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Treatments that make a real difference

These days, there is almost an infinite number of available spa treatments, all of which promise outstanding results. But unfortunately, very few deliver. Here, we present four very different approaches that really work, and that we feel we can wholeheartedly recommend.


The potency of the compounds in all 111Skin products provides the skin with vitamins and compounds that are easily absorbed, leaving it plumper and highly hydrated, while the massage technique focuses on lifting and tightening. The effects are visible immediately. 111Skin works with first-class spas all over the world – but I had my facial at the Bulgari Spa in London, where I was treated by Chief Therapist Jehvon Lennon.

For starters, he cleaned my skin thoroughly with Vitamin C Brightening Cleanser. Though many of us don’t take this step seriously, Lennon explains that it’s key to healthy, glowing skin. This cleanser has exfoliating properties and high levels of vitamin C, which contribute to the brightening effects of the facial.

The Bulgari Spa in London includes 11 private treatment rooms and one double spa suite, complete with its own steam…

Your best allies to protect yourself from UVA and UVB rays

The Sun is the giver of life on our planet, but on the flip side of the coin, it can be very dangerous. Excessive sun exposure can lead to cancer, cataracts, damage to the immune system and premature ageing. UVA rays are the weakest, but they cause skin cells to age faster. UVB rays are […]

The best bounce-back skincare

One of the many ways in which menopause can undermine a woman’s confidence is in the way it affects the skin. Dry, dull and saggy skin is a direct result of decreasing levels of hormones that stimulate the formation of collagen, the protein that gives skin its strength, flexibility and support. Although there are many […]

In the name of love

For more than five decades, Elizabeth Gage MBE has been designing bold and colourful pieces of jewellery that have attracted customers from Hollywood to Hong Kong. She exudes charisma and personality. Her presence fills the room and her inviting smile warms you like a gentle summer breeze.

I interviewed Elizabeth at her showroom in Belgravia, so I could admire some of the stunning pieces she has designed over the years, including a replica of her famous Agincourt ring, which earned her the coveted De Beers International Diamond Award in 1972 and is now part of the V&A permanent collection.

Her journey as a designer, she tells me, started when she was a child. “I was ill for a very long time with tuberculosis,” she shares, “so I’d amuse myself by making clothes for my dolls and other bits and pieces.”

The two pieces by Elizabeth Gage part of the V&A permanent collection: the Agincourt ring and the Kiss pin.

Her mother and grandmother were artists too and encouraged her to maintain her passion for crafts. Elizabeth’s talent was obvious. However, her professional career in jewellery took a bit of time and a serendipitous event to take off. The story starts in her early 20s when her boyfriend wanted to give her a ring and asked her to choose it. She couldn’t find anything that sent her heart racing until one morning when she was admiring an ancient boat exhibited at the British Museum, where she was doing some research. She turned her head, and sunlight came flooding through a window, focusing on a display of ancient Roman rings. “I realised there and then that these were the kind of rings I wanted and thought to myself that I should make them. I never did, but that was what started me off making jewellery.”

History has long been a passion of hers. She traces this back to the time when she was confined to bed as a child due to her illness and spent her time reading for hours on end. “It is not just in history that I sought inspiration,” she says, “but also ancient cultures, mythology and all the relics and artefacts connected with them, from fossils to coins, brooches, necklaces…”

The variety of sources from which Elizabeth draws inspiration shows in the creative diversity of her jewellery. Left to right: Rubellite and Diamond Persian Queen earrings (£21,720), Old Cut Diamond Tapered Templar ring (£33,720), and Gold Bark bracelet (£25,200).

Elizabeth chooses the different elements for each item of her jewellery for their individual beauty: precious stones, ancient bronzes, baroque pearls… and from there, she creates something unique and very personal. In diamonds, she favours old cuts because “they are calmer, richer and more beautiful”. This preference is obvious in her popular tapered Templar rings, and in her bespoke creations. One could say that she uses all these pieces as a painter would use their palette, combining them with brightly coloured enamel and detailed goldwork (always 18K or 22K). An example of this richness is Elizabeth’s Classic Collection, which consists of an incredible diversity of forms and materials that, forged together, create surprisingly original earrings, bracelets, rings and brooches. Elizabeth’s intention has always been to create fine jewellery that can be worn “day into night”. Her collections often develop from just one stone or one antique, in a way that she says is “probably more subconscious than planned”.

Her work has attracted the attention of the rich and famous from the very beginning. As Elizabeth graduated as a designer and master goldsmith from the Chelsea School of Art (Sir John Cass College) in 1963, a wealthy father of a friend of hers commissioned her to create a piece of jewellery for his girlfriends. Recalling the episode with modesty, she says: “I think he was just being very shrewd. As a young designer fresh out of school, I was much cheaper than an established jeweller would have been. But for me it was wonderful. I got so many commissions!”

In 2015, this exquisite enamel, cultured pearl and diamond brooch from 1990 designed Elizabeth Gage was sold by Bonhams New York as part of the Lauren Bacall Collection in 2015.

In 1968, Cartier New York commissioned her to create a special piece for its new catalogue. Global celebrities such as Lauren Bacall loved her bold jewellery. The legendary actress bought her first piece from Elizabeth in 1985 and, over the years, acquired another 22. At an auction of jewels belonging to Lauren Bacall held by Bonhams New York in 2015, an Elizabeth Gage’s piece – an enamel, cultured pearl and diamond “Camel” brooch – sold for $23,750, well above its $7,000 top estimate.

The United States have always been a great market for Elizabeth. She moved there during World War II and lived in Virginia for most of the 1970s, a time when her career as a jewellery designer boomed. In contrast to the conservative style popular at the time, the Americans loved her large rings, statements pieces and the elaborate craftmanship in them.

