The Edit: Summer Reads

There’s nothing better when you’re on a sun lounger or sitting on a long haul flight than a book that just races through; a gripping read that you simply can’t put down. With the holiday season on the horizon, we’ve rounded up a few new titles that offer exactly that.

A novel entitled Suicide Club might not sound like a beach read, but Rachel Heng’s debut (Sceptre, 10th July) is cheerier than the title suggests. Lea is 100 years old – we meet her at her birthday party – but instead of nearing the end of her life, she’s only just beginning it. In a futuristic New York, immortality is within the grasp of the most privileged men and women, who live an entirely separate existence from the have-nots who age as humans have always done. But after a series of events turn Lea’s perfect existence upside down, and she finds herself learning more about the mysterious suicide club, she starts to question whether life is worth living without its corollary. Heng’s far-fetched premise is elevated by her imagination of Lea’s world, which perfectly sends up the clean eating and wellness industries of today.

The Death of Mrs Westaway (Harvill Secker, 28th June) is Ruth Ware’s fourth book and arguably her best yet. As the Agatha Christie-esque title suggests, this is an old-fashioned mystery, set in a creepy country house with an eccentric family and a malevolent housekeeper. Hal, a young woman with absolutely no safety net and no family to speak of, is initially baffled when she receives a letter telling her she has been named in her wealthy grandmother’s will. She knows a mistake has been made, but with debt collectors on her tail, she decides to put her skills as a tarot card reader to good use and pose as the bereaved granddaughter. But someone is determined to keep her away and keep some old secrets buried. Hal is an underdog you can’t help to root for, and The Death of Mrs Westaway is a deliciously-told tale that unfolds with a series of shocks and shivers.

If you prefer historical fiction to thrillers, Kat Gordon’s The Hunters (The Borough Press, out now) will keep you hooked. Dramatising the lives of the so-called ‘Happy Valley’ set of expats in pre-war colonial Kenya, Gordon’s book follows British teenager Theo as he falls headfirst into this seemingly glamorous world, and head over heels for the alluring heiress Sylvie and her magnetic partner Freddie. From the outset, Theo yearns to be part of their crowd – a group of bedhopping men and women for whom money is plentiful, morals irrelevant and consequences be damned – but when he reaches the inner circle he realises there is a poison within it. The Hunters opens with a gunshot; the question that will have you racing to the end is who the victim is, who killed her, and why.

Moving from Kenya to America’s deep south in the same era, Elizabeth Winthrop’s The Mercy Seat (Sceptre, out now) is a beautifully crafted, heart-rending story of racism and brutality, set over the course of just one day. Will Jones is on death row, to be executed that night over the rape of a white woman who has since killed herself. We know – although in the twisted justice system of 1940s Louisiana it makes no difference – that he is innocent, but Will can do nothing; nor can his father, determined against all odds to be there for the end of his son’s life. Winthrop introduces us to a sprawling cast of characters all linked by Will’s sentence; the priest, the prosecuting lawyer’s wife and son, the convict driving the electric chair to its destination, and weaves their stories together to show the ripple effect of tragedy.

Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers (Fleet, out now) is your tearjerker for summer; an ambitious novel that flits between 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris. In 1985, with homophobia rampant and no hope of any end to the crisis, Yale Tishman is watching too many of his friends die from AIDS, among them talented artist Nico. Thirty years later Nico’s sister Fiona is in France to find her daughter, who has fallen in with a cult. A brilliant character study that shines a light on a horrendous period, The Great Believers is beautiful and compelling all at once.

Lastly, Beck Dorey-Stein’s memoir From the Corner of the Oval Office (Bantam Press, 12th July) is an utterly fascinating insight into the Obama White House, provided by a young woman who essentially fell into a job there. As one of Obama’s typists – tasked with writing up his speeches, statements or interviews for the press – Dorey-Stein spent several years in the room where it happened. Travelling on Air Force One, spending Christmas with the First Family in Hawaii, pacing on the treadmill next to the president himself and meeting world leaders and dignitaries; she had a bird’s eye view on history. But this isn’t a political memoir, it’s first and foremost a personal one, and the likeable, candid Dorey-Stein takes us through the relationship dramas and friendships that coloured her time at the White House. From the Corner of the Oval Office is gossipy, relatable and gripping; the perfect book for summer.

Startup Star

How to single-handedly revolutionise the food industry? Clue: it doesn’t have to involve avocados or the latest vegan trend. When Pippa Murray decided to create her perfect post-run snack, she probably didn’t realise that her kitchen experiments would result in a brand new food category on supermarket shelves.

The best business concepts are always beautifully simple – it’s that lightbulb ‘why didn’t I think of that’ moment. Pip & Nut was born out of a love of peanut butter. Sounds simple, right? The perfect, protein-rich, healthy snack in theory – in practice, it’s often packed full of sugar, not to mention palm oil which is high in cholesterol, plus environmentally-unsound too. Murray decided to create her own blend of nut butter and the rest, well – keep reading and you’ll see!

Why did you launch your own business?

Interestingly I didn’t imagine myself having my own business growing up. I think in some ways I had a lot of the classic traits of an entrepreneur – I’m strong willed and pretty determined once I get an idea in my head. The concept for Pip & Nut came about pretty organically. I was a marathon runner and peanut butter fiend. Whilst on the hunt for products to fuel my training, I spotted a gap in the market for palm-oil-free natural nut butters with a focus on flavour and innovation. So I guess the idea actually came before the desire to start something!

Who helped you out?

The startup food and drink world is a really supportive industry and so many people have helped in one way or another on the journey to making Pip & Nut to what it is today. Friends and family have of course been a big support to me as I grew in fact my Dad loaned me £5,000 to buy my first blender to start making nut butters in my kitchen at home. Other than that I had more professional help from my long term mentor Giles Brook. Giles is a lead investor of Pip & Nut, and as CEO at Vita Coco EMEA amongst an array of other FMCG ventures, his insight and support has been immensely helpful.

