February Essentials

Written by Daen Palma Huse

Photography and Production DPH


The obvious thing to do in January and February, when the new year has begun but the weather is cold and all shiny Christmas decorations are gone, is to curl up at home after work and shut out the cold weather. In light of this I have collected five suggestions that will make this time more enjoyable; savouring time spent away from computer screens. Most of these things will not break the bank (let’s be fair, we all like to save up for summer holidays) and are sure to delight all the senses.


Kaweco, Daen Palma Huse, DPH Creative Production

Kaweko Fountain Pens

My two constant and loyal companions are this silver aluminium Kaweco AL Sport and dark red Kaweco Sport fountain pens. We all started learning how to write in school with fountain pens – some memories might have been stained by the blue ink on our fingers – and later we exchanged our fountain pen for a seemingly so practical ballpoint. Cheaply produced, the ball pen serves the purpose of scribbling shopping lists, a “back soon” note on a post-it, or a postcard on a beach holiday.

However, a couple of years back I was looking for a writing instrument worthy of daily usage that would not only look nice, but also feel comfortable when writing. I found Kaweko with its wide range of traditionally produced fountain pens from Germany, a company that started out in 1883, and its equally wide range of nibs. The nibs are particularly important, made of different materials and in different shapes to accommodate different writing styles and different people’s needs. Both the aluminium Kaweco AL Sport (at about £50) and Kaweco Sport (around £20) are very light and small when closed –heavier fountain pens made of brass are available as well for example – all little quality instruments that do what they are supposed to do and that have earned a lot of compliments during work meetings and press events.

It is a fact that we write less by hand and I think we should celebrate the art of writing by hand with a beautiful and practical fountain pen.

I carry my Kaweco’s side by side with my notepad, or the thread bound sketchbook by the Swedish company SOT made of paper produced in Småland by a mill that has produced paper since 1693, shown in the picture above. The sketchbook actually has fingerprints inside which give it an artistic look and immediately make me want to fill the pages with my own scribbles and sketches.


Mount Gay, Daen Palma Huse, DPH Creative Production

Mount Gay XO

When I first learned about Mount Gay Rum several years ago I mostly knew rum as the alcoholic liquid that I would soften raisins in for Christmas baking or to refine my Glögg – the Scandinavian mulled wine my Danish friends brew every year. An obvious sin to limit rum to the former, nonetheless very tasty, element of baking: when I met brand ambassador Miguel Smith in person and had the first sip of a rum cocktail that contained Mount Gay rum I was convinced in a short period of time. Master Blender Allen Smith has worked for Mount Gay and its distillery in Barbados for a very long time, refining the rum to exquisite blends. At about £35 the XO is a perfectly rounded rum. It is very smooth, naturally sweet, full of molasses and toffee, some oak aromas that stem from the bourbon barrel this is aged in. The balance between sweet and dry makes this XO the perfect addition to a cocktail, yet it can also be enjoyed much like a glass of scotch on its own.

Besides the XO Mount Gay offers the Black Barrel and other blends, with the 1703 – named after the year that Mount Gay started distilling – being my absolute favourite rum to be enjoyed just on its own.


Phaidon, Daen Palma Huse, DPH Creative Production

Black – Architecture in Monochrome

Speaking to our sense of touch as well as giving wonderful visual impulses, Phaidon books are always a pleasure to take a look at. Whether a flip through the pages, looking at images, or an in-depth read of one of the Phaidon editor’s contributions to their unique publications, books are – and should be – an integral part of all our living spaces. I find that books give a house or flat a soul, just as its inhabitants. Books speak, they hold knowledge and they have lives, being passed from one reader to another, in the family or between friends, or even just lying on the table and catching the eye of a house guest.

Black is sky so stars can shine
Tiger’s stripes and butterflies
Black is brushed on sparrow’s wings
Black is many things.

Black is writing on a page
Berries sweet and clouds that rain
Black is crying when you sing
Black is anything.
— Lena Horne, Actress and Singer 1917-2000, “Black Is”

I chose Black – Architecture in Monochrome as part of this collection of February essentials because it is more than a book about houses – it is about architectural masterpieces by some of the most ingenious architects of our time and it invites for a philosophical exploration of “black” and of how we perceive colour, material, space. Thinking about black means thinking about the absence of colour, how true black does not reflect light and how different black materials and surfaces work their way into our minds by the play of light upon these materials. The artist Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) is quoted saying “When I use black, I don’t use it the way most people think of it, as the ultimate tone of darkness, but as much a colour as white or vermilion, or lemon yellow or purple, despite the fact that black is no colour, nonbeing, if you like.”

Intersected with thought-provoking quotes, this book sparks imagination and takes us to many different places around the globe, all from the comfort of our very own living room – or wherever you decide to open this little black universe. 


Lalique, Daen Palma Huse, DPH Creative Production

Lalique Or Intemporel 1888

I am convinced most people are sure to find an all-time-favourite amongst the exquisite range of Lalique’s Noir Premier collection. My personal favourite is Fruits du Mouvement 1977 but recently I have also discovered Or Intemporel 1888, which carries the year of the birth of the house of Lalique in its name.

Both flacons are inspired by original René Lalique designs, with the sides inspired by insect wings and the famous art deco design that the house of Lalique earned its great reputation with.

In a beautiful concoction, this perfume combines bergamot, cardamom, tobacco, coffee, vanilla and patchouli in a spicy fragrance that is yet well balanced and opulent, but not overpowering. The lacquer box that this flacon comes in is beautifully crafted and the wood feels like silk every time when opened – an item of luxury this perfume is priced at around £250. Before developing a taste for niche and luxury perfumes, I would have choked at the price tag to this beautiful perfume, but several years of experience have taught me that real quality perfumes come at a slightly higher price. The exquisite ingredients that are used make the difference between an average perfume and a perfume such as Or Intemporel, softly developing its notes on your skin and not loosing its touch even after an evening out for dinner, when relaxing at home and suddenly being subtly reminded by a soft note that we opened the lacquer box with Or Intemporel inside at the beginning of the night…


Sweet Virtues, Daen Palma Huse, DPH Creative Production

Sweet Virtues – Chocolate Truffles

Last but not least, these vegan, gluten-free chocolate truffles are the perfect “mood lifter” for cold days. Unlike most chocolates that tempt us to binge and feel terrible after, these truffles are packed with natural organic ingredients, handmade in London.

Going one step further, the creators of Sweet Virtues tell us that it is good to eat these chocolates with “superfoods” such as Chia Seeds boosting our well-being.

We tried three varieties – Chia Seeds & Lime, Maqui Berry and Baobab & Vanilla. The differences are subtle with a hint of lime in the Chia Seeds & Lime truffles and a slight crunch, the Maqui Berry truffles are not sweet but carry the natural flavor of berries inside, and the Baobab & Vanilla truffles are smooth and blend perfectly with the cacao. All of these truffles have more or less the same consistency, are not buttery soft but a bit harder, which in my mind makes them even more beautiful to chew and melt in my mouth. Indulging in these tuffles truly feels like treating ourselves, without having to worry about preservatives and additives.

I hope you enjoyed this little insight into my pleasures of taste, touch, scent and sight – I love to take some time out by myself and for myself from time to time, finding pleasure in little things and taking the time to stimulate different senses with different sensations. To me, this is part of the idea of relaxing, to concentrate consciously on different sensations and to take our minds on little journeys!

The Ride Of Your Life – The 570s McLaren Spider

written by Ram Shergill

570s McLaren Spider, The Protagonist Magazine, Ram Shergill, Daen Palma Huse

I landed in Barcelona in the heat of high summer, eagerly anticipating what the weekend would bring. Everything had been planned with utmost precision, staying in a luxurious hotel with a room looking over the Iberian Peninsula and the Mediterranean. The setting was nothing short of a scene in one of the iconic James Bond films, where I would be the protagonist: I was about to test drive the new McLaren 570s car, which has been aptly named the Spider.

The next morning came – the day where I felt I was to be given my mission to get into the car, being briefed on how to use all the features that would improve my driving experience, just as Q had shown Bond in many of Ian Fleming’s novels just prior to Bond heading off to save the world.

At first glance the Blue Curaçao (Pantone 15-4825) colour of the car that my editor and I were given to drive was very impressive to me, a specialist tone that is quite unique in its appearance. In colour theory, blue evokes in us the feeling of trust, loyalty, wisdom and confidence. Curaçao Blue is also one of the many variations of blues we see everyday, the sky and the sea – which both also give us a feeling of calm.

