BAROQUE ROLL AND
With a voice that fills stadiums and a beauty that recalls another era, Florence Welch takes on a new role: the face of Gucci jewellery and watches. By Julia Llewellyn Smith.
Photographed by Simon Procter. “What is this—interview by PowerPoint?” Florence Welch exclaims as she gestures toward the large drop-down projector screen that dominates the tiny office where we are meeting, in the back of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. The room itself couldn’t be more of a contrast to the surrounding Aladdin’s Cave of spaces filled with jewellery, costumes, and decorative items from every continent and era, which the Florence and the Machine singer has spent the past half hour blissfully browsing. “I spent so much time here as a kid,” she says, sinking carefully into an office chair as if it were one of the priceless antiques on display. “My mum is a professor of Renaissance studies and a trustee, so I’d hear her lecture on things like a pair of gloves—why they were scented, why they meant so much to Florentines at the time. It’s funny, mum studies clothes and she’s very chic, but she doesn’t understand my wild passion for fashion at all. She’d rather write about stuff than buy it.” She pauses, then: “I wonder if I have a daughter if I’ll be like, ‘Look at this dress!’ And she’d be like, ‘No, Mum, not interested.’”
It’s a typical Welch monologue: free-form and unguarded. Her parents split when she was 13, with Welch and her younger brother and sister acquiring a total of four new stepsiblings. “There’s a lot of creativity on both sides. Both parents are amazing, interesting people,” she says.
Welch’s father is a former adman who now runs an eco-friendly campsite. “He used to manage my band and drive our camper van, but he’s not exactly authoritarian,” she says. Her mother is the worrier—insisting when Welch was moving out of the family home in South London a couple of years ago that her new place be only a five-minute cycle ride away. “My mum still wishes I’d gone to university; she’s very protective of me.” Welch says, adding, “The music industry frightens her.”
Welch herself is a study in contradictions. She is undeniably a free spirit, who is not above enjoying the rock ’n’ roll rambunctiousness of the road. (She once accidentally set her hotel room on fire.) But she makes no attempt to hide her upper-middle-class background, speaking in clear Queen’s English tones, her speech dotted with “please” and “thank you”. Then, there’s today’s ensemble: velvet J Brand flares and a burgundy Gucci scarf shirt, loafers, and belt contrasting with her make-up-free face, shaggy titian bangs, and vintage hippie-trail linen coat. “People tease me about this belt on Instagram, I wear it so much,” she says. “But you know when something holds everything together?”
Ring, Gucci Fine Jewellery