Category Archives: My St James

Friday…with a St James Advent Calender

December 1, 2017

Filed Under : Art - collaborations - colour - exhibitions - London - My St James - trips - Winter

Today, being the 1st of December, means that it’s the first day we can officially open the first door of an advent calendar…

When I was a child we either had some glitter encrusted nativity scene ( and is it me or was glitter different and much messier in the ’80’s ? ) with little windows to open containing, often less than relevant, seasonal images. I loved them!

It’s something about the anticipation of Christmas combined with the contemplation of each day leading up to it which feels so cosy.

So this year I was really excited when St James told me that they had asked London Fashion Week Men to curate a physical advent calendar in St James Market Pavilion with a selection of twenty-four amazing gifts to be won every day; presents gifted by exceptional retailers, restaurants, art galleries or hotels in the St James area.

To enter, you should follow the @StJamesLondon Instagram account where they will reveal the gift to be won each day and how to enter on their Stories. You should also have a look over on their website for more details and terms and conditions.

I was at the launch of the Advent Calendar last night ( with gorgeous mulled wine and Scandinavian canopes provided by Aquavit ) where the first window was opened by Dylan Jones and Caroline Rush with carols sung by The London Gay Men’s Choir. It really reminded me of the illuminated shop windows in Jermyn St, which at this time of year look incredibly pretty.

If you’re in London over the festive season you really must go up to St James…it’s so beautiful and very atmospheric, even if you’re just having a wander around. It also feels like a true piece of London which isn’t losing it’s character; full of authentic independent retailers, galleries and restaurants.

I have been asked to work with 2 of the advent ‘windows’ for the 20th and 24th of December which have really wonderful prizes, and I’ll be posting about them on Instagram ( @5ftinf ) on the day, so do keep your eyes peeled for the reveal.

So I thought I’d give you a taste of some of the shops in St James…( some of which are participating in the advent calendar ), as well as a bit of the atmosphere from last night…
( Jermyn St is just a short walk accross the Regent St from St James Market ) Floris Paxton and Whitfield
Grenson Shoes…Thomas Pink… Turnbull and Asser… New and Lingwood…Hilditch and Key…Trickers…Sims Reid Gallery…
D R Harris… Cubitts…Emma Willis…Fortnum and Mason… I particularly love Jermyn St, but there are also loads of other beautiful streets with some lovely windows to have a look at..
I will be telling you a bit more about the gifts offered behind these 2 windows on the day they are opened via my @5ftinf instagram account but do keep an eye on the @StJamesLondon IG account for details of how to enter each day…and good luck!

You can read more about St James and the area on a few My St James blog posts here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

* This post has been very kindly sponsored by St James

Thursday…with The London Library

June 1, 2017

Filed Under : collaborations - London - My St James - trips

Last month I was given a tour of one of the most incredible unsung heroes of London; The London Library.

It’s situated in St James’ Square and I signed up to become a member immediately.

Apart from anything else this is a library which looks exactly like how you would want a library to be…it’s so full of atmosphere and history that I know it’s going to take me a little time to calm down about how amazing the place is and actually start working there!

Philosopher, writer and historian Thomas Carlyle, effectively launched The London Library in 1841 after becoming frustrated with The British Museum Library. With this new subscription method, library members were actually allowed to borrow books and take them home which is still the case…I was amazed, and really excited to learn, that they basically lend any books printed after 1700. You can even borrow an original copy of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ which was directly inspired by Carlyle’s ‘The French Revolution: A History’

The library was first situated in Pall Mall and then moved in 1845 to the longest standing building in St James and has gone through many alterations and reshaping over the years.

I love the sort of eclectic feel it has; there are different sections which have been added over time and which all have a unique yet unifying character to them…

The first 7 floors of cast iron bookstacks were built between 1896 – 98 when the premises were being rebuilt and then a second 4 floors of bookstacks were built between 1920 – 22, this time with opaque glass floors, hoping to reduce the number of static electric shocks members would occasionally receive…( it didn’t work, so be careful! )
The bookstacks are the part of the library which I particulary love but there are 5 allocated reading rooms, including The Reading Room itself which is the only one entirely wifi and mobile free, complete with armchairs and silence!There are 134 desks to work at throughout the building; you can’t book a desk, so you have to be a bit flexible…it would seen that the London Library were operating a hot desk system way before anyone else!!

