Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Monday, October 5, 2015

Looking Ahead to The New Pretty in 2016

There's a shift happening in the fashion and design world. It's almost imperceptible, but it's there, like a gentle southern breeze quietly blowing through open doors and windows of a room on a hot, muggy afternoon. It's a shift away from austere lines, sharp edges and fierce minimalism in favor of pretty, witty and whimsical. Some are calling it The New Pretty, but I think it has more depth than that title suggests: there's a nod to sweetness and cheekiness, yes, but if you look closer there's also a thoughtful elegance lingering underneath. It's a softer, more glamorous aesthetic that harks back to a 1950s-style sophistication. And it's showing up not just in books, interiors and fashion, but also hotels. Just look at the design waves that the new Malliouhana Hotel in Anguilla (above), the Sujan Rajmahal Palace hotel in Jaipur, the Only You Hotel in Madrid, and the Ham Yard Hotel in London have made in the international media this year.

And so I thought I'd post a few things from The New Pretty Movement, to lift your spirits from this week's reflective post.

A heartfelt thanks, too, to all those who emailed or privately Instagrammed me with kind letters and gracious notes. I was overwhelmed, and deeply grateful. And to all those who have recently lost or are facing health issues with their own fathers (isn't it strange how this year has affected so many?), I offer one word: Love. Give your Dad LOTS of love! This is a not a time for negativity or regrets or even recriminations. It is a time to celebrate the life we've all had, and to remember how lucky we are. I think of that all the time when I travel; how fortunate I am. Gratitude is a grand thing. It puts you back in your place, prevents you complaining too much, and redirects your focus from looking down and frowning to looking up, with a wry grin. We need to remind ourselves--and the people we love--that life is wonderful.  So here are a few wonderful things to lift the spirits in your world this week.

Diana Vreeland would be pleased as alcoholic punch that her name and style are being revived after so many years. Her grandson Alexander Vreeland is creating an entire industry out of his celebrated grandmother via the Diana Vreeland Estate, and Diana's fans are embracing the memorabilia, much of which will undoubtedly become collectors' items. Alexander's first project was the hugely successful book Diana Vreeland Memos: The Vogue Years, and now he's following it up with the equally gorgeous Bazaar Years

Featuring one of the prettiest covers published this year, this beautiful book is a look at Diana's design legacy while at Harper's Bazaar magazine from 1936 to 1962; perhaps her most productive period. Like the first book, it's as witty as Diana, but this one is less about her famous memos and more about the fashion, magazine covers and page layouts. It would make for a lovely Christmas gift.


“The garden was equally simple, planted with lavender and rosemary and all around, the smoky light filtering through centuries-old olives. Chanel had a wonderful sense of luxury and great taste.” 
Roderick Cameron, on Chanel's French Riviera hideaway, 'La Pausa'.

Some interesting news has just come out of France: the House of Chanel has just purchased Coco's Riviera hideaway, 'La Pausa', so it can stay within the Chanel company. (There are few photos to show Chanel's house on the French Riviera, so I've used a Google map, which will double as a helpful travel aid for those going there next year who want to do a little fashion walking tour of their own! Click the map to make it larger.) 

La Pausa was Chanel's private retreat. She bought it with the Duke of Westminster (rumour is he bought it for her), so they could hide from the world. (The Duke's crown motif from the Westminster coat of arms remains in La Pausa's entrance lighting.) Ironically, Chanel didn't spend a lot of sleeping time in it: she maintained a separate home near the town of Menton with a view of her 10-acre empire. But she adored it. She adored the gardens, the simplicity of the interior, and of course the views of the blue sea. (The white of the house and the navy of the Med made up one of her favorite color palettes.) Where she deviated from her normal monochromatic style, though, was in La Pausa's boudoir, which was a poem to pink. Pink draping dominated the boiserie suite, and when the new owners bought the house, they maintained her bedroom exactly as she had left it

Which just goes to show: most women — even the minimalistic Chanel — love some kind of pretty.

It's not known what the House of Chanel plans to do with La Pausa, but I suspect Mr Lagerfeld will be eying it for his future couture hows. How fortunate will those guests be?

Assouline is publishing some beautiful new titles between now and the end of the year, and this is one of the most anticipated. Rajasthan Style is a glamorous ode to an extraordinary place, which is more popular than ever with the design crowd. In Assouline's words: "In Rajasthan one encounters marvel after marvel. One is surprised by beauty in all its forms – real or imaginary – and enchantment at every turn..." 

A travel journal on a truly grand scale (it's more of a tome than a travel book), this photographic opus highlights the dramatic beauty of the people, landscapes and places of this legendary region of India. Far more than a sourcebook of architecture, interiors, textiles, tiles, light and landscapes, it's an homage to one of the most inspiring, design-filled corners of the globe, and shows why Rajasthan continues to fascinate many of us, year after year.

(Published December 1, 2015)

If there was one hotel that astounded everyone this year, it was this: the Sujan Rajmahal in Jaipur. A fantasy of color, it reflected the theater of India in every corner.  If you're a fan of white, this may not be the place for you. (Try the lovely Taj Lake Palace Udaipur instead.) But if you embrace colour, put it on your Travel List for 2016.