I certainly did not have a feeling of calm when I climbed into the super zoomorphic piece of fine machinery that the 570s McLaren Spider is. I was overwhelmed with the euphoric feeling of excitement. I had a rush of adrenalin. In 15 short seconds the roof folded down at the push of a button and I could see the beautiful coloured sky above, which contrasted with the colour of the car as if the colours and hues worked in symbiosis.

The car allows you to sit lower down like many sports cars do. You do somehow feel at one with the road and the surroundings this way – but perhaps a bit afraid of speed bumps or country roads. Fortunately, the McLaren creators have thought of a feature that raises the front of the car slightly higher as easy as can be by lifting a lever left of the stirring wheel (which, besides, can be conveniently adjusted).

The interior design of the car is impeccable with mouldings and forms/ textures enhancing your driving experience. All materials you see are what they seem to be; fibreglass control panels, different tones of leather beautifully stretched along the curves of the interior – materials and forms are in tune and speak to all the senses.

It feels no expense was spared in the making of this exquisite sports car. Even the sound system is a powerful Bowens and Wilkins; one could sit and just enjoy listening to music without driving at all.

Having said that, not to drive this car would be a crime. Once the engine is switched on, the humming and the sheer force of power you can feel in and all around makes you feel metaphorically morphed with the car/machine.

The car is very easy to get to know and to be comfortable with. Once you sit in the car the control panel with satellite navigation system is compelling and allows you to connect in every which way. We really liked the fact this car is user friendly, features enhancing the driving experience and not being an obstacle to DRIVE! Driving through the winded mountain roads you can really get the full benefit of feeling at one with the car and nature.

On the road the car does get quite a lot of attention – and none of the negative kind! While driving and stopping we found ourselves having conversations with many people from policemen to waiters. Their smiles were uplifting while exploring the car with their looks all over, as well as the many drivers passing by with their customary wave or a casual thumbs up (at first I thought we were driving too fast, the policeman reassured me we were not and that people were just being friendly because they liked the car).

On a large stretch of open road I decided to test the speed, with a speed from 0 to 60 km/h in approximately 3 seconds, it quite literally took my breath away without any loss of movement in the steering or sudden shake in the car. For me this was pure luxury. The 3.8-litre V8 has twin turbochargers and give you 562bhp. The effortless sense of speed makes you feel as fast and powerful like a Cheetah and the exoskeleton of the car protects as if the car were an extension of your body, almost like a form of an arachnid piece of armour similar to that of a Scorpion.

Why do I love this car?

I sat in the car and felt the beautiful Spanish sky and sunshine hit my brow and the back of my neck, listening to music by Chet Baker, I turned to my driving partner and said “I will always remember this moment”. I feel that a sports car evoking such emotion is a winner.

Note: on the proceeding days after my drive it was not Chet Baker that was ringing in my head, but Michael Jackson’s “Speed Demon”.

What should driving be about? What is it that makes driving special?

It is the experiences that you can have by going to different places and sharing new impressions, which the McLaren Spider 570S allows for, that make for a memorable time. The immersive driving experience, at least for me and my team, allowed us to see the world with a new perspective, forgetting everything around you, leaving worries and stresses behind.

 Driving the McLaren 570S Spider you become the Protagonist of your own story.

570s McLaren Spider, The Protagonist Magazine, Ram Shergill, Daen Palma Huse

MCLAREN 570S SPIDEREngine: 3,799cc, twin-turbo V8

Transmission: 7-speed SSG automatic, rear-wheel drive

Power (hp): 570@7,500rpm

Torque (lb ft): 443@5,000-6,500rpm

0-62mph: 3.2sec

Top speed: 204mph

Weight: 1,486kg (DIN, inc. 90 per cent fuel)

MPG: 26.6 (NEC combined)

CO2: 249g/km

Price: £164,750 (for example for the Sicilian Yellow model: £204,540 comprised of £3,560 for Sicilian Yellow paint, £2,190 for Dark Palladium roof, £2,690 for 10-spoke lightweight forged alloy wheels, £1,140 for Stealth wheel finish, £910 for Liquid Black brake calipers, £3,370 for Sports Exhaust, £460 for Stealth exhaust finisher, £2,570 for Jet Black and Sicilian Yellow designer interior sport design 6, £2,550 for carbon fibre interior components, £5,740 for MSO Defined carbon fibre rear deck and tonneau cover, £4,090 for security pack, £7,280 for Luxury Pack and £3,240 for Carbon Exterior Pack 1)

Male Bonding

Photography by Ram Shergill

Models Leon Brockmann and Tom May at Established / Matthew Spooner at First Models

Written by Wanda De Rosa

Lipstick Queen

Lipstick Queen

Your winter skin is tired? In need of a break? On the plane to Australia? Over the past months, our team has tried and tested some of the most exciting skincare brands in different conditions - and reviewed some products that just make you feel good or bring a smile to your face. All of them are suitable for men and women and everyone else alike!


Hiding behind unpretentious packaging, Australian-made MV Organic Skincare has released a cotton bag with Travel Essentials that includes the Gentle Cream Cleanser, Rose Hydrating Mist, Daily Soother, Rose Soothing Protective Moisturiser as well as a Rose Plus Booster. All of these are no-nonsense skin essentials based on organic rose oils and extracts. Sharon McGlinchey who created MV has managed to combine a range of products that seem similar but are suited ever so slightly to different needs, that combined into a formula will help anyone out with their specific skins’ needs. Especially during dry winter months but equally throughout warmer periods of the year this range will refresh and regenerate. Included in the Travel Essentials is a muslin cleansing cloth to make for an ultimate feel-good cleanse before nurturing the skin with the Daily Soother or Rose Plus Booster for particularly sensitive skin – all less than 100ml, this experience can even be enjoyed on the plane journey during an exotic winter escape. Throughout a superbly satisfying range, this has to be amongst our very top picks for skincare.

Rohr Remedy

Rohr Remedy

Australian wild flora is ultimately conquered by dermatological science in order to offer a natural and yet sophisticated ‘skin-aware line’ of products – which leads us to the second top tip for skincare: Rohr Remedy offers specific solutions for every weather and skin condition. Exploiting the medicinal herbs preserved and cultivated by indigenous Australian people, the brand offers a unique range of honest products meticulously combined with scientifically proven pharmaceutical formulas. Dressed in simple black packaging, this organic Australian cosmetics line concentrates on preserving the antioxidant and antibacterial ‘raw wilderness’ of its natural ingredients, untainted by artificial colours and synthetic fragrances.

The Protagonist Magazine team suggests a selection of products which have flawlessly proven their efficiency. The Rosalina Face Cleanser combined with the Kakadu Plum Vitamin C Face Serum deeply refresh while smoothening and compacting the skin. The notable amount of vitamin C existent in the Kakadu plum stimulates the production of collagen and its elemental phenolic compounds stabilise the vitamin C by preventing oxidation and aiding its absorption. Aloe vera and vitamin E enhance the qualities of the product by bringing healing properties. The moisturising that follows can be provided by the Lilli Pilly Regenerating Face Moisturiser, balanced with Omega 3 found in Rice Bran and Macadamia oils for your everyday use, or the Boab and Rosehip Oil for a specific enhancement to your hydrating treatment.

For dry lips there is the Gumbi Gumbi Lip Balm, originating in the traditional use of Gumbi Gumbi tree by indigenous Australians as antibacterial and antiviral. Together with Castor Oil, Lanolin and Vitamin E, this lip balm is incredibly efficient and seldom has a product satisfied all our beauty testing team’s needs without question.

Added to Rohr Remedy’s range is the Australian Wildflower Deodorant, which blends Rosalina, Kunzea and Fragonia essential oils in an aluminum-free mixture. In a minimalistic roll-on bottle, this deodorant is a non-sticky, natural alternative – and the light and creamy Desert Lime Body Moisturiser is an evergreen hydrating body remedy. An exquisite citrus scent gently caresses the body while nourishing and softening the skin. The antioxidant desert lime properties aided by the giant Kelp detoxifying extracts grant skin repairing and smoothening features. The body moisturiser can be applied after enjoying the sweet satin touch of the Honey and Myrtle Body Wash. With an anti-microbial power stronger than tea tree, due to the high levels of citrus proper of the honey myrtle, and the highly antioxidant healing features derived from the Quandong plant, this product can be used both as a body wash and face scrub when mixed with salt or sugar.



if I cound t-u-r-n back the
dry-y… if I could f-i-n-d a-a
way… well now you can.
your saviour is at hand.

Another Australian made salon product range comes from the tongue-in-cheek brand Evo. On the white, practical and rectangular bottles we can read the above and other witty commentary. It makes you want to squeeze a dollop of the calming shampoo or calming conditioner into your hand, savour its rich consistency and natural feel, while singing in the shower and thinking of Australian beaches and the sun on your body with a smile on your face!