…and there are great views from wherever you decide to work
The beautiful St James’ Square is right outside the library and is one of my favourite quiet places in London…to be honest the whole area of St James is my absolute go to place in London ( you can read more about My St James by clicking here on Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3  )
The library also has a search engine called Catalyst which you can access from home and where you can reserve and renew books. If you live in the London area you can take up to 10 volumes at a time and if you live more than 20 miles away your initial allowance is 15 volumes with a one month borrowing time ( there are no fines by the way, just a secure trust that the books will be returned ). Books can also be posted to you throughout the UK and Europe if you can’t get up to London but need to research something specific.

I was really excited to borrow my first books and actually bring them home…and the first four books I now have here are SO beautiful that they completely justify any membership fee!

This Mrs Beeton book is from 1890…

This practical gardening book has really interesting tips as well as beautiful illustrations… this little French book of roses hasn’t been borrowed since 1976!!And this is my favourite book which I’ve been wanting to pour over since I discovered it last year…Florence du Cane’s painted illustrations are absolutely stunning… I urge anyone with a love of old books, libraries , history, research, an inquisitive mind and also the need of a quiet place to work in central London  to join The London Library…it is a great joy, literally on many levels.

You can view the Steller Story version of this post with some extra images HERE

Sunday…Weekly Snaps

December 4, 2016

Filed Under : Brighton - collaborations - colour - cycling - London - My Home - My St James - Open House - texture - Weekly Snaps - Winter

photo-04-12-2016-09-15-57-1 photo-28-11-2016-11-23-03 photo-25-11-2016-15-18-11 Paper Mistletoe by A Petal Unfoldsphoto-25-11-2016-15-29-12 Hand Cast resin Bangles by Tiki Brightonphoto-29-11-2016-14-33-12 photo-29-11-2016-17-34-46-1Veneta…a wonderful Restaurant in St James Market, London
photo-29-11-2016-17-43-50 photo-29-11-2016-18-18-15 photo-29-11-2016-18-48-10 photo-29-11-2016-18-55-28 photo-29-11-2016-20-42-05-1 Christmas Lights in Jermyn St, London by Florisphoto-29-11-2016-20-58-39 photo-29-11-2016-20-57-50 photo-29-11-2016-21-53-53 photo-29-11-2016-21-54-11 photo-29-11-2016-21-57-53 photo-29-11-2016-21-58-47 Christmas windows at  Fortnum and Mason, Londonphoto-29-11-2016-21-59-17 photo-29-11-2016-21-59-36 photo-30-11-2016-09-47-49-1 photo-28-11-2016-11-15-32 photo-30-11-2016-10-18-17 photo-29-11-2016-10-02-21 Wrist Worms by Sandra Jutophoto-30-11-2016-10-11-00 photo-30-11-2016-10-10-10 photo-01-12-2016-15-40-07 photo-28-11-2016-10-34-25 photo-03-12-2016-16-14-45 photo-03-12-2016-11-27-15 photo-28-11-2016-11-07-02 photo-03-12-2016-11-27-36 photo-03-12-2016-17-11-13 photo-03-12-2016-15-41-15 photo-03-12-2016-15-45-41 photo-03-12-2016-15-50-53 photo-03-12-2016-16-08-57 photo-28-11-2016-11-11-05 photo-04-12-2016-15-53-10 photo-03-12-2016-19-19-52 photo-01-12-2016-20-25-13 photo-03-12-2016-11-29-06

You can see the Steller Story version of this post here and you can also listen to a Podcast where I’m talking to Kat from Blogtacular here

Thursday…with Floris and Scent

April 21, 2016

Filed Under : Arrangements - Art - collaborations - colour - London - My Garden - My St James - Spring - synaesthesia - trips

