Samuel Johnson once said that when a man is tired of London, he's tired of life- as someone who writes about London for a living, sometimes this is put to the test, but just when I start to think that maybe I've seen everything there is to see, someone will show me an entirely different side of the city and I fall in love all over again.
This happened to me recently when I went on a fashion walk with Fox and Squirrel around Mayfair. I almost never go to Mayfair as I generally can't afford to shop there, but what we sometimes forget is that these parts of London hold some of the city's most interesting bits of living history. Fox and Squirrel's walk provided something like a guided tour of a museum- but rather than seeing artefacts in glass cases, we were exploring shops like Purdey's which have been in their current location since 1883. Below is a picture of their book of records which features orders by kings and courtiers throughout history- and today they still keep all their records on paper! The photograph above shows us all in the Long Room which you can read about here.
The building has many fascinating historical details, including craters in the walls from bombing during the second world war. Below is the original telephone that was installed to connect Purdey's to two lines- one to their factory and one to Buckingham Palace!
Another fascinating snapshot of a period of history was Douglas Hayward's shop on Mount street. The cockney tailor became famous for dressing many of the stars of the 60s. Unable to get work on Saville Row because of his accent, he opened his own shop in Pall Mall before moving to Mount street in 1967, where he catered to the likes of Michael Caine, Steve McQueen, Mick Jagger and Roger Moore for both their personal wardrobes and costumes for films like The Italian Job and Moore's Bond Movies. Supposedly Michael Caine based his portrayal of Alfie on Douglas himself. Female clients included Bianca Jagger, Faye Dunaway, Mia Farrow and Jean Shrimpton. Below are some of the document envelopes displayed inside a glass coffee table in the store, showing some recent celebrity clients like Hugh Grant! We also visited Balenciaga's Mount street store which features fantastic, 1960s style, futuristic interior design- if you've never been it's worth a visit just to go in the fitting rooms! The shop has some Balenciaga pieces from the 60s on display too, giving a shopping trip there the feel of a visit to the V&A.
The highlight of the tour for me had to be our visit to Vivienne Westwood, where Venetia tried on this lovely little number below. (Venetia works on the ipad version of Vogue- I was recently given an ipad for free after threatening to leave Vodafone, and am now totally addicted to reading my magazines on it. I'm still terribly loyal to print, but when you live in a tiny flat in London, there are only so many magazines you can stack around the walls before your boyfriend starts to go crazy...)
On the rack downstairs was a dress Helena Bonham Carter recently wore on the red carpet, as well as a selection of to-die-for wedding dresses. We chatted with Penelope from Fox and Squirrel and the staff at Vivienne Westwood about Vivienne's role in the punk movement and her iconic place in the fashion history of London.
As if we weren't already suffering from a band case of the Wants, we popped into Nicholas Kirkwood. It was fascinating to hear how they design the layout of the shop to display the shoes almost as if it's an art gallery- in fact these shoes are really works of art; they usually only stock one pair in each size so you're investing in something very unique. We got to pop downstairs to Nicholas's design studio- having the designer on site harks back to the days when shops like Purdey had all their gun makers working on the premises too, a custom we witnessed still in practice at William and Son, also located on Mount street.
To finish off the walk we all went for tea at The Connaught, which was beautifully decorated for the festive season. It was the loveliest end to the most informative shopping trip I've ever been on.
I've been terrible at posting any Christmas gift suggestions this year- so here's a last minute fix for anyone who's left it late- Fox and Squirrel do a number of differently themed walks- choose from art, fashion, vintage, food, street photography- or customise your own itinerary. This is a brilliant 'selfie' gift too- so you can buy it for you and your mum for example, as something you can experience together. lovely bonding time, and also nice to have someone on hand who has a larger overdraft that you do..