Margaret Howell talks personal taste: Part One

Margaret Howell launched her cult British fashion label in 1972. She collaborates with design companies Ercol and Anglepoise and has stores in London, Paris and Tokyo

Margaret Howell at her design studio in London
Margaret Howell at her design studio in London | Image: Mark C O’Flaherty

My personal style signifier is a pair of Converse trainers. I like to wear a uniform: jeans, jumper and leather All Stars. I wear the boots in winter and the plimsolls in summer. I have a two-tone pair, in black and brown, which I wear with a grey outfit and a little thin, brown belt. From £67; www.converse.co.uk.

Dream Attic by Richard Thompson
Dream Attic by Richard Thompson

The last things I bought and loved were some hand-blown glass tumblers. I had them engraved in memory of someone I dearly loved who is now gone. I had three pairs made, for myself and two other people, so that we could toast this person we knew. My friend, the artist and glass engraver Jacqueline Allwood, worked on them for me. We were at Goldsmiths College together. She creates beautiful lettering. www.jacqueline-allwood.com.

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The thing I’m eyeing next is a vintage round dining table by Alvar Aalto. I love his work. I’m also after a daybed that is warm and inviting. I have a lovely Hans Wegner settee, but I want something to sink into in the evening. I pulled out my Le Corbusier chaise longue recently, which I bought in the 1980s, and it’s very comfortable to sit on. The style of design I like is quite hard-edged, but now I want something cosy. www.alvaraalto.fi.

Café Restaurant Amsterdam
Café Restaurant Amsterdam

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Dorset. I went to visit friends who have a house that used to belong to a stained-glass artist. His studio is still there, and ivy is growing through the walls. It’s run-down but very attractive, and the outlook across the countryside is lovely – rolling hills out to the sea. I love the English countryside. Devon and Cornwall are soft and green, and I also like the South Downs – the minimalism and openness of the landscape appeals.

Margaret Howell’s reissued silk bandana, £65
Margaret Howell’s reissued silk bandana, £65

The last meal that truly impressed me was at Terroirs in Covent Garden. They have a small menu, with good French food, but it’s the ambience I like. Upstairs is noisy and serves small plates, but downstairs is very quiet and relaxing. And they have a great big wine list. 5 William IV Street, London WC2 (020‑7036 0660; www.terroirswinebar.com).

A History of the World in 100
Objects by Neil MacGregor
A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor

The last music I bought was Dream Attic, a live recording of Richard Thompson’s work. Some people call him the British Bob Dylan – another favourite of mine. www.richardthompson-music.com.

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If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is Amsterdam. The architecture and canals are very attractive. I’d enjoy cycling everywhere, or hopping on a tram. I would never tire of visiting the Van Gogh Museum or the Noord Markt, a flea market – and a farmers’ market at the weekend. I also like the Café Restaurant Amsterdam, which is in a big old industrial space. Café Restaurant Amsterdam, Watertorenplein 6, 1051 PA Amsterdam (+3120-682 2666; www.cradam.nl). Van Gogh Museum, relocated until April 25 to the Hermitage Amsterdam, Paulus Potterstraat 7, 1070 AJ Amsterdam (+3120-570 5200; www.vangoghmuseum.nl).

The person I rely on for grooming is John Birchall, a hair stylist for magazines. I don’t like going to hairdressers, and he is a one-man band, in a small room, with a single sink, on Columbia Road. Marcos & Trump, 146 Columbia Road, London E2 (020-7366 3021; www.johnbirchall.com).

The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a reproduction of a black-and-white silk bandana that I designed for my own label in 1980. £65; www.margarethowell.co.uk.

The books on my bedside table are A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor, which is a perfect bedtime book as each chapter is just a few pages, about one particularly useful tool from history; The Collected Stories of Vladimir Nabokov, which are poignant and beautifully written; and the naturalist Roger Deakin’s Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees. He loved being outside and I associate with that. I enjoy all weather. Even if it’s sleeting from the North Sea, if you are dressed for it, it’s an experience.

An object I would never part with is my old Nikon FE film camera. I can compose and focus with it in a way I can’t with digital. Digital images look wonderful on the screen, lit up, but when you print them they seem flat. I like to be more in control.

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