Photo 19-04-2016, 13 56 31So last week as part of the #mystjames project I’m working on, I had an appointment at Floris in Jermyn St in St James’s…

I was expecting a perfume shop with an old fashioned interior, and maybe some old fashioned perfumes…what I wasn’t expecting was an appointment with their bespoke perfumer and how incredibly affected I would be by their scents; how massive memories came flooding into my head at the mere whiff of Iris and Lily of the Valley and how I felt like I was almost time travelling via my olfactory system…

I am acutely aware of my senses and how important they are having synaesthesia and have been painting my interpretations of sound, taste and smell for a number of years, creating abstract representations of how I see smell in terms of colour, texture and shape ( you can see a post about a recent fragrance project here and some of my flower scent paintings here ) and  have realised what a meditation it is to really focus on what a smell is, but when I’m painting I’m focusing on what it all looks like, not how it makes me feel.

And so the reason that my visit to Floris was such an incredible experience was in part due to the fact that for the first time in ages, I was smelling and feeling, rather than just concentrating on what it was, and I really hadn’t anticipated what an emotional experience that would be…Photo 19-04-2016, 14 38 53

When I arrived I was introduced to Carim who gave me a tour of the shop, whose mahogany fixtures and fittings are all original from the Great Exhibition in 1851, as well as their fragrances… which totally took me by surprise.

One of their classic fragrances is No.127 which was the first bespoke scent ever blended for the Russion Emperor in 1890 ( and which later became a favourite of Winston Churchill and Eva Peron ). Smelling it was like suddenly experiencing time travel; I was smelling what someone had smelt like in 1890 and I found it extroidinary and quite emotional. We can all look at antique clothes, objects and buildings and imagine what life was like in a different age, but to actually smell what part of life was like in Victorian London, felt so alive; almost like smelling a ghost…It was truly wonderful, and since my visit it’s the one scent I can’t stop thinking about and suddenly smelling out of nowhere.

‘Lily of the Valley’ also made me well up…they were my late father’s favourite flowers and just having a smell of this scent made his memory suddenly so present and close by.

Carim also showed me the back of the shop where there is a collection of Floris’s history. Floris was established in 1730 by it’s founder Juan Famenias Floris and his wife Elizabeth and they began selling perfume, combs and shaving products at 89 Jermyn Street where the shop remains today and which is still the heart of the business and run by their descendants with Edward Bodenham being 9th generation and the ‘nose’ of Floris.

There’s a wonderful display of old perfume bottles, hair combs ( for which they received their first Royal Warrant in 1820 ) photographs and letters from customers including one from Florence Nightingale in 1863.
Photo 19-04-2016, 12 34 11 Photo 19-04-2016, 12 32 27 Photo 19-04-2016, 12 30 53 Photo 19-04-2016, 12 32 59 Photo 19-04-2016, 14 07 56Photo 19-04-2016, 12 31 28 Photo 12-04-2016, 17 23 34 Photo 12-04-2016, 17 17 10After my tour around the shop I was taken to the back room where appointments for bespoke fragrances take place where I met perfumer Penny Ellis…

Apart from the sheer magic of the room, I was completely fascinated by the chemistry of the whole process. I loved the combination of musical and visual language which goes into describing smells; base notes and accords. Smell often comes and goes, and I really like the fact that somehow it’s like music in the air, something you have to just be with and quietly acknowledge, but something you can’t hold or touch or see in front of you.

Penny let me smell some of the base notes and I was so surprised at the delicacy of musk and the sweetness of amber. I hadn’t realised that the accords were the complimentary smells which go into blending, what seems to me to be a work of art..I think a bespoke perfumer is really a scent artist, something I hadn’t ever considered before, but something which has really inspired me artistically and something I want to focus on in my painting.

I chatted to Penny about smell and memory; about how when I was 13, I had had a life changing and wonderful experience working at the RSC in Stratford-Upon-Avon for a year, and when the play, ( A Midsummer Night’s Dream ) finished I kept some of the make up we had used and used to go and smell it occasionally to make my happy memory real again which was always a bitter sweet moment. She told me she had a scent, a note,  she thought I’d like; Iris…and this was the one which really made me cry: I was suddenly back in 1986 in a dressing room overlooking the River Avon with an overwhelmingly lovely feeling of such an exciting, innocent and fun time, and then almost in the same moment it was too much to bear. Those beautiful moments in my life were suddenly there and yet not there, all at once…it was chemistry, memory and magic all at once, and although it made me cry it was also something I felt comforted by, knowing that I can in fact go back in time, even if it’s just for a tiny moment…

So I can totally understand why bespoke perfumery is the most wonderful sensory experience ever…
Photo 12-04-2016, 17 18 20Photo 12-04-2016, 17 13 16…and these are the Floris ledgers, full of fragrance orders from John Profumo to Lady Olivier.Photo 12-04-2016, 17 16 00Photo 12-04-2016, 17 15 29Photo 12-04-2016, 17 21 56So this week I went back to Floris, as I really wanted to photograph some of the bottles  with flowers from my garden as well as extra Lilly of the Valley and sweet peas…
Photo 19-04-2016, 12 36 14Photo 19-04-2016, 12 38 14 Photo 20-04-2016, 17 51 56I used one of their earliest fragrances ‘Limes’, first blended in the 1700’s and used by Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War ( who also wore ‘White Rose’ along with Admiral Nelson ).

‘Lily of the Valley’ was also first blended in the 1700’s and ‘Rose Geranium’  in 1890 ( famously worn by Marylin Monroe and Isabella Blow ). ‘Edwardian Bouquet’ is a Floris classic and was blended in 1901 and ‘Fleur’ is one of their more modern fragrances.

They have a little table at the back of the shop which I used to create the images below…Photo 19-04-2016, 12 46 08Photo 19-04-2016, 12 51 11 (1) Photo 19-04-2016, 12 59 31 (1) Photo 19-04-2016, 13 05 50 Photo 19-04-2016, 13 16 04 Photo 19-04-2016, 13 24 25 Photo 19-04-2016, 13 33 56 Photo 19-04-2016, 13 44 29 Photo 19-04-2016, 14 01 25 Photo 19-04-2016, 14 03 23 Photo 19-04-2016, 14 11 31As I mentioned before, I feel really artistically inspired by this visit which genuinely caught me by surprise as I had been focused on just taking photographs…sometimes it takes something out of the blue to reconnect things in your brain, and this experience certainly did that…
Photo 12-04-2016, 17 34 23 Floris doesn’t just feel like a shop, it feels more like an immersive experience and the staff are also brilliant and so committed to what a gem of a place they work in…Photo 19-04-2016, 14 38 30 …and I certainly have a new art project in mind and many hours smelling ahead!Photo 19-04-2016, 09 29 14You can see the Steller Story version here

Wednesday…with My St James’s ( Part 2 )

April 20, 2016

Filed Under : collaborations - colour - London - My St James - Spring - trips

Photo 19-04-2016, 15 26 02In this second part of the #mystjames project, I’ve been exploring more of the St James area more and visiting some of the bespoke shops. I’m particularly enjoying having a glimpse into a working history round every corner and seeing the traditional skills which are still thriving in the businesses there.

I love finding new, quiet and beautiful outdoor spaces in London, and over the past month St James’s Square has burst into Spring colour…Photo 16-04-2016, 13 11 21Last week when I was coming up from Brighton on the train, the weather was so amazing that I knew I had to pay a quick visit to St James’s Park before walking back up to Jermyn Street because the blossom was out…there’s something about the pretty impermanence of blossom; it’s short life, that when you manage to see it on a bright day it feels like a special occassion ( you can see a post purely about blossom here )…Photo 12-04-2016, 10 38 56Photo 12-04-2016, 10 45 57The walk I usually take from St James’s Park up to Jermyn Street is past St James’s Palace…Photo 12-04-2016, 10 13 23Photo 18-04-2016, 18 47 16across Pall Mall ( I always think of endless games of Monopoly with my brother at this point )…Photo 18-03-2016, 13 19 06Photo 12-04-2016, 10 32 24…and up into St James’s Street past Boulestin ( as well as the amazing Lock and Co Hatters and Berry Brothers and Rudd )Photo 12-04-2016, 10 08 46I was visiting Budd Shirt Makers in Piccadilly Arcade. It’s a small shop specialising in shirt making and they are a very traditional business having a small workshop in Andover, as well as a cutting room right above the shop and virtually everything you can buy at Budd has been made in this country; even the socks are made in Leicester…
Photo 12-04-2016, 15 23 04The Cutting Room is led by Head Cutter John Butcher who has worked at Budd for over 45 years, and there are also cutters Darren Tiernan and James Macauslan who are all on hand to fit bespoke customers and take them through their styling and cloth options…( have a look here at just the collar options!! )