“I found early in my life that I could only do things that I loved, and I loved big jewellery. Also, I was not afraid of doing things differently.” Her collections are incredibly diverse – something she attributes to how they originate. “More often than not, I just pick a particular stone that I intuitively know will be perfect for a piece of jewellery I have yet to design.”

This elegant townhouse in the heart of Belgravia is home to all the Elizabeth Gage team.

While still running a successful business in the US, Elizabeth returned to London in 1979 to open a small studio in Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge. In the mid 1980s she moved to Albermarle Street in Mayfair and 15 years ago, she established her showroom and studio in West Halkin Street, Belgravia, which had operated originally as just the production site. “I loved the idea of bringing everyone together under one roof,” she explains.

Her clientele is as diverse as the sources of her inspiration. “Here in the UK, most of our clients are international,” she points out, “from almost every nationality you could imagine.” Bespoke pieces form a substantial part of Elizabeth’s business. “Often, clients come here and have a look at my collections,” she explains, “and then they show me a precious stone they have and they tell me what they’d like to do with it. Sometimes it is a design based on a piece from one of my collections and sometimes they have an idea in their mind that I help bring to life.”

Elizabeth Gage was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, in 2017.

Her work has been recognised with many awards and honours – from the pieces in the permanent collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum to her appointment as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2017 for services to business. In 2015, the New Britain Museum of American Art held a critically acclaimed retrospective of Elizabeth Gage’s work, entitled The Enchanting Jewels of Elizabeth Gage; and in 1989, she received the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement. Elizabeth is modestly proud of all these accolades, which reinforces the opinion I’ve been building of her during our interview. She is a wonderfully talented, loving and energetic woman who is approaching the 60th anniversary of the launch of her brand with the same humility, passion and excitement as she probably did when she hung her name above the door of her first store six decades ago.


Words: Julia Pasarón

King of the glass castle

Aged just 27, Alejandro Galán “Ale” is the indisputable king of padel, the Mexican racket sport. Padel, the fastest-growing sport in the world, has been in his life since infancy. His sister Alba played on the World Padel Tour as a child, so the whole family would spend most weekends at tournaments. As soon as a racket was put in his hands at the tender age of six, Ale realised he could be pretty good at it. The rest, as they say, is history.

Within a couple of years, Ale was playing in the Spanish national youth circuit, where he met his current partner, Juan Lebrón. “We both were among the very first kids taking up padel in Spain, so we met at lots of tournaments,” he explains, “but it wasn’t until 2020 that we became playing partners.”

It was obvious early on that Ale had a natural talent for padel. Coming from a modest family meant that he didn’t have access to the many hours of tuition and practice enjoyed by other players. But despite training for only one hour a week, it was soon clear to anyone watching he was destined to become a champion.

Ale started to play padel at the age of six and, within two years, was playing in the Spanish national youth circuit.  

A natural athlete he could well have made the grade in another sport. He was good at football and basketball, but as his family didn’t have many resources and the fact that his sister had chosen padel meant that this was the only sporting path open to him. And he was happy to follow it. “I adored padel from the beginning,” he explains, “but as a child, if it had been up to me, I would have loved to play all the sports!”

As the years went by and he developed physically, so he climbed the players’ ranking and trophies started to accumulate on the shelves of his family home in Leganés, Madrid. At the age of 16, he earned a sport scholarship, which allowed him to train regularly. Ale Galán was unstoppable. As soon as he turned 18, he joined the professional circuit.

At the age of just 27, Ale Galán is number one in the World Padel Tour ranking.

Talent alone, however, is not enough to achieve Ale’s level of success. It also required hard work and sacrifices. The arduous training meant that Ale missed a lot of the fun “normal” teenagers have. “I was the weird one,” he shares, “I’d often miss school on a Friday because I’d be travelling to a tournament and I missed many a party and a field trip.” Although he doesn’t regret his choice, there is a tinge of sadness in his voice. It is testament to his commitment that he chose the tough road, the one of sacrifice and discipline. “I found myself on occasion regretting not spending enough time with my friends, especially when they recounted a particularly funny anecdote, but I had a clear goal and I was ready to go all the way.”

In 2018 he was paired with Lebrón for the World Championship, which paved the way for them to become partners in 2020. It’s a court relationship that’s blossomed – they are currently ranked first in the world. The second pair in the ranking, Sanyo Gutiérrez and Fernando Belasteguín, lag well behind in terms of points. “We had great success last year, but every season is new and nothing can be taken for granted,” Ale says modestly.

As if keeping his position as number one wasn’t enough, Ale found time to start the Professional Padel Players Association (PPA)  in 2020 – of which he is chairman – to look after the interest of the players and promote the expansion of the sport at a global level. As well as being the fastest-growing sport in the world, in Spain, it is the second most popular sport after soccer, and in Sweden it is already played by more than 5 per cent of the population. “The dream is to become an Olympic sport,” he shares. “For that purpose, we have joined efforts with the International Federation of Padel [FIP].”

Ale and Juan, proud winners of the Italian Championship in 2022.

Ale’s meteoric career has earned him a role as brand ambassador for the Swiss luxury watchmaker Hublot, which is known for its use of innovative materials and avant-garde designs. For a kid that came from a modest neighbourhood in Madrid, this was a sign that his star is the brightest in the padel sky. He smiles, “Not even in my wildest dreams I would have imagined I’d become number one in the world, let alone have a global luxury brand like Hublot choosing me as their ambassador, with what it means not just for me but for the sport too.”

Ale wears an Hublot on his wrist on and off the court. “I love wearing it,” he says, taking a glimpse at his wrist, where an Hublot Big Bang rests. “I have several and they are all super comfortable and light. I wear them for everything, training, playing and off the court.” He shares a scary anecdote with me that is testament to how tough Hublot watches are. “Once I almost had a heart attack when, chasing a point, I ran onto the glass wall and hit it first with my wrist… with an Hublot on it.” The watch didn’t even suffer a scratch.