The liquid rollers are a curl balm designed to do just what curlers would; give curly hair a lovely consistency and some hold, easing all fizziness. “Saving ordinary humans from themselves” is the catchphrase that the makers of Evo call their motto, which is to sell haircare without “truth stretching”. The products do no more or less than what they describe and can probably be called a true friend when it comes to being kind to your hair.

Frank Body

Frank Body

The Australian range of semi-edible skin care products is led by Frank Body and The Beauty Chef. Both combining the key properties of organic food with the peculiar aim to properly feed the skin. Frank Body picks the energising power of coffee and brings it to an entirely dedicated caffeine-based skin care line. Scrubs, cleansers and balms, mix the coffea arabica seed powder with either coconut oil, clay, rosehip oil, beeswax, always looking to obtain the perfect combination of moisturisers and purifying essences. The body balm with its delicate citrus scent, makes it difficult to believe it isn’t a sweet custard you are rubbing on your body, and yet provides a powerful hydrating treatment accompanied by the sweet and familiar essence of lemon and nuts. Once the urge to taste them is put to rest, Frank Body products emerge as a natural and fresh alternative to chemically altered beauty products.

The Beauty Chef

The Beauty Chef

Born from the personal kitchen garden of its extremely passionate founder Carla Oates, The Beauty Chef takes a step back in looking at skin care solutions. Believing that real healthy skin comes from a balanced digestive health, all of The Beauty Chef products are food supplements, which provide a much healthier and conscious alternative to the average protein powder or vitamine supplements. The Body Inner Beauty Powder comes in different flavours, all of whose super-food inner beauty mixture perfect your morning smoothie. A careful selection of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and extra probiotics, is what makes the Glow Inner Beauty Powder unique and rapidly effective as well as the Body Inner Beauty Powder. The Beauty Chef range is great and reading in Carla Oates’ new cookbook will make you feel good outside and within, following recipes and perhaps using some of The Beauty Chef”s skincare products as well!

Ella Bache

Ella Bache

A classic reliable beauty selection is offered by Ella Baché developed to perfection in its Parisian labs since 1936, which provides specific pharmacological treatments to skin health. The Hyaluronic Moisturising Cream will perfectly fit your beauty routine as a mild all-round hydrating balm, while the Hydra-Mattifying Detox Cream from the Pur’ Aromatics line comes in aid to mixed skin types as a grapefruit scented sebum regulating daily lotion. An added benefit is the travel-size format of the dispensers, which yet last a very long time. The Tomatoe Cleanser, while sounding strange at first, is actually a wonderfully subtly scented cleanser that leaves the skin refreshed and pampered.

Lipstick Queen, The Protagonist Magazine
Lipstick Queen

Lipstick Queen

Lipstick Queen cosmetics with their pop packagings and fairy-tale inspired collections, create awe-deserving make-up looks. The Frog Prince perfectly represents the brands aim to stun nature. Its emerald green appearance suddenly changes once in contact with your lips into a shade of perfect rose blossom pink, flawlessly matching every skin tone. Based on the same colour variating idea, the Hello Sailor blue lipstick gives a light blackberry glare to the lips. While The Frog Prince texture is rich and intense, the Hello Sailor shade donates a rather cold and sophisticated dazzle. This whimsical technology provides a long lasting always flattering colour experience. Worth to mention is also Saint  - the nude line of the brand. A wide palette of nude tones is the easy-to-wear line from Lipstick queen, providing subtle hues of colour to your lips in a matte and creamy texture.

Eye of Horus, The Protagonist Magazine

Eye of Horus line of liquid metallic eyeliners adds two rather interesting shades of bronze to the classic silver and gold tones. The professional smudge-free tip of the applicator either allows the creation of elaborate party looks or highlights your every day eye make-up. Thanks to the high volume of minerals contained in the blend, the metallic colours truly brighten the look and resulting in a royal seductiveness.



Aesop, as always, is a reliable brand for many skin needs. Suitable to all skin types the Aesop’s Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Serum combines the efficacy of a topical treatment with the natural moisturising properties of Aloe-vera. As part of Aesop’s anti-oxidant products line, this daily serum comes in subtle herbaceous notes with a non-greasy light touch, polishing and protecting the skin from the formation of free radicals proper of the oxidation process. The strong anti-oxidant hallmark of parsley seed also comes soothingly sweetened by white tea and rock rose extracts in Aesop’s Facial Hydrating Cream. The richly nourishing nature of the product will appeal all skins types as a daily shield against urban pollution and harsh weather conditions. Its exceptionally non-greasy finish is conferred by a carefully balanced mixture of botanical emollients, including sweet almond oil and shea butter. Lastly, the Damascan Rose Facial Treatment is a specific absorbent oil blend which merges 10 plant extracts with vitamin A and E. Suitable for a twice-a-week usageon extremely distressed and dry skin, is very hydrating and relieving. It should be used in addition to other Aesop moisturising products in order to heighten its effectiveness.

By Nieves - Cloud of Protection

By Nieves - Cloud of Protection

An amazing product that we have featured before but found worthwhile mentioning here again is the Cloud of Protection – By Nieves, created by US-based Nieves Rathbun. Everything in her range is handmade in small batches near one of the most gorgeous and pristine coastlines. Nieves does not seek investors, does not want to go huge she says and does not sell to chains. Through and through she endeavours to make ethical choices up and down her supply chain. We talked to Nieves in a bit more detail for this feature, completing our all-year round feel-good suggestions when it comes to skincare and wellbeing that is based on natural goodness:

What is the background of By Nieves?

I started By Nieves because I wanted products made with only beneficial ingredients. With my hippie/counterculture background and experience in the natural products industry it was natural for me to question ingredients and to start musing on why there weren't products that would address my needs with out all the junky stuff. Every product in my line came out of a specific gap in my skincare regimen and a desire to make formulas that are as beneficial and multifunctional as possible.

How is the Cloud of Protection made?

At first I thought I would like an urban protection balm, something very antimicrobial. As I started doing research on the potent essential oils for that purpose I noticed that they all had lore and mention of magical properties of protection too. I love when the science and the woo agree, it happens fairly often! I decided to go with a spray because of the versatility plus it smells so good I just love to spray it every where!  it can be used on and around the body but also in your space whatever that may be.

What has been your response?

I get such wonderful feedback from my customers, it's the best!  The last time I was at a fair I heard from one guy who said The Balm was the only thing that helped his hard working hands. There was a gal who came up to me with misty eyes and said how the C Perfect Skin and Face Fix changed her life, that she was finally happy with her skin and coming out of her shell. Then there was the lady who came up to me and told me in whispering tones and knowing looks about how her house had some stuck dark energy of some sort and she had tried everything with no results and but the Cloud of Protection had been the first thing that helped. I love all of these stories, of course!



Production: DPH Management

Postproduction: Ingrid Reigstad

Helen McCrory awarded OBE

Photography by Ram Shergill

Styling by Margherita Gardella

Written by Daen Palma Huse


Helen McCrory wearing dress and stole by Alberta Ferretti, hat Miss Jones by Stephen Jones, gloves by Philip Treacy for Cornelia James, necklace by Piaget

Helen McCrory wearing dress and stole by Alberta Ferretti, hat Miss Jones by Stephen Jones, gloves by Philip Treacy for Cornelia James, necklace by Piaget

We are very proud to announce that critically acclaimed actress and our latest cover star Helen McCrory has been awarded OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, given by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II) for her services to drama in the most recent New Year’s Honours.

I do things that interest me. I think I am very ambitious in the things that I want to do rather than by what a career trajectory should look like. I want to do what makes me happy.
— Helen McCrory

Helen McCrory is known for her roles in theatre, film and television – from The Deep Blue Sea at the National Theatre, to Skyfall and Peaky Blinders. Just last year, Helen McCrory was also awarded an honorary degree by the Department of Theatre, Film and Television at the University of York, which reflects her dedication not only to the profession of acting itself but for sharing her knowledge and passion. Her undivided attention to acting in all its forms was most certainly one of the reasons for which she was awarded OBE.

Helen McCrory describes herself as having been very lucky with the roles she has played throughout her career, across TV, film and theatre. From romantic leads such as Anna Karenina, to tongue-in cheek portrayals of Cherie Blair, from working with Reece Shearsmith on Inside No. 9 to playing Queen Elizabeth in the Horrible Histories film Bill. That being said, she does confess that her greatest interest has always been in playing tragedian roles and theatre, something for which she is well known and respected.