Best business advice you’ve been given along the way – and by whom?

It’s actually a really simple one but I don’t think it should be underestimated. Do one thing well which is a mantra held by David Hieatt of Do Lectures. When you are starting out it’s tempting to get distracted and try and do too much at once which can lead to compromising on the overall quality of what you deliver. I think honing down and executing one thing brilliantly is the best foundation to start building a business from.

What problems have you faced along the way?

I think one of the earliest, but most significant challenges I have faced has been securing a factory to product the nut butters. Going back five years ago to before I found our factory partner I was just 25 and had no experience in the food industry. I was essentially approaching these factories with my vision alone and trying to persuade them to take a risk by producing my product. The process of finding the right partner took around eight months which was pretty gruelling. This is when I think my steely determination really came in to play as I don’t think I’d have got through this critical hurdle without it.

How do you feel about women in business today?

It’s fantastic to see so many initiatives encouraging women to start their own business and to rise up in existing ones. For me there have been moments when I have felt conscious of my position as a female founder. For example I felt it was hard to get taken seriously in the male dominated world of manufacturing. However, I feel that as the business has grown, my confidence has grown with it and I now feel able to hold my own in any situation. One thing which I think can hold women back is we naturally tend to play down our achievements instead of claiming the full credit they deserve. This has a number of negative consequences. The self- deprecation could mean a pitch doesn’t quite make the cut or the success of female founded businesses isn’t reflected in the press. By learning to celebrate our achievements women can both flourish in their own careers and inspire other women to do the same.

Favourite Startups?

One of my favourite startups is a glasses brand called Cubitts. They are beautifully made frames with stores all over London. Within the food and drink space one of my favourite brands out there is Ugly Drinks. They are really challenging the status quo when it comes to sugary drinks and introducing a refreshing unsweet sparkling water to UK stores…about time!

Women in business who truly inspire you?

In food and drink alone there are so many inspiring founders. One that stands out for me in Thomasina Miers, founder of Wahaca. With creativity and passion, she’s built a phenomenal Mexican empire: from restaurants to cookbooks to a supermarket range. The excitement she has created around Mexican flavours is truly inspirational.

Tell us about your work life balance?

Startup life, particularly right in the beginning is pretty consuming and it can be challenging to find a balance. I would regularly be working 12-14 hour days. However increasingly I really value the time to switch off , both for my own sanity and because it allows me to think clearly and be creative when I am working. I try and carve out quality time with friends and family and stick to it. I recently lost my phone on a flight which forced me to go ‘offline’ for a while – I actually found it strangely refreshing!

What do you do to relax/when you’re stressed?

Running is a fantastic way for me to clear my head and get my creative juices flowing. Although I’m not running as many marathons as I was pre-Pip & Nut , I still love it and try and get out as much as possible. Other than that food is obviously a huge passion of mine and there’s not much that beats sharing an incredible meal and discovering new restaurants with friends at the weekend.

What are you proudest of and why?

Some of the early moments will always stick out to me as milestones on the journey so far. After such a long road to find a factory, watching the first jar of almond butter roll off the production line felt like an amazing achievement. Winning our listing in Sainsbury’s was another enormous highlight as it really signified the business moving up a gear –I was so thrilled that the Sainsbury’s buyer bought in to my vision and were willing to take a risk on us. Last summer we moved office to a new and improved Nest. We went from a pokey space with no windows in Dalston to our airy new Nest in Shoreditch. We were like an excited bunch of kids running around the new place when we first moved!

Can you run in heels?

I can barely walk in them, let alone run!

For more information and to find stockists, see Pip & Nut’s website. You can also follow the brand @pipandnut.

A Long Weekend in Lisbon

Lisbon is a city of reinvention – no wonder both Madonna and newly-married Hollywood power couple Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander have moved here. It survived a devastating 18th century earthquake, a revolution and decades of dictatorship; today, Lisbon is packed full of museums, boutique hotels and bars, and is considered one of the best value city break destinations in Europe.

Lisbon-craving Londoners now have an extra incentive to visit, as TAP (Portugal’s national airline) has started offering direct flights from London City Airport. This means you can finish work in London, hop to the airport, have dinner on the plane and be in Lisbon for evening drinks and a relaxing long weekend ahead. Sounds good to us.

If you’d prefer to tackle two destinations for the price of one (we love a deal!), spend your first night or last in the seaside town of Cascais, where many Lisbon workers live. Check into the Cascais Mirage Hotel, watch the sun rise from your balcony and book a post-breakfast spa treatment to start your long weekend in style. Follow up with a Beetle tour of the area, where you’re driven around in a vintage Beetle car, taking in sights like Cabo da Roca: the most Westerly part of mainland Europe, or Sintra, a hilltop town where the rich have hung out for centuries.

In Lisbon, your hotel choices are equally chic: Alma Lusa, a restored 16th century building in the trendy Baixa/Chiado area, has quirky concierge offerings (a PT session? Yup) and individually designed rooms, including triples that are perfect for breaks with friends. If you’re travelling solo or as a couple, try the adults-only Memmo Alfama hotel, tucked on a side-street in Alfama district, with poolside views of the city and the Tagus river, and super-healthy breakfasts to fuel your sightseeing. You’re also in the right neighbourhood for the Feira da Ladra (Thieves’ Market), a flea market held every Tuesday and Saturday.

Catch one of Lisbon’s iconic elevators from ground level at Baixa towards the steeper Chiado districts and its shops, cafes and sights. The ruined Carmo Convent – left to show the effects of the 1755 earthquake – is just moments from high street stores and Portuguese boutiques, like the must-see A Vida Portuguesa, selling Portuguese-made homeware, cosmetics and food. Around the corner is A Brasileira, the café where literary types like Fernando Pessoa hung out. Grab a typical Portuguese espresso-style coffee, um bica, and raise your cup to him.