Hublot continues to expand its horizons in the world of sport by welcoming Ale Galán as an ambassador of the brand.

Ale hopes that the leadership that Hublot is showing by sponsoring him will help other brands to support the sport and, in turn, take it to new levels of growth and popularity. His passion for padel shows in everything he says and does. As someone who plays it a little, I must say that it is a great game to bring friends together (you need four players), it’s less physically demanding than tennis and incredible fun. Alex concurs, “Padel is a very versatile game. Even if the four players have different levels, all of them can have fun. Strength is not a key factor and from the very beginning you can enjoy playing it.”

The sport is growing very fast in the UK, with an estimated 90,000 people playing regularly and 250 courts nationwide – a figure expected to grow to 400 this year. “We are very much looking forward to playing in the UK,” Ale comments. “There was a tournament organised two years ago but due to Covid it got cancelled, so we are very eager to go back.” This eagerness is driven by Ale’s ambition to see padel become a truly global sport. When I ask him what he wants for himself in the future, he smiles and replies, “I will be happy staying where I am right now…” I can’t help but laugh with him. Of course he would say that. He is number one, the undisputed king of international padel.



Hublot watches featured in this article:

Big Bang Original Steel Blue (opening picture); Hublot Big Bang Único Black Magic (second image); and Hublot Square Bang Unico in titanium (picture with Adidas racket).

A guide to a St Valentine’s for one

Oscar Wilde famously said that “to love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” So why not have a St Valentine’s day fully devoted to you? Here are some ideas of how to spoil yourself rotten in the most selfish possible way. Go ahead and enjoy! 

The Bamford Wellness Spa, an oasis of holistic wellbeing in the heart of the Cotswolds.

A great idea for the day would be to spend it a spa, getting pampered from head to toe. I have recently discovered the Bamford Wellness Spa, located in the heart of Daylesford Organic farm in The Cotswolds. The state-of-the-art facilities are beautiful – as anything that Carol Bamford touches – and in total harmony with their surroundings. Its practitioners bring together influences and techniques from both eastern and western disciplines to offer customers an extensive menu of treatments and classes that aim at relaxing, restoring and nurturing your well-being in a gentle holistic way. 

The extensive treatment menu offers a fusion of ancient healing traditions, working both on the body and the mind to harmonise your emotional and mental wellbeing. I had the 90-minute Bamford Ultimate Signature Treatment, which is probably the best massage I’ve ever had. Except for the obvious places, every inch of my body was massaged. The treatment starts with starts with an Epsom salt foot bath to draw out toxins and to absorb magnesium, which helps reduce inflammation. 

Different techniques are used to maximise the benefits of the massage. A rose quartz mask over your eyes will leave them refreshed and refined (trick: it can also be used on the jawline).

Japanese shiatsu massage is then used to open the body’s meridians and start to unblock the energy channels. Swedish massage targets areas of concern and releases specific points of tension, then a heated chakra stone is placed on the abdomen for a gentle abdominal massage to improve gut health. I was floating by the time I left so to ground myself, I had a light lunch at The Orchard Bar, which offers and all-day menu of healthy food and drinks and then proceeded to do some retail therapy at the shop. Book your treatment HERE. 

Cosmetic acupuncturist Athena Garilea at her practise in Harvey Nichols, London.

If London is within reach, why not try something new such as Cosmetic acupuncture?  Acupuncture improves blood flow, stimulates both the nervous system to activate the body’s natural healing abilities (physical and emotional) and the skin, to generate new collagen and healthy new tissue. Practitioner Athena Garilea uses needles not only on traditional acupuncture points but also on lines, scars, pigmentation spots, etc to improve the texture and appearance of the skin. She integrates LED light therapy to enhance the healing effect of the needles. While they are still on, Athena covers them with sheet masks, letting the micro-punctures absorb up to 95 percent of the active substances in the topical serums applied (that’s miles more than your skin will absorb by just applying a serum or cream). Face massage, muscle and fascia release techniques, as well as Gua Sha, are also incorporated to improve circulation. Book your session HERE.

You can also opt to do something more pro-active and book the Galentine’s Macaron and Martini workshop by Oh La La! Macarons. In what promises to be an evening of sweet decadence in central London (Hatton Garden), pastry chefs will give a live demonstration of how to achieve the perfect French-style macaron. Then, true to the creative process, you will be provided with unlimited macarons to construct and decorate to your heart’s content.  The difficult thing here is going to be not to eat them since Oh La La!’s are the best macarons I’ve ever tasted.

Oh La La! Macarons has created special flavours for St Valentine’s, such as Earl Grey with vanilla, rhubarb and rose or strawberries and cream.

Accompanying the culinary masterclass, their in-house bartender will be serving unlimited martinis with a menu featuring Slingsby’s delicious rhubarb gin. Get involved behind the bar and shake up your own concoctions; or learn a skill or two from their bartender in crafting the perfect martini. At the end of the evening, you’lll take home a hand-crafted box with a dozen macarons. The workshop starts at 6.30pm and lasts around two and a half hours. Book it HERE.

Now, a day dedicated to yourself must have some serious shopping involved, don’t you think? The Ice Age weather we are suffering at the moment is the perfect excuse to buy yourself a gorgeous Toscana Trim Jacket by Celtic & Co. As I am not very tall (just over 5’5”) I prefer their new shorter version, which covers just the top of my thighs.

This Toscana jacket by Celtic & Co. will keep you warm even in the coldest winter day. It is lightweight and designed so it marks your waist for a sleeker body shape.

Made in the UK from 100 percent sheepskin, this gorgeous and sleek jacket keeps you so warm you could wear in the Arctic. As an added bonus, it is really lightweight and cut in a way that flatters your silhouette. Get yours HERE.

