Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gilded Lives: Collette Dinnigan and others

One of the most beautiful books ever published was released today: Collette Dinnigan's illustrated memoir, Obsessive Creative.

A pictorial history of Collette's life as one of Australia's foremost fashion designers, Obsessive Creative is filled with exquisite images of her family, her travels, her inspirations, her fashion collections, and her friendships and clients. (Including Princess Mary, Sarah Murdoch, and Toni Collette; the latter two were married in Dinnigan's designs). It's a sumptuous tome that (almost) justifies the $100 price. 

I've had the privilege of seeing a preview copy, and couldn't put it down. I've also had the privilege of interviewing Collette, for a magazine article several years ago, and she was considerate, thoughtful, well-mannered and surprisingly calm, given her workload. "All I wanted to do was turn my craft into something I could make an income from," she said humbly. But she added that she was always very focused. And had a firm work ethic.

However, like all hard-working women, she said that she sometimes finds life exhausting. "A lot of hard work, energy and tears" have gone into the business over the years," she admitted. 

In fact, when she finished writing this book, she decided to close another chapter in her life: her business. She had been in the game for two decades but it was only in writing her memoir and looking back over her life that she realised how much she had achieved – and just how much she had sacrificed.

So this book – as well as her collections – will be a legacy of her 24 extraordinary years in fashion.

All the best Collette.
We will certainly miss you.

Now out from Lantern/Penguin. $100. 
(Limited edition version, cover shown above: $250.)

Another beautiful book that's just been released from another beautiful designer is Tricia Guild's Colour Reconstructed. The head of Designer's Guild is as much of a prolific writer and traveller as she is a designer, and this book reveals her love of colour, with photos taken across several continents – including the always-spectacular India. 

And while nowhere near in the same league as Ms Dinnigan and Ms Guild, my next book, an illustrated guide to Provence and the Cote d'Azur, has gone off to the printer. It will be published on December 1, just in time for Christmas. (Pan Macmillan/Plum, $49.95)

I'll gladly share some Provence secrets in the next few weeks, for those planning a trip there next year.

Oh – and if you're wondering what's happened to other book projects, including Picnic at Hanging Rock, I've recently changed publishers, having decided to return to my former editor/publisher, whom I adore. We're currently working on these and some other wonderful new book projects, including a new series of beautifully illustrated guides to New York, London and Paris. 

I'm very grateful to be working with her again. She's already lined up one of Australia's most amazing book designers to do the first guide, so I can't wait to see what the creative team will come up with.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Return of White (In All Its Elegance)

I'm on and off planes at the moment, so I apologise for the poor lack of posts. (Last week involved a 2-day air marathon to get across the world: a 2-hr flight, then a 5-hr flight, then a 12-hr flight, then a 3-hr flight, then a 2-hr drive.) But I wanted to post about a few beautiful things I've seen lately – or am going to see – particularly the proliferation of 'white' in exhibitions, books, flowers and buildings. 

Perhaps it's a reaction to the explosion of colour we've seen these past few years but white certainly seems to be making an glorious comeback. Understated, sophisticated, delicate, and diplomatic (it relates beautifully to every colour), white is the colour world's most timeless, most graceful shade. 

Here are some places where it's been showing its elegant glamour lately....

"Style is... Charleston in South Carolina, Givenchy, the Paris Opera House, 
white, Margot Fonteyn, any Cole Porter song, and English pageantry..."
 – Noel Coward.

The new 'Pearls' exhibition at the V and A Museum, London

On show until 2014.
Just beautiful. Can't wait to see it.

The new Chanel exhibition at the London College of Fashion

Another lovely show.

Have you discovered some of the amazing vintage Chanel dealers around yet? 

Vintage Chanel is worth more than new CC because it's harder to come by. It's slightly more expensive, but the designs are (in my opinion) more beautiful.

I've found a fabulous little vintage boutique near the Flatiron Building in New York that sources vintage Chanel from all the wealthy women on the Upper East Side. This same dealer sells vintage Dior and Schiaparelli jewellery too. The Art Deco pieces are amazing.

I'm currently writing a book about New York: will include the address of this Flatiron store in it for Chanel lovers out there.

Loved this temporary sign on Fifth Avenue

A new book about the divine Miss D

Bought this recently and can't put it down. 
It's a collection of all her memos from her Harper's Bazaar days. Witty and very amusing.

A friend's guest cottage on Shelter Island

French Riviera: Living Well Was The Best Revenge (Assouline Publishers)

Have been trying to source this book for years. Years! (It was out of print for many years.) 
Finally found it in the vintage fashion section of The Strand Bookstore in New York last week, and then discovered (ironically) from the manager of Assouline that they've decided to reprint it, because it was so popular.

One of the most glamorous books you will ever read. The photos alone are worth the price.

More from the French Riviera book.

Love this photo.

A wonderful fashion label from Melbourne called One Season

Everyone I know is wearing this label at the moment.

We're buying a new car early next year.
But I can't imagine it will be as cute as this.

Bunny Mellon's former townhouse on the Upper East Side

Snapped this as I was wandering past and then read on Habitually Chic that it was Bunny's former home. 

The house is now up for sale for US$46M. 
The pix are online if you're curious. [link here]

My favourite staircase in Paris

The home of a friend in the Marais.

Oscar de la Renta

As elegant as always.



A friend's riverback escape at the end of her garden on Long Island

This same friend's dining room

Carolyne Roehm's beautiful weekender in Charleston

We wandered past this last week. The restoration work is magnificent.

Ms Roehm's recently restored Victorian greenhouse in Connecticut

(This will feature in a future issue of the new magazine)

White geraniums

Have you noticed how these are very chic again? They're like hydrangeas: granny flowers that have been given a new lease of horticultural life. Carolyne Roehm had a whole greenhouse full of white geraniums: the effect was astonishing.



The former Pfizer Mansion, Brooklyn, New York

Several years ago I had the privilege of staying in this extraordinary Brooklyn mansion, which has been beautifully restored by an interior designer with a great eye.  She kindly emailed me this week with a gracious note, and once again I was reminded of the beauty of white interiors. Jessica, if you're reading this – thank you. I was very touched. Will email you privately.

Look at the parquetry floors of Jessica's Brooklyn home. Isn't the detail incredible?

Caffe Storrico, New York

My favourite cafe in Manhattan.

Elizabeth GIlbert's much-lauded new book

The girls at Avenue Bookstore told me this was good, so I bought it.
Can't put it down. So completely different to Eat Pray Love. You'd never know it was the same author.

Louisa Jones' Garden Tours of Provence

Louisa cancelled her Provence Garden Tour this year but thankfully she's decided to reinstate it in 2014. I'm going to try and book a place with a girlfriend. The gardens – including Pierre Berge's garden and Nicole de Vesian's La Louve – sound astounding.

Our scruffy dogs, looking as dishevelled as always...

Bon voyage for now.

J x

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