As Lisbon has mild to hot weather all year round, you might want to cool off on the water. Try a sunset river cruise, where you can sip wine as you pass underneath the 25 de Abril Bridge, which resembles San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, but also has a newly-opened museum tucked inside. The following day, wind your way back to Belem district, which will have caught your eye as you sailed past – you can either take a cycle tour or simply jump on the tram.

Make a beeline for the Jeronimos Monastery, a vast and elaborately carved 16th century building with an Game of Thrones feel, and a museum full of archaeological finds, including an Egyptian mummy. If you’re after a quicker culture fix, pop along the road to the home of Portugal’s famous pastéis de nata, custard tarts, at neighbouring Pasteis de Belem. This iconic Portuguese patisserie was invented by nuns with spare egg yolks (sorry, vegans) and time on their hands. Skip the long takeaway queues at the shop to enjoy your tarts inside, surrounded by azulejos: the blue and white tiles Portugal is also famous for.

Your next pit-stop is LX Factory: a hipster’s paradise of independent businesses and restaurants tucked inside old graffiti-covered warehouses. The street art is an attraction in itself, even if you’re not looking to buy any souvenirs here. On the way back to the city centre, stop at the shiny new MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) or the trendy TimeOut Food Market, depending on whether you’re craving exhibitions or even more food – who are we to judge?!

Back in town, take a street art walking tour (bookable through Memmo Alfama) and see why there’s so much affection for Lisbon’s older districts, Alfama and Mouraria, which haven’t been hit by gentrification. Quirky independent businesses and community projects lurk round every corner, from the car park that’s an exhibition space, to the world’s smallest bookshop, Livraria do Simão, which holds one customer at a time.

Head to the Bairro Alto neighbourhood for distinctive restaurants and cafes. Bairro do Avillez, one of several restaurants by highly respected chef Jose Avillez, has a pisco bar (for Peruvian pisco sours), a fish restaurant, Páteo (which also caters brilliantly to vegetarians), and a hidden burlesque bar, Beco. Here, food is brought to your table as you watch the show in a former chapel, with cosy booths and a giant mural of Dita von Teese.

End the night down the hill in Pensão do Amor, if you like your evenings full-on (this place is a former brothel, with the decor to match, plus a shop for, erm, ‘souvenirs’), or stay uphill for tiny pubs and bars where locals perform fado music as you sit back with a beer or a glass of ginja – Portuguese sour cherry brandy. The next morning, tick off your remaining sightseeing wish list or just wander the cobbled streets and soak up the atmosphere before your flight home – that’s if you can tear yourself away from this irresistible city.

TAP flies to Lisbon from London City Airport, Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester, from £42 one way.

Eating Along The Silk Road

‘The lamb chops are marinated for about 36 hours’, General Manager, Fabien Bazerque, explains nonchalantly as we get to grips with Osh’s adventurous menu, which specialises in Central Asian cuisine. Say Central Asia and your thoughts may snap to China. But those of you who stuck with geography beyond the rudimentary GCSE, (or are just less ignorant than me), will know that this is the land of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan where the food has a full-flavoured, more rugged personality.

Of course there are variations between the edible heritage of these countries (after all we’re talking about a slab of a continent here), but Osh (named after Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city) selects the best and then creatively reimagines the dishes for our intrepid tastes and beleaguered London palate. And it’s timely – given the boom in Persian cuisine, Osh is riding a wave that will take us further east (already led by the likes of restaurant Samarkand – who have just got some serious competition).

No, you will not be bored as you scoop up juicy aubergine tartare topped with crispy kale on top and a basil dressing, served with freshly baked, hand-rolled flatbreads, or wonder why you came when a bowl of fiery chillied tiger prawns, lightly battered and scattered with matchsticks of crispy sweet potato are set before you. With all the trade and interaction wrought by the Silk Road, this is food rich with spices and resonating in tradition – just taste the spiced Tashkent salad of seared beef sirloin and green Uzbek radish, rippled with creamy celeriac purée, or the succulent Shashlik kebabs charred by the fires of the Uzbek grill.

But Osh offers more than gorging your way through a gorgeous menu. Everything about the place is stimulating – be it the bespoke interiors: luxe leather chairs, diamond-cut chandeliers… even a deep, cushion-adorned divan (in the top-floor bar, er, not the restaurant): or the loud pulsating beats of the music. It’s a place that has all the drama of a nightclub without the sweat and the crowds; though watch this space – Osh only opened very recently and it’s a gem waiting to be discovered.

And to drink? What’s on offer is sure to make you weak at the knees and there’s a cocktail to chime with any o’clock be it a punchy and sour lime and lemongrass gimlet garnished with a peppery nasturtium leaf for an aperitif, or the cranberry and redcurrant Red Moon – a most complex and satisfying mocktail for that post-shopping pick me up. For wine, plump for the Grecian Kotsifali 2015 Lyrarakis – hailing from a vineyard on the sheer cliffs of Crete which is buffeted by the sea breeze, this wild red full of minerality stands up to, yet complements everything going on in the food.

Worth dressing up for, Osh is the place where memorable nights will roll out as you sip some of the best cocktails in town and tuck into the food of Central Asia. It’s swish, special and feels like a private members club without the ponce or the prices. A definite must go – see you at the bar.

Dinner for two plus drinks and you’re looking at anything between £65 to £150 (including service) depending on what you go for. Cocktails range from £12 to £16 — a London standard price-wise and anything but ordinary. Dress code is smart and sexy but without the stipulations of hotel chic – no jacket/tie required. For more information and to book, see Osh’s website.