Once you got something to wear outside, you need something to wear inside… such as two drops of Sakura Eau de Parfum by Ormonde Jayne. This new fragrance joins the house’s Four Corners of the Earth collection. The inspiration comes from “hanami”, the symbolic Japanese springtime tradition of reflection, appreciating the transient yet eternal beauty of flowers…and of life.   

Sakura by Ormonde Jayne is intricate, demure and enigmatic; a bit like the Japanese concept of “hanami” that inspired it.

Sparkling notes of lime and mandarin tempered with pink pepper and a green accord open this elegant fragrance. Intermingled with soft almond, delicate cherry blossom, waterlilies and other flowers enhance a lasting dry-down of powdery violets, sandalwood and creamy vanilla with a touch of musk, amber and tonka bean. Buy it HERE.

And to remember it all, treat yourself to a proper writing instrument such as this limited edition Caran d’Ache Ecridor Venetian Dore Rose set. To me, it does matter what I write with. After all the hours I spend on a keyboard, I take pleasure in feeling the paper beneath my hand, the pressure of my fingers on the pen as it glides over the page.

This elegant Ecridor Venetian ball pen finished in rose gold is adorned with guilloché effect and presented in a black leather folder. The pen can be engraved with a personalised message.

To make these pens, Caran d’Ache uses techniques that are normally used by fine jewellers, which involve using several sharp diamonds to shape the material. The hammered effect you see on the pen – called guilloché – is reminiscent of the rippling waters of the narrow Venetian canals. Buy the Ecridor Venetian HERE.

Townhouse aims at elevating the nail salon experience to one of luxury and impeccable service.

Last, treat your hands and feet to which is arguable the best mani-pedi available at one of Townhouse’s Nail Bars. Their luxury gel manicure experience features shaping, buffing, cuticle care, extended massage, a luxury hot cream treatment and finished with your choice of gel, including a vegan range. The pedicure starts with a good soak, followed by the same service they offer for your hands plus hard skin filing, scrubbing and smoothing. They have many locations in London and a couple in other cities. Book your appointment HERE

Words: Julia Pasarón

Jewellery that will melt your heart

The day of love is traditionally feted with a romantic dinner, a bouquet of red roses, and maybe even a proposal. It is a celebration of the heart, mind and soul, an occasion to dial up the romance to full force and show your partner just how much you love and cherish them. Sometimes you want to embrace the occasion with a gift that is as enduring and timeless as your precious love for each other, perhaps some meaningful jewellery. If you are looking for something special to express your feelings, here are some suggestions.

Garrard Aloria Pendant

This romantic heart-shaped pink sapphire pendant by Garrard has extra special significance this year because the design from the Aloria collection, launched in 2020, is based on the silhouette of the setting for the magnificent 530.20-carat Cullinan I diamond that rests on the top of the Sovereign’s Sceptre.

Contrasting a smooth surface of pink sapphires, set with delicate scintillation, the calibré cut stones are framed by a row of pavé diamonds and diamond accents on the chain.

In 1910 King George V commissioned Garrard to set the diamond in the sceptre, which has been used at the coronation of every monarch since Charles II in 1661 and will so again on the 6th of May for Charles III. Known as the Sovereign motif, Aloria’s heart-shape pendant symbolises love but also carries the romance of history. £13,500. Buy it HERE.

Adler Tivoli Earrings

A bouquet of red roses is a popular choice for Valentine’s Day, but what about demonstrating your love with a bouquet of bejewelled flowers? The Swiss jewellery house has turned to the famous Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen for inspiration for its eponymous collection, including these enchanting earrings in 18kt rose gold featuring two pear-shaped rubellites (4.49cts), four morganites (1.02cts), seven pink tourmalines (1.59cts), four spessartites (1.17cts), three spinels (0.55cts) and 10 diamonds (0.28cts) all those pretty pink gemstones including rubellites, morganites, tourmalines and spinels, which look so feminine.

Adler’s Tivoli earrings, set in warm 18kt rose gold with a variety of pink precious stones, look ever so feminine and romantic.

What’s more, these sparkling flowers will last a lifetime, long after the fresh blooms have faded, and so what better to express your feelings than with precious gems. CHF14,350. Buy them HERE.

Harry Winston Sunflower Pendants

Mr Winston was a man of marvellous secrets, and such was his obsession with diamonds that he would walk the streets of New York with some hidden deep inside his pockets, for the pleasure of having them nearby. A perfect way to spring a surprise on your loved one would be to fish one of these sparkling Harry Winston diamond and ruby pendants from the depths of your pocket when the moment is right.

On the left, the central ruby (0.46cts) is encircled by eight round brilliant diamonds (0.44cts); on the right, a one carat diamond is surrounded by eight round brilliant diamonds weighing approximately 1.24 carats.

Set in platinum, both pendants are from the Sunflower collection, a motif that has been in the Harry Winston collection since 1950 when the “King of Diamonds” began wielding real star power and became immortalised in that hit song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”. Both £POA. You can enquiry about the ruby and diamond pendant HERE. And about the diamond-only version HERE.

Elizabeth Gage Caesar Molten Ring

Valentine gift-giving is a two-way street between couples, with both sharing the joy of giving and receiving. So, treat him to something special and truly distinctive, like a ring from Elizabeth Gage’s Molten Gold collection featuring the bust of Emperor Caesar.

This stylish 18kt yellow molten gold ring by Elizabeth Gage features a gold bust of Caesar, with a rich red enamel over finely engraved radiating lines.

Gage’s ring designs are rich with history inspired by the bravery of the medieval knights of Agincourt and Charlemagne and later, by the Renaissance; her bold, strong muscular styles crafted by highly skilled goldsmiths. Elizabeth Gage is regarded as one of the great British designers and a master goldsmith, creating jewellery for over 50 years, pieces that can be regarded as future heirlooms, rich with meaning. £4,800. You can buy it HERE.

Vrai Signet Ring and Tennis Bracelet

A typical option for a gift to the man in your life might be an aftershave or his favourite tipple, but they don’t last forever. Jewellery, which is becoming increasingly popular amongst men, however, is a timeless gift that can be treasured for a lifetime.

