The connoisseur: Jenny Packham
The British fashion designer, whose dresses are a red-carpet favourite with the Duchess of Cambridge and Hollywood royalty alike, shares the trips that have inspired her and the one thing she won’t leave a city without
If I could have a meal anywhere on Earth it would be the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. It’s probably my favourite hotel in the world. I want to be sitting outside in the garden restaurant, thinking about all the famous people who have been there over the years. The food is less important – I’m happy with a lychee martini and an order of truffle fries.
I think walking holidays are underrated. I’ve done a few now, in Provence, the Pyrenees, the Himalayas. As far as escapism goes, a walking holiday is the best. You can totally lose yourself in the scenery. The Himalayas were something else. I don’t think I was properly prepared for that kind of walking and hill climbing! I’m hoping to do a walking holiday in Scotland this year, along the West Highland Way from Glencoe Mountain to Kinlochleven.
The most inspiring place I’ve been is the Museum of Cairo. When I was young my mum took me to the British Museum to see the touring Tutankhamun exhibition. We queued outside all day – it was boiling hot – but had to give up and go home. Decades later, when my own kids were young, we went to Egypt. At the Museum of Cairo, I finally got to see the Tutankhamun exhibition. The jewellery is so sensational. I don’t know who he had designing for him but it’s incredible! It almost brought me to tears. I think it was fuelled by the fact I never got to see it when I was a child and now I finally had.
I can’t wait to go back to New York. I want to be somewhere busy and full of people. There’s an old black and white movie called Ice Cold in Alex about a group of soldiers travelling across the African desert, who say to each other, “When we get to Alexandria we’re going to have a beer” – as that will mean they’ve survived and it’s all over. To me, sitting in Cafe Gitane on Mott Street, having a fresh cucumber juice, a cappuccino and an orange blossom waffle with bananas, strawberries and maple syrup, will mean all of the difficulties of the past year are over. I will be in the busiest city in the world, in my favourite café, having something lovely. And everything will be all right.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a very large branch. It sticks out from a base and is painted in all these lively colours and patterns. I got it on a trip to Essaouira, on the coast of Morocco. It was the first time I’ve ever shipped anything home from my travels. It took ages and was really complicated – but it did eventually arrive. I’ll always look at it and love it.
My greatest travel companion is my husband Matthew. We’ve been together 33 years, so we don’t have to talk all the time, which is nice when you’re experiencing something for the first time – you can take it in. We both love a gallery. He trained as a sculptor, so we share an interest in anything creative. We want to do more travelling in India together. Last time we were there we went to Jaipur, but there’s so much to see.
One of my favourite places to appreciate fashion is Los Angeles. I love the way they dress. It’s that cool, laid-back thing that I can never achieve. There’s a lightness to it. And I’m a big fan of Santa Monica Antique Market near the airport, for amazing vintage clothes and jewellery. Dita Von Teese told me about it. When you first arrive, it takes you a bit of time to take it all in – there’s so much to look at. But if the weather’s nice it makes for a really fun morning.
If I didn’t live in London, I’d live in Paris. I’m always surprised how instantly I feel at home there. It’s the best city for me to walk around and feel inspired. I’m lucky that I have an apartment and showroom on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, a fantastic area in the 8th arrondissement, but if I lived there full-time I’d want to be in the Marais, near the Picasso museum. If it wasn’t Paris, then it would be India. I’d like to spend time doing yoga and meditation. I’m envisioning myself very calm and supple.
If time was no object, I’d go to the Iguazú Falls in South America. I want to see a really big waterfall.
How to Make a Dress: Adventures in the Art of Style by Jenny Packham (£22, Penguin Books) is available now.
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