Poor Mr S has become something of a blogger-widow in the last few months. I’m always dashing off for afternoon tea or brunch or a macaron walk with one of my blogger friends. Last weekend the plan was to remain firmly in SW1 and have some time with him as well as attending a pilot run of the ‘Crafting London’ walk…but more of that later.
First of all we decided to stop into one of our favourite local restaurants, Kouzu, for a lunch. When we visited the Japanese restaurant earlier in the year, there was already a big buzz around the place and now it’s even more popular… hardly surprising when the food is so good.
This time around we were seated at the sushi counter and able to watch the masters at work as we sipped on our Yuzu Bellinis…
We ate sashimi, tuna tataki and some sushi rolls and marvelled at the total precision that goes into creating each piece of sushi. The chef took around ten minutes to fashion the perfect piece of salmon nigiri with all it’s delicate accompaniments.
After our delicious lunch Mr S was a widow once more…though to be honest I think he only pretends to be bothered as it gives him a chance to read the paper / watch the football and eat a #cheekynandos.
I was meeting Mina from Kings Road Rocks for the ‘Crafting London Tour’ that had been organised as part of London Craft Week. Yes, another walking tour, but this time I’d be learning about fashion and craftsmanship rather than scoffing macarons.
We assembled outside Harvey Nichols (of course, dahling!) and we were greeted by Penelope from the tour company Fox & Squirrel who would be leading us on the luxury walk today.
Our first port of call was one of the world’s oldest and most established luxury fashion houses, Louis Vuitton on Sloane Street. LV has now become synonymous with very high end fashion and luggage but Mr Vuitton himself started with humble beginnings, the son of a miller living in a small hamlet in the Jura Mountains. He moved to Paris and in 1854 started his own company selling trunks that he crafted himself.
He became known for his craftsmanship and innovation using new techniques and fashionable colours. Louis Vuitton is now well know for the iconic monogram but the trunks were first produced in a shade called Trianon grey and later he patented the pattern called Damier which featured alternating brown and beige squares. The monogram was introduced by Louis’ son, Georges in 1896 and in 1914, Vuitton opened the world’s largest luggage store on the Champs Elysees. It became known as the world’s most luxurious travel brand with millionaires, celebrities and royalty all being fans.
Georges Vuitton also patented his now famous lock system that he deemed unpickable… the iconic lock is now featured on his handbags as a design feature, including this gorgeous little clutch.
Louis Vuitton is now part of the LVMH corporation and is considered one of the world’s most luxurious brands. The trunk is still very much at the heart of the company and each one is meticulously made by hand and the products are of incredibly high quality. LV also make travel-related products bespoke to suit the customer and each is crafted and tailored exactly to the customer’s requirements; isn’t that personal touch the ultimate luxury?
After ogling the gorgeous trunks, handbags and shoes on display at LV we moved on to luxury Italian fashion house, Fendi also on Sloane Street. Now I know it’s a contentious subject and I don’t want to cause any offence so I’ll just show one picture of the fur at Fendi.
It is the high quality and luxurious fur that the house of Fendi has become renowned for. We were told in detail about the creative process that goes into fashioning a Fendi fur coat. Only the highest quality fur pelts are bought and it takes artisans up to six months to create each coat.
The history of Fendi actually goes back to 1925 when Edoardo and Adele Fendi opened a fur and leather boutique in Rome; it was later taken over by their five daughters. In 1965 Karl Lagerfeld was hired to offer his huge knowledge of fashion and cutting-edge ideas and he continues to oversee the fur and ready-to-wear selection today.
Fendi coats have been commissioned for world-famous celebrities and there are endless possibilities for a bespoke design. For colour, cut and material, the customer is free to create their own vision and perfect piece as long as it fits the Fendi brand values.
With all this celebration of luxury it was high time for champagne and cocktails and we were led into the Rib Room at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower. As we sat comfortably enjoying our drinks Penelope told us about the history of the hotel which opened in 1961 as the tallest hotel in London.
She also filled us in on the development of Sloane Street and the surrounding area by the Earls of Cadogan. As with the macarons and mews tour I marvelled at the history that surrounded me in my home postcode that I’d never stopped to think about. For example, the street names that reflect famous people that made Chelsea what it is today. Penelope herself is a historian and she was very engaging and knowledgeable about local history, art and fashion and she answered any question that we had.
Our next stop was luxurious British brand, Smythson.
For 125 years, Smythson have been finely crafting luxury leather goods and have produced pieces for European Royalty, film stars such as Grace Kelly and Katherine Hepburn and famous influential figures such as Sigmund Freud and Winston Churchill. I’ve personally long been a fan of the brand and I had Smythson passport covers personalised as a present for Mr S when we went on honeymoon.
I also have a beautiful travel wallet personalised with my initials.
In 1887 Frank Smythson founded the brand on the basis of creating leather goods that are both timeless and functional and made with skilled craftsmanship. One of his most famous products was the Panama Diary, a hardwearing, practical and portable diary with lightweight paper that remains practically unchanged to this day. I have to admit to storing all my appointments in my iPhone, but my sister buys a Smythson diary every year.
There’s no new-fangled machinery used to create the personalisation, each product is hand-stamped using the same techniques from years ago.
We were also shown the beautifully engraved stationery which can be custom-made for any occasion. The most elaborate stationary ever made was for the Indian Maharajas with personal monograms in gold and silver and delicate mother-of-pearl inlays.
The tour ended here but Mina and I weren’t ready for our day of luxury in SW1 to be over so we headed to one of my favourite hotels, The Belgraves, for a final glass of champagne…
Mina and I relaxed and sipped our champagne enjoying the plush environs of The Belgraves hotel; we loved our day admiring luggage at Louis, fur at Fendi and stationery at Smythson. I’m sorry Mr S for abandoning you again for the day, but I think you’ll agree that it was worth it!
The Crafting London Tour is being run alongside the ‘What is Luxury’ Exhibition at the V & A which runs until 27th September.
Fox & Squirrel run unique and innovative tours for people passionate about finding out about the London creative, cultural and historical scene. Check out their website for details on food, fashion and art walks in the Capital
Our tour was complimentary