Monday, 28 May 2012


One of the highlights of my recent trip to Marrakech was the Caftan festival. This annual fashion event, now in its sixteenth year, is the Moroccan haute-couture show, and showcases not only the country's exquisite craftsmanship but also its hottest designers. Attended by the great, the good and the wealthy, it's very much a selling show - and whilst there are definite trends in play, caftan is much more about the sumptuous fabrics and skilled embellishment than it is about this season's latest look.

Unlike most of the fashion shows I've seen, designers show together in a very lavish themed staging, making one concentrate much more on the individual detail than on the couturier's brand. The Moroccan caftan is traditionally in two pieces - a simpler under-dress with a more elaborate coat over the top, often belted, and I loved the way that the designers who showed at Caftan 2012 played with this trope, layering sumptuous  fabrics on top of each other  and playing with volume so that skirts billowed sensuously from a tiny cinched-in waist.

Whilst most kept the look floor length or longer, some played with a long coat worn over a cropped trouser, and others teamed a filmy coat which opened, Angelina-style to reveal a lot of leg.
Not long before I went I was at an ELLE magazine trends-presentation and learned that A/W'12 puts the emphasis firmly on the waist - with this in mind, I was particularly struck by the incredible wide bronze belts in one show which looked marvellous if not absolutely comfortable.

All in all, it was opulent and elegant in equal measure: I've never seen anything like it.

Rose-garden colours were more typical than jewel-brights at this year's show - soft shades of palest pink, ashes of roses, apricot and old-gold were quiet attention-grabbers. There was also a lot of beautiful eau de nil and aquamarine - such a visual feast and a sharp contrast from London's  default setting of fashion-black.

Voile or chiffon over-dresses  worn over a heavier silk in a contrasting shade featured strongly - this had some incredibly sumptuous metallic embroidery in the front panels of the coat.

These pictures don't do this designer's show justice - it had a faintly Venetian masked ball theme and the caftans had jaw-droppingly lavish embroidery in gold and silver metallic threads - the waistline was higher too, creating a rather quattrocento effect, with sweeping skirts in jewel-coloured satin and brocade. The white caftan you can just see to the right of this picture was breathtakingly beautiful with a kind of peacock design in embroidered paillettes. Having checked my notes, it also involved peacock feathers - but helpfully, all I've written subsequently is 'WOW'.

This was my favourite dress of the show - again, hard to do it justice in a photograph, but the lush cream satin under dress, embroidered with silver thread, just peeped out from an absolutely gorgeous coat of rose silk covered in a very pale pink gauze which was intricately embroidered with pink silk flowers and silver paillettes -  humblingly beautiful craftsmanship. 

I'd not long come back from Marrakech when I saw these pictures of Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco at the lunch for the Queen's diamond jubilee -I loved this understated silk-satin caftan in an embroidered soft-pink. It's not as 'out-there' as some of those I saw at the Caftan show, but very, very beautiful all the same. 

Princess Lalla Meryem in a dove grey and silver caftan at the sovereign's dinner to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


Gardens are something of a British obsession, and are naturally a major source of inspiration for fragrance brand Jo Malone. To celebrate Chelsea in Bloom, Jo Malone has decorated its Sloane Street store with a sumptuous jubilee-inspired floral display (fresh, gorgeous and on show until 26th May), but in a rather less temporary initiative, Jo Malone has also announced the first of an ongoing series of projects to support charities that use gardens to bring beauty to urban spaces.

The inaugural programme is with Thrive, a UK charity which aims to harness the therapeutic powers of gardening to help change the lives of disabled people, creating something above and beyond a simple garden. Jo Malone will fund Thrive's regeneration of London's largest gardening project - the Old English Garden in Battersea Park. Chelsea Flower Show medal winner, Sarah Price, who honed her skills as a gardener at Hampton Court Palace, has created the garden design and the garden will be developed by a team of trainee gardeners living with physical disabilities or mental health issues.

The Old English Garden, when complete, promises to be a beautiful, romantic, scented space for all the community to enjoy: work is well-underway and by mid-to late summer, should be in its full pomp. As Sarah Price says, “Gardening is good for the soul. It slows you down and forces you to listen to nature.Thrive understands this and their work in promoting the restorative power of gardening is inspirational."

Old English Garden. Cared for by Thrive. Supported by Jo Malone Limited. See updates on the Jo Malone Facebook page.

