Fashion designer Alice Archer on rococo chocolates and the explosive art of Niki de Saint Phalle
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My personal style signifiers are romantic, slightly girly dresses and impractical shoes. I’m obsessed right now with some patent-pink Dorateymur ankle boots. I’m pregnant and trying not to buy maternity clothes, but just wear things that fit – I’ve been living in a checked A-line dress with a high neck from Ganni. dorateymur.com. ganni.com
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall. It is so stunning, with a jungle area, spectacular rhododendrons and a delightful walled garden. I like botanical gardens and this one is particularly luscious – I’ve never seen anything like it. Pentewan, St Austell PL26 6EN (01726-845 100; heligan.com).
The last thing I bought and loved was a kantha-embroidered coat from Toast. It’s in gold shades and made from recycled saris. I don’t buy many clothes, but I do love things that feel like they have a story. £225; 44 Marylebone High Street, London W1 (020-7486 9272; toa.st)
And the thing I’m eyeing next is a pair of brown leather ankle boots from Chloé. They lace up the front and have a chunky Cuban heel, so they feel a bit 1970s. The recent Chloé collections have been amazing and I especially love the shoes. £920; 152-153 Sloane Street, London SW1 (020-7823 5348; chloe.com)
The best books I’ve read in the past year are Normal People by Sally Rooney and Lullaby by Leila Slimani, though it’s probably unwise to read the latter if you’re pregnant. I love the female perspective and details of domestic life in both books, and Normal People – about a teenage relationship – is so well observed it made me nostalgic for that time in my life.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a sage-green prairie-style Batsheva dress. It has a vintage Laura Ashley feel, with a collar, a frilled hem and a floral print. £388; matchesfashion.com
My favourite room in my house is the sitting room. It has large sash windows that overlook a tree-filled communal garden, which always feels quite special in London. There are bare wooden floors, lots of rugs and books, and plants from The Nunhead Gardener and Petersham Nurseries. We’ve just added an orange velvet chair from Habitat and a patchworked velvet cushion by Christina Lundsteen that I bought at Liberty. Habitat, 196-199 Tottenham Court Road, London W1 (0344-499 1122; habitat.co.uk). Liberty, Regent St, London W1 (020-7734 1234; libertylondon.com). The Nunhead Gardener, 1A Oakdale Road, London SE15 (020-7635 3443; thenunheadgardener.com). Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Off Petersham Road, London TW10 (020-8940 5230; petershamnurseries.com)
The last music I downloaded was Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell. I love the emotion in her songs; they remind me of my childhood, listening to her in the car with my parents.
My favourite app is Podcast Player – I like New York Times podcast Modern Love; The High Low with Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton, who give news updates from a female perspective; and Esther Perel, whose Where Should I Begin? is based on her counselling sessions with couples.
The best gift I’ve received recently was a set of Agent Provocateur underwear that my husband, Henry, got for my birthday. It’s in an orange tulle edged with rainbows and so delicate. He loves clothes and is quite certain of his taste, so he’s very good at choosing things. 305 Westbourne Grove, London W11 (020-7243 1292; agentprovocateur.com)
My style icon is the illustrator and fashion director Jenny Walton. Her style is quite eclectic and girly but also sophisticated. I really like the costume jewellery that she wears and her collection of Simone Rocha and vintage pieces.
A recent “find” is Brick House in East Dulwich, a fantastic sourdough bakery that a friend took me to. It’s a big, light and airy space not far from where I live. They do a delicious avocado toast and also have a great selection of magazines. 1 Zenoria Street, London SE22 (020-8693 2031; brickhousebread.com)
The best gift I’ve given recently was a course of life-drawing classes that I bought for my husband Henry’s birthday. He goes to Lewisham Arthouse once a week for a class led by the artist Stephen Palmer and absolutely loves it. Ever since I’ve known him, he’s wanted to have the time to draw with a model. 140 Lewisham Way, London SE14 (020-8691 9113; lewishamarthouse.org.uk)
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a turquoise Jaipur quilt that I found in India about four years ago. I’d spent quite a lot of time working in an embroidery factory in Kolkata, so it’s special to me. We keep it on our bed in winter. Similar from $95; fabindia.com
The last meal that truly impressed me was Sunday lunch at Riverford at The Duke of Cambridge pub, in Islington, where we were celebrating a friend’s birthday. The food is wonderful and they use only organic ingredients from Riverford Farm in Devon. I had a venison, beef and lamb cottage pie, and then, for pudding, a triple chocolate and beetroot brownie. 30 St Peter’s Street, London N1 (020-7359 3066; dukeorganic.co.uk)
In my fridge you’ll always find champagne – Laurent-Perrier is my favourite; we had it at our wedding and still have lots left over – butter and full-fat milk, organic blueberries and Vogel’s sunflower, chia and pumpkin bread, which is delicious and never makes you feel bloated.
