If the dress fits…
The writer and editor on a brave new world of hot-desking, and the great wedding-dress debate
AS THE NATION anticipates the nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, I’m fielding endless questions about who will be designing the wedding dress. I’ve never been a betting woman, but if I were, I’d wager on Ralph & Russo for the bridal gown and Roland Mouret for the evening party; though my friend and colleague Avril Mair has just raised the possibility of Riccardo Tisci at Burberry as an outside chance, and there’s always the prospect of a beautiful goingaway outfit by Erdem. Yet much as I wish the royal couple all the happiness in the world, I must confess to being more preoccupied with the events of the following day, 20 May, when Harper’s Bazaar launches its first ever literary salon at The Ned hotel in London.
As the editor of the magazine, I’m always conscious of continuing its remarkable literary tradition – for ever since Bazaar was launched, 150 years ago, it has combined impeccable fashion credentials with publishing the greatest writers of the age: Thomas Hardy, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, Evelyn Waugh, Nancy Mitford and Truman Capote. Storytelling continues to be at the heart of Bazaar ,soitseemsa natural step to bring our writers and readers together: speakers include several of our favourite contributors, such as Ali Smith, Tessa Hadley and Jessie Burton, and there’ll be advice from publishers and agents about how to get your first book published. The conversations will be accompanied by champagne and other comestibles; I do hope that some of you will join us there.
THE MORNING AFTER our gathering will be equally momentous, as Harper’s Bazaar moves offices for the first time in many years, from Soho to Leicester Square. In our new premises, we will be ‘hot-desking’, a phrase that has always filled me with dread; henceforth our belongings must be ruthlessly pared back, in order to be stored in lockers the size of a shoebox.
This minimalist prospect is worrying me, given that I am currently blessed with an office of my own, filled with books, flowers, magazines, talismans and pictures, along with several pairs of shoes to change into for evening events that call for high heels. We have been instructed to declutter, in preparation for the modern era of ‘agile working’, but so far, my efforts are distinctly unimpressive. However, I shall endeavour to adapt to this brave new world, encouraged by the example of my bold predecessors at Bazaar during the late 1930s and the war years.
In those days, they occupied a Mayfair flat that had not yet been converted into offices; thus the staff had to perch in the kitchen, bedrooms and bathroom, while the drawing room overflowed. Apparently whenever the cramped conditions became too irksome, they would all decamp for meetings at The Ritz, which was to be Bazaar’s unofficial home from home. Throughout the terrifying months of the Blitz, these sterling women would undertake roles as air wardens by night, and then return to work in the morning, followed by restorative cocktails for lunch.
SPEAKING OF COCKTAILS, my enterprising husband has recently discovered the Sacred Spirits Company, close to our home in Highgate, which makes a delicious range of gins and a truly excellent negroni. As a Londoner born and bred, I’ve long believed that the great metropolis is made up of a series of congenial villages – and certainly, our local life has been greatly improved by this distillery. Memo to self: can I smuggle a bottle or two of Highgate gin into the new office, to make hot-desking go with a swing?
Justine Picardie is the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country. The Bazaar Literary Salon takes place on 20 May at The Ned, London EC2
They’d decamp for meetings at The Ritz, Bazaar’s home from home in the war