This grand French fashion company is most famous for its scarves, and this one, entitled 'Winter Garden' (Jardin d'Hiver) is arguably one of the most beautiful designs ever printed. It's a lush layering of parterres, palms, orangeries, and even pineapples, all mixed into an intricate garden scene. Every time you look, there's some lovely new detail to discover. It's just beautiful. One to wear to Chelsea Flower Show in 2016?

There was a lot talk in London this year that the Chelsea fringe festivals are almost better than the actual Flower Show.  I agree. While the Chelsea Flower Show has become rather commercialized and brand-driven, the festivals that have sprung up around it, like self-seeding flowers in spring, are surprising, inspiring – and (best of all) FREE! My favourite is Chelsea in Bloom, the event that encourages all the boutiques around Sloane Square to put on floral-themed windows. Each boutique is then judged by the same judges of the Chelsea Flower Show, after which garden lovers are encouraged to wander around the route (there's a map on the Chelsea in Bloom website a week before Chelsea week) to take a look at all the botanical loveliness. Businesses take it so seriously that they commission big-name florists to draw up designs months before. Some can only afford to do it every other year, and you can see why: it's an extravaganza of petals and leaves.

I'm mentioning this here because it's definitely part of The New Pretty Movement.  This year, the Chelsea in Bloom boutiques were so spectacular, they transformed the streets around Chelsea into a veritable greenhouse of gardenalia. If you can't get tickets to Chelsea (or can't afford them), I encourage you to do this DIY walking tour of the area instead: it's free, fragrant and utterly fabulous. You'll be sighing with delight at every turn. (click for link)


I haven't told many people this but for the past few years I've been quietly working on a garden book project on the side (in between other publishing projects!). Every time I've gone overseas I've tried to set aside a day or two to either shoot gardens or do a reconnaissance. (Some gardens are as glorious as you'd expect. Others don't receive the same horticultural love.)  After three years and a LOT of gardens, I had enough content to produce a mock-up. I wanted to create a really pretty book, a book that celebrated my love of gardens and fashion, but I wan't sure how to configure it? Finally, we had the answer, and this past week, the project has, to my surprise and delight, been green-lighted by a big New York publisher. 

Shooting begins in the US, France, Italy and England next year, and I'll certainly post some images here and on Instagram. I hope you like the project.

In the meantime, I'm still finishing the Joan Lindsay biography (the Picnic at Hanging Rock book), which is now going to be illustrated with images (the National Trust are getting involved), and may also become a documentary. (As you can see it's become bigger than we anticipated, which is why it's taking so long!) We hope to wrap it up by the end of this month, so it can be published in time for the big 50th anniversary next year. There is a Picnic play planned at the Malthouse theatre (nothing to do with my book, but part of the overall celebrations), a Picnic exhibition being staged at Mulberry Hill and even a TV series in the works.  Joan Lindsay would be pleased.

I'll keep you posted of news of all books as they evolve.

Mr de la Renta may have passed on to that grand, glamorous garden in the sky, but the company's new creative director, Peter Copping, is doing an impressive job filling his (stylish) shoes. This year's collections have been full of botanical beauties, from frocks to flamboyant heels. Just look at these two cuties. I love the leaf-strewn Spanish mules.

I love Mr Blahnik. I love the fact that he was raised on a banana plantation in the Canary Islands, and that his parents wanted him to become a diplomat but he enrolled in literature and architecture instead. I love the fact that Diana Vreeland gave him his start, telling him: "Young man, do things, do accessories, do shoes!" 

I also love the fact that he lives in the Georgian town of Bath, far from the pretense and madness of Paris and London. I really love the fact that he loves his garden as much as his shoes. But I particularly love the fact that he seems like such a genuinely nice gentleman! So this new monograph of his work is top of my Wish List.

Entitled Fleeting Gestures and Obsessions (isn't that the perfect title for a fashion book?), it's a look at his designs, his life, his loves and his legacy over the many years. It's one for shoe lovers, but it's also one for those who love design in all its forms. You can't get a much more inspirational person than this man.


This exhibition has only just opened (a few days ago), and is one for textile and travel lovers. Entitled The Fabric of India, it's the highlight of the V&A's India Festival, and is the first major exhibition to explore the dynamic world of India's handmade fabrics. There's also a beautiful book, so if you can't make it to London, consider ordering the book online. Showing until January 10.


Oh, I forgot to mention that we're still working on a beautiful London guide (the above is my mood board; not a design rough for the book), and I hope to bring you lots of London travel tips throughout the production process.

That's all for now, from this messy corner of my study!


  1. Although I saw your post earlier in the week I've saved it until tonight so that I could sit down quietly and take my time to enjoy the visual feast and beautiful words. Thank you for sharing the world through your eyes.

    1. It's a pleasure Nanette. Thank you for writing such a lovely note!

    2. Janelle
      Condolences and best wishes. Was very sorry to read about the death of your father. You're so right, we should cherish our loved ones and show them how much they're loved and appreciated.
      A beautiful post - such lovely things you've included. Look forward to seeing your garden book. Best wishes, Pamela

    3. Thank you Pamela. I think the death of a child or a parent, especially a much-loved parent, is one of the most difficult things a person can endure. The grief is overwhelming at times. But the memories always remain. Interestingly, I spoke to two friends in the US, one in New York; the other in New Orleans, and both had lost parents to brain tumors and both were still teary when they spoke about it. It still makes me very sad. But I will always love him.


Thank you for stopping by. It's always lovely hearing from The Library's readers.

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