The Aesthete: Prosper Assouline talks personal taste

The co-founder of the eponymous cultural publishing house has more than 20 specialist bookshops and boutiques worldwide

Prosper Assouline at home in New York
Prosper Assouline at home in New York | Image: Dorothy Hong

My personal style signifiers are the felt hats that Worth & Worth has made for me since I arrived in New York 18 years ago. They are very small with a big ribbon, and I have 50 of them in different colours and textures. I wear them pulled down, almost like Frank Sinatra in the 1950s. From $345; 50 East 57th Street, New York, NY 10022 (+1212-265 2887; hatshop.com).

The last things I bought and loved were two volumes on 18th-century Turkish costume and uniforms, from Christie’s. They are a complete dream – so fresh and unusual, and made by hand with beautiful gold and red covers. christies.com.

From left: the blue cape made in Madrid that was a 60th birthday present. Some of Assouline’s felt hats by Worth & Worth, from $345
From left: the blue cape made in Madrid that was a 60th birthday present. Some of Assouline’s felt hats by Worth & Worth, from $345 | Image: Dorothy Hong

And the thing I’m eyeing next is more books – it’s no surprise I buy a lot of them. I collect every kind. Sometimes I just look at a book once and I know I will never open it again, but it is all preserved in my head – how it looks, how it smells.

The best gift I’ve given recently is a cameo bracelet with charms made from volcanic lava. I bought it for my wife, Martine, in an antique shop in Nice. The lady who sold it was so interesting and so passionate – she knows everything about each piece, so you don’t just buy the object, you buy the story. Marie-Christine Sprugnoli Antiquaire, 48 Rue de France, Nice (+334-9388 1503; sprugnoli.com).

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And the best one I’ve received recently was an incredible, huge blue cape that my friend, the photographer Jonathan Becker, gave me for my 60th birthday. He had it made for me in Madrid, and it arrived in this enormous box. It is sublissime.

A recent “find” is the Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club in Miami, which has just been rebuilt. It’s the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever seen, and where I now want to spend all my time. It feels so new, yet the Surf Club was considered the best place in the world in the 1930s – just to be there, to smoke a cigar and have a glass of wine is the best feeling. 9111 Collins Avenue, Surfside, FL 33154 (+1305-381 3333; thesurfclub.com).

One of Assouline’s two volumes on 18th-century Turkish costume and uniforms
One of Assouline’s two volumes on 18th-century Turkish costume and uniforms | Image: Dorothy Hong

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Kyoto. We stayed in a very small old ryokan [an inn] called Hotel Tawaraya. It is one of the most elegant places on the planet, with one person looking after the flowers with such care, and another dedicated to deciding which of the 365 different services of bowls should be used, depending on the weather. Every detail is so sophisticated but you need to understand the culture of Japan to fully appreciate it. £330; 278 Nakahakusancho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8094 (+8175-211 5566).

And the best souvenir I’ve brought home was for my Paris apartment: an enormous piece of 19th-century black coral that we saw in an antiques store in Naples. When the crate finally arrived it was half the size of the room.

The Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club, Miami
The Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club, Miami | Image: Alamy Stock Photo

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose the centre of Rome. On Via dei Coronari there are so many different things, from craftsmen carving marble for the church to the most incredible antiques stores. Last year I found a Bugatti desk and chair of the most unbelievable quality at Hannau Roma. Just along the street is an amazing gallery called Forme di Pompeo Polito, which sells 20th-century pieces by Giò Ponti and Ettore Sottsass. I love the concept store Chez Dédé, which has a chic interior and sells drawings, accessories and beautiful notebooks; and Blend Roma, on Via Margutta, which has the best furniture and decorative objects from the 1970s. Blend Roma, Via Margutta 55B (+3906-3265 2067). Chez Dédé, Via di Monserrato 35 (+3906-8377 2934; chezdede.com). Forme di Pompeo Polito, Via dei Coronari 217 (+3906-686 5294). Hannau Roma, Via dei Coronari 116-117 (+3906-6813 6660; hannauroma.com).

I don’t have any favourite websites – I still read the newspaper at 5am or 6am every morning and apart from email, I do not spend a lot of time on my computer.

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