Having a theatre background myself I have always loved theatre Wardrobe Departments; seeing costumes being designed and made is always a piece of magic I love; their workshops always look so creative and alive, and similarly to when I visited Lock and Co last month, I felt like I was taken ‘backstage’ at Budd’s when I was shown upstairs to their cutting room…
Photo 12-04-2016, 15 11 35Photo 12-04-2016, 14 34 42Photo 12-04-2016, 15 10 59Photo 12-04-2016, 14 32 29I had no idea that knives were used for some of the incredible precision needed to cut shirt fabric…Photo 12-04-2016, 14 17 57Photo 12-04-2016, 15 12 48Photo 12-04-2016, 14 33 56Photo 12-04-2016, 14 28 37and the shears they use are enormous…some of them are nearly 40cm long!Photo 12-04-2016, 14 30 19Photo 12-04-2016, 14 43 20Photo 12-04-2016, 14 55 13I loved it in the shop and although they don’t make women’s shirts I wanted the pyjamas, the linen night shirts, cashmere dressing gowns…and beautiful pocket squares all with hand rolled edges…Photo 12-04-2016, 14 53 00They also have a range of silk pocket squares and bow ties designed by Claire Gaudion who uses outdoor landscapes as inspiration which you can see herePhoto 12-04-2016, 15 04 46Photo 12-04-2016, 15 00 21Photo 12-04-2016, 19 50 00The silk woven ties are a 1960’s classic, made in Italy with colour combinations chosen at Budd, and as a lifelong fan of colour charts and pantone books, it was a joy to see one of their silk shade cards…Photo 12-04-2016, 14 49 37Photo 12-04-2016, 14 47 26Photo 12-04-2016, 14 36 32Budd’s manager Andrew Rowley has bee there for over 35 years and the whole team really couldn’t have made me feel more welcome…Photo 12-04-2016, 15 23 35A brilliant spot to sit and stop for a sandwich sort of lunch is St James’s Square which looks amazing at this time of year, even on rainy days . It’s beautifully cared for by The St James’ Square Trust and is open open weekdays 10am – 4:30pm and there are SO many tulips there at the moment it’s incredible!
Photo 19-04-2016, 15 35 13Photo 16-04-2016, 13 08 14 Photo 19-04-2016, 15 20 11Photo 19-04-2016, 15 21 43Photo 19-04-2016, 15 23 05Photo 19-04-2016, 15 23 30Photo 19-04-2016, 15 25 48Photo 19-04-2016, 15 28 11Photo 19-04-2016, 15 33 34Photo 19-04-2016, 15 36 10I also always love having a wander around London picking out colours and textures so it’s great for me to explore a new area for hidden details…Photo 16-04-2016, 12 45 09 Photo 16-04-2016, 12 49 17 above, by The Cavendish Hotel Car Park this amazing Bill Mitchell releif mural

below, outside Dover Street Market on the HaymarketPhoto 16-04-2016, 13 31 02 Photo 16-04-2016, 13 15 34 Photo 16-04-2016, 13 30 36On St James’s Street there is a beautiful traditional chemist’s which was established in 1790 called D. R Harris . I love a browse around a chemists but this takes soap, lotions and personal grooming to a whole different level which reminds me of the smells and pleasant places my grandparents used to frequent before the onslaught of Superdrug! They have fantastic collections of all sorts of traditional bits and pieces; shoe horns, beard combs, hairbrushes, razors, shaving brushes…
IMG_3432…they can even make a soap on a rope look and smell good!  Their Windsor range was my favourite; it smells so clean and fresh, and basically how I’d like to smell every day after a shower…and their packaging is to die for!Photo 18-03-2016, 12 32 47

