The Aesthete: Hervé Van der Straeten talks personal taste

The French designer is known for his strikingly sculptural furnishings and jewellery, and has collaborated with Dior, Guerlain, Ruinart and Roger Vivier

Hervé Van der Straeten at home in the Marais
Hervé Van der Straeten at home in the Marais | Image: Léa Crespi

My personal style signifiers are a perfect white shirt, starched and ironed, and a simple, thin gold bangle; I don’t really like to make bold statements with my clothes. All my shirts are made for me by Charvet, and the bracelet is from India; I bought it at The Gem Palace in Jaipur. It’s the only thing I wear that doesn’t have a function. Charvet, 28 Place Vendôme, Paris 75001 (+331-4260 3070). The Gem Palace, Shop 348, MI Road, Jaipur 302001 (+91141-237 4175;

Praiano on the Amalfi coast
Praiano on the Amalfi coast | Image: Alamy

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Praiano on the Amalfi coast. I really love this area, with its big hills falling into the water; it’s theatrical and at the same time peaceful and otherworldly. We stayed at a small hotel called Ca’ P’a, a secluded place with a lush garden rolling down to a private bathing spot on the rocks. The location is just incredible. I had the feeling of being very isolated. At the same time, the service was very attentive but also relaxed and informal. Via Rezzola 41, 84010 Praiano (+39089‑874 078;


And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is a sculpture from the Hong Kong Art Fair by a German artist called Asta Gröting. It looks like an enormous gold nugget, but in fact it’s an imprint of an autumnal field whose soil has been ploughed. To me it says that we should treasure what the earth is giving us.

Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, £75 for 50ml
Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, £75 for 50ml

An indulgence I would never forgo is a martini at home after a day at work. I make it with Noilly Prat vermouth and always have everything needed to prepare it.

Resin and gold-leaf Acker sculpture by Asta Gröting
Resin and gold-leaf Acker sculpture by Asta Gröting | Image: Cecil Mathieu, courtesy of Carlier Geabauer gallery, Berlin

The best book I’ve read in the past year is Light Years by James Salter. It’s beautifully written, almost like music, yet it describes things that happen to everyone. It’s about life, about relationships and about getting old, but the shape of the story doesn’t really matter. It speaks to everybody.

Light Years by James Salter
Light Years by James Salter

The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a nylon jacket from Aspesi. It looks like it is made out of crushed paper, so you can fold it and put it in your bag. It’s casual, chic and easy, so I bought it in three different colours – green, red and black. £344;


An object I would never part with is a little drawing by Keith Haring that I asked him to do for me when I met him in 1986. It’s a souvenir of that period, a funny sketch of a figure that twists and bends at the same time. I tend to keep a lot of things; I’m not the sort of person who feels better when they throw things away.

The last music I bought was a compilation called Enter Ibiza, from the label managed by Richie Hawtin. It’s several CDs of deep house and electronic music – the kind of music I like. I go to Ibiza every year on holiday, so I’m in touch with the DJs who play in the clubs there.

The grooming staple I’m never without is Serge Lutens scent. I have many of them, but I especially love Ambre Sultan and Fumerie Turque. I like the depth of these scents; they’re evocative. I always wear fragrance; it gives people another dimension, even more than clothes, I think. Ambre Sultan, £75 for 50ml; Fumerie Turque, €165 for 75ml;

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Bronzino, the 16th-century Italian painter. The paintings are very elegant and beautiful; you can spend hours looking at them. It feels as if the people in them are watching you in a really intense way – it’s like meeting someone.

My favourite websites or apps are, which locates good restaurants in Paris and other French cities using GPS, and, an online version of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. It’s like entering the library via your iPad – you can leaf through a book or enlarge a sketch.

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