My personal style signifier is probably colour blocking: red on red, black on black, green on green and so on. And I love a good red lipstick; the brand is not as important as the colour – different hues for different times of day. I’m also partial to accessorising, whether a beautiful ring or a good hair clip. It’s all in the details, like putting pieces together for a collage.
The last thing I bought and loved was a pair of sparkly red high-heeled shoes from Ferragamo’s Creations collection; they’re the ones worn by Marilyn Monroe in Let’s Make Love. I admit a severe shoe fetish.
And the thing I’m eyeing next is a large Nicholas Vreeland print from his “Monk with a Camera” series. His portraits and landscapes resonate with me because of their immediacy and directness. That, or a Hugo Wilson ceramic or bronze sculpture. I worked with him as an intern when I was at Central Saint Martins, and I’ve always admired his work: painting, sculpture, prints. I find his mixing of the past with today admirable. He always surprises me.
My next holiday destination will be Egypt, Egypt and Egypt. I went there as a child and have always wanted to return, but for a different kind of trip. Pyramids? Done that. Egyptian Museum? Done that. Khan El-Khalili Bazaar? Done that. What I haven’t done is float up the Nile from Aswan all the way to Alexandria – they say it takes 13 days. I’d visit the Aswan dam, then sleep in Agatha Christie’s room in the Old Cataract hotel. I’d stop in Luxor and stay at the Winter Palace hotel, with a direct view on the Valley of the Nobles – those tombs have fascinating frescoes of people’s daily lives.
The best souvenirs I’ve brought home were alici [anchovies] from Cetara, near Salerno. Totally unique and delicious – in my opinion, far better than the more famous alici from Cantábrico, in Spain.
A recent “find” is a great shop in Igls, in Tyrol, called Kunstwerkstall. They sell wonderful thick knitted socks, made in Austria by Huber. I use them as slippers in the house (we have cotto floor tiles, which are cold in winter). kunstwerkstall-igls.at
The last meal that truly impressed me was at a trattoria called I Rizzari in Brucoli, Sicily. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Catania airport and serves the best raw fish I’ve ever had, especially the carpaccio di gamberi rossi. It’s also in a charming village that seems to have been lifted from the set of an old western. Via Libertà 63, 96011 Brucoli, +390931-982 709
The site that inspires me is Paestum and its Greek ruins, south of Salerno, which is where I shot my spring/summer 2019 campaign. It’s the sense of history, the warmth of the stones in the sun and the feeling that it is strangely misplaced. You drive past abandoned buildings to get there, and suddenly you come to these extraordinarily well-preserved temples from Magna Graecia, overlooking the sea. It’s also close to Tenuta Vannulo, where they make the best mozzarella di bufala in the world. vannulo.it
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a Donald Brooks raffia dress I bought at Aloe & Wolf, my favourite vintage store in Siena. etsy.com/shop/aloeandwolfvintage
My favourite room in my house is my kitchen. It’s green: a good colour. I have Brazilian papier-mâché bananas hanging in front of the window, a Raja Ravi Varma print of a Maharashtrian woman holding a fruit tray and a huge painting of an ice cream. I feel that kitchens are the soul of a house, and mine is the source of a lot of my creativity.
My three carry-on essentials are my passport, the book of the moment –currently Judith Mackrell’s The Unfinished Palazzo – and my “Stuff” bag, made at the My Style Bags store in Florence. A search of it might turn up paintbrushes, coloured pencils, LGRWorld sunglasses, my Smythson G Spots diary, or double-sided Scotch tape. mystylebags.it
In my fridge you’ll always find… a lot! Oh dear, let’s see. Parmigiano aged 36 months at least, avocados, fresh sausage from Lo Scoglio, in Nerano, and large quantities of almonds because I can’t go without homemade almond milk. And white wine and prosecco. Don’t get me started on the freezer.
The best gift I’ve given recently was to my sister. It was during lockdown and all the stores were closed, but I find it too impersonal to buy gifts online. So I made a papier-mâché piñata, and had all her friends give me something small to put inside to make her smile.
And the best gift I’ve received was a bouquet of rocket from the chef at Lo Scoglio. He picks it from the fields near his garden – it is the spiciest and most delicious rocket I have ever eaten. hotelloscoglio.com
My favourite website is Artemest. I should declare an interest: I helped launch it nine years ago, and travelled all over Italy finding the best artisans to feature there – glassblowers, wood carvers, ceramicists and furniture designers. artemest.com
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Michelangelo. The master. Otherwise I would collect ancient Cycladic figures; they remind me of Giacometti.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Florence, my hometown, because the handmade tradition is still very much respected, as it should be. Loretta Caponi, for example, is one of my childhood favourites; I used to sit in her private sitting room and watch her work her magic with antique lace. Some of the patterns date back to the 16th century. And of course there is the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella – they still wrap every single bar of soap by hand. lorettacaponi.com, smnovella.com
An unforgettable place I have travelled to is Rajasthan, on a riding safari organised by George Scott. I left Italy just before the borders were closed in March 2020, and returned from India just as they closed their borders as well. Apart from those details, every day was magical. We rode through abandoned towns forgotten by time. We sat under banyan trees for our meals. We slept in beautiful tents and I learnt how to tie a turban. I can still close my eyes and the colours and smells come straight back to me. I’d like to be transported back right now. georgescottrides.com
An object I would never part with is my Smythson Soho diary. This is where I make my collages and watercolours, where I paste business cards and the flowers I pick on my walks.
The last music I downloaded was “The Very Thought of You” by the Mozambican-born South African musician Al Bowlly. I honestly do not remember the last time I bought even a song, which makes me think how difficult it must be for all the musicians in my life.
My style icons are strong, creative, curious, funny, artistic and different. Diana Vreeland, Billie Holiday, Georgia O’Keeffe, Peggy Guggenheim, Cecil Beaton, Carmen Miranda, Diaghilev, singer Miriam Makeba, Lourdes de Oliveira in Black Orpheus and French photographer Dora Maar all come to mind.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I’d be a travel journalist or an interior designer. Or a treasure hunter, or a butterfly catcher. I am attracted to beauty, to shapes and colours, to the tactile. I have a weakness for the joy found in the dilapidated. I adore chaos. It creates harmony, don’t you think?