Helen McCrory wearing jacket by Dolce & Gabbana, dress by Elizabeth Emmanuel, gloves by Cornelia James and rings by Ritz Fine Jewellery

Helen McCrory wearing jacket by Dolce & Gabbana, dress by Elizabeth Emmanuel, gloves by Cornelia James and rings by Ritz Fine Jewellery

Recently, McCrory also played Hester in Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea, following her triumphant portrayal of Medea in 2014 – both leading roles at the National Theatre and collaborations with director Carrie Cracknell. Outwardly, they seem very different roles, with one set in post-war Britain, the other in antiquity, one featuring a “fallen” aristocrat, the other a sorceress. Yet both plays centre around a woman who has become an outcast, having chosen to leave their former lives and status for love. They each perceive their lives to have reached a critical moment – one that can only be surmounted through death.

Helen McCrory says “I’ve always been very lucky. As soon as I left college, within a year I was playing leads at The National, and my first TV role was in The Entertainer with Gambon and Billie Whitelaw. I’ve just worked with really good people. But wherever you are you will always come to that ceiling. Everybody has a boss and there is always a room behind a room that you want to get into, but I think for me what I wanted to do more than anything else was theatre. So for me, actually, that’s it – I am living the dream!”

Helen McCrory wearing dress and shoes by Dolce & Gabbana, hat by Stephen Jones, earrings and bracelet by De Beers

Helen McCrory wearing dress and shoes by Dolce & Gabbana, hat by Stephen Jones, earrings and bracelet by De Beers

For this shoot, we chose to photograph Helen McCrory at Dennis Severs’ House, 18 Folgate Street, London. The house is a living work of art and a fantastical location that Helen McCrory herself loves to visit from time to time.

The full interview with Helen McCrory by Laura Owen and Daen Palma Huse can be read in the print Issue 2 of The Protagonist Magazine available from www.boutiquemags.com or one of our worldwide stockists.


Hair by Sofia Sjoo using Paul Mitchell

Make Up by Natasha Lakic using Sisley

Nails by Kim Treacy

Styling Assistants Jade Jeboda & Debora Storti

Location Dennis Severs' House

Production by DPH Management


"Undressed" at the V&A

Written by Jeanne Rideau

Installation view of Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear Victoria and Albert Museum

Installation view of Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear
Victoria and Albert Museum

Underwear has been worn by men and women for centuries, holding strong symbolism and purposes which have fascinatingly evolved over the generations. Lingerie might be a piece of clothing – alongside socks – that is not often talked about.

The Victoria & Albert Museum has explored, in depth, the Western history of underwear in its latest exhibition put together by Edwina Ehrman, Curator of Textiles.

From haute-couture lingerie to the simplest of panties, the basic purpose of underwear tends to be neglected and forgotten about, despite the essential role it has. Indeed, its primary purpose is to protect the most intimate parts of one's body, offering different alternatives for any kind of situation, for instance from pregnancy underwear for women to military undergarments. Far from the sophisticated lingerie of Agent Provocateur, it demonstrates that underwear is not only glamorous but represents an important piece of one's everyday clothing.

An interesting piece of undergarment to take a closer look at is the corset – enabling women to ‘shape’ their body and to hold a straight posture, albeit being an instrument of torture at the same time. Some doctors were vehemently trying to discourage women from wearing corsets, the undergarment has been considered a fashionable necessity until the 20th century. From the oldest undergarment dating from 1750 to the most recent sportswear ensemble, it is noticeable that nothing has greatly changed over the years with regards to their aim to insure a perfect body shape.

Silk satin, lace and whalebone corset Date: 1890 Victoria and Albert Museum

Silk satin, lace and whalebone corset
Date: 1890
Victoria and Albert Museum


The idea of an ideal body, however, has been evolving. In spite of their invisibility and thinness, underwear bears a widespread obsession with physical appearance. It mainly concerned women in the past, although not exclusively as some men also used to wear corsets or belts to maintain their back or to shape their body, for example. Still, the making of underwear tends to portrait clear distinctions between women’s and men’s collections. Androgynous models – in mainstream still considered as a rarity – have emerged since the 1980s, and, a trend amongst teenagers recently resulted in unisex sportswear underwear collections, for example from Calvin Klein.

Innovation has been part of the evolution. Many new, modern fabrics have appeared – such as a fabric that regulates body temperature – or garments have been made lighter, more breathable and more pleasant to wear.

The exhibition at the V&A brilliantly illustrates some of key roles of underwear: its private use through its functional role and symbolism through providing a means to comply with societal “body shape trends”.

Underwear traditionally can carry a personal importance for women, as the first bra may represent a step towards womanhood while the first lace ensemble might accompany the loss of virginity, or later breastfeeding. More generally, underwear is almost always closely connected to an individual’s sexuality, from fetishes to practicality. While the exhibition offers a good historical analysis and provides an overview of technicalities and trends and mentions eroticism and sexuality, it does, however, not attempt opening an active discussion about shifting gender roles and attached discourses.

The exhibition seems to predominantly focus on underwear for women and specifically is limited to undergarments of the UK, US and Europe. A section about underwear in cultures other than the ‘Western’ hemisphere could have sparked further discussions about existing stereotypes and perceptions.

Advertising poster designed by Hans Schleger for the Charnaux Patent Corset Co. Ltd  Date: c. 1936  Courtesy of the Hans Schleger Estate

Advertising poster designed by Hans Schleger for the Charnaux Patent Corset Co. Ltd
 Date: c. 1936
 Courtesy of the Hans Schleger Estate

Piaget at the Gloucestershire Festival of Polo

Written by Jeanne Rideau

Photography by Ram Shergill

Prince Henry of Wales and The Duke of Cambridge at the polo match

Prince Henry of Wales and The Duke of Cambridge at the polo match

The Duke of Cambridge playing for team Maserati 

The Duke of Cambridge playing for team Maserati 

The prize ceremony and winning team of The Maserati Charity Polo Trophy

The prize ceremony and winning team of The Maserati Charity Polo Trophy

Editors Ram Shergill and Daen Palma Huse attended the Gloucestershire Festival of Polo on Saturday.

The event was hosted at the renowned Beaufort Polo Club and started with The Maserati Charity Polo Trophy which was a four chukka match sponsored by Maserati and Piaget. The Duke of Cambridge William and Prince Henry of Wales were present – as being the patrons of the charities England & Wales Mountain Rescue and the Welsh Rugby Charitable Trust for which funds were raised. The Duke of Cambridge played on the side of Maserati.

Later in the afternoon, the high class five chukka game International Test Match confronted Piaget Young England against the Ireland team.

Piaget has been a supporter of Polo and kindly donated a Piaget Polo Watch for the auction that was held in order to raise charity funds.


Polo, Piaget, Gloucestershire Festival of Polo
Polo, Piaget, Gloucestershire Festival of Polo
Polo, Piaget, Gloucestershire Festival of Polo
Polo, Piaget, Gloucestershire Festival of Polo
Polo, Piaget, Gloucestershire Festival of Polo
All photography © Ram Shergill

All photography © Ram Shergill

Night and Day - Grooming to Take You Away...

Photography by Ram Shergill

Still Life Photography by Miles Twist

Make Up by Natasha Lakic using Sisley

Model Ben Jordan @AMCK Models


The most elegant fragrance: LALIQUE Encre Noire À L'Extrême

Lalique has relaunched it's iconic male fragrance Encre Noire À L'Extrême. The matte black minimalist flacon reveals subtle glimpses of the fragrance's woody intensity. With a strong heart of vetiver from both Java and Haiti, Encre Noire À L'Extrême explores a masculinity of contrast. Going from a light head note of bergamot and cypress to a dark and seductive dry-down of sandalwood and patchouli, the fragrance covers a full range of male sensuality. With a simple development in scent, from the luminous opening down to the gloomy heart of it, Encre Noire À L'Extrême really is a journey to the dark and elegant – worth to be taken.



Lighting up the Room: IIUVO candles

The duo behind this sleek brand are Tom and Leo, both in their twenties and bringing a fresh approach to the world of scents. IIUVO is not just a product but a concept. Having launched with just three scented candles (Ajon, Emmie and Woodgrain), Leo and Tom created a new world, each scent taking us to different places. Leo is the son of a florist and interior designer and drew inspiration from his mother's floral workshop, his grandmother's garden and the wooden panels of Cadillac cars when creating each of the scents. Leo's poetic approach to scents, paired with Tom's minimalist aesthetic, are the essence of these simple but luxurious candles. At a 40 hour burning time and with a higher perfume content than comparable products, these candles are sure to fill a room with a many-layered fragrance that is at least as strong as their beautiful inspirations. 



