Flying back from Italy following a factory visit to my wonderful Tuscan workshop, clutching potent-smelling rolls of leather, I am mulling over the pros and cons of running my own brand. Having mostly worked for big luxury brands I thought, ‘How hard can it be?’
I had to rush out to Italy because I had foolishly miscalculated a laser-cut design by a few millimetres, resulting in a domino effect of delays with production. The work we do is so precise and the artisans involved are so particular that such a small thing can cause big waves.
It’s sad to see so many luxury factories in Italy closed down: business there is tough and competition from cheaper producers in other countries has shut them. So I have no intention of rocking the boat with my wonderful and supportive manufacturers; a quick dash
over there is imperative to keep the equilibrium.
F&M & ME
Back in London, it’s back to the drawing board with a selection of lovely new leathers and colours, fixing those millimetres so that each individually printed or lasered panel fits properly within the bag design. Fortnum & Mason have just agreed an exclusivity deal with me and I am over the moon to be selling my collection in that beautiful store.
Everyone knows Fortnum’s for the incredible food halls, but travel up the store a few flights and it’s a treasure trove of beautiful, curated pieces — anything from lovely handbags to beautiful china and delicious smelling soaps.
A little apprehensively we decide on a short break to our favourite haunt, Ortigia in Sicily. It’s not warm enough for the beaches and we’re no longer able to hang out in bars and restaurants — our two-year-old would climb the walls with boredom.
However, Sicily is inspiring no matter what time of year, and the warmth and generosity of the Sicilians and their embracing of children make us feel relaxed. Wandering through crumbling baroque streets en route to the Duomo, stopping to indulge in Sicilian pastries and visiting the amphitheatre provide us with plenty to do.
Visiting our friends’ converted farmhouse high on a hilltop above the ancient city of Noto makes me want to redecorate again. They are stylish Milanese architects so the farmhouse retains all its rustic features with simple modern luxurious elements. Surrounded by hills of blossoming almond trees, it’s a stunning view, in spite of the bone-shaking drive up to it.
On the way back to Ortigia we have to stop in Noto at, in my opinion, the best ice cream parlour in the world, to indulge in fresh pistachio and chocolate ice cream.
It’s my husband’s birthday and I decide the best gift is a day at a spa. Life since having our son is very different — hardly peaceful! — so we set off to Gloucestershire for the serene Cowley Manor hotel and spa.
While Stephen had hot stone massages (and hopefully a bit of relaxation), my son and I raced round the grounds looking for Lewis Carroll’s white rabbit. It is said that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was inspired by the fantastical Cowley Manor.
Failing to find the rabbit, we tucked into chocolate milkshakes and club sandwiches in the living room overlooking the stunning gardens and terrace.
FROM LEATHER TO WOOD
While creative director for Liberty London, I had an exciting project with Ronnie Wood. We collaborated and created a collection of bags and dresses using his artwork and my design.
It was a great success and Ronnie was brilliant and inspiring to work with, so I was excited to be meeting up with the visionary Sherry Daly from the Rolling Stones’ office to discuss if there was anything Ronnie and I could do together.
Over a delicious lunch we thought up some exciting ideas that I hope will come into fruition very soon. I love the fact that people are so encouraging when they know you are running your own brand, and for all the difficult, stressful days one has, the support and goodwill from friends make the journey so much better.