The Aesthete: Jessica McCormack talks personal taste

The New Zealand-born jeweller worships The Row, reads escapist novels and is mad for Manolos. Portraits by Jooney Woodward

McCormack at home in Kensal Green
McCormack at home in Kensal Green | Image: Jooney Woodward

My personal style signifier is my jeans, even on the hottest of days. I’m not brand loyal. I wear black or blue, although I’m loving ’80s stonewash at the moment – usually combined with a bit of Alaïa. I love the high-low mix of an amazing Alaïa shirt, necklacediamonds, of course – and jeans. maison-alaia.com

The last thing I bought and loved was a WNU linen shirt. It’s the perfect “boyfriend” shirt – and functional. £80; withnothingunderneath.com.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

And the thing I’m eyeing next is the Arcade daybed from Simon James Design in New Zealand. I fell in love with the mustard colour; I can imagine it in my bedroom. I picture myself lying on it and reading in the bay window, but my husband’s like, “You’re just going to throw your clothes on there.” From £3,510; simonjamesdesign.com.

My style icons are the Olsen twins. I’m obsessed with The Row. I’ve always loved their style, even when they were pre‑fashion, but since the label launched in 2006 I think they’ve nailed it. They have a chic aesthetic that’s not trend or celebrity-driven, and you can wear their designs season after season. therow.com.  

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An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. I flew to Venice then took the train back to London – by myself. Solo travel is such a luxury as a mother of three children. It was two days, one night, but it felt like I’d been away for months. It’s got that amazing 1920s glamour. I brought black-tie dress for dinner: an incredible Emilia Wickstead gown and diamonds. From £2,200; belmond.com

The beauty staple I’m never without is Dr Barbara Sturm’s “sun drops”. They’re SPF50 and you literally need two drops. £107 for 30ml; net-a-porter.com.

Dr Barbara Sturm Sun Drops. McCormack’s Manolo Blahnik tartan heels. Olivia Von Halle pyjamas
Dr Barbara Sturm Sun Drops. McCormack’s Manolo Blahnik tartan heels. Olivia Von Halle pyjamas

The best gift I’ve given recently was a diamond-print Olivia Von Halle pyjama set. I’ve known Olivia for years and her designs feel amazing. These were such fun and tongue in cheek – the idea of sleeping in diamonds. Similar styles about £420; oliviavonhalle.com.

And the best one I’ve received recently is a pair of tartan Manolo Blahniks, a very sweet thought from my Scottish husband. manoloblahnik.com.

McCormack at home in Kensal Green
McCormack at home in Kensal Green | Image: Jooney Woodward

An object I would never part with is an antique 18ct-gold Hei Tiki given to me by my late father about 15 years ago. It’s a New Zealand treasure that represents good fortune, family ties, love and fertility. They’re traditionally made of greenstone (or pounamu). This one is Victorian, in gold with garnet eyes, so it’s really special. 

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d chooseMayfair in London, where we have the townhouse. We have fabulous neighbours such as Roksanda, Simone Rocha, Mount Street Printers, and the bakery Marchesi 1824 has recently opened: I’ve become partial to the fresh bomboloni. I adore Roksanda, as a person, as a designer, as a friend. Then Mount Street Printers: the best for cards, any time. I love the village feel of the area too. I come out of Bond Street station onto Oxford Street and it’s crazy, and I head for this tiny microclimate of beautiful architecture, art, design and fashion: I’m spoilt. mountstreetprinters.com. pasticceriamarchesi.com. roksanda.com. simonerocha.com.

Her gold Hei Tiki
Her gold Hei Tiki

If I didn’t live in London, I would live in Pigeon Bay, New Zealand, where we got married, on the easternmost cape of the South Island. Or somewhere in Scotland, where my husband is from – maybe the Hebrides, à la Paul McCartney. There’s nothing there, but I’d be quite happy somewhere rugged and interesting, with the puffins.

The best souvenir I’ve brought home recently is hand-knitted jumpers for my children. Almost every small town in New Zealand has a craft shop where grannies sell the cutest little knits. We all grew up there itching and scratching, but we were never cold.

The Roksanda store in Mayfair
The Roksanda store in Mayfair

The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was an Emilia Wickstead sundress, the perfect day-to-night piece. You can wear it with sneakers on the Tube first thing and all the way through to dinner with heels. It’s so easy, so comfortable. Similar styles £690; emiliawickstead.com.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Louise Bourgeois. We have two pieces at the boutique and I would love many, many more. The whole totem-inspired collection – The Personages – would do nicely. She created these figure-like totems to be her friends when she was living away and lonely. They’re beautiful. 

Pasticceria Marchesi 1824
Pasticceria Marchesi 1824

The last music I downloaded was Prince’s Nothing Compares 2 U. I knew the Sinéad O’Connor version, but I didn’t know he wrote it. The other day I came across this YouTube video of him singing it. 

A recent “find” is Gold, on Portobello Road, for laidback food and wine with friends. It was a pub, and they’ve recently refurbished it. It’s worth dropping in for the burrata with charred peaches and Tuscan ham. 95-97 Portobello Rd, London W11 (020-3146 0747; goldnottinghill.com).

A tiered cake from Marchesi 1824. Vegemite, a favourite with champagne. McCormack’s best read this year
A tiered cake from Marchesi 1824. Vegemite, a favourite with champagne. McCormack’s best read this year

My favourite app is FaceTime, so I can keep up with my three kids, my mum, my sisters and their children from the office.

The people I rely on for personal grooming and wellbeing are Dr Barbara Sturm for skin – I met her when she started doing her product line about five years ago. Then there’s Nadia at John Frieda on Aldford Street for my hair. She’s just around the corner and has amazing hair herself – I’ve been going there for about 18 years. I also go to Pete Liggins at west London’s Box Clever for a gruelling but awesome workout. I’ve trained with him for eight years -– it’s a real Rocky gym – and have just got back into it seriously as I’m doing a mountain-climb thing. boxcleversports.com. dr-barbara-sturm.com. johnfrieda.com

Her Emilia Wickstead sundress
Her Emilia Wickstead sundress | Image: Jooney Woodward

The best book I’ve read in the past year is The Overstory by Richard Powers. It’s a giant of a novel, essentially about man’s relationship with forests. Meditative escapism. £6.29; blackwells.co.uk.

In my fridge you’ll always find champagne – and Vegemite. Champagne, Vegemite on toast and maybe some avocado is my dream dinner. 

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An indulgence I would never forgo is having all the kids clamber into our bed in the morning. My three-year-old is first up every day and there’s no way you can’t say, “Get in, get in!”

The last meal that truly impressed me was the Huntsman Lunch at Gleneagles. You go clay-pigeon shooting and then come back and do a big lunch. There was a group of us there in mid-June and it was raining, typical Scottish-style, so the barbecue ribs, lamb and halloumi mixed with lobster was a dream – the perfect antidote. Auchterarder, Perthshire PH3 1NF (01764-662 231; gleneagles.com).

My favourite room in my house is our open-plan kitchen-living-garden space. It’s where we spend time as a family and with friends. We have that barbecue, drop-round kind of thing going on; it’s an open house. I love that. 

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be an antiques dealer. I did an internship at Sotheby’s with the intention of going home to New Zealand and running my father’s auction house, but I went into the jewellery department and fell in love with that.

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