The Aesthete: Stella Tennant talks more personal taste

Holland & Holland’s new ready-to-wear creative director concludes her list of likes with Helmut Lang, Hockney and life in the countryside

Stella Tennant at home in the Borders
Stella Tennant at home in the Borders | Image: Philip Sinden

My style icon is Coco Chanel, because I love the pictures of her up at the Duke of Westminster’s place in the Highlands, where she’s wearing proper walking boots, woolly socks and layers of men’s clothes, including a tweed jacket. She was all about functionality as well as elegance, and I think she understood that lifestyle perfectly.

The items in my wardrobe I’ll keep to pass on are the ones in my Helmut Lang archive: black trousers with a high-vis stripe down the side, a fantastic herringbone overcoat, T-shirts, jean jackets – all loved for their amazing tailoring. He was a key part of my early modelling career in the 1990s, so it’s almost like a photograph album: all the clothes bring back memories. And then he stopped designing clothes, so they became more precious. helmutlang.com.

Turquoise and gold ring that a friend, Emma Hawkins, an antique dealer, gave Tennant
Turquoise and gold ring that a friend, Emma Hawkins, an antique dealer, gave Tennant | Image: Philip Sinden

The last meal that truly impressed me was a feast of gull’s eggs that we collected when shooting at Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire, my uncle’s grouse moor. They have a gullery on the reservoir, and a licence to lift a certain number of eggs a year. The season for them is too short – they’re the most delicious things. The birds nest in a band of just a few metres, all the way around the reservoir, and they’re very community-spirited: they like to be cheek-by-jowl. You feel like you’re in a David Attenborough film.

In my fridge you’ll always find some out-of-date cream, milk, eggs, bacon and Schweppes tonic. My fridge is so depressing.

Advertisement

The beauty staple I’m never without is DAX, or Black and White hair wax. I hate having clean-looking hair, so I would be lost without it. $4.83; daxhaircare.com. £4.65; blackandwhitewax.com.

The best book I’ve read in the past year is The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebanks. It brilliantly describes real country life in the region, which is not that far from where I grew up; my dad has a sheep farm in the Borders. James Rebanks is a brilliant writer who understands the countryside and its history too – the story of flocks of sheep that have been hefted to those hills for centuries. It’s something that I admire and relate to. £9.99; penguinrandomhouse.com.

Bronze hawthorn and marble table, £22,000, and gold-leaf and butterfly mirror, £17,000, both from tennantandtennant.com
Bronze hawthorn and marble table, £22,000, and gold-leaf and butterfly mirror, £17,000, both from tennantandtennant.com

My favourite room in my house is my kitchen. It has windows on three sides, and it’s a bit like being on the bridge of a ship: you’ve got the weather coming right at you. Some of the windows look onto fields of sheep, which look quite delicious, and one looks onto the kitchen garden, also full of tasty things.

If I didn’t live between the Borders and Edinburgh, I would still never choose to live in a city. My house is perfect, but if I had to choose another location for it I would stick it in the Cheviots. 

The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebanks
The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebanks

The best gift I’ve given recently is a bunch of tulips from my garden, to a friend in Edinburgh. I’m really bad at giving gifts, but they were so much more meaningful than any florist’s bouquet. It was a mass of different varieties: striped, Queen of the Night, pink, a few parrots. I’m very keen on colour.

And the best one I’ve received recently is a turquoise and gold ring that a friend, Emma Hawkins, an antiques dealer, gave me. It is a very ancient stone – a curious bit of turquoise – with a flower in it. Emma didn’t know its history but it’s possibly something Egyptian. She is a bit of a wheeler-dealer and is always coming across fascinating things; she is based in Edinburgh but does the taxidermy in Dover Street Market.

The Cheviot Hills, near the border between England and Scotland
The Cheviot Hills, near the border between England and Scotland | Image: Getty Images

The people I rely on for personal grooming are in my professional life, where I rely heavily on them; I’ve worked with all the best people, but all for different reasons, and so I cannot really single any one out. In my personal life, I’m self-reliant when it comes to grooming. 

The last music I downloaded? I don’t download music. I really like silence. And I don’t know how to use the apps on my phone any more because I’ve lost my password.

Advertisement

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Hockney – his early drawings. I also love Lucian Freud’s work from the 1940s, but these days I want something a bit more uplifting. Hockney’s line drawings and portraits are so completely brilliant. At the Tate Britain exhibition this year, I was mesmerised by a small, pencil self-portrait that he did as a teenager – it was incredibly accomplished – and his delicate drawing of WH Auden. 

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be making more stuff in a studio – I originally studied sculpture and learnt to weld. A few years ago I started a business with my sister Isabel, who is a gilder by trade: we have made some cast-bronze tables, gilded lamps and beautiful mirrors with butterflies inside them. Price on request; tennantandtennant.com.

Advertisement
Loading