Photo 18-03-2016, 12 56 45 Photo 18-03-2016, 12 55 39 Photo 01-03-2016, 12 27 23Photo 18-03-2016, 12 02 21Photo 18-03-2016, 12 48 51I also visited New and Lingwood in Jermyn Street and when I arrived I was still enthusing about the blossom in the St James’s park…the men in the shop hadn’t seen it, and I suspect wouldn’t have been quite as obsessed with it as I was, but with the blossom in my mind and the most extraordinary array of colours and textures to play with, I decided to focus an arrangement on outdoor blossomy shapes and colours…
Photo 12-04-2016, 11 40 18 (1)New and Lingwood were established in 1865 to serve the scholars of Eton College by Elizabeth New and Samuel Lingwood and in 1922 they bought the shop in Jermyn Street, and although that premises was destroyed during the Blitz, their shop now is just a few doors down from their original one on the entrance to Piccadilly Arcade ( they have 2 shops either side ). I was particularly drawn to their amazingly colourful accessories which have, as they say, an ‘occasional eccentric wink’…Photo 12-04-2016, 11 23 34Photo 12-04-2016, 11 23 14Photo 12-04-2016, 11 33 12Photo 12-04-2016, 12 30 48Photo 12-04-2016, 12 38 44Photo 12-04-2016, 11 20 13Photo 12-04-2016, 13 10 27Photo 12-04-2016, 12 24 12Photo 12-04-2016, 12 39 20Photo 12-04-2016, 12 52 41Photo 12-04-2016, 13 04 45Their fabrics are so beautiful and they specialise in silk dressing gowns, ( their Peacock gown was recently worn by Hugh Laurie in ’The Night Manager’… )Photo 12-04-2016, 13 09 57Photo 12-04-2016, 13 10 05Mark Rylance gave me my first opportunity to exhibit my voice paintings at Shakespeare’s Globe, so I loved spotting this gorgeous picture of him and his daughter Juliet amongst the polka dots )Photo 12-04-2016, 12 32 34There’s also a shoe servicing area and a selection of Poulsen Skone shoes…Photo 18-04-2016, 06 01 18as well as incredible shoe polishing box…Photo 12-04-2016, 12 36 33Photo 12-04-2016, 12 35 15but it was the bright colours and the silks which really appealed to me; they were so vibrant and fresh…Photo 12-04-2016, 18 31 42…and I also loved their pet dog guarding the door! Photo 12-04-2016, 13 09 16Just behind Jermyn Street is Duke St where there are a lot of art dealers…

( this one was closed when I walked past but liked how the Elizabethan young man had a jacket which matched mine! )Photo 16-04-2016, 12 51 36I walked down Duke Street and suddenly came across a new exhibition of Emily Young sculpture at Bowman Sculpture, which is absolutely incredible and which I highly recommend…

I studied Classical Civilisation at A-Level and became obsessed for a while with Greek architecture, particularly the caryatids on the Acropolis, and these modern stone carvings have a real sense of those ancient pieces. A sense of being worn down and damaged over time, revealing that the texture of the stone is just as beautiful as the original carving itself…Photo 16-04-2016, 13 01 44Photo 16-04-2016, 13 00 21A few weeks ago I had been walking around St Pauls and was really taken with her enormous stone carved Angel heads outside the cathedral, so it was a joy to see some of her powerful work so close up…Photo 17-04-2016, 09 37 06Photo 17-04-2016, 09 37 44…and we all need a little cup of tea at the end of the day and I discovered that Osprey have a really sweet hide away place hidden at the bottom of their shop!
Photo 01-03-2016, 11 10 18IMG_3389There is so much more I’m excited to see in St James’s, particularly the ICA and White Cube, the London Library, Paxtons, Berry Brothers and Trickers and which I’ll write about next month, and tomorrow I’ll be putting up a post about my new favourite sensory place; the perfumer’s Floris in Jermyn Street which has suddenly inspired me!Photo 19-04-2016, 14 03 23