Antiga Barbaeria de Bairro


Antiga Barbearia de bairro

Fancy a professional shave like in the good old days? The Portuguese shaving brand Antiga Barbearia de Bairro provides everything it takes to up the daily barber routine to a stage of luxurious reminiscence. From the bulky yet hydrating shaving soap that turns into a soothing foam once twirled, to the finishing touch with a masculine after shave to be applied onto the skin – coming in a bottle, without a spray mechanism, of course. That is what Antiga Barbearia de Bairro is about. Staying true to the heritage of shaving, and reviving it's rich traditions and rituals. A turn in time, and a beneficial one for the male skin, too. A shave by the old rules as you might only still find it in the barber shops of Ribeira Porto.



The Gentleman's choice: MURDOCK

Nothing makes a good shave like the right brush. When it comes to shaving accessories, one is best of to go with quality and a long tradition of men's grooming experience, like with Murdock London. The Byron Badger Brush by Murdock not only creates a smooth and creamy feel while applying the foam, but the famous badger hair also exfoliates and cleanses the skin at the same time. A unique hand-made product that ensures a fully professional shaving experience. Murdock's colognes Renshaw and Vetiver finish the treatment off with the right fragrance for a man of good taste.


Cleansing and soothing all-round: L:A BRUKET

L:A bruket

When ceramics artist Monica Kylen couldn't find a beneficial organic soap for one of her soap dishes, she decided to make one herself. From then on, L:A Bruket evolved to be Sweden's most promising new contribution to natural skin and body care. The brand feature a full range of products from hand soap to bath salt, from foot scrub to body lotion, from beard wax to lip balm. All of them are made of the best of organic ingredients and turn the simple everyday beauty routine into a matter of luxury and pleasure. The shaving cream softens and refreshes the skin, while the face scrub clears the pores and gives a revitalising sheen, thanks to it's organic oils. Product after product, ingredient by ingredient, L:A Bruket is creating innovative beauty treatments that surprise, not only by their intense natural scents. Simple, yet unique, just like the coastal surroundings of it's Swedish heritage.



Food for the skin: AESOP Blue Chamomile Mask and Moroccan Neroli Shaving Duet


A new and modern take on male skincare is what Aésop brings to the beauty table. The Australian brand established itself in the bathroom shelves of both design lovers and grooming professionals. Their range of products thrives to simplify and ease the beauty routine without compromising quality. The Blue Chamomile Facial Hydrating Mask provides the skin with the much needed refreshing and soothing effects after just thirty minutes. The Moroccan Neroli Shaving Serum enhances the daily shaving session with the softening powers of sandalwood and neroli blossom, without creating heavy foam. Afterwards, the Moroccan Neroli Post-Shave Lotion soothes and protects the irritated skin.




Simple and Effective: ROUTINE FOR MEN

Two steps – that's all it takes for the new product line Routine for Men to convince and satisfy. Wrapped in a clean and convenient design, Routine for Men combines both cleansing and soothing products for a full-on facial treatment. The Dual Action Face Wash clears the pores with extracts of vetiver and eucalyptus and leaves the skin refreshed and toned, while the Revitalising Moisturiser hydrates and calms it afterwards with a touch of Aloe Vera. Both products feature natural ingredients and are free of parabens. Just the right routine for the man who likes his grooming session as simple and effortless as possible: One, Two, Done.




Refreshing: KIEHL'S MEN'S Facial Fuel

Fighting the season's rough weather as well as the pre-Christmas stress, Kiehl's Men's Facial Fuel series might be the best suit of armour, a whole range of products made for the needs and specialties of the male skin and it's defence. With a successful formula, the line has been fuelling the male grooming routine to a max since it's launch in 2004. For this year's gloomy days, the Anti Wrinkle Cream secures a soft and firm protection with the extracts of chestnut, soy and vitamins C and E. The cream treats the skin both clearing and refreshing at the same time, with a light scent of citrus. Together with the Eye Alert, an energy booster to fight dark circles and puffiness, it shows that sometimes the thinnest of armour can be the most effective.




For the soul: KAMA AYURVEDA

With rose, vanilla, lemongrass, orange and sandalwood, only to name a few, the range of soaps and beauty treats by Kama Ayurveda really lives up to the exoticism of it's beautifully illustrated wrappings. The Indian beauty brand provides a full supply of Ayurvedic wellness treats, from body soap to skin oil, rose water and scented candles or award winning beauty fluid. Kama keeps up the heritage of the old art of Ayurvedic treatment by ensuring the key ingredient: a right balance of organic plants and herbs for a fully natural remedy.



Personal all-rounders: BY NIEVES

It really was a matter of the heart when Nieves launched her essential range of beauty products. All natural and made by hand, the brand's name By Nieves says it all: a small and original lot of treats that combine the practical with the luxurious, as they are all multi-functional. The Balm shines both hair and skin and leaves them deeply soothed, while the Cloud of Protection can be used as a body spray as well as room scent, spreading a bit of sparkling magic as essential oils and grape spirits freshen and cleanse the air. By Nieves presents such a unique and special array of beauty treats that you cannot help but treasure.



Absolute Winter essential: SISLEY Black Rose Cream Mask and SISLEYUM for Men Revitalizer

The Black Rose Cream Mask is one of Sisley's classics. Not only can it be used as a mask but more so as a last-minute moisturiser and soother for dry and irritated skin. Upon application, the skin feels soft and gains a radiant glow immediately. During the winter months this is an absolute essential. Sisleyum for Men Anti-Age Global Revitalizer is the perfect moisturiser for the day, a light yet effective hydration and protection against dryness as well as cold winds, whichever may threaten the skin of a global man.



Frieze London: A Voyage of Discovery into the World of Contemporary Art

written by Anna Beketov

ÅYR: P1, Frieze Projects 2015. Photograph by Lewis Ronald. Courtesy of Lewis Ronald/Frieze

ÅYR: P1, Frieze Projects 2015. Photograph by Lewis Ronald. Courtesy of Lewis Ronald/Frieze

This year’s Frieze was potent, confrontational and —after a week of viewing— impressive. One of the highlights this year was the Frieze Project P1 (designed by ÅYR, a group of Architectural Association graduates also responsible for the Venice Architecture Biennale’s Airbnb Pavilion); P1 is cosy collection of interconnected rooms dominated by large and disarrayed beds. Attached to the mattresses was the fetish of every twenty-first century, Apple-product-bearing individual—the Lightning Cable. The rooms were therefore strewn with floaty creative individuals, reclining amongst the embroidered duvets whilst ‘chilling and charging’.

A slight and rather ironic ‘Frieze fatigue’ was brought on by the outstanding yet numerous interactive features. Most notable of these was Jeremy Herbert’s P5 Frieze Project, which required the visitor to crawl through a claustrophobic tunnel of exposed wood into the underworld of the Frieze tent. What one discovered was almost complete darkness, the sounds of an incoming tide, and a blast of cold air. The scaffolding of the enormous tent can vaguely be made out, and this whole experience brings to light the physicality of the fair and the amount of work that goes into its structure. Placed in the cool, dark loneliness, away from the fair’s bright lights, heating, and meandering crowds, the space allowed for a time reflection of on the philosophy of the fair.

What is Frieze? Is it a place of consumption—a feast for the eyes and a drain of the bank account? Is it a fashion show—a place to see and be seen? Is it a place to discover new artists, or is it case of spotting blockbuster pieces? Rachel Rose’s Frieze Tent forces the viewer to pose these questions. This scaled-down version of the Frieze tent itself invites participants to get on their knees and crawl into a confined, carpeted space, where there are no exhibits—instead, attendees are cramped together, emphasising the social aspect of the fair. The soundtrack pumped into the space supposedly recreates the way in which different animals hear music. The effect is sublime; a rather dream-like state engulfs the visitor—reinforced by the central heating, dim lighting and plush carpet. Is Rose’s tent art, or is it just a comforting, basic sanctuary from the brash ideological musings and vibrant visuals found in the real-life tent?

This seems to be a large part of this year’s Frieze-controversial and challenging pieces, increasingly pushing the boundaries of the definition of art. Provocative performance art was plentiful. There was Japanese artist Ken Kagami drawing on-demand portraits of visitors that contained only breasts and penises, while one could also encounter the ‘Siamese Hair Twins’—looking like something between a fairy-tale and the twins from The Shining.

Amongst many spectacles were contemporary-art gems such as the magnificent permanent marker scrawling of Jannis Varelas and Prem Sahib’s glass-pressed puffa jackets, evoking the feeling of urban life and busy trains at rush hour. Frieze has managed to again reveal a cornucopia of creativity; a feast and fight for the mind; a personal voyage of discovery into the world of contemporary art.