Thrive Registered Charity No. 277570

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Mr Trefusis warned me at the weekend that the hitherto execrable English weather was set for dramatic improvement and that I should think about swapping the black opaques for a generous coat of fake tan. I'm afraid I didn't believe him - it started raining in mid-March and the absence of anything other than grey cloud ever since has crushed all optimism from me: In Britain the idea of a hot summer is much like Dr Johnson on second marriages - merely the triumph of hope over experience.

Anyway, of course, Mr Trefusis has been proven right: at least for the next few days London will be enjoying temperatures of around 25 degrees - hardly tropical, but warm enough to get one's legs out. Alas, mine are habitually a rather startling shade of skimmed milk white: The only way I get a tan is out of a bottle. The other week, pre-Marrakech, I got a St Tropez spray tan at Debenhams Oxford Street on the recommendation of Katy Young, Harper's Bazaar's beauty editor and very good it was too at £20.

However, I freely admit that my usual approach to summer tanning is to do it myself and just do the bits on show (my fake tan rarely progresses further than mid thigh - fine for during the week, but not gorgeous if you're going swimming). Being so pale, I also find it hard to find a fake tan that doesn't make me go a horrid jaundiced yellow. He-Shi's Express Tan is almost completely foolproof when applied with a tanning mitt - and takes one's legs from Acdo-glow-white to a streak-free golden brown in a matter of hours. A coat of that, maintained daily with one of the less grim smelling everyday tan products (I like L'Oreal Nutrisummer), brings me to an acceptably sun-kissed shade.

Which self-tanners do you swear by?

Thursday, 17 May 2012


I discovered Roger & Gallet Huile Sublime Bois D'Orange quite by accident and it's divine - it's a very light spray oil that apparently can be used for hair, face and body (I've only been brave enough to use it on the latter). Very easily absorbed, it smells tantalisingly of a sultry afternoon in Provence and is deliciously moisturising, giving skin a silky, wealthy sheen.

Roger & Gallet was a super chic brand when I was a child (I still remember envying my Grandmother's carnation soap), and I think it still retains a lot of cachet in its native France, but their products are not especially easy to get in the UK, other than in independent chemists. I have a feeling that John Lewis may also stock some of the range. Anyway, if you want Huile Sublime, feelunique have it on their website for £23 and although it's not cheap, I like it even more than the iconic Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse that seems to be the gold standard in luxe body oils.

Sunday, 13 May 2012


Fenyadi is a cooperative of four contemporary Moroccan designers producing beautiful pieces for the home, inspired by traditional Morrocan design but with a luxe modern twist.

Ceramics include vast pots for beautiful gardens and holders for outside candles (pictures), as well as smaller items such as the beautiful glazed tea pots and tea-glasses in an elegant range of natural colours. Lack of suitcase room prevented me from buying the fine bed linen - John Malkovich's favourite, apparently - plus unique and carefully designed tableware, textiles, leather notebooks not to mention the adorable Berber inspired pyjamas for kids.

I couldn't resist scented candles from Amira bougies - each one is created to evoke authentically Morrocan scents - from amber to thé à la menthe, jasmin to spices, neroli to cedarwood. I bought six cedarwood in plain glass tea-glasses. I shall light them at home and let them transport me back to my time in Marrakech.

The store itself is at 219 Z.I Sidi Ghanem, Marrakech.
Tel: +212 5 24 35 60 24


These modern alternatives to the iconic Moroccan lamps are available at El Jouli in the Souk Charatine Talâa, No. 48 in the Marrakech Medina. I love the designs but I also really love the mellow golden glow they throw, particularly now I'm at an age when I always sit with my back to the window in restaurants.

All the lamps are hand-made by local craftsman and if you're unlikely to make it to Marrakech anytime soon , they're available at Harrods. However, owner Milioud El Jouli will also ship anywhere in the world - email him on

