedding present in 1947. Lock and Co supplied his distinctive Panama hats, his tweed caps and his extra firm bowler hats that he often wore to protect him from the thrills and spills of competitive carriage driving, a sometimes hazardous hobby, which often left him bruised but beaming. He liked a dash of danger and Lock’s also produced for him a tweed covered crash helmet. His kilts, a must for Balmoral, came from Kinloch Anderson, of Edinburgh. Royal Ascot was a perennial outing, and some people see it more as a fashion parade than a race meeting. Philip didn’t disappoint on this front. From his perfectly pleated trousers, finishing at precisely the correct point on his shoes, to the double-breasted waistcoat and the pin sharp fit of his tailcoat, his turnout was nothing short of a master class in formal tailoring. He did not, however share the Queen’s passion for the turf, and reportedly retreated to the back of the royal box to watch the cricket on television.

Off duty he would often relax in a polo shirt and button-down linen shirts. He never regarded himself as a fashion icon but, without knowing it, he did set some standards, which became testaments to his support for UK manufacturing. He was never over-exercised by his appearance but, like it or not, he was a regular on GQ magazine’s best dressed men of the year list. There were few countries he didn’t visit, even the most microscopic dots on the world map, either as an international figure of stature in his own right, his questing mind seeking answers, or accompanying the Queen on state visits to sovereign powers and Commonwealth countries.

In more light-hearted moments, he was caught on film kitted out as a rancher, dancing his wife round the floor at an old-fashioned hoedown in Canada; rubbing noses with a Maori in New Zealand; being held aloft in a ceremonial canoe on a South Sea island, dressed in Royal Navy whites, garlanded with flowers in the South Pacific; facing down an elephant in India, and walking to the Great Wall of China in bespoke, complete with his signature white handkerchief folded neatly in his top pocket. Philip always maintained that supporting the Queen “without getting in the way” was his paramount duty, and somehow this seems a metaphor for the way he dressed – supportive, a stylish backdrop to the star of the show, without “getting in the way”.

Tom Corby on how the Queen’s husband