HTSI editor’s letter: things that make us “Happy”
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I write this when much analysis is being offered about what qualities define the British character, as well as the values to which we should aspire. When thinking of the British we want quirk and personality. Eccentricity is a characteristic that still permeates the national culture, as demonstrated by Queen Elizabeth’s obsession with her corgis (surely more endearing than her rigid service to the Crown?). It is found also in Rod Stewart’s commitment to his model railway, Morris dancing or those people who insist on feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square.
It’s a word that could be applied equally to Prue Leith, the restaurateur, novelist and cookbook writer, now in her 80s, who has found global fame as a judge on The Great British Bake Off, the TV competition in which amateur cooks show off their “show-stopping” baking skills. Bake Off is as peculiarly and essentially British as breakfast tea and crumpets (which often feature on the menu), and Leith’s school-marmish candour and florid dress sense have endeared her to generations who treasure her brand of optimism and fun. The Gloucestershire house that she shares with her second husband John Playfair is similarly upbeat, full of quirky details and things she has “jollied up”. Mark C O’Flaherty gets the grand tour in this week’s issue, while Jake Curtis takes the shots. The consequential “Pruesplosion”, as they have dubbed it, is highly individual, but as an expression of a certain kind of mindset, it perfectly encapsulates British eccentric taste.
Tweeds and twinsets are another hallmark of British society, although the model Edie Campbell’s new collaboration with Sunspel owes a greater debt to Roald Dahl’s Matilda than it does to country life. Her moodboard was inspired by that novel’s villainous Mr Wormwood, although the finished garment – an elegant trouser suit in houndstooth wool – is infinitely more chic. We get an exclusive look at her first collection for the brand in this issue and talk to the 32-year-old about her take on British style.
Optimism and some small eccentricities also characterise the stylings of Pharrell Williams, the singer, songwriter and producer who is this week’s cover star. Among his myriad business interests, including a skincare range and fashion label, Williams’s latest venture is an ecommerce resale site, Joopiter, which he will launch this month with a sale of his personal archive. One of the most prominent cultural figures of the past two decades, Williams has made his clothing, jewellery and sneakers an instrumental component of his art. His decision to divest himself of several lock-ups of possessions has been both a space-saving exercise (the man has four children to house alongside his sneakers) as well as an opportunity to do a psychological cleanse. Find out more about why he’s doing a Marie Kondo in our exclusive interview by India Ross, and have a browse through some of his most iconic looks.
As for the most eccentric item in this week’s issue, I offer you the amphibious boat. A 3.5-tonne piece of machinery that measures around 10m, the Iguana X100 looks like a motorboat but handles like a tank. Rory FH Smith takes it out for a test drive (or is that sail?) to find out what the fuss is all about.
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