London is revving up for fashion week frenzy. Here, a few spots to dash to between shows.
RAISING THE BAR
Seeing London designers’ edgy collections in all their glory is one reason to come to the city’s fashion week. But after 12-hour days of scoping out shows across town, London’s more traditional comfort spots hold a certain allure. The almost 200-year-old Connaught hotel, on Carlos Place in Mayfair, reopened in December after a subtle $140 million facelift that features dark wood furnishings and restored antiques. One of the hotel’s star attractions is set to be The Coburg Bar, with its cozy, jewel-toned interior; velvet armchairs, and crystal chandeliers designed by Paris-based India Mahdavi. Meanwhile, artist Julian Opie has provided fake-antique portraits for the bar, in his signature line-drawn Pop Art style.
The Coburg Bar, Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1K 2AL; +44-207-499-7070
FASHION ON THE MOUNT
Mount Street’s style evolution continues apace. The quaint Mayfair Street — on which Marc Jacobs opened his first U.K. store last year — is now home to Balenciaga’s London flagship, which has bowed at 12 Mount Street in time for London Fashion Week. The store’s Space Age interior, complete with plasma screens, shimmering silver walls and white padded, pod-like changing rooms, is a study in contrasts with its 19th-century red-brick facade. Nicolas Ghesquière, who designed the store in collaboration with the artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and lighting designer Benoit Lalloz, is set to mark the opening by hosting a cocktail party and private dinner Feb. 12. But the street’s reinvention as a fashion destination won’t stop there. Christian Louboutin and Australian beauty brand Aesop will open stores on the street in the spring, joining the established art and antiques dealers in the area. In late summer, Dunhill will unveil the Home of Alfred Dunhill on Davies Street, at the end of Mount, which will offer customers three floors of retail alongside a members’ club, spa and lounge. Also later in the year, designer Jenny Packham, who’s known for her red-carpet-worthy gowns, will open a store on Carlos Place, off Mount Street.
IN THE SHADES
Hadley Freeman, deputy fashion editor at the Guardian newspaper, takes a sidelong view of fashion in her weekly “Ask Hadley” agony aunt column. Freeman answers the questions that puzzle those outside style’s inner circle, such as: “Surely Day-Glo tights are wrong?” and “Why is my teenage daughter dressing like Yasser Arafat?” Now, Freeman has collated her knowledge into a book called “The Meaning of Sunglasses” (Viking), which will be published in the U.K. Feb. 7. On Feb. 14, Mulberry — which has just launched a collection of sunglasses with London label Cutler and Gross — will host a party to fete Freeman’s book at its Bond Street store. Music will come courtesy of London electro band Hot Chip, and another London band, the New Young Pony Club, will play a DJ set.
Mulberry, 41-42 New Bond Street, W1S 2RY; +44-207-491-3900
Alan Yau is the Hong Kong-born restaurateur known for bringing the concept of fine Chinese dining to London. He opened the Michelin-starred Hakkasan; the Soho restaurant Yauatcha, which has an upstairs tearoom, and Ping Pong, the all-day dumpling and dim sum chain. Now, Yau has turned his attention to Japanese cuisine, and has recently opened Sake no Hana, which means “flower of sake,” on St. James’s Street off Piccadilly. True to its name, the menu offers 15 types of sake, alongside a selection of Japanese whiskeys. The food has what the restaurateur refers to as “a strong Japanese rustic approach,” and dishes range from sea urchin mushi sushi — a sort of sushi canapé in a mushroom cap — to grilled Chilean sea bass to steamed Wagyu beef. Because of the haute raw materials, prices aren’t so homey, and can run up to $140 for a main course and nearly $3,000 for a bottle of rare Suntory Yamazaki 25-year-old Japanese whiskey.
Sake no Hana, 23 St. James’s Street, SW1; +44-207-925-8988
Celebrity icons of today and yesteryear will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition “Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008,” which opens Feb. 14. The exhibition, sponsored by Burberry, will look at the earliest and latest incarnations of the society magazine. Photographs of Louis Armstrong, Josephine Baker and Jean Harlow will be exhibited as part of the magazine’s 1913-to-1936 period, when the title worked with photographers such as Cecil Beaton, Edward Steichen and Man Ray. Alongside these vintage shots will be images of the magazine’s highlights since its relaunch in 1983, which include a pregnant Demi Moore photographed by Annie Leibovitz (the August 1991 cover), and Harry Benson’s shot of Nancy and Ronald Reagan dancing, taken in 1985. “[The exhibition] offers the perfect combination of great subjects and great photographers,” said Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery. “It’s an essential who’s who of the past hundred years.” A similarly notable crowd is set to gather at the gallery Feb. 11, when Burberry’s Christopher Bailey and Vanity Fair cohost the opening event for the exhibition.
“Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008,” National Portrait Gallery, St. Martin’s Place, WC2H OHE; +44-207-306-0055
For those who missed Vivienne Westwood’s live performance of her cultural manifesto at the Hay Festival of Literature in Wales last year, all is not lost. The text of the manifesto — a dialogue on the nature of art between characters including Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio and Aristotle — will be reprinted in her 198-page book, “Vivienne Westwood Opus” (Kraken Opus), which will be published this month. But there will be some light relief in the tome, too. Interspersed among the text are almost 100 Polaroid shots of celebrities such as Kate Moss, Helena Bonham Carter and Sarah Ferguson wearing Westwood’s designs. During London Fashion Week, images from the book will be exhibited at the Scream Gallery in Mayfair, which is owned by another famous Londoner, Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood. The book will launch with a party at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens on Feb. 12.
Scream Gallery, 34 Bruton Street, W1J 6QX; +44-207-493-7388
London-based makeup brand Jelly Pong Pong unveiled its first flagship in its home town in January. Located in Covent Garden — which is quickly becoming a beauty brand mecca — the space carries the line’s collection of quirky cosmetics, including Trifle Spongy Lipstick, Soap Popsicles and Jelly Flush cheek stain.
Jelly Pong Pong, 9 Shorts Gardens; +44-845-224-8945
LONDON FOR LESS
Visiting London when the dollar is at a 26-year low against the pound can be tough on U.S. wallets. However, there are plenty of ways to avoid spending big bucks and still sample the city’s hot spots.
The Hoxton Hotel: This red-brick hotel, which opened in 2006, is located at the epicenter of Shoreditch in the East End of London, where most of the city’s young designers hold their shows. The chic, low-lit rooms are not skimpy on design, but the hotel cuts out extras like minibars and chocolates in the rooms to keep prices reasonable. Rooms run from $60 to $300 a night. Those who book early could secure one of the hotel’s limited rooms for a mere $2 a night. The Hoxton Hotel, 81 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3HU; +44-207-550-1000
Afternoon Tea: Claridge’s and The Ritz may be teatime institutions in London, but cakes and tea in one of Claridge’s restaurants starts at $61. For another charming experience — with less outlay — The Shop at Maison Bertaux in Soho offers a patisserie and tea shop on its first floor that serves éclairs, cheesecake and Mont Blanc cakes for around $40 for three people. In the basement, there’s a shop that carries clothing by APC, Sonia by Sonia Rykiel and Eley Kishimoto. Meanwhile, in South London’s 19th-century Borough Market, Shipp’s Tearooms offers tea, cakes and sandwiches for $34, served in a pale pink room where tiny tea cups hang as an installation from the ceiling, and customers can buy the floral tablecloths and china. The Shop at Maison Bertaux, 27 Greek Street, W1D 5DF; +44-5601-151-584. Shipp’s Tearooms, 4 Park Street, SE1 9AB; +44-207-407-2692
Primark: Every Brit “It” girl worth her Jimmy Choos bulks up her designer wardrobe with pieces from penny-pinchers’ favorite shop, Primark. Jam-packed with on-trend T-shirts, dresses, skirts, jackets and coats, lingerie, shoes and accessories, the chain’s Oxford Street flagship heaves round the clock with bargain hunters. Primark, 499 Oxford Street; +44-207-495-0420
Cocktails: At The Berkeley Hotel’s Blue Bar, clients receive the entire contents of their cocktail shaker when they order a Blue Bar Martini (14 pounds, or $27.30), so canny customers can almost squeeze two martinis out of one order. Constantly replenished nibbles, including stuffed olives, glazed nuts and cheesy crackers, means there’s one less expensive meal put on the credit card. At Soho Hotel’s Refuel bar, a Soholistic (10.50 pounds, or $20.50), a blend of muddled fresh raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and red currants shaken with Skyy vodka, cassis, cranberry juice and fresh lemon, packs an antioxidant punch. It’s a way to save precious pennies on cold remedies and antiaging treatments. The Blue Bar at The Berkeley, Wilton Place; +44-207-235-6000. Refuel at The Soho Hotel, 4 Richmond Mews; +44-207-559-3000