You can see the Steller Story Version here

Wednesday…with London Blossom

April 13, 2016

Filed Under : London - My St James - Spring - trips

Photo 12-04-2016, 10 38 43The blossom in St James’s Park is beautiful at the moment…if you’re in the area of St James’s, you must go and take it in…it is SO pretty and very inspiring!
Photo 12-04-2016, 10 28 11 Photo 12-04-2016, 10 25 56 (1) Photo 12-04-2016, 10 32 24 (1) Photo 12-04-2016, 10 19 46 Photo 12-04-2016, 10 32 36 Photo 12-04-2016, 10 31 24 Photo 12-04-2016, 10 36 32 Photo 12-04-2016, 10 35 21Photo 12-04-2016, 10 38 56 Photo 12-04-2016, 10 44 55 Photo 12-04-2016, 10 45 57Photo 13-04-2016, 13 06 30

( you can see more on my Steller Story here and also on snapchat: five5ftinf )

Wednesday…with Lock & Co

March 30, 2016

Filed Under : Art - collaborations - colour - London - My St James - Spring - trips

Photo 30-03-2016, 12 32 38Last week I was invited to Lock & Co Hatters in St James’s, London for part of the #mystjames project and which turned out to be a wonderful and unforgettable afternoon…Photo 22-03-2016, 13 56 30

Visiting Lock & Co., the oldest hat shop in the world, established in 1676, and which is still a family run business, is like visiting a museum intertwined with a gallery. The women’s couture hats, designed by Sylvia Fletcher, are such beautiful works of art, that you really can’t say that this is just a hat shop…Lock and Co. is a glorious world of traditional hat making, history and beauty, and also where the bowler, or ‘Coke’ hat was born…

The shop front on St James’s St has one of the oldest shop doors in London, which once opened enters you into a small, quiet and quite unassuming room, surrounded by hats and an extremely old grandfather clock…
Photo 18-03-2016, 16 22 07Photo 01-03-2016, 12 33 02There are 2 small corridors lined with hat boxes and then tweed caps…Photo 18-03-2016, 15 00 15 Photo 18-03-2016, 14 58 06…and which lead to the back room, where you discover some of the history of the shop and also where you can see some of the head shapes of prestigious customers from Winston Churchill and Roosevelt, to Jackie Onassis and Tracy Emin…as well as Admiral Nelson and his famous hat which was made there.Photo 18-03-2016, 14 49 16 ( a purple background denotes a Royal customer, red are politicians, yellow are sportsmen, green are the armed forces and the others are simply very prominent people! )Photo 18-03-2016, 14 51 39 All head shapes are very different, so to get an absolutely perfect fit for hard hats, Lock and Co still use the conformateur which was invented in 1852, and it’s from this device that these paper head shapes are made…Photo 18-03-2016, 14 59 10 …and stored alphabetically in drawers in the workshop.Photo 18-03-2016, 14 57 20When I was taken through a small, ‘Private’ door, it felt like I was going backstage at the theatre…this was the place where hard hat magic happens; just behind a door and right in the heart of the shop.

I think we’ve generally come to accept that most of our clothing and accessories, or at least many of their components, are now made all over the world, so to see hats being made in a very traditional and long standing way, only minutes away from Piccadilly Circus is really wonderful…Photo 18-03-2016, 14 53 16 Photo 18-03-2016, 14 56 23Photo 18-03-2016, 14 53 41Photo 18-03-2016, 15 01 22The shop building itself was a coffee house and Tavern with lodging rooms at the back before James Lock  took it over in 1765, and the original staircase is incredible…it’s known as a ‘coffin staircase’ because back in the 1600’s lodgings were often up many flights of stairs which were not only so steep and narrow that it made it impossible for a coffin to be removed from an upstairs room, but also you would be charged accordingly on how many floors the coffin had to travel down, so this staircase was built to fit coffins; lowering them down to ground level through the central space shaped like a coffin, avoiding any stairs. The space is actually really small which is a reminder of how much we’ve grown over 400 years!