Friday, 11 May 2012


Easy Jet is unlikely to ever make 'World's favourite airline' status: its 'no frills' approach is disingenuous to say the least: one has to box pretty clever to avoid paying extra for something. 'Have you got two bags?' shrieked the Gate Dragon, pointing an accusing finger at Jo's tiny carry-on and modest Anya Hindmarch handbag. ''You'll have to fit your handbag in your hand luggage'. If you're only travelling with hand luggage, I defy anyone to leave enough room spare to squash your handbag into it at the last minute. So into the hold went Jo's tiny carry-on bag for which she was charged forty pounds. I'm a little ashamed to say they didn't notice my handbag, so I scuttled onto the plane before anyone had the chance to reconsider waving me through. I think making 'low-cost' airlines work for you requires an awful lot of practice. However, since the flight to Marrakech only takes three and a half hours direct from Gatwick, I really mustn't complain. When I last visited the city, nearly fifteen years ago, you had to change planes at Casablanca and it took all day. Three and a half hours makes Marrakech a perfect weekend destination when you need a boost of heat and sun in the middle of the relentless drear of an English spring (six weeks of rain in London and counting). With direct access becoming increasingly easy it's no wonder the city has tripled in size since I last visited, with a huge Ville Nouvelle springing up between the airport and the Medina. I adored Marrakech the first time I visited - I wasn't wildly well-travelled outside Europe at the time and nothing prepared me for the extraordinary otherness of the city. Im always a little wary of re-visiting places that have had such a profound effect on me in case the intervening years have lessened the impact. But despite the influx of many more tourists and a much better modern infrastructure in the new parts of the city, the Medina's power to enchant is entirely undiminished. Once through one of the gates in the city's ancient walls, your senses are bombarded by exotic, magical sights, sounds and scents: the bright jewel colours of the barbouche and caftans for sale in the Souk, the cacophony of snake charmers, musicians, acrobats and magicians in the Djemaa El-Fna and the haunting sound of the regular call to prayer from the Koutoubia, the delight in discovering hidden doorways with exquisite, intricate Moorish carvings and beautiful tiling around the frames, the air perfumed with amber and spices from the many apothecaries, all of which promise to cure every ill from sciatica to lovelessness.
Despite odd 21st Century sights, like fake Louis Vuitton footballs and flip flops for sale and being contantly mown down by motorscooters in the labyrinthine alleyways of the Souk, there's a timelessness to it - tread the same path at any point during the last six hundred years and you could see the same crocodile and python skins hanging, the same jars of dried rose petals, cumin, saffron, the same carts piled with small, flat rolls, still warm from the oven, the same craftsmen tanning skins to be dyed and turned into barbouche, drink the same mint tea with the same Berber carpet seller. I love that: it's the perfect antidote to the churn and bustle and impermanence of London life, where everything seems to be an endless hunt for the new and the now, rather than a quest to find the beauty in small things, unchanged by time and technology yet still absolutely relevant.

Marrakech, for me, is like being cast into the middle of a gorgeous storybook. I don't mind where the narrative takes me and the illustrations are breathtaking.

Thursday, 10 May 2012


In a few hours, Jo Glynn-Smith of Harper's Bazaar and I will be on a plane to Marrakech - we're only there for a long weekend but it's induced in me the most monumental wardrobe panic. I think it's partly because it's hard to get out of one's head this extraordinary Litchfield image of Talitha Getty, which is at once sensual and exotic and so utterly, achingly stylish that anything I could possibly fling in my suitcase is destined to disappoint. It's partly the pose and partly the styling, but Talitha Getty is in this picture as 'full of Eastern promise' - as Fry's Turkish Delight adverts of the 1970's professed to be.

Oh, the fashion pressure of Marrakech - if it were only this single iconic photograph it would be bad enough, but of course, Marrakech was also the home of fashion god Yves St Laurent - Jo and I plan to pay homage to his genius and visit Les Jardins Majorelle, the garden YSL loved so much he requested his ashes be scattered there after his death (stupid sentence, that - they could hardly be scattered before his death, could they). What's more, Jo and I are in Marrakech partly to cover the Caftan Festival - a huge fashion event in Morocco - and we can't let Harper's Bazaar down by being anything other than well-put together.

However, herein lies a fashion conundrum - we don't dress well for hot weather in Britain, at least, we don't during the week. On the very rare days when the temperature rises in London one has only to look around one in the streets to discover what a struggle it seems to be to navigate the sartorial codes dictated by the appearance of strong sun and cloudless skies. Half the population appears to be dressed for Ascot and the other half for a heavy night in a seedy nightclub. We don't invest in summer clothes - there's no point, the season's too short-lived - even shorter-lived this year when it's well into May and  arctic winds and icy rain are being consistently served up. I haven't even bothered to get my summer clothes out of the loft - I'm still in a wool coat and thick tights, not to mention the thermal vest. In short, as of five o'clock this evening, I had nothing to wear.

Reader, what could I do? I did what any right thinking individual would do and shook off the winter pallor with a St Tropez spray tan (£20 at Debenhams - result) and then went for a trolley dash around Zara.