Vrai’s signet ring and tennis bracelet are interpretations of classics with a modern twist in their design and using sustainable lab diamonds.

Signet rings and diamond tennis bracelets are particularly stylish accessories, yet still look quite subtle. Vrai is making its name as a sustainable fine jewellery brand using lab-grown diamonds, which are chemically identical to natural diamonds, and would appeal to a man who feels passionately about the environment. Signet ring £1,547. You can buy it HERE.  Tennis bracelet £10,412. You can buy it HERE.

Gemfields x Donna Hourani To Womenhood Earrings

The quote by the Persian poet Rumi “Love is the bridge between you and everything” is the mantra that inspired Dubai-based Donna Hourani’s Bridge collection collaboration with Gemfields, the responsibly sourced emerald and ruby mining specialists.

These enchanting, mismatched earrings start with diamonds on top (representing you), followed by emeralds (the bridge of love) and lead up to multicoloured sapphires.

Hourani believes emeralds allow the wearer to operate from the heart, with love, compassion and at harmony with nature. The multi-coloured sapphires meanwhile symbolise femininity, emotional healing, courage and good fortune. A beautiful gift to a loved one of these mismatched drop earrings shares that heart-felt message. £5,830.90. You can buy it HERE

Fabergé x Gemfields Colours of Love Ring

Ruby, sensuous and talismanic, inspires devotion and faithfulness within a romantic relationship, which explains why red has come to symbolise Valentine’s Day. French jewellers in the 18th century referred to the ruby as the “dearly loved stone” and in ancient times, the gemstone was believed to possess certain magical powers over wealth, wisdom and success in matters of the heart.

In keeping with its fondness for surprise and discovery, Fabergé has concealed a matching ruby on the inside of the band.

Therefore, Fabergé’s vibrant Gemfields Mozambican No Heat ruby ring (0.75cts) with pave-set diamond shoulders (0.21cts) makes an ideal gift, full of passion and meaning to celebrate such an auspicious day together with your lover. The ring is set in 18kt fluted Peruvian rose gold (mercury free). £7,680. Buy it HERE.

Words: Francesca Fearon

Opening picture by Marta Branco

Bicester Village redefines luxury shopping

I must confess I don’t like shopping at all, so when I was proposed to spend a whole day doing just that in what is considered the busiest shopping outlet in the UK, I felt quite dismayed. However, Bicester Village has a VIP programme that will convince even the most reluctant of shoppers and make your day a true luxurious experience.

If you travel from London, the journey is as easy as pie. Trains go to and from Bicester Village every 30 minutes. At the station, there is a Bicester Village booth where you can comfortably wait for your train and where they’ll answer any questions you may have. Upon arrival at Bicester Village station, VIP guests walk straight into the Guest Service Hub, from where a buggy will pick them up and drive to the Village (five minutes). Our driver, Stephen, took us straight to The Apartment, a townhouse offering VIP guest experiences for a memorable visit and a place to relax and unwind during the day. Access to this oasis is by invitation only, so even if you are a VIP, you need to contact them ahead and inform them of your visit (also, if you don’t do so, there won’t be a buggy waiting for you at the station).

A private shopping service can be booked at The Apartment in Bicester Village for the ultimate stress-free shopping experience.

There is a whole hospitality team at Bicester Village led by Bence and Claire. At The Apartment, we were welcomed by Burak, who checked us in and offered to make appointments for us in the busiest stores, such as Gucci, YSL and Prada, where long queues form on busy days; so it pays off to book in advance. While Burak did that, our hostess Sandy showed us around the private shopping rooms. This is a new service similar to personal shopping, but with the added bonus that anything you want is brought to you, while you sip champagne while comfortably sitting on a plush sofa. If you are not sure what you want, have a chat with your personal shopper and they’ll bring you a wide selection from which to choose.

The Apartment has been designed by the London-based studio, Carden Cunietti, famous for their dramatic, artful style emphasised with luxurious textures and accessories.

Upstairs, The Apartment has several living spaces, all designed by London-based Carden Cunietti, with bespoke wallpaper by De Gournay. We visited in early December, so fires were lit in every room and the place looked magical. There is also a balcony all around which must be absolutely delightful in summer. At any time of the day, you are welcome to come in and have a drink and a bite to restore your energy and give a break to your credit card.

Bicester Village looks more like a charming village than a shopping mall. Maybe that’s why more than six million people visit it every year. 

There are more than 150 stores here with fabulous savings all year-round in designer and lifestyle brands so honestly, you could come away with anything you may need or want for yourself, your beloved or your home. As a VIP, you get a code with an extra 10 percent discount and a “hands-free” service, so you don’t have to carry your bags around with you as you shop; they are sent back to The Apartment and you simply pick them up upon your return. This is one more detail that makes shopping here so painless.

We took our lunchbreak at the recently opened Cecconi’s, which seems to be as popular in Bicester as it is in Mayfair. They operate as a walk-in service so you can’t book in advance. If you can’t get in, don’t despair, there are several other places to enjoy good food at the Village, such as the Farmshop, La Tua Pasta or Shan Sui. After lunch, we proved our resilience by shopping for another couple of hours before going back to The Apartment for a restorative glass of champagne and a bit of a rest. In the meantime, the hospitality team had prepared our luggage and our shopping, ready to be loaded in a MINI Electric that they kindly loaned to us for the duration of our trip. Those of you who follow us on Instagram will know that I love MINI. Aesthetically, their cars are as cute as they get and they drive like little demons. The Electric is no different. You’ll be surprised at how quick this car is off the pedal and how agile. In terms of specs, there are four different levels, with the first one starting at £29,000 which already includes a sophisticated navigation system with an 8.8” display, Apple Car Play, digital cockpit and the possibility of customising your car with a selection of different paints and wheels.