An object I would never part with is a Liberty-print patchwork quilt that my mum made for me when I was 20. She spent so long making it: the patches are all quite small and very neatly sewn together in lots of different shades of pink. She’s always made clothes and knitted things for me, my brother and my dad.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose central London, because in the area between Mayfair and Covent Garden I can find all my favourite things. I love Neal’s Yard Dairy, which stocks Ticklemore, a delicious goat’s cheese. I go to Liberty for the womenswear and homewares – we’ve started collecting beautiful two-tone cups called Chug Mugs by Studio Arhoj. Content Beauty is a wonderful little natural beauty shop – it stocks small brands like Flora & Curl for shampoo or Alchemy Oils with its amazing Peppermint Hair Remedy. Rococo Chocolates has the best pralines, and I love how it has chocolates shaped like mushrooms or olives. And of course, there is The Place London, the first store to stock my label and a real home for independent designers. Content Beauty, 14 Bulstrode St, London W1 (020-3075 1006; contentbeautywellbeing.com). Liberty, Regent Street, London W1 (020-7734 1234; libertylondon.com). Neal’s Yard Dairy, 17 Shorts Gardens, London WC2 (020-7500 7520; nealsyarddairy.co.uk). The Place, 59 Brook Street, London W1 (020-7262 5616; theplacelondon.co.uk). Rococo Chocolates, 3 Moxon Street, London W1 (020-7935 7780; rococochocolates.com).
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Niki de Saint Phalle, especially her shooting pictures. She did a series of them in the 1960s where she strapped bags of paint to a canvas, covered them with plaster and then shot at them with a rifle so all these colours exploded from it. They feel so expressive and strong and are aesthetically beautiful too.
An indulgence I would never forgo are Booja Booja Almond Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffles, which are dairy-free, gluten-free, soya-free and the best truffles I’ve tasted. £3.99 for 69g; ocado.com
The beauty staples I’m never without are Weleda Skin Food – I’ve never come across a body moisturiser that made my skin so soft, and it’s all natural too – and Nars Orgasm Liquid Blush. I don’t wear foundation and don’t really like putting stuff on my face, but I look better with rosier cheeks and this is a great colour. £12.50 for 75ml; weleda.co.uk. £24; narscosmetics.co.uk
The person I rely on for personal grooming is Carolina Crona, a hairstylist I met on a shoot. I either go to her house or to Smiths, the salon she works at on Poland Street, in Soho. She’s Swedish and promotes natural-looking hair, whether through the cut or the colour, which suits my ungroomed style. I also occasionally pop into Hershesons Blow Dry Bar in Selfridges, which is great for a last-minute blowdry. Hershesons Blow Dry Bar, Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London W1 (020-7493 1600; hershesons.com). Smiths, 57 Poland Street, London W1 (020-7734 3004; smithssalon.com)
If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is New York – I love the energy of the place, whether I’m there for work or play. The Met Cloisters, devoted to art from medieval Europe, is incredible and I find the tapestries there inspiring. Jack’s Wife Freda is a lively all-day bistro for brunch, lunch and supper – I usually order the Madame Freda, which is a pressed sandwich with duck prosciutto, cheddar béchamel, Gruyère and an egg. I love how decadent the Grand Central Oyster Bar is – I go there for a nice glass of white wine and oysters. And it’s a treat to go to Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s boutique – I think she’s extremely beautiful and I love her aesthetic. Her shoes come in such subtle colours. Grand Central Oyster Bar, Grand Central Terminal, Lower Level, 89 East 42nd Street, 10017 (+1212-490 6650; oysterbarny.com). Jack’s Wife Freda, 224 Lafayette Street, 10012 (+1212-510 8550; jackswifefreda.com). Maryam Nassir Zadeh, 123 Norfolk Street, 10002 (+1212-673 6405). The Met Cloisters, 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, 10040 (+1212-923 3700; metmuseum.org).
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be deep in the countryside, maybe in Somerset, having lots of children and being a florist, gardener and cake baker.