November 08 2011
My personal style signifier is a limited-edition Breitling Cosmonaute, issued in 1962 on May 24, which is also my birthday. Cosmonaut Scott Carpenter went into space wearing one and, for us nerds, it’s the holy grail of timepieces. I have a collection of 20 or so watches. I was attracted first to their aesthetic qualities, then to their mechanics and their history. www.breitling.com.
The last thing I bought and loved was a pair of 1970s Persol sunglasses – model 6182. I’ve amassed quite a few pairs; I’m quite short-sighted so I have them ordered to my prescription from online specialist Vintage Sunglasses Shop, or from Cutler and Gross. www.vintagesunglassesshop.com. www.cutlerandgross.com.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a Constantin Brancusi wax candle, from 10 Corso Como in Milan. It’s a facsimile of his famous piece Sleeping Muse – a very beautiful, minimal, sculptural head. I don’t have the heart to burn it. 10 Corso Como, 20154 Milan (+3902-2900 2674; www.10corsocomo.com).
The grooming staple I’m never without is the Serge Lutens scent Ambre Sultan. I’ve been wearing it since it was introduced, about 18 years ago. It has a decadent, sensual air to it. Once, a supermodel I’d never met came up to me and gave me a full-on kiss because of the allure of that fragrance. Call me base, but I think that constitutes a pretty good scent. I can’t tell you which supermodel; my wife is close by. £65.50 for 50ml; www.sergelutens.com.
The last item I added to my wardrobe is a pair of faded 1954 vintage Levi’s jeans. I have a large collection, which I buy from the Levi’s Vintage Clothing store in Soho. The shape of 501 jeans varies from year to year; the 1955 cut was a much fuller leg, but the 1954 is slimmer at the ankle and wider at the sides. 5 Newburgh Street, London W1 (020-7287 4941; eu.levi.com).
The books on my bedside table are Kwasi Kwarteng’s Ghosts of Empire; Kwarteng is a politician from a similar background to mine. His is quite an unusual perspective on the British Empire. There’s also Michel Houellebecq’s The Map of the Territory. And I’m rereading, for the fifth time, Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush; it inspired my collection for John Lewis.
The last music I downloaded was a compilation by the classical pianist Francis Poulenc. My favourite track is Mouvements Perpetuels; we play it constantly in the studio. I also download lots of music from an American record label called Stones Throw. At the moment I’m listening to The Stepkids and a new artist called Jonti. It’s contemporary but draws on music of the mid-1960s and 1970s; an appealing sound for someone who’s slightly older. www.stonesthrow.com.
The site that inspires me is the spires of Oxford. They’ve always provoked a warm, dreamy feeling. My sister was at Somerville College, then my mother bought a cottage in a place called Church Hanborough, on the outskirts. Just to drive through the city always inspires me.
An indulgence I would never forego is green tea, which I have to have several times a day. At home I use a special Tokoname teapot that helps to infuse the leaves, and I buy my tea online from O-Cha.com, a Japanese emporium. Japan is where I first tasted green tea, over 20 years ago. Now I can’t do without it. www.o-cha.com.
A recent “find” is the restaurant A Little of What You Fancy in Dalston, east London. It’s run by Elaine Chalmers, who serves up authentic British food while exploring new flavours. The majority of the ingredients are from local growers and providers, and it has an unpretentious, understated feel – a really great discovery. 464 Kingsland Road, London E8 (020-7275 0060; alittleofwhatyoufancy.info).
My favourite websites are The Traveler – a blog by this guy who chronicles life as a true Corinthian gentleman, giving detailed information on the type of luggage he uses, the books he references, the works of art he’s interested in – and Irenebrination: Notes on Art, Fashion and Style, edited by a woman called Anna Battista. She might talk about the current Prada collection, but then she’ll dissect it, looking at the sources in a really interesting way. irenebrination.typepad.com. tavarua-thetraveler.blogspot.com.