The MINI Electric presents many design touches that will delight long term fans and new customers alike. 

We chose to stay overnight nearby, at the Old Parsonage Hotel (Oxford) which is just 20 minutes from Bicester. The building dates back to the 17th century, combining original charm and character with the amenities and technology you’d expect in any luxury hotel. The labyrinth of staircases and corridors lead to 35 rooms and suites, all of them gorgeous, an excellent example of what can be done with small spaces when you put love into the job. Each of them has been individually designed and feature handmade beds, natural fabrics, unique Oxford sketches and beautiful marble bathrooms. 

Oxford’s 17th century Old Parsonage is best known for its eclectic country house charm. 

The history of the place is quite interesting. The land was, and still is, owned by University College. The original part of the building started construction as early as 1640, and in 1660, Edward Selwood, the prosperous chef of nearby St John’s College, bought it and finished it. It seems that good food has been a constant here for six centuries. The Parsonage Grill is a favourite among locals and visitors alike. They use the best local produce to create classic British dishes with a contemporary twist. Of special interest is their collection of oil paintings, mainly portraits of well-known authors and artists. 

Each of the 35 rooms and suites at The Old Parsonage is individually designed combining classic charm with all the amenities of a modern five-star hotel.

The Old Parsonage also offers its guests vintage-style bicycles to explore Oxford the traditional way. After an invigorating ride, we had a drink and a snack in the library, a calm and inviting space where to chill, surrounded by a wonderful collection of books and of photographs of 1960s Oxford by Paddy Summerfield, known for his personal approach to documentary photography in black and white, using 35mm film.

In the morning, we went back to Bicester Village for a bit of last-minute shopping… which inevitably ended taking a couple of hours as the offers there are simply too tempting. One last glass of champagne at The Apartment and it was time for Stephen to take us in the buggy to the station and back to London… with a suitcase full of new designer clothing and accessories. My opinion about shopping has definitely changed. I can’t wait to have an excuse to do it all over again.

Plan your visit to Bicester Village HERE.

Book The Old Parsonage HERE.

Fragrances to spice up your Christmas

Around this time of the year, everywhere smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, frankincense and cloves. While this is a scent that definitely inspires good old Christmas nostalgia, when it comes to choosing fragrances for ourselves or to gift, maybe we should look somewhere else. I’ve done a little selection of parfums ideal as presents and may also tempt you to change yours. Just ask yourself how long you’ve been using the same.

I would start with Fiole’s Fragrance Finder. This is a great way to find the scents that you truly like. The method takes a couple of steps and is quite entertaining. First you fill in a short questionnaire to work out a bit your preference and then you are sent a personalised sample box with six fragrances based on your answers. Then you follow the instructions to compare them two by two and when you make your final choice and order, the cost of the sample box (£29.95) is deduced from your bill.  

Fiole’s test box (left) helps you identify the best fragrances for you. On the right, the Unisex Gift Set with three of their best-loved fragrances.

This Christmas they have different gift sets with their most popular fragrances. My pick is the Unisex Gift Set (£120) which contains a refill of Sydney Rock Pool by Arquistre, one of Gdansk by Gallivant and one of Verveine D’Été by Le Jardin Retrouvé. Included is a Marcel Franck Black Aluminium Travel Container and a gift card (worth £29.95) for a a personalised sample box. Start your journey with Fiole.

My next choice is Jo Malone’s White Moss & Snowdrop Cologne (£115). I love the contrast between the fragrance of snowdrop petals peeking through powdery snow and forest-fresh moss, finished with a touch of golden amber and cardamom.

White Moss & Snowdrop by Jo Malone is a limited edition ideal as a Christmas gift. The smooth and romantic scent comes in a new festive round frosted bottle…

This fresh and uplifting cologne blends different flowers to recreate the soft delicate accents of snowdrop and a sappy green note that brings radiance to the fragrance. The base note is white moss, which brings the woodiness and earthiness of the forest to it with a fresh mineral touch to complement the cardamom spicey finish. You can buy it directly from Jo Malone or at other retailers such as John Lewis.

Creed 3- Piece Discovery Set (£135) for men is ideal as a gift. Presented in an elegant gift box with the brand’s signature Fleur de Lis, the set features three of the house’s signature scents: Aventus, Silver Mountain Water and Green Irish Tweed. 

Designed to create scented memories, the signature pattern is a nod to Creed’s love of horses which inspires the full Festive collection. Buy it from Creed or from Harvey Nichols.

If you are searching for a truly seductive parfum, look no further thanBabylonia Eau de Parfum by Ormonde Jayne (135). Part of The Silk Road collection, the new Babylonia is a soft powdery perfume that speaks of exotic flowers and spices, with facets of iris, sweet violets and siam benzoin that evoke tales of legendary travels. 

Babylonia by Ormonde Jayne brings a sense of romance and seductions to your Christmas. The caps of the bottles can be engraved for the ultimate personal touch.

Babylonia Eau de Parfum begins with a quartet of luscious gourmand notes – blackcurrant, pink pepper, davana and bergamot, followed by the warmth of soft musk, sweet resins, vanilla and praline.  You can buy it at Ormonde Jayne  and several luxury retailers such as Harrods.

We will finish our our exotic journey to the East with Matsukita by Clive Christian (£400). The original was created in 1892 and was inspired by a fabled Japanese princess who awed the Victorian royal court with her elegance and grace. Today, Matsukita has been reimagined to capture this illusive elegance. 

Matsukita by Clive Christian encapsulates the mystery and grace of ancient Japan.

The ambers, whispering musks and woods build the warm based of this fragrance, which follows with a heart of chinese imperial jasmine and smokey black tea, complemented with a fresh and invigorating top of green bergamot, pink pep- per and a hint of nutmeg delving into a sensual finish. Buy directly from Clive Christian, or from Fortnum & Mason

Words: Julia Pasarón

Opening picture by © Valeria Boltneva.

