It’s often said that travel broadens the mind and after a month in England and Europe, I can certainly say that it is definitely a source of inspiration. I grew up in England and so the annual or bi-annual pilgrimage back to see family and friends is more or less mandatory. I always combine my overseas trips with design shows and events and this trip was no exception. So I thought this issue, I’d share some of my travel insights with you.
Day one found me at the BIBA Exhibition at the Brighton Museum. When I was a teenager, BIBA in Kensington was an almost weekly destination for my best friend and I; we would spend hours trying on the latest fashion offerings from this iconic and popular fashion store. Founder Barbara Hulanicki went on to become an interior designer whose work can be seen around the world and whose wallpapers are now available through Habitat and Graham and Brown.
Day two I visited Decorex, in Chelsea, London’s luxury interior design show for professionals. On show were the crème de la crème of the UK design houses as well as some of Europe’s big names, including Vivian Westwood, Fortuny, Andrew Martin (whose stand was reminiscent of a Star Trek TV show set), Christopher Guy, Fromental and many more. Offerings included classic as well as contemporary designs and while it was difficult to identify any particular trends, the mood was upbeat and colour, texture and pattern were in abundance.
|Christopher Guy Stand|
|Corita Rose stand|
|Vivian Westwood wallpaper|
Day three saw me at The Curzon cinema in Curzon Street to see the fabulous Diana Vreeland (the empress of fashion) film, The Eye has to Travel. As the former editor of Harpers Bazaar and Vogue, Vreeland was a larger-than-life figure on the fashion scene for many years. The film’s story weaves its way through the Belle Époque period in Paris, New York’s Roaring ‘20s and London’s Swinging ‘60s — intermingled with insights and stories from colleagues and friends such as Andy Warhol, Diane Sawyer, Manolo Blahnik and Veruschka. It traces events in the history of fashion while touching on themes such as the evolution of women into roles of power and prominence. Famous for her quote “style is everything … style is a way of life … without it you’re nothing”, Vreeland ruled the world of couture for more than five decades.
Over the following weeks I visited many quaint and historical villages, the remains of Roman castles, wonderfully preserved pubs, design showrooms and shopping destinations, all the while making note of the great diversity in style for both fashion and home.
My last week was spent on the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean. The lovely village of Cala Major, just outside the capital Palma and where my friend has a holiday apartment overlooking the ocean, was perfectly placed to enjoy the sun, sea and shopping. While the rest of Spain struggles economically, Mallorca still seems to attract lots of visitors, as could be witnessed by the continuous stream of aircraft that were visible (thankfully not audible) from the apartment. The architecture, art and scenery of this beautiful island are no doubt the reason why so many famous people have lived or live there, including Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Sir Richard Branson. Cala Major is a largely tourist-free destination with a generous, well-maintained sandy surf beach, elegant hotels and restaurants, along with simple cafes and restaurants patronised by tourists and locals. It is also where the Spanish royal family has its summer residence. For art lovers, it is where artist Joan Miro, who arrived in the 1950s, set up his house and studio that is now managed by the Fundacio Pilar I Joan Miro, which houses 2500 of his artworks along with 1000 paintings by Pablo Picasso.
|Cala Major, Mallorca|
Back in England, my final two days were spent in the pretty town of Lewes in Sussex, where the remains of the Norman, Lewes Castle still dominate and afford stunning views of the town. Finally, not far from Lewes in Firle, is Charleston House, former home and country meeting place for the writers, painters and academics who become known as the Bloomsbury Set, which included Virginia and Leonard Woolf. Established in 1916 by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, who moved to Sussex with their unconventional household, Charleston became a meeting place for many artists and intellectuals. The artists decorated the interiors and furnishings of the house with paintings and murals inspired by the Post Impressionists. The pretty walled garden was given a southern European accent and included mosaics, box hedges, gravel pathways and ponds — with a touch of Bloomsbury humour in the placing of the statuary.
|Lewes Castle, Lewes Sussex|
|Burnham on Crouch|
|The White Hart, Burnham on Crouch|
The house is now maintained by the Charleston Trust and is open to the public at certain times of the year. On show are murals, painted furniture, ceramics, paintings and textiles, along with objects from the Omega Workshops, a design enterprise founded by members of the Bloomsbury group to express their ethos. The collection includes work by Renoir, Picasso, Derain, Matthew Smith, Sickert, Tomlin and Eugène Delacroix.