Startup Star

Desert Island Dishes is one of those ideas that you wish that you’d thought of. So simple, and yet so smart. And Margie Broadhead – the brains (and voice) behind the podcast – is one super smart cookie too, so it’s very little surprise that Desert Island Dishes is going from strength to strength. An Oxbridge grad with law training, she’s also cooked in some of London’s best restaurants – before going solo and setting up her own catering company. The podcast is her latest venture – with guests including chefs such as Mark Hix and Nadine Levy Redzepi, as well as journalists (Rosie Birkett, Pip McCormac) and numerous names you’ll know – Tess Ward, a Hemsley, plus various GBB and Masterchef champs.

Why did you launch your own business?

I had always wanted to work for myself and loved the idea of having my own business. Originally, I went down the traditional route and studied at Oxford and went on to do a Masters in Law, as it seemed like the natural next step. But really didn’t enjoy it, and I had a nagging feeling that there must be more to life. So I packed my things up and headed to Scotland for a break to clear my head and I had a bit of an epiphany – I realised that cooking was my true passion and that I would be much happier doing that, the thing I loved, as a job!

So I started again. I went and trained at Ballymaloe in Ireland and then in various restaurants in London before launching my own catering company, Made By Margie. My blog quickly followed and due to the popularity of that, I launched my podcast, Desert Island Dishes. It’s all been very organic and I love that my job is so multi-faceted now. I look back and realise I would have made a terrible lawyer, so I guess everything happens for a reason!

Who helped you out?

So many people! I definitely wouldn’t have been brave enough to walk away from a career in law if my family weren’t so incredibly encouraging and supportive. When I started cooking, all my parent’s friends and all my friends’ parents hired me as a chef for their parties which was a huge help when I was starting out. I’ve met amazing people along the way who have helped and inspired me, and I feel like I’m always learning new things which is great!

Best business advice you’ve been given along the way – and by whom?

I absolutely love an inspirational quote and my insta (@madebymargie) is full of them. I think the best business advice would be ‘done is better than perfect’. Obviously you always want to be proud of your work but at the same time striving for perfection can mean you’re too overwhelmed to even start. So just start somewhere and you can always work on improving it.

What problems have you faced along the way?

Running your own business isn’t easy and there are many ups and downs. It’s a bit like a rollercoaster but you just have to learn to go with the flow, keep working hard and not give up. I think it’s really easy to get demoralised if you start comparing your progress to other people, but you have to remember nothing is as it seems and everyone has to start somewhere.

How do you feel about women in business today?

I’m a huge believer in Shine Theory – the idea that women can lift each other up and that one woman’s success does not limit your own. We must celebrate each other’s successes and it’s so inspiring to see how many women are thriving in business today. It definitely feels like this is just the beginning and that’s a very exciting feeling.

Favourite startups?

Through interviewing guests on the Desert Island Dishes podcast I’ve met some truly inspiring people doing some absolutely incredible things. Rubies in the Rubble is a company that I’m just in awe of. They take surplus food that would otherwise go to waste and turn it into delicious relishes, sauces and chutneys that they sell in shops all over the country. It’s such a genius business idea and tackles such an important issue.

Women in business who truly inspire you?

There are so many. I interviewed Lily Simpson, the founder of the Detox Kitchen on Desert Island Dishes and she’s just amazing. She’s built an incredible business whilst also juggling being a mum and she’s constantly coming up with new ideas and ventures and she just gets things done. I also think Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg is hugely inspiring – if you haven’t listened to her episode of Desert Island Discs, you must, although it had me in floods of tears. My sister has her own company (Willa and the Bear) and I’m always inspired by what she has achieved.

Tell us about your work life balance?

Working for yourself can be hard because it’s very tempting to work all evening and not to take time off. I love what I do, so it’s difficult to switch off but learning the value of separating work and life is really important. You can’t produce your best work when you’re tired so it’s important to regroup when you can. I’m getting married in April which is really exciting and I’m really enjoying organising all the elements that go into a wedding – although it does feel like a full time job in itself!

What do you do to relax?

I have a sausage dog so I love breaking my day up with walks in the park with him, when I put my phone on silent and just enjoy the fresh air. I’m a big believer that a problem shared is a problem halved so I never bottle things up, although I’m sure my mum and my fiancé would rather I did sometimes! I also love a relaxing bath with a good book.

What are you proudest of and why?

I find it hard to celebrate the little successes as they come as it’s so easy to already be looking ahead to the next thing. But I’m so excited about the podcast and it’s just incredible how many people are listening each week. It’s quite overwhelming just how many people take the time to download something you’ve created and then listen to you chatting away. That’s the amazing thing about podcasts, they are such an intimate thing; people choose to download your show and then they listen to you as they go about their day. Desert Island Dishes is a passion project that’s taken on a life of it’s own and that’s very exciting.

Can you run in heels?

I am terrible at walking in heels so I can only imagine what I would be like running! I always try to channel my inner SJP but it never quite works. Maybe I should add it to the list of goals for 2018!

You can check out Margie’s podcast at or follow her on Insta @madebymargie.

Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life

Half a dozen critically-acclaimed books spanning fiction, non-fiction and autobiography. Stints at titles including the Observer, the Telegraph and Vogue. Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country. A Lifetime Achievement Award from British luxury nonprofit, Walpole. Justine Picardie is becoming almost as iconic as the subject of her latest book, Coco Chanel.

The latest? Picardie’s definitive opus on Chanel’s life was first published in 2010, but ever the journalist, the updated version offers an even franker, more intimate view of the French designer. Whether you’ve read Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life V.1, seen the film, or neither, you may be aware that Chanel’s life was an incredible web of half-truths, myths and fables conjured up by none other than Coco herself. Like examining a beautifully-constructed garment, cleverly-sewn to conceal faults and cover up flaws, Picardie unpicks Coco’s stories one by one.