Countdown to a beautiful christmas

We all want to look our best at Christmas but we can’t make it happen overnight. We recommend to dial up your beauty regime and add some extras to ensure you get to the Christmas festivities looking your very best.

For starters, we suggest you give your hair a bit of TLC. Product build-up is a very common cause of hair dullness and it also affects the health of our scalp, which in turn, influences the hair growing cycle. Avant’s Serene Scalp Recovery Exfoliating treatment (£72) thoroughly cleans your scalp, balances oils and fights flakes to keep your hair follicles healthy.

Avant’s Serene Scalp Recovery Exfoliating treatment combines key ingredients that work together to deeply clean the scalp and promote hair growth and strength.

The secret is the combination of ingredients in it. For example, kaolin works to remove grime, excess oil and dead skin cells. Sarcosine also helps to remove oil and dirt but its main job is to enhance the feel and appearance of damaged hair, helping to improve its body, sheen and suppleness. Macadamia seed oil is rich in antioxidants and fatty acids, which contribute to leave hair stronger and healthier, whilst helping it to recover from environmental stressors. Buy it HERE.

Another hair wonder, also by Avant, is the Beautifying Phytoactive Hair Bonding Elixir (£69). This is a leave-in hair oil that works to beautify the appearance of dull hair, aiming to leave your hair shiny and strong.

Beautifying Phytoactive Hair Bonding Elixir has deep moisturising properties that contribute to a healthier scalp and thicker, glossier hair.

The two key ingredients here are Argan oil, which works to moisturise your hair and scalp and protect from everyday damage. A healthier scalp prevents hair loss and less breakage and split ends contribute to thicker, fuller hair. Carrot oil works to make the roots stronger at the scalp and to improve hair texture, making it shinier, smoother and softer to the touch. Buy it HERE.

Time to have a look at what we can do from the inside. In the last 10 weeks, I have been taking daily Totally Derma (£105), a nutraceutical collagen drink supplement that has really surprised me with its effect. Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body and responsible for the structure of our skin. As we get older, we produce less of it and our skin starts to sag.

Totally Derma boasts a combination of Type I, II and III collagen, hyaluronic acid and other compounds vital for collagen production and skin health.

Totally Derma contains a very high concentration of collagen and hyaluronic acid, with a 95 percent absorption rate. These two compounds stimulate the production of each other and together with the anti-inflammatories and antioxidants in the formula are distributed via the blood vessels to into the deeper layers of the dermis. You can buy it HERE.

Time now to look at what we can apply directly to our skin that would show results within weeks. I will start with the Bioeffect Firming Favourites Gift Set (£169). It contains three key products for an anti-ageing routine for face and eyes with visible results quite quickly. The first is their bestselling EGF Serum, which boost hydration and moisture retention, thus helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and increases firmness and elasticity. You just need to apply a few drops to your face, neck and décolleté morning and evening. I wait for a few minutes before applying the rest of my skin routine so the serum can be properly absorbed by my skin.

These Bioeffect kit will introduce you to an anti-ageing EGF routine for face and eyes delivering impressive results.

The EGF Eye Serum targets the eye contour with a higher concentration of Barley EGF, visibly reducing fine lines, wrinkles and under-eye puffiness. Apply the cooling roller ball to clean skin above and below the eye. Massage gently with fingertips for even penetration and like with the face serum, wait a few minutes before applying your sunscreen and moisturiser. The cooling and soothing Imprinting Eye Mask was developed to maximise the efficacy of Barley EGF in the EGF Eye Serum while nourishing, firming and rejuvenating the delicate eye area. You should peel off the transparent film before putting on your skin, then remove the white outer layers. Leave it on for 15 minutes and after you remove it, massage the excess serum into your skin. The final result is a visibly smoother, plumper and firmer skin. You can buy it HERE.

The run up to Christmas is party season on steroids so I would recommend you get yourself Dr Yannis Hero Edit 2022 by 111 Skin (£530), a combination of the internationally acclaimed products by Dr Yannis Alexandrides MD FACS. Selected from their powerful Reparative and Intensive ranges, the set includes star products like the Y Theorem Repair Light Serum NAC Y²™ and Celestial Black Diamond Eye Masks among others.

Dr Yannis Hero Edit includes one Y Theorem Repair Light Serum NAC Y²™, one Space Defence Bright Eye Lift Gel NAC Y²™, one Celestial Black Diamond Retinol Oil, one Vitamin C Brightening Booster, three Celestial Black Diamond Eye Masks and three Y Theorem Bio cellulose Facial Masks.

Star ingredients in this Hero set are Retinol, NAC Y²™and Glutathione. Retinol is a powerful form of Vitamin A that speeds up cell-turnover, hence its anti-ageing properties. It also helps to resurface the skin, so it reduces texture issues associated with scarring, open pores, acne and even pigmentation. Retinol can be quite harsh on the skin but this formula is really soft on the skin. Mine is very sensitive and it didn’t cause any irritation on it. NAC Y²™ is a derived amino acid complex that provides cellular immunity, promote antioxidant activity and balances the skin against environmental aggressors that lead to premature cellular decline. Glutathione is the body’s naturally occurring antioxidant that works to boost the production of collagen, hyaluronic acid and elastin in the dermis. You can buy this set HERE.

To give your skin the ultimate luxurious experience,look no further than La Prairie’s White Caviar Festive Ritual (£1,624), focused on working on skin texture and brightness. The coffret includes two sizes each of White Caviar Illuminating Pearl Infusion serum; White Caviar Crème Extraordinaire, infused with Lumidose, the most potent illuminating molecule; and a full-sized White Caviar Eye Extraordinaire, for a luminous eye area. I tested it over a period of four weeks, and I must say that I could see a significant improvement in the smoothness and brightness of my skin.