Liberty London Girl recommended a maxi dress, and I could see the logic of this but Zara is made for etiolated model types so I'd have had to hack two feet off the bottom of anything I tried on. Anyway, I have gone for a kind of YSL/Jardins Majorelle inspired palette of navy and cobalt blue with a smart - if rather short - kind of silk trapeze dress with cut out sleeves for dinner at La Sultana, a silk paisley shift dress (again, slightly shorter than I'd realised, but if I wear flat sandals, perhaps no one will mind too much), and a pair of well-cut navy chinos with a coral belt. I'm hoping the trousers particularly will take me through a variety of eventualities.

My perfect plan will be not to channel Talitha Getty - that's completely beyond my capabilities - but to look moderately cool even when the temperature is stonkingly hot. As long as the hotel has wifi, I aim blog the trip every day and I'll even try to make the posts rather less self-obsessed than this has turned out to be.

Right, only three hours til I need to leave - do I bother going to bed?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012


I'm a self-confessed foundation addict - it's partly because I like quite a groomed beauty look, but it's also because I'm long past the age where I dabbed a spot of concealer under my eyes and left my skin bare. Somewhere in my late thirties I found my skin became less even - and if I believe what I hear at the press launches for new anti-ageing products, I'm not alone, which is why there's suddenly a vast array of products which promise to fade brown spots and tackle redness and so on.

This Dior Forever foundation is my current favourite: it provides enough coverage to give an even complexion and reflects light away from fine lines - it also has skincare benefits built into the formula which keep the skin moisturised so that you don't get that ghastly five thirty thing when you look at yourself in the office loo as you're about to go home and realise you look four hundred. Anyway, I like it - it creates an elegant finish without screaming 'I'm wearing a tonne of foundation'

Lauder's Double Wear Light is, apparently, one of the country's top selling foundations - until I discovered Dior Forever it was my favourite, and I'd still wear it if I were going for a hectic night out because it lasts and lasts and lasts. It also photographs well (I'm sure you're not nearly as vain as I am and don't ruthlessly manage all your photographs so that only the ones that present one's best side ever appear: Mr Trefusis only posted one picture of me without make up on Facebook - he soon saw his error)

However, I do think proper foundation only really works in mild to cold weather - the minute the sun comes out everything changes and one goes immediately from perfectly groomed to over-made-up - think Kate Middleton. OF course, this year, in the UK, we can get away with wearing the makeup equivalent of black opaques well into June unless something changes radically, but tomorrow I'm off to Marrakech for the weekend, where foundation will not only look wrong, it will melt off my face. Not only that, but Newby Hands, beauty guru and Bazaar's Beauty Editor At Large has been telling me for ages that going bare skinned looks much more modern, even with made up eyes or lips. I'm not at all ready for no make-up - in the same way as I couldn't bare my legs - so I'm experimenting with BB creams, which seem to be all the rage. They're popular because they're a multi-tasker, offering the combined benefits of a moisturiser, a sun-screen and a foundation, to care and perfect the skin in one easy step. The Lauder one is based on their ever-popular DayWear moisturiser and has a beautiful satiny finish and an SPF of 35. I liked it, but despite what Newby said about the no-makeup look, I didn't feel modern, I simply felt a little too nude.

I slightly prefer the Clinique BB cream  - it's less moisturising than the Lauder one and it's only SPF 30 (not sure my skin will know the difference) but it's a little thicker and has more staying power. Unlike Lauder's, you definitely couldn't use it as a primer under your usual foundation, but it has more staying power. It's better than a tinted moisturiser and it's the one I've packed for my Morocco trip tomorrow in the regulation clear polythene bag. Actually, my clear polythene bag is rather large - I can't travel without a beauty product for every eventuality - are they going to clobber me at the airport? I guess I'll find out.

On balance, I think BB creams are perfect for thirty somethings who want a little extra perfecting and are pushed for time enough to want a multi-tasker. For me, they're good for a weekend in the park with Trefusis Minor and The TT, but for work and for when I'm not loafing round West London in jeans trying to avoid looking like a Boden advert.  But Estee Lauder's new (ish) Invisible is absolutely the halfway house I think I've been looking for: it's almost completely weightless so you don't feel it on the skin and the special magic formula adapts the colour when it's on your skin in a fabulously chameleon-like way, making the match absolutely seamless. It's the only foundation I've ever worn that's elicited spontaneous compliments about how good my skin looks* - even Newby didn't think I was wearing foundation.

*someone at work asked if I'd had 'something done' the first time I wore Invisible - I'm not absolutely sure it's a compliment but I took it to mean that it did its job and glossed over all the wrinkles and crevasses that are otherwise visible on the Trefusis fizzog