Lord Leighton meets Ram Shergill

Special Collaboration with Leighton House Museum

Comments by our Editor in Chief Ram Shergill

Artwork by Lord Leighton

Photography by Ram Shergill


For London Fashion Week Leighton House Museum has teamed up with our Editor in Chief, internationally acclaimed British fashion photographer, Ram Shergill, who has picked 5 of his favourite paintings by Lord Leighton and married them to some of his finest works. The images and comment by Shergill could be seen throughout Fashion Week across social media, but for those who missed out on this extraordinary collaboration we present the full feature to you here.

Frederic Leighton: Bianca (c.1881) / photograph by Ram Shergill, Bianca is wearing a 14th century garment

Frederic Leighton: Bianca (c.1881) / photograph by Ram Shergill, Bianca is wearing a 14th century garment

I love this image of Bianca. One of my favorite models is, in fact, called Bianca and I have taken many photographs of her in a similar style.  Bianca’s gaze is sullen, introspective and yet nonchalant. Her hands and skin are delicate. She is not looking at us, she is looking behind us - something that I always try to capture in my photography as I find it creates a magical and inviting pose.

With the natural daylight in this image being very soft, fabric flows around the breasts of Bianca with enticing sensuality. However her folded arms do not reach out to us suggesting she is protecting herself from any advances.

This image has the softness that designers try to convey in their collections such as Chanel haute couture by Karl Lagerfeld or Margiela by John Galliano. The ruching of the sleeve and the juxtaposition of a flowing white fabric and a black strap on the garment create a graphic and timeless look, almost like an early Vivienne Westwood in her Pirates collection or the current, primarily monochrome collection by Ricardo Tisci for Givenchy.

The placement of the bows in Leighton’s painting is very subtle so as not to distract from the subject.  Was this part of the artist’s vision or was it simply the actual garment he saw before him when portraying Bianca?

Leighton’s background in the painting reminds me of the luscious fabrics adorned with heavy embroidery that I also love using in my photographs. I adore the depth and shine of heavy fabrics create in a painting or photograph. 

Frederic Leighton: Head of an Italian Model (c.1884) / photograph by Ram Shergill, Riki Hall in Ziad Ghanem couture

Frederic Leighton: Head of an Italian Model (c.1884) / photograph by Ram Shergill, Riki Hall in Ziad Ghanem couture

This haunting image of a very handsome Italian man is relevant today as it could almost be seen as a ‘fashion portrait’. Beautifully groomed and poetic in appearance, he looks like an affluent artist or nobleman, a man of distinction. His hair looks like it is slightly moving in the wind. The subject looks like a choice of model that many campaigns and editorials are using in fashion right now, the beard has been very en vogue for a while – and facial hair is not frowned upon like it was in the 1980s and ‘90s.

The rich colouring in this painting is reflected in collections by Gianni Versace, who loved the Old Masters and focused on opulence and performance. The almost god-like gaze and pose of Leighton’s Italian is sensual and provocative to both men and women.

What I try to achieve in my own work is to convey the sensuality and delight of the fabric touching the model’s bare skin or even the eroticism implicated in certain clothes. The thick purple brocade coat in this painting is resting heavily on the man’s shoulders, while the white shirt might feel a little crisp.

The different tones of the backdrop add to the allure, reminding us of a green-blue sea and sky. The different tones and hues of blues lead the viewer back to be transfixed by the beautiful eyes of the subject.

Frederic Leighton: A Noble Lady of Venice / photograph by Ram Shergill, model is wearing a 14th century garment

Frederic Leighton: A Noble Lady of Venice / photograph by Ram Shergill, model is wearing a 14th century garment

What attracts me to this image is the opulence of the garments that the lady is wearing as well as her elegant headscarf. The detail of the garment draped around her reminds me of the couture designers I am constantly working with, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, and their Zardozi work. It is also reminds of the great fashion designer Christian Lacroix’s haute couture with lavish and chic costume extravaganzas that still remain wearable.

The delicate china vase is evidence of Lord Leighton’s travels and the many elements he worked with and united so effortlessly, not only in his wonderful paintings, but also in the architecture of Leighton House itself. Different structures such as the bas relief in the background of this painting unite with the stone column to the left.

The flowers in the vase themselves, might spark a variety of emotions in the Noble Lady, but are clearly objects of her desire or affection. She holds the vase gently, almost like a person caressing their loved one. The flower motif continues on the dress – and perhaps, figuratively speaking, into her soul. A passing thought, a romance, or a reflection of herself?

Frederic Leighton: Colour sketch for Countess Brownlow (1878 - 1879) / photograph by Ram Shergill, model is wearing cloth and drape by Ziad Ghanem

Frederic Leighton: Colour sketch for Countess Brownlow (1878 - 1879) / photograph by Ram Shergill, model is wearing cloth and drape by Ziad Ghanem

I always find colour sketches very inviting as the blurred forms let you imagine more and lead you in. The face of the Countess is not worked out here which draws the eye even more to the garment and background and overall composition.

The swathes of the fabric transmit the movement of the Countess, the form of her body and the wind that might be catching the fabric are suggested by well-placed brushstrokes. The fluffy clouds and part-blue sky makes us think of the comfortable life the Countess might have led, with her puppy joyously jumping by her feet. Even the red colour of the flowers sparks my imagination and fantasy further, adding an element of lust and passion to the English countryside in the background. I have been using lots of flowers in my photographs as they add a sense of romanticism.

Looking at this painting from a fashion perspective, the fabric seems soft and sensual, almost like a sari, draped in a skillful way. Perhaps the Countess travelled and took inspiration from the British Raj? Or perhaps Lord Leighton had just traveled to Greece and returned with wonderfully fine cottons?

Flowing gowns nipped tightly at the waist with a band can be seen on many runways today. Alexander Wang and Herve Leger have predominantly showcased monochrome collections. We can only wait for what Chanel might have in store for this year’s Paris Fashion Week.

Frederic Leighton: Head of a Italian Male / photograph by Ram Shergill, model is wearing Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla

Frederic Leighton: Head of a Italian Male / photograph by Ram Shergill, model is wearing Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla

I particularly like this image as it has a certain realness about it. I love the darkness of it as it takes me right back to the time when I first started photography. There is something quite dark and macabre about this portrait.

The image reminds me of when Alexander McQueen showed me some of his art and photography books and said that he was into ‘the macabre’ - something that mesmerized me. This image captures a ‘sensual’ macabre for me as it is a magnificent portrait of a beautiful profile.  But there also seems to be something sinister in the way the subject is looking up as if to pray, or to perhaps reflect on something that he has done or is intending to do. Since meeting McQueen, my work has always contained this edge.

The palette is similar to some of the great paintings by Caravaggio who has inspired various works by me. The lighting lends itself to the display of light-coloured fabrics in combination with the pale skin tones of the human body.

Arab Hall at Leighton House Museum ©Will Pryce

Arab Hall at Leighton House Museum ©Will Pryce

About Leighton House Museum

Leighton House Museum is the former home and studio of the leading Victorian artist, Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896). It uniquely combines an exceptional collection of Victorian art with the intimacy of a private home. Designed by Leighton's great friend, the architect George Aitchison RA, the house acted as a showcase for artistic taste as well as to entertain and impress the foremost artists, collectors and celebrities of the day.

The exterior of Leighton House gives little clue as to the treasures that lie within. The highlight of any visit is the extraordinary Arab Hall which reflects Leighton’s fascination with the Middle East where he travelled widely. This room was built between 1877 and 1881 to display his outstanding collection of 16th and 17th-century Islamic tiles and also contains mosaic floors, a gold mosaic frieze, set beneath a gilded dome, and a calming fountain.

Leighton’s spacious painting studio is located on the first floor, with its large north-facing window, picture slot and screen. Leighton produced all the works of his mature career in this room.

About Frederic, Lord Leighton

Frederic Leighton was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire in 1830 to a wealthy medical family, the second of three children. At an early age he showed an interest in drawing, and went on to study art on the continent, despite his parents’ early reservations about his choice of career. Leighton did undeniably succeed – Queen Victoria bought his first major painting in 1855, and in 1878 he reached the pinnacle of his profession, with his election as President of the Royal Academy of Arts. He also received numerous international honours and was highly regarded by his peers.  However, the man himself remains something of an enigma. His private life was closely guarded – he lived alone, travelled alone and left no diaries. Even his letters make little reference to his personal circumstances.

Just before his death in 1896, Leighton was ennobled, becoming Baron Leighton of Stretton. He is the only British artist to have been awarded this honour and is buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral


Special thanks to Leighton House Museum, Daniel Robbins and Ana Garcia for making this collaboration possible.