“Sleek. Chic. Notoriously guarded. Welcome to the secret world of Gabrielle Chanel,” – the book’s opener hints at Chanel’s enigmatic existence. Almost 350 pages long, Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life is both a read to dip in and out of, or a solid bedside table choice. Packed with family photos, fashion drawings, magazine spreads and letters, it’s a fascinating account of Chanel – the woman and the brand – to keep you enthralled and guessing until the end. And best of all – still wondering just a little more.. We asked Justine Picardie to reveal her own secrets…

Why did you decide to revisit Chanel?

I’ve continued to be fascinated by Coco Chanel, even after the first edition of my biography was published — and new pieces of the puzzle about her life were emerging, particularly when I started looking in the Harper’s Bazaar archive. It felt important to ensure that my book was as complete and definitive as is possible.

Do you think someone like Chanel could exist today?

Definitely — creativity and ambition remains as powerful today as in Chanel’s era. But perhaps a present-day Chanel would be working as an artist, given the ways in which art and fashion have to inhabit a shared landscape in this epoch.

What has made Chanel so iconic?

She never tried to look like anyone else — her expression of personal style was an authentic mirroring of herself, so she introduced a different idea of femininity. At a time when women were still wearing corsets and elaborate hats and floor-length gowns, she introduced trousers and soft tailoring for women, which bestowed upon them a sartorial dignity which had hitherto only been available to men. She was the definitive embodiment of her own brand — in other words, she was entirely true to herself.

Chanel: the consummate entrepreneur?

She was definitely entrepreneurial, but at certain key moments, she also needed the financial investment provided by men — after all, it was the love of her life, Boy Capel, who gave her the money to set up her business in 1910. But she was swift to pay him back, and financial independence was key to her sense of herself as an independent woman.

Chanel: the feminist?

She certainly sought to define herself as her own woman — and to escape the control of men — but she was also conflicted at times, and suffered periods of intense loneliness and grief, when she said that she wished she had married and had a family.

Tell us about 31, Rue Cambon

It’s a magical place — one of those rare spaces where the veil between the living and the dead, the past and the present, seems to become translucent. I wrote some of my book sitting at Chanel’s own desk in her private apartment on Rue Cambon — which was incredibly inspiring. The marks of her pen are still visible on the leather surface of the desk — and late at night, when everyone else had left the building, I occasionally felt as if I might catch a glimpse of her reflection, if I only turned around fast enough, in one of the silvery smoked-glass mirrors that hang on the walls of her apartment.

Do you think Chanel would have been quite so iconic without her comeback?

I think it took her comeback in the early 50s to introduce her to a post-war generation of women — and for her designs of soft tweed jackets and perfect little black dresses to become relevant and desirable all over again.

Do you feel like you ever really got to the bottom of the mysteries of Chanel?

I’ll never stop being intrigued by her mysteries — and that is what makes her so alluring, even now.

Published by Harper Collins, Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life is available to buy online here.

Startup Star

Netflix for jewellery? It’s here, and you’re going to love it. Jewellery is so personal, isn’t it – so the idea of refreshing your jewellery collection once a month might sound like something that goes against all your best instincts. But that’s because you haven’t tried Glitzbox. Imagine having a personal stylist who picks out a collection of unique pieces just for you, meaning that you can try out some new styles that you might not have considered, not to mention discovering exciting new independent jewellery designers… At the end of the month? Return the pieces you don’t want, keep the ones you do – with a discount on any purchases.

Launched in April this year, Glitzbox has won numerous awards, garnered fans amongst press, bloggers and the public, hosted pop-up stores and events, and generally disrupted the marketplace. Founder Tamsin Ivy is inspiration personified. Always on, always smiling and always charming, she’s someone eats, sleeps and breathes her brand – her baby. There’s no doubting Ivy’s genuine passion for not only her company, but also jewellery and sustainability. We’re delighted to speak to her about Glitzbox, women in business and the challenges of running a startup – read on for instant #inspo…

Why did you launch your own business?

I firstly had the idea through working with independent designers at my previous job. I saw a gap in the market to help promote them and make the jewellery discovery experience more exciting. The idea sat at the back of my mind until I didn’t get a promotion at work and felt my career wasn’t progressing or challenging me as much as I wanted. I decided there was no better time than the present to give it a go. I have no mortgage or children so didn’t feel there was a huge amount of risk especially as I decided to continue freelancing to pay my rent and bills. I felt really passionately about the concept behind Glitzbox and knew I’d be gutted if someone else ended up inevitably starting something similar because I was too scared to try!

Who helped you out?

I’m a solo founder, but I’ve also had amazing support from ex-colleagues, friends of friends in the industry, and companies I used to work for. Most of all my family have been invaluable too! I’ve also been lucky enough to take part in a couple of incubator programmes, like the Huckletree Alpha Programme which has really helped. Being surrounded by other startups and speaking to so many people with different experience has been amazing.

Best business advice you’ve been given along the way?

My boyfriend is in sales and has a fountain of one-liners for whenever I’m having a crappy day or feel like I should give up. One of my favourites is from Steve Jobs: “People say you have a lot of passion for what you’re doing, and it’s totally true and the reason is because it’s so hard that if you don’t, any rational person would give up”. I try to remember that most of the statistics on businesses failing are because people give up so part of making something a success is just keeping going and not giving up when any “rational” person would.

What problems have you faced along the way?

I don’t think we have time to discuss them all! I’ve felt like I’ve been taking a PhD in running a business, but with no one to let me know if I’m doing things right or not! So many elements are trial and error and it’s hard not having a bigger team around me – I’m well aware of where my knowledge or skill gaps are and it’s frustrating when things take so much longer than necessary. Saying that, it’s been great to learn so much over such a short time. It’s also amazing how many other people and businesses are in the same boat. Some brands look huge from the outside, but are often made up of a relatively-small team making it up as they go along!

How do you feel about women in business today?