Photo 18-03-2016, 15 06 02

…and once up this staircase and on the first floor, I was basically in couture hat heaven!

I don’t think I’d realised how much I actually truly love hats; how much I want to wear them, and rather mourn their absence in general daily life. I’ve always been in awe of designs by Irene in films like Easter Parade, and stepping into a room full of Sylvia Fletcher hats felt a bit like I was in vintage Hollywood…
Photo 18-03-2016, 15 56 19Photo 18-03-2016, 15 42 27 Photo 18-03-2016, 15 31 51 Photo 18-03-2016, 15 58 22Photo 18-03-2016, 15 40 14 I’m not really a selfie person, but these hats just made me SO happy!!Photo 18-03-2016, 15 43 49 Photo 18-03-2016, 15 48 01 Photo 18-03-2016, 16 00 46 Photo 18-03-2016, 15 46 31 Photo 18-03-2016, 15 59 36 (1) Photo 18-03-2016, 15 44 43 Photo 18-03-2016, 16 07 39 Photo 18-03-2016, 16 09 29 pink without the labelPhoto 18-03-2016, 16 11 58I could have stayed in that room for hours…it was such a lovely experience, and I was incredibly lucky to have both Sue Simpson and Ruth Ravenscroft arranging and re-arranging hats on the mantlepiece for me to photograph…

Ruth then took me to the workshop at the top of the building where these hats are made…Photo 18-03-2016, 16 19 01Photo 18-03-2016, 16 18 22Again it was like entering a theatrical and magical world of felt, feather and ribbons…Photo 18-03-2016, 16 15 03 Photo 18-03-2016, 16 15 30 Photo 18-03-2016, 16 14 00 Photo 18-03-2016, 16 14 15 Photo 18-03-2016, 16 14 52 (1) Photo 18-03-2016, 16 13 04 Photo 18-03-2016, 16 16 45and even the dying room was wonderful…Photo 18-03-2016, 16 17 38 Photo 18-03-2016, 16 17 04…particularly this Dickensian London view!Photo 18-03-2016, 16 17 19 (1)I left Lock and Co with a massive smile on my face and a deep determination to acquire one of Sylvia Fletcher’s couture hats…I love original art and ceramics but only have a few pieces, but I now desperately want a piece of millinery art; a beautiful creation which I can wear!

The trip also inspired today’s table composition with the Beatrice Baker hat I wore when I got married; my Mum bought me the hat and it inspired my whole outfit design, and which I still adore… even though I’m divorced!! Photo 30-03-2016, 12 40 12From my teens and into my early 30’s I always loved wearing hats, but I’ve sort of drifted into just wearing beréts, which I don’t really consider a ‘proper’ hat; well at least not a couture hat anyway, so after my visit, I unearthed a few of my own collection and, including berets, counted over 40!

I also dug out some of my own outfit designs from years ago, which often featured a hat ( I used to make lots of my own clothes )…Photo 30-03-2016, 11 43 31 Photo 30-03-2016, 11 43 42 Photo 30-03-2016, 11 48 07and this is one of my personal favourite vintage hats…
Photo 30-03-2016, 12 47 32( The hats below include my wedding hat in the middle, my father’s school boater, my grandmother’s green feather hat which she wore to my parent’s wedding in 1968, my prep school Panama, a vintage black straw hat and a feathered creation made by me over 15 years ago! )Photo 24-03-2016, 13 51 04If you find yourself in London, in or near the St James’s area, you really must make Lock and Co. part of your visit, if not the reason for it!

( You can follow them on Instagram here and you can follow St James’s here )Photo 22-03-2016, 13 51 22…and just to finish, here’s one of my favourite clips from Easter Parade, 1948…it’s all about those ‘bonnetts’ by Irene!

You can see my Steller Story of the visit here, and I’m on Snapchat as: five5ftinf with table compositions and inspirations