London Fashion Week

Written by Moritz Lindert

Marko Mitanovski's SS16

Marko Mitanovski's SS16

London is always under construction and so is its Fashion Week. Change is upon the collections for spring/summer 2016. While some designers keep London's reputation as the ever so progressive and rebellious fashion child alive, there is a certain sense of reminiscence in the air this season: a reminiscence of handmade garments, an intricacy in design and pattern and the return of a long gone passion for arts and crafts.

Ever since John Galliano made his comeback to the international fashion scene, leaving top-notch editors in awe by his “Artisanal” debut collection for Maison Martin Margiela in 2014, handicraft seems to be the next big thing in London. The runways for spring 2016 are packed with delicacy, hand-woven or hand-stitched fabrics, vivid patterns with an extra bit of detailing – from millefleurs to Arabian artwork. This development can be seen through all ranges of London Fashion Week, at the newly relocated main venue at Brewer Street Carpark, as well as with less popular showcases and up and coming designer brands.

Luxury fashion house Kristian Aadnevik proofs the point, as the designer stages a magical fashion show at the old library of the Royal Horseguards Hotel. Soft colours from rosy pinks to lily whites, Greek drapes and feminine floral prints, models that strut the runway as if they stepped right out of one of the many storybooks of the library shelves. Aadnevik creates an illusion and pays attention to every single detail. From the naturally flowing hairstyle to the models' rosy cheeks, from exquisite black lace to leather lacings and zip-ups that modernize the collection. Aadnevik's Midsummer Night's Dream is a well thought out showcase that turns Titania into a fairy girl of the twenty-first century. 

It is that kind of attention to detail that makes London fashion such a pleasure to watch this season. Even amongst the younger and less popular designers, there are some whose great artwork should be recognized. Romanian designer Dorin Negrau showcases a collection of his start-up label of the same name at the Oxford Fashion Studio during London Fashion Week. Staying true to his Romanian heritage, Negrau presents traditional jackets and vests with incredible beadwork accompanied by flowing tulle and satin skirts. 

Many accessories are used as the elaborate designs of London's crafty revolution continue from hemlines to shoe laces. Designer Anya Hindmarch constructs both dresses and accessories in almost psychedelically repetitive graphic patterns. Mary Katrantzou mixes and matches her wild array of prints on her eighties-inspired buckle boots. 

One to master the art of mixing various patterns and cultural codes into one fashionable kaleidoscope is designer Jasper Garvida with his label Éthologie. Within the overwhelming set of a Persian carpet store, Garvida showed a collection of ornamental garments, that combine the intricate patterns of Persian and Arabian worlds with the style of Eastern European folk and gold-studded Rock'n'Roll. Èthologie's spring 2016 contains a mixture of international references, turning flared skirts, blouses and minidresses into a glittering melting pot, that Garvida stirs and seasons without ever letting it become too much. 

Of course, a sure address to see true British craftsmanship is Kensington Gardens, where Christopher Bailey, season after season, displays his wonderful visions for Burberry. He did not disappoint when it came to lavishness and intricacy: trench coats of pillow lace and delicate translucent shift dresses with black floral appliques moved on the runway to the soothing sounds of a live orchestra.

But there is much more to London's newest Arts and Crafts Movement. After a triumphant show last year, Serbian designer Marko Mitanovski teamed up with four remarkable sculptors to add to his spring '16 collection. He unconventionally used leather and latex, forming it into scarred and violated surfaces, creating fabrics that remind of burnt organics or even fossilised garments – an entirely different take on the meaning of handicraft. Mitanovksi pushed further and used the rediscovered abilities of the artist to create something between dress and sculpture: something innovative, somehow disturbing, but because of that even more powerful. 

This might be the next step, the future of the new arts and crafts. It appears to be, as the movement towards intricacy seems to have taken Milan runways as well. Miuccia Prada adorns her spring/summer collections with various layers of satin and hand knit veils. And everyone knows the huge impact that Ms. Prada's designs use to unfold. Here is hoping for Autumn/Winter 2016.

Vincent & Edvard

The first major exhibition uniting works by Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam 25. September 2015 - 17. January 2016

Left: Vincent van Gogh. Starry Night over the Rhône, 1888. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Gift of Mr and Mrs Robert Kahn-Sriber, in memory of Mr and Mrs Fernand Moch, 1975 . Right: Edvard Munch. Starry Night, 1922-192. Munch Museum, Oslo. 

Left: Vincent van Gogh. Starry Night over the Rhône, 1888. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Gift of Mr and Mrs Robert Kahn-Sriber, in memory of Mr and Mrs Fernand Moch, 1975 . Right: Edvard Munch. Starry Night, 1922-192. Munch Museum, Oslo. 

The Van Gogh Museum is presenting Munch : Van Gogh, this major exhibition brings together work by Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch for the first time, focusing on the common ground between the two. The unique exhibition features more than 100 works of art including rarely loaned out pieces such as Munch's The Scream and Van Gogh's Starry Night over the Rhone and was opened by Princess Beatrix, former Queen of the Netherlands, and Queen Sonja of Norway.

Princess Beatrix and Queen Sonja of Norway accompanied by Axel Rüger, the director of the Van Gogh Museum (l) and Stein Olav Henrichsen, the director of the Munch Museum Oslo (r), next to The Starry Nights. Photo: Jan-Kees Steenman

Princess Beatrix and Queen Sonja of Norway accompanied by Axel Rüger, the director of the Van Gogh Museum (l) and Stein Olav Henrichsen, the director of the Munch Museum Oslo (r), next to The Starry Nights. Photo: Jan-Kees Steenman

Left: Vincent van Gogh. Self-Portrait as a Painter, 1887-1888. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. (Vincent van Gogh Foundation). Right: Edvard Munch. Self-Portrait with Palette, 1926. Private collection.

Left: Vincent van Gogh. Self-Portrait as a Painter, 1887-1888. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. (Vincent van Gogh Foundation). Right: Edvard Munch. Self-Portrait with Palette, 1926. Private collection.

Both Edvard Munch (1863 - 1944) and Vincent Van Gogh (1853 - 1890) are famous for their emotionally charged work, their innovative style and tormented lives. Both devoted their artistry to exploring emotions, taking a radical avant-garde approach. Both moved to Paris to study art, which at the time was hub of everything that was new and modern, a meeting place for the avant-garde, where new movements such as impressionism and pointillism thrived.

Using paint and canvas in entirely new ways, Munch and Van Gogh explored existential questions of birth and death, fear, human suffering, solace, hope and love. Although  paintings like Van Gogh's Sunflowers or Munch's Vampire are mostly known as individual works of art, they were in fact originally intended as part of a series; Munch's Frieze of Life and Van Gogh's Décoration. Works from these series enter a dialogue in the exhibition shown in Amsterdam. 

Inspired by the exhibition, ten prominent cultural institutes in Amsterdam (including EYE, Toneelgroep Amsterdam, the Veem Theatre, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Het Dolhuys, De Balie and De Appel) will present a cultural programme this autumn. Using film, performance, debate and music, these institutes will demonstrate the impact that the two artists still have on art and culture today. 

John Singer Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends

National Portrait Gallery

Written by Anna Beketov

Gabriel Fauré and Mrs Patrick Campbell, 1898. Private Collection

Gabriel Fauré and Mrs Patrick Campbell, 1898. Private Collection

The vibrant retrospective of the works of John Singer Sargent, Portraits of Artists and Friends, offers a well-dressed feast for the eyes. Showcasing the influences on the society painter of Impressionism and contemporary portrait painting, the exhibition provides a window into Sargent’s vitality. It reveals the artist as a master of culture, a key figure among the gliteratti of music, theatre, literature and art in the late 19th and early 20thcenturies.  Sargent may have been criticised for his limited imagination, but the intimacy of his portraits and the originality of his settings, leaves little doubt as to his talent and erudition.  


The exhibition offers a suitably curated geographic tour of Sargent’s artistic life, tracking his progress from his early years in Paris, through America, London and rural parts of Europe. There is much variation in the style and character of the portraits but perhaps most notable are those ‘en plein air’, a style of which Sargent was an early adopter. Away from the domestic interiors of their country manors and lavish town houses, his patrons appear in the public sphere in a fashion typical of the modern manner.