I think there is still a long way to go until powerful, successful women are seen in the same way as men. There are still lots of stigmas and stereotypes which I think need to be crushed, but it’s an amazing time to be a woman starting out in business today. There are so many organizations supporting and pioneering women. Safe spaces and communities like Blooming Founders or Natwest Women In Business that are making steps towards making it a more even playing field. It’s exciting to be part of that moving forward and meeting so many amazing inspiring females in business makes me feel so empowered.

Favourite startups?

I have so many! To name just a few, The Workbench – jeweller best friends Katie and Kirstie co-founded their business running ring carving workshops and they are amazing. Such lovely people to be around and every single workshop they bring amazing energy and knowledge, ensuring every attendee feel special and come out with a one-of-a-kind ring. They recently also launched their Workbench Box so you can enjoy some ring carving from home!

HANX – Sarah and Farrah are the co-founders of HANX, the first male condom designed with women in mind, and I’m so so impressed with their concept and execution. They are more than just a condom brand (premium, discreet packaging and sold in places intuitive to women) but also creating a movement encouraging women to take care of their sexual health without shame or embarrassment. I’m so proud of what these startups are achieving and that they are founded by young female entrepreneurs is super inspiring.

Women in business who truly inspire you?

I’m obsessed with podcasts at the moment like How I Built This and a few of the stories I have been most inspired by are Jenn Hyman (Rent The Runway), Katia Beauchamp (Birchbox), Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg (love her book Lean In), Sharmadean Read (WAH Nails/Future GirlCorp) and Carmen Busquets (Net-a-Porter). I could go on and on! Once you start researching there are so many inspiring women to learn from.

Tell us about your work life balance?

I’ve been absolutely terrible in finding a balance in my first year of running Glitzbox. Initially I worked from home – when I joined a co-working space, it helped making me get dressed and go somewhere outside of my flat! This meant I created a little structure initially, but after a while I just ended up staying there late most evenings and working again once I got home. I’ve missed so many social events and birthdays I feel guilty just thinking about it. I’ve thrown myself into every aspect of the business often going to networking events, pitches or pop-up events in evenings rather than seeing friends.

I also still work freelance three days a week, which means I have very little down time. I’ve been very aware in the last few weeks how off the balance is and that it’s not an efficient use of my energy to not take a proper break. My resolution for 2018 is to really nail down a working schedule and force myself to disconnect from everything regularly.

What do you do to relax/when you’re stressed?

Speak to people. I spend a lot of time working alone and over-thinking things in my own head. So if I’m really feeling overwhelmed I try and chat things through with friends or family. People often bring in other perspectives or thoughts that make me feel calmer. I also write lots of to-do lists, breaking each task down into tiny bits and prioritising really clearly.

What are you proudest of and why?

I’m proud to have won the Virgin Startup Voom Pitching Competition in Winchester. I had never pitched before starting Glitzbox, so I forced myself to sign up to as many pitches as possible in order to practice. It was just amazing and unexpected to be acknowledged in that way by a panel of expert judges. It’s easy to feel disheartened when not everything is going exactly to plan and as supportive friends and family can be they obviously tell you what you want to hear.

Can you run in heels?

I can’t run full stop! But as I always seem to be late these days, I have perfected the “power walk” – best not in heels though!

For more information on Glitzbox, check out their site, or follow @Glitzbox.

Let It Sloe!

It’s been quite the year for gin. Craft distilleries have been popping up in neighbourhoods across the country, making small batches to secret family recipes with quirky names and beautiful packaging. Well-established brands have been breaking out from decades of tradition with interesting new flavours, and all manner of gourmet tonic water now lines the supermarket shelves. It would appears that Mother’s Ruin has become Millennials’ sup du jour.

One particularly delicious case in point is Greenall’s Sloe Gin – a new release from Britain’s ‘first and original London Dry Gin’ – Greenall’s. It’s made using their award-winning London Dry Gin (a recipe so closely guarded, only seven Master Distillers have been au fait to its ingredients in 250 years). This ruby-coloured number is hand-mixed with plump sloe berries and other natural botanicals and ingredients, including almond, cassia bark, liquorice root, coriander seeds and angelica, and left to macerate for eight weeks.

Twist off the cap and you’re hit with the sweet scent of marzipan. A sip reveals brambly sloe berries and cherry, a hint of citrus, and a wonderfully seasonal warmth. A double measure poured over ice is nothing short of delicious. So, quite why sloe gin is considered an ‘old people’s drink’, conjuring up images of Christmas Day with the grandfolks, I’m not too sure. Perhaps we associate it with Christmas because it’s when those homemade batches, created the year before, are finally ready to pull from the back of the cupboard and cracked open. For the last couple of years, I’ve made my own. More for the enjoyment of going out and plucking the berries from spiky hedgerows than anything, and the joy of transforming a plain Jane dry gin into a fruity little people pleaser. I recommend you do the same in prep for next year, for posterity’s sake.

That said, Greenall’s Sloe Gin is so good, perhaps don’t bother… It’s quite a versatile liqueur, as I discovered during a recent tasting event, working well in short and long cocktails. The hot toddy was a highlight; one I’ll be whipping up in a flask for a Boxing Day walk. There’s also a fizz to get the party started; another with thyme, that coincidentally takes seconds to make; and a practically medicinal one with honey and lemon you can use your favourite gin for. And because tee-totallers deserve more than a glass of squash when they come round, there are a couple with twists to make them alcohol-free. Chin-chin to a jolly good winter!

Sloe Thymes


50ml Greenall’s Sloe Gin
150ml cloudy lemonade (or lemon tonic)
Sprig thyme       Lemon slice

Fill a tall glass with ice, pour in Greenhall’s sloe gin. Slowly pour in the cloudy lemonade or lemon tonic. Garnish with the thyme and lemon slice. Teetotal twist: skip the gin, up the lemonade, and muddle the thyme with the ice to release more flavour.

