During the frenzy of fashion week, there’s nothing quite as unglamorous as the frenetic dash from one show to the next. So it was the ultimate luxury when, on the third day of London Fashion Week, I had to do little more than roll out of bed to get to the Mulberry show. I was staying at Claridge’s, widely considered to be the most fashionable hotel in the world and also known as the “annex to Buckingham Palace” for its rich history with the royals, which dates back to 1860, when Queen Victoria first stopped by. On the morning of the show, I simply untucked myself from the feather-duvet glory of my suite’s king-size bed and headed to the elevator (complete with a banquette). One floor down, an elegant woman dressed in black joined me. “You must be heading to the ballroom,” she said, eyeing my butterfly-shaped invite. “I’m with Mulberry—I’ll take you right in.”
Since Mulberry began doing runway shows in 2009, all of them have been held at Claridge’s. “No question—it’s the best hotel in the world,” says Emma Hill, Mulberry’s outgoing creative director. “It’s so steeped in history. Think about all the people who have gone there—modern icons and the young stars of today.” Those icons include everyone from Princess Diana to Kate Moss, who celebrated her 30th birthday with a legendary party in one of the penthouse suites. Diane von Furstenberg designed a number of the hotel’s most popular rooms, including the Grand Piano Suite. And British furniture designer—and nephew to the Queen—David Linley put his touch on more than two dozen rooms and crafted bespoke tufted tub chairs that guests can cozy into throughout the property.
Alber Elbaz decorated the lobby Christmas tree in 2011, and, that same year, Marc Jacobs credited the hotel’s traditional-cum-art-deco interiors with inspiring his fall collection. The hotel even has its own artist-in-residence: celebrated fashion illustrator David Downton. One evening, I dined beneath the 800-piece Chihuly chandelier a table over from Harper’s Bazaar’s Glenda Bailey. The next day, I passed a cluster of Lana Del Rey fans patiently waiting for autographs outside the front entrance. Yet another day, I watched Diane von Furstenberg whirl her way across the black-and-white-marble lobby floor—perfectly capping off my most fashionable stay.
The top places to visit outside Claridge's Hotel on the next page...Shop at the hotel
Thanks to a partnership with Burberry, Claridge’s can have a trench coat (in your size, of course) waiting in your suite’s wardrobe for use during your stay—it’s a difficult task to leave without purchasing it. Downstairs, the sweet scent of the lobby’s divine flower displays will draw you into McQueens. The famed florist has a tiny store in the hotel where you can pick up a bouquet of the season’s top blooms. Across the hall is the cozy library-styled Assouline bookstore—the brand’s first London outpost—which also keeps the hotel’s new red-velvet-and-walnutclad Map Room stocked with the latest tomes to peruse while sipping tea.
Shop down the block
Mayfair’s Bond Street (bondstreet.co.uk)—just around the corner from Claridge’s—has been London’s poshest place to people-watch since the 1700s. All the top Brit shops are here, from Burberry and Mulberry to Smythson and Alexander McQueen—plus virtually every other international brand that matters. A few blocks over, on Regent Street, is British department store Liberty (liberty.co.uk). Wander this charmingly creeky Tudor mecca of eclectic style for exclusive goodies like Liberty flower-print products. If you happen to be in town on a Thursday night, sign up for one of the store’s sewing classes (wine included) and then hit the dizzying assortment of fall/winter 2013 Liberty fabrics to design something of your own.
Just a 10-minute walk away in neighbouring Soho is Nopi (nopi-restaurant.com), It Brit chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s casual brasserie. Serving up his unique Middle-Eastern-Asian flavour combinations, it’s perfect for a shareable lunch. Order the Valdeón cheesecake “soufflé” with pickled beetroot. You must also check out the bathroom—it’s the most amazing little mirrored “infinity” powder room you’ll ever...use.
If the hotel’s regal history has piqued your interest, take a stroll around the Orangery, commissioned by Queen Anne in 1704, at nearby Kensington Gardens and tour the decadent state apartments at Kensington Palace (hrp.org.uk). The palace’s newest exhibit, Fashion Rules, offers a close-up look at gowns worn by the Queen, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana.