COLLINS MIX: “They should really have served tea and biscuits,” said Timothy Whealon, surveying the big silver trays of Champagne and sweet canapés that were circulating the room during a tribute Thursday to the late David Collins. “David was always suggesting we go for tea and biscuits, when it was really time to have a cocktail.”

Whealon and guests including Tom Ford, Sarah Burton, Mario Testino, Solange Azagury-Partridge, Graham Norton and Amanda Wakeley crowded into The Wolseley on London’s Piccadilly, one in a long list of restaurants transformed by Collins’ lavish touch.

This story first appeared in the January 24, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Collins, who died in July after a short illness, came up with new concepts for the Alexander McQueen and Jimmy Choo shops, and had already begun work on the vast new shoe department at Harrods — which will open later this year — when he died. David Collins Studio remains open.

During the late-afternoon party at The Wolseley, friends recalled Collins’ “touching” vulnerability; his teetotal lifestyle — “There was lots of white wine at his home, but it was always warm,” recalled one friend; his penchant for Prada, Lanvin and the color blue, and embarrassing moments such as a spell selling deely boppers in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

“His style was Old Hollywood meets nouveau fashionista, and his sense of humor was like a specialist paint finish — quick, dry and dark,” said the writer Simon Mills, a longtime friend. “And he was a wickedly cool mimic — his Kelly Hoppen was particularly impressive,” said Mills, referring to one of Collins’ British competitors.

Jeremy King, who owns The Wolseley and a host of other London restaurants with his business partner Chris Corbin, said Collins was not their first choice to redesign that restaurant’s interiors. “We hired somebody else who we thought was more appropriate, and fortunately we were wrong,” he said. “Then David came to us and said, ‘Please, please let me do it. I’ll do it for free.’ He was hired.”

Collins would go on to design many more interiors for Corbin and King’s Rex Group of restaurants, such as The Delaunay, Brasserie Zédel and Colbert.

“He understood restaurants more intuitively than any other designer,” said King, who recalled Collins’ stubborn perfectionism. “There were tears. Chris and I fought him on every project, and that’s because he cared.”

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