1761 Royale


25ml Greenall’s Sloe Gin
50ml Prosecco           Sprig of rosemary          Blackberry to garnish

Pour the sparkling wine in a coupe glass. Lightly bruise the rosemary then drop into the glass. Slowly pour the gin so it sinks to the bottom. Pop in the blackberry et voila!

Emperor’s New Cloves


50ml of gin (I particularly like Monkey 47 or Gin Mare for this)
Four medium-sized orange wedges
Two tsp golden caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon           Tonic water           Two cloves

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together on a plate. Rub one of the orange wedges around the edge of a tumbler. Rub the edge of the glass into the cinnamon sugar mix so it has an even coat. Put three of the wedges into the glass and muddle. Mix through a few ice cubes. Stud the rind of the remaining orange wedge with the cloves and add to the glass. Add a pinch of the cinnamon sugar and stir through. Pour over the gin. You can add a splash of tonic water to make it a longer drink. Mezcal or Bourbon are very good substitutes for the gin if you fancy something different.

Honey, I Drank the Gin


25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp of honey          1 x egg white          50ml gin
Small sprig of lemon thyme
Lemon thyme leaves to garnish
Nutmeg (optional extra)

Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the egg white and give it a few shakes. Remove the lid, add the lemon juice, honey, thyme and gin. Shake until the outside of the shaker starts getting icy (about 30 seconds). Pour into a martini or coupe glass. Garnish with the thyme leaves and any other edible flora you might have to hand. For a dash of spice, grate over some nutmeg.

Take it Sloe Toddy


50ml Greenall’s Sloe Gin          100ml cloudy apple juice
50ml orange juice          Cinnamon stick
Orange slice to garnish          2 cloves

Pour sloe gin into a mug or glass. Warm the juices gently in a pan with the cinnamon and cloves for 5-6 minutes until infused. Pour the liquid into the mug/glass with the gin. Garnish with the orange slice and cinnamon stick. Teetotal twist: skip the gin. Add to the warming liquid, 50 ml of cherry or pomegranate juice and almond essence to taste.

All recipes are for one, so you can easily multiple your ingredients for additional people.

Life & Work

“One of the most influential make-up artists of her time”. A quote from Vogue Paris – and one which is like to continue to follow Ellis Faas around for some time yet. From London and Paris to Amsterdam, the Dutch make-up artist – and founder of eponymous beauty brand – is what you might call a living legend. Name-dropping – from Inez van Lamsweerde and Mario Testino, to Fendi, Chanel, Armani and any other fashion label you’d care to name, Faas has worked with them. The logical next step? Founding her own beauty brand back in 2009.

ELLIS FAAS beauty products are “only tested on supermodels,” and inspired by a natural colour palette: “the colours that exist naturally in our bodies are complex and rich, but they’re also universal, shared by each and every one of us.” The result? Beautifully wearable, flattering colours designed to complement all skin tones – making you the very best version of you, whatever your age, ethnicity or style. The brand’s Make Up Not War campaign regularly raises both money and awareness for War Child: “We can’t just look into the mirror and hide behind our make up,” explains Faas. A living legend, a modern heroine – here’s what makes Ellis Faas tick.

Motivation for me is all about…

The need to build or create something. Whether it is making a new product, taking a picture, doing make up, building a house, planting a garden; the urge to make something is the motivation.

Success means…

Being able to do what you love every day.

I couldn’t have got there without…

The trust and support from my parents when I was young. And my brother and business partner Thijs; we fill each other’s gaps.

I always start my day with…

Lemon water and yin yoga.

When I don’t feel inspired I…

I try to turn off my mind and let my hands do the work. Sometimes it works wonders, sometimes it is rubbish. In all parts of life I guess it is the best way to just start doing things without worrying too much about inspiration or the outcome.

The landscape for women in business today looks like…

I have no idea – my business is my business and I can not compare. I never think twice about the fact that I am a woman. I don’t think it should make a difference, and I guess that if I start segregating myself as a woman, so will other people.

The trait I most deplore in others is…

Not taking responsibility for one’s own actions or for the situation. Blaming others without thinking about one’s own behaviour.

I’d like to be remembered for…

Being unconventional and being humane.

What makes me happiest is…

To see my loved ones laughing.

Can I run in heels?

I guess so…. I never run. Walking is fine though!

For more information on ELLIS FAAS, see the brand’s website. You can also follow ELLIS FAAS on Instagram, or see the latest news on Facebook or Twitter.

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Switzerland: The Insider’s Guide

Finding role models in life can be tricky – in my experience, people just don’t live up to the hype. But Anton Mosimann is truly the real deal. From humble beginnings, grit, talent and hard-graft have seen him earn two Michelin stars, receive an OBE for his contribution to British food and inspire a whole generation of chefs. There’s also little he doesn’t know about the wonders of his home country.

‘Driving through Switzerland is just so special in so many ways’, Mosimann tells me. ‘It’s so versatile. You’ve got routes across mountain ranges and through valleys, roads along expansive mirror-like lakes. It’s a country of four different languages and cultures. A country of hospitality and quality, rustic food’. The renowned chef has also completed many rallies including the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge – which stretches over 8,500 miles.

We start the Grand Tour in the medieval town of Neuchatel, at the elegant Beau Rivage Hotel which sits right on the lake. It’s the ideal base from which to head into the Val-de-Travers valley and visit Fleurier (famous for Swiss watchmaking), Rousseau’s home in Motiers and also Couvet, where the bright green Post-Impressionist fuel – absinthe – was first distilled.

