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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

BOOK REVIEW:  Meet the Georgians: Epic Tales from Britain’s Wildest Century, by Robert Peal

By Robin Dutt

Of course, one might say that there have been wilder periods of history. But the Georgian era spanning four kings of England (1714-1830), which looks like a partial keeping up with Jones’s where France’s Louis’ are concerned and is marked out for its peculiarities, excess, charm and horror. Robert Peal in this very entertaining tome delves deep into the century (plus 30 years of a new one) much of the former, which is widely accepted as The Age of Enlightenment and exposes everything which typified an era of excess and brilliance from gambling and inordinate intoxication to the establishment of gentlemen’s clubs and the proliferation of prostitutes – not always necessarily linked!

The especially late Georgian period of the 18th century and indeed the Regency that followed threw men’s attire into sharp focus and with one man, Beau Brummell, pictured left,  still heralded as the patron saint of modern male clothing – for its comparative plainness. Just a few decades before, men who could, were happy to parade in silk and shine, fields of embroidered flowers on satin or elaborate, powdered wigs and jewels. But the burgeoning birth of a new century gave birth also to a new concept of presentation. An elegant anonymity took over in male suiting and colours became more sober and demure. Patterns which were worn all over the body tended to retire to waistcoats and cravats. This may be said about male decorative choice in accoutrements today. And of course, this was emphasised in the greatest reign of the 19th century, Queen Victoria’s, when black became not so much a funereal colour alone but one of sober respectability from the requirements of an opera venue to, indeed the elegance of, an exclusive club. Although designers today may experiment with ‘outlandish’ colour for male suits in the name of Fashion, season after season, it is black, navy, grey and brown that win hands down as especially the old guard in Savile Row might opine – bar of course the delightful colour blends, say, of traditional and contemporary Tweed.

Peal is keen to remind just how experimental and adventurous the Georgian age was in terms of political thought, radical ideas, literature and art but also paints a grim picture of life without privilege and those who sold unwanted wives in filthy markets. As a history teacher at the West London Free School, he gained quite a reputation as a communicator and has always adored the Georgian period in general – one supposes for its mad richness and insane differences which are all, fair or unfair, part of blind history’s remit. And for a period known as the Age of Enlightenment where one’s thoughts might turn to those of addressing ossified social systems or atrophied ancient customs, Peal reminds that some (presumably with little else to do) would repair to a ‘farting club’, stuff themselves with cabbage, onions and pease-porridge, the better to see (and hear!) who could emit the loudest (and foulest?) samples of induced flatulence. Oh and there was an accolade for who could sound the longest escape of wind to the merriment of the assembly. The word for this was ‘bumfiddle’ and whilst that might put in mind to a contemporary audience, something quite different, an 18th century time waster might queue up and even bring his own basket of leafy veg and cruciferous delights to win that accolade, at the door of the appropriate venue. ‘All in the best possible taste’ as the late, great Kenny Everett might have said…

Meet the Georgians: Epic Tales from Britain’s Wildest Century by Robert Peal (Collins). £18.99.

BOOK REVIEW:  Meet the Georgians: Epic Tales

Just what is it about watches that has many or even most men transfixed, wonders Robin Dutt

Is it that for today’s successful gentleman about town, a watch is really the only acceptable form of ‘jewellery’ (unlike the long past with its pins, buttons and clips) which conveys status because of money spent? Or, is it that it conveys status with the accompanying thought of judicious choice? Whichever it is, the season could not go by without a major watch reference triggered by the release of the latest James Bond film – called appositely – No Time to Die.

This will be the 25th offering of the James Bond franchise and apparently Daniel Craig’s last appearance in this role. To mark the occasion, Watchfinder & Co wants to remind all about those horological examples which have been so centre stage to the Bond character – whether as a cocktail timepiece or an adaptable and useful tool to fool a villain, a sleek addition to a suit or a sleek advertising device.

George Lazenby sported the Rolex 6238, ‘Pre Daytona’, Roger Moore the Rolex 5513 Submariner, Pierce Brosnan wore his Omega Seamaster and Daniel Craig wore three – the Omega Seamaster 300, Omega Planet Ocean and Omega Aqua Terra 150m.

The first reference to a specific Bond watch was made in Ian Fleming’s second book, Live and Let Die (1954) and was a Rolex Explorer 1. There is no doubt that the cachet the character of this ultimate agent lent to these timepieces gave the brands and models instant, internationally appreciated kudos and cachet. And even if you have to start at the humblest entry point purchase level (for show – or fun) you can think – if not exactly say – that you are in the company of Mr Bond. or

And with Mr Bond in mind, if it’s not a watch then it has to be a car, doesn’t it? Aston Martin with The Little Car Company and EON Productions has collaborated to create a No Time to Die special edition of the Aston Martin DB5 Junior. Looking sleek with definite references to an underwater creature crossed with a space vehicle (d’un age certain) and coated in that seductive argent paint – Silver Birch, the car is an electric, two thirds scale version of the iconic film conveyance, a star in its own right – ‘complete with gadgets’. with only 125 models available.

Vroom for thought?


Just what is it about watches that

Created in partnership with Bravado, ‘Queen the Greatest’ will open on one of London’s most historically fashion-led streets, Carnaby Street, on 28 September, writes Robin Dutt.

The feted rock band with a loyal international following, celebrates five decades in music which has spanned unique takes on Rock & Roll, romantic ballads, haunting melodies and operatic masterpieces, with each member, Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, Brian May and Roger Taylor masters of their individual instruments. And the much missed Mercury was arguably centre of it all with one early music journalist describing his scintillating and powerful voice as ‘an orchestra’. But the assembly of the four from the start, was a magical combination of diverging and converging elements of brilliance, so each must be seen as a focal character.

Each month will have a theme at the store such as Music (October), Art & Design (November) and Magic (December) with visual installations telling the story of one of the most unusual and creative bands in the history of contemporary music with the bravado to be fierce and camp in equal measure. Even the band name was a touch of cheeky genius and their electric performances filled with drama. Their keystone was simply that they were brilliantly unpredictable. Just what would they serve next?

Queen doesn’t have to be your favourite band but surely almost everyone will have a favourite ‘Queen moment’, whether it was indeed the breakout album, ‘Queen’ in 1973 or that time when ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ didn’t seem to want to exit the charts. Or might it be Freddie prancing about in a provocative (almost) S&M buckled jacket in canary yellow or one of Brian May’s stellar guitar solos? This writer vividly recalls falling in love with their early mix of hard rock and folkloric and fairy-tale themes which were instantly compelling and otherworldly.

Set over two floors, visitors to ‘Queen the Greatest’ will be able to shop for T and sweatshirts, denim items created by Wrangler (some adorned with the band’s well known song titles) and admire the unique jewellery of British designer, Jonny Hoxton who has created memorable pieces in gold and silver. And then of course, there is the music itself, available to purchase. There is even a Queen Monopoly game!

Queen said –

‘We are pleased to collaborate with Bravado on this project, which will be
an exciting experience for everyone to come to London and enjoy.’

And David Boyne of Bravado reminds us of Queen’s undoubted half century legacy as ‘one of the world’s most iconic and beloved bands.’

‘Queen the Greatest’ is at 57 Carnaby Street, London, W1, 28 September 2021-January 2022.
Mon-Sat 11am-7pm Sun – 12pm-6pm.

(Proceeds from an exclusive Freddie Mercury T-shirt will go to the Mercury Phoenix Trust, established by Brian May, Roger Taylor and Jim Beach in memory of Freddie and raises awareness and funds to combat HIV/Aids).

Created in partnership with Bravado, 'Queen the