If Sargent embraces this Impressionist ideal, the exhibition additionally exposes hints of Cubism which bely his reputation for conservative painting techniques. A fine example is Rehearsal of Pas de Loup Orchestra at the Cirque d’Hiver (click here to see the artwork). In this wondrously abstract piece, brush strokes appear at first no more than scattered white lines, but on closer inspection trumpets, saxophones and batons emerge from the chaos. The piece performs to the viewer, and Sargent’s role as an enthusiastic musician with close ties to the contemporary music scene becomes apparent. Musicians Fauré, Henschnel and Delafosse pose for him, the closeness of artist and his subjects visible in the way their gaze leaves the canvas. The figures regard the viewer with as much contemplation as we them.

La Carmencita by John Singer Sargent, 1890 © Musée d’Orsay

La Carmencita by John Singer Sargent, 1890 © Musée d’Orsay

Exhibition-goers can also delight in spotting depictions of Sargent’s fellow artists. Monet, for example, is depicted painting outdoors. The work shown on the easel celebrates the painter, but through it Sargent manifests his own unique style. The theatre too, holds its own. Many of Sargent’s images of stage stars are full-length portraits, yet manage to covey the same sense of intimacy as his head-shots. As if on stage, they act for the viewer. Stunning Carmencita, a renowned Spanish Gypsy Dancer, stands proudly. After agreeing to sit for Sargent it is reported that remaining still was not Carmencita’s forte, and her restless movement is evident in this magnificent painting. Her impressive yellow gown sparkles, the swift brush strokes giving the impression that her skirt, over 100 years later, is still twirling.

The splendid image of Ellen Terry as a late Victorian Lady Macbeth, among the best-known of Sargent’s stage paintings, looms over the exhibition, all flaming red hair and crown held aloft. The exhibition is worth the effort for this alone.

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth by John Singer Sargent, 1889 © Tate, London

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth by John Singer Sargent, 1889 © Tate, London

The last room is pure escapism, filled with glorious images of Europe in the early nineteen hundreds. Gleaming white Swiss mountains, intricate Italian fountains, sun-drenched picnics and lush fields, all backgrounds for idling figures. Artists paint lazily in the warm afternoon and aristocratic women recline nonchalantly. It’s hard to leave this room, with its heavenly settings, and head out into the 21st century crush of Trafalgar Square.

A perfect way to while away an afternoon, the exhibition offers the glam and the glitz of the Impressionists, an insight into the lives of well-known figures, and precious time out from stresses of today’s world.

The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy by John Singer Sargent, 1907. Friends of American Art Collection, 1914.57 © Art Institute of Chicago

The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy by John Singer Sargent, 1907.

Friends of American Art Collection, 1914.57 © Art Institute of Chicago

Ah, Wilderness! - Eugene O'Neill’s 'Only Comedy'

The Young Vic, Play Directed by Natalie Abrahami


Review by Daen Palma Huse

Photography by Johan Persson

George MacKay, Janie Dee and Martin Marquez in Ah, Wilderness at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson

George MacKay, Janie Dee and Martin Marquez in Ah, Wilderness at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson

Eugene O’Neill was born in 1888 in New York, the son of Irish actor James O’Neill, and spent much of his early youth touring with him, being raised in a very Catholic setting. Despite having endured the untimely deaths and illness of loved ones, alcoholism, and several suicide attempts as well as an initial uncertainty of what to attain in both his professional and private life, O’Neill nevertheless became an extraordinary dramatist. His celebrated works include the play, Ah, Wilderness!, considered to be his only comedy and a lighter prelude to the much darker Long Day’s Journey into Night.

Ah, Wilderness! is set in the Miller’s small-town family home in 1906 and premiered on Broadway in 1933. The costume and stage design in Abrahami’s production, however, suggest a more ambiguous setting. The story centres around the teenage Richard Miller, played by the fantastic George MacKay, touching on many issues including alcoholism, love, regret amongst family members and Richard’s own youthful escapades with an obsession for poetry and writing which takes centre stage in the play. O’Neill’s play is best understood when looking at the playwright’s own life. While Richard’s obsession could be translated to other interests if set in a different time – much of the character of Richard perhaps stems from O’Neill’s own youth in a very religious family surrounding, being sent to catholic schools exclusively until pushing to go to a non-religious school. O’Neill’s own youth might be best described as a childlike search for purpose, which very well reflects in his stage character Richard.

Members of the company in Ah, Wilderness! at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson

Members of the company in Ah, Wilderness! at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson

Richard is essentially portrayed as the young idealist of the family. He faces disapproval at home because of his love of Henrik Ibsen, Oscar Wilde and other ideological writers, whose works were publicly condemned and burned in Germany the same year the play was first shown in 1933. A tension caused by conflicting ideas in O’Neill’s own family is translated here. The actors in the Young Vic’s production portray this tension well within the familiar setting of the Miller’s home. While the family home suggests an intimate, warm shelter for its members, existing tension gains prominence in conversations and a surreal element is added by the unusual set design.

Stage designer Dick Bird, who last year designed Kate Bush's show Before the Dawn, has created a surreal stage design for this production, complete with sand dunes and over-dimensional doorways. Bird says that he was inspired by the Namibian ghost town of Kolmanskop, which was inhabited by German miners at the beginning of the 20th century but was soon deserted and the houses abandoned to be filled by desert sand, which has created an extraordinarily beautiful landscape. O’Neill’s setting is ‘flooded’ by this sand as a dreamy metaphor for the passage of memory and time.

Ashley Zhangazha and Susannah Wise in Ah, Wilderness! at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson

Ashley Zhangazha and Susannah Wise in Ah, Wilderness! at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson

Despite initial health and safety concerns for the actors, the surreal character of the ‘sandscape’ nevertheless reflects the poetic nature of young Richard's character and allows the audience to delve into the subconscious dimension that this play evokes. Quite early on in the play, books are dug out of the sand, perhaps as a metaphor for the hidden stories behind what seems to be an average family of the time.

Directed by Natalie Abrahami, and featuring refined performances by George MacKay as Richard Miller, Janie Dee as Essie Miller, Martin Marquez as Nat Miller and David Annen as David McComber, the Young Vic has staged a thought-provoking play that is not often shown.

During his life Eugene O’Neill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and won the Pulitzer Prize four times, firstly for Beyond the Horizon, his first full-length play which opened on Broadway in 1920, and lastly for Long Day’s Journey Into Night, which was awarded posthumously, and is closely based on his family. 


Visit www.youngvic.org for more information on upcoming plays - including Nick Gill's adaptation of The Trial by Franz Kafka which is opening later this month.

The Glass Protégé

The Park Theatre, Play written by Dylan Costello and Directed by Matthew Gold


Review by Daen Palma Huse

Photography by Krisztian Sipos

Photography by Krisztian Sipos

Photography by Krisztian Sipos

Set against the backdrop of a 1940s Hollywood movie studio surroundings and the main character’s bedroom some forty years later, the relatively plain lighting and somewhat simple stage design makes the viewer feel ever so close to the play’s characters. Evoking sensuality and familiarity, we are guided through a romanticised and possibly one-sided view of a bygone era of Hollywood. That said, the play does not primarily aim at offering food for thought in a political or dramatic sense, but rather sensibly tells a very personal story of love and affection, guilt and secrecy, passion and desire as well as intrigue, scandal and manipulation.

The story is told through the main character, Patrick Glass, who comes to Hollywood as a young British actor. He seems innocent and not quite familiar with the business reality of the biggest film industry in the 1940s. Slowly but surely getting more familiar he is falling for his fellow star Jackson (who, played by Alexander Hulme, exudes the air of a film star of the time in style, enunciation and gesture).

Young starlet Candice, who offers a helping hand in guiding Patrick through the business at first, tries to trade the information of Pat and Jackson’s secret love affair for greater stardom by committing to a deal with Nella Newman, who in turn lets Candice fall flat and causes her downfall.

Nella Newman is the antagonist playing a cutthroat journalist from the so fittingly named newspaper The Inquisitor. She embodies the media and press looming over the made-up stars of Hollywood. Her character, played by Mary Steward, stands out as a particularly strong character in the play as well as a main actress in the cast.

Throughout the scope of the play, a sign in the background of the stage continually changed from Hollywood to Hollywoodland and symbolized the jump in time of about forty years between Patrick’s film career as young actor and his older self. A second dimension of the play is added by a young Eastern German girl called Ava who comes to the US to commit to an arranged marriage with Patrick’s son George. In the meantime she is takes care of a considerably older (and grumpier) Pat who eventually builds a closer relationship with Ava, whose grim past is revealed gradually. She finally arranges for Pat to meet again with his long lost love Jackson – but the two shall never meet again.

The actors managed to draw us in with their performances, and the play by Dylan Costello is well thought-out, written and researched. Certainly the play has a lot of potential and stands out in its subject matter and coherent storyline.


Visit www.parktheatre.co.uk for more information on upcoming plays.