It’s the food from this region too that gets Anton animated: ‘big fillets of perch fresh from the lake’, ‘traditional boulangeries’, ‘local sausages’ and rich, Vacherin Mont d’Or – ‘a very well-respected cheese’. You’ll find a bounty of such local food at Hotel Baren in Twann; at 15, Anton did an apprenticeship here, and ironically it’s where his famously calm style was forged in the heat of the kitchen. ‘My head chef was a real gentleman but his number two was shouting and screaming all the time. I learnt how to do it and how not to do it and was lucky to experience both of them at a very young age’.

We follow the Grand Tour to Gruyere: a picture-perfect town complete with castle on the hill, but not before making a pitstop at Broc, home to the chocolate factory, Maison Cailler. The Swiss invented milk chocolate and Cailler was the first to use condensed milk rather than milk powder for a creamier texture. The quirky museum outlines the history and you can make chocolate bars too with Head Chocolatier, Geraldine Maras, (a world champion and one of Mosimann’s proteges).

Boot loaded with cheese and chocolate, we drive onwards to the Gstaad Palace. Famously popular with celebrities, the five-star hotel sits way above the treetops, with magical views from each romantic balcony. Mosimann worked here as a Commis Pastry Chef, despite having earned the coveted Chef de Cuisine Diploma which qualifies you to run a whole kitchen. ‘People thought I was mad’, he admits. ‘But most head chefs have a weakness and that’s the pastry. I wanted to be fully qualified in each section’.

The epic route snakes north towards Bern, taking in Interlaken, a town between two lakes and presided over by three mighty mountains. It’s a destination for hang gliding where the uninitiated (like me!) can do this in tandem, or simply watch from the terrace of the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel. Mosimann’s wife, Kathryn, was once Head Housekeeper here and he’d drive over to see her in his ‘69 VW Beetle. ‘I’d throw stones at her window, then climb up on a ladder’. ‘Just for a kiss!, laughs Kathryn.

‘I love Bern by the way, so much tradition and history’, says Mosimann as we arrive and settle in for lunch at his choice of restaurant, Schwellenmatteli, by the turquoise Aare river. Switzerland’s capital city is famous for hearty food such as the Berner Platte (pork belly, beef tongue, saukerkraut and potato), and Mandelbarli, almond cakes made in the shape of the city’s emblem, the bear. It’s also known for being laid back; ‘The Swiss have watches but we have time’, the Bernese like to say, and Anton recommends the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town for a wander ‘whatever the weather’, thanks to the covered promenades.

It’s up in the nearby hills of the Emmental region though, where Mosimann once had a home, that your mind settles into a lake-like stillness. ‘It’s wonderful. So calming. So relaxing’, Anton promises, and advises us, ‘don’t drive too fast’, so we take it all in. Even the famous show dairy has a quaint village character, and as we explore the grounds, we’re accompanied by the soothing sound of alp horns, playing in the courtyard. Hotel Ludernalp is the best place to stay in Anton’s book. He’s celebrated many family occasions here and it’s stripped-back style makes you feel even more connected to the panoramic landscape. In the evening, all you hear is the distant chiming of cowbells.

‘In life you go from one extreme to the other very often’ and true to Anton’s words, we leave this hush for the hair-pin bends and rocky heights of the Grimselpass. Breathtaking is an overused word, but I mean it literally – even if you don’t have vertigo, you’ll be holding the steering wheel tight. Everywhere you look mountains rise up to the sky, and at the heart of it all sits the historic Grimsel Hospiz, where we fortify ourselves for the journey down. Mosimann orders Flammekueche, Alsace’s answer to pizza – thin and crisp.

Roads lead south through Leukerbad, where we rejoin the Grand Tour at Sion and drive alongside the sun-kissed, vineyards of the Valais, a region known for wine and Walliser Trockenfleisch, tasty air-dried beef. Switzerland only exports around 2% of its wine – it’s said the Swiss keep it for themselves! – so it’s worth stopping for a glass of cold Fendant and hot fondue, which Anton eats ‘cuisine naturelle’ style with blanched broccoli and mushrooms, rather than bread. Eventually, you’ll come to the shores of Lake Geneva in Bouveret, home to the Cesar Ritz Colleges and The Mosimann Collection.

‘It’s unusual to have a museum dedicated to you while you’re still alive’, Anton jokes, but visiting is strangely moving. It’s the result of a lifetime of work, showcasing menus for the royal family and politicians past, 270 black and white photographs of Mosimann with greats such as Mohammed Ali, even a collection of Swiss art. ‘Ooh la la!’ Anton’s eyes sparkle when I ask him what his highlight is and, modestly, doesn’t pick anything attributed to him. ‘There are some very old books, from the 1400s, 1500s’, he muses. ‘Even a cookbook that belonged to the Pope’s chef from 1570 – things you just don’t see anymore’.

But it’s Montreux where we end our journey, which Mosimann describes as ‘one of the nicest places in the whole world’. Home to the Chateau de Chillon, ‘the floating palace’ that’s inspired Delacroix to Byron, and a vibrant jazz festival each July, it’s the lasting vistas of the vineyards, snow mountains and (amazingly) palm trees that make it unique. Mosimann sums it up simply: ‘Every night the sunset’s different, and seeing that makes you feel good’.

They’ll be no sunset on Mosimann’s career as he continues to tirelessly inspire. And his legacy is more lasting, not only because of the extent of his achievements but also the style in which he’s made them: without bolsh, without swagger, or even a raised voice. I see him in all the landscapes we passed through – his calm exterior belies a monumental love and commitment to his art, like a placid lake against a tremendous mountain-ridged sky. Mosimann may well have shown us a way through Switzerland, but it’s also a fine way through life.

THE GRAND TOUR OF SWITZERLAND links Switzerland’s cultural and scenic highlights over a distance of more than 1,600 kilometres. The route leads over 5 Alpine passes, along 22 lakes and to 12 UNESCO World Heritage properties. The international access points are Basel, Geneva and Lugano; within Switzerland, motorists can begin the tour at any chosen point.