Enriched with potent illuminating molecules and the firming power of caviar, this ritual helps to diminish the appearance of age spots and provides skin with extraordinary luminosity.

This five-piece set includes full and replica sizes of the essential White Caviar Collection creations. First, I apply the White Caviar Illuminating Pearl Infusion, then White Caviar Eye Extraordinaire and to finish, the White Caviar Crème Extraordinaire. My skin looked so luminous and even that when I was using this ritual, I didn’t feel the need to apply a primer under my foundation. Buy it HERE.

Last… the definitive home device to get rid of unwanted hair forever, Sensilight PRO by Sensica (£379). I spent years and thousands of pounds in electric, photo and laser epilation and although it has mostly been very effective, there are still stubborn patches here and there. Sensilight PRO is clinically proven and not only works for permanent hair reduction but it also helps to fight signs of ageing and firms up sagging skin.

Sensilight Pro is very easy to use and I noticed real results after just four sessions.

Apart from being very easy and safe to use, the device is equipped with RPL™ technology – the most advanced for home use based on the ones professionals use – and comes with two heads, one with a 4.5cm2 window for large areas such as legs and arms and a 2cm2 window for small areas such as the upper lip, chin and jawline. The results are as good as you’d get in a beauty salon. You can buy it HERE.

Words: Julia Pasarón

Opening picture by Roy Clarke for Pixabay

Spa Metropole by Givenchy, Monte-Carlo

Tranquillity can be hard to come across in Monaco. With its never-ending hustle and bustle, shoppers on the go and tourists clamouring to take photos of the sports cars whizzing by, the place can be overwhelming and chaotic. But tucked away within the stunning Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo, a stone’s throw away from the heart of Monaco, a peaceful oasis can be found in Spa Metropole by Givenchy.

Givenchy is known for its high fashion, but their beauty and skincare lines have developed a loyal cult following. As a lover of both fashion and beauty, I’m here to discover what one of the three Givenchy spas in the world has to offer. Designed by architect Didier Gomez, the spa does a wonderful job at paying tribute to the French designer’s reputation of sophistication and elegance. With marble floors, gold detailing, lanterns and walls with moving images of lush vegetation to simulate walking through a rainforest, the spa is instantly calming. It’s bright and airy whilst also being cosy and intimate. Much like fashion, moving with the times but remaining true to its core essence, there’s a mix of the old and the new, which will appeal to the most discerning of guests.

Digital wall by Studio Phenix, at the Spa Metropole by Givenchy, featuring rainforest vegetation.

There’s a nice menu of holistic treatments for both body and face, but I was here for their latest special treatment: the “Givenchy Skin Ressource”. Designed to relieve tension and massively boost hydration, this anti-stress ritual is ideal at this time of the year to combat any external aggressions and stress on the skin, as well as repair the effects of the sun after a summer spent frolicking on the beachside.

The journey begins with a fragrance. I opted for Oiseau Raren – an elegant peppery and vanilla scent. I’m also told it’s the firm favourite. A handkerchief is then doused with it and placed in the pocket square of your robe, so you can also enjoy an olfactory journey throughout your time in the spa. Guests are invited to fill in a small questionnaire guests can fill to state what skin concerns they might have. There’s even a list of music choices you can select whilst you enjoy your treatment. Their monogrammed slippers and robes are a charming touch that will for sure delight fashion lovers.

Reception area of the Spa Metropole by Givenchy, designed by architect Didier Gomez.

The spa’s therapists have vast knowledge about skincare. Mine, the lovely Nisrine, chooses creams, lotions and serums specifically suited to my skin needs. This personalised approach ensures that each care ritual is unique and unlike anyone else’s. For the next 75 minutes, Nisrine gets to work on my face with a relaxing and deeply moisturising facial, cleansing and massaging my face, neck and chest. Givenchy products smell gorgeous and feel profoundly hydrating, gentle and non-abrasive. The results? I’m left with a SUPER moisturised face and my pores are virtually gone. My skin appears as if airbrushed.

After treatments, guests can take part in the unique Heat Experience the spa has to offer. This heat circuit might sound like a bit too much, considering the temperature of the French Riviera but, with an ice fountain and sensory showers, it’s all taken care off. There is a great relaxation room filled with generously sized sunbeds and a plethora of natural foods: fresh and dried fruits, sweets, pastries prepared by Hotel Metropole’s pastry chef – of the two Michelin-starred restaurant Joël Robuchon – seasonal floral waters, freshly-pressed juices and more, even chocolate.

The Heat Experience includes the sauna, hammam, caldarium, ice fountain, and sensory showers.

Spa Metropole by Givenchy offers guests a sensory journey through sounds, sight, smell, touch and even taste, ideal for escaping from the stresses and tension of modern life, reminding every person that comes through their door that, what is truly important, is their wellbeing.

Direct bookings: HERE or call: +377 93 15 13 70, email: spa.givenchy@metropole.com

Words: J. Bibi Cooper  @jbibicooper

Opening image: W. Pryce

Luxury living at the heart of the South Bank

In the last decade, the South Bank has become one of the most dynamic areas in London. Located at the heart of the city’s cultural scenes – the Southbank Centre, the National Theatre and the BFI are all in the area , as are the Big Ben and the London Eye. This part of London, with its tree-lined riverside walkway, its restaurants and historic pubs, is attracting the attention of developers as demand to live here has been increasing exponentially.

One of the most recent developments is Triptych Bankside, three imposing sweeping towers with 169 luxury apartments in two blocks and 68,000 sq ft of prime grade A commercial space in a nine-storey building. Designed by acclaimed architects Squire & Partners and inspired by the ebb and flow of the River Thames, Triptych Bankside’s undulating curves and bold architectural proportions are a striking statement silhouette on London’s skyline. Even more striking are the panoramic views enjoyed from the apartments, from the River Thames to St Paul’s, The Shard and other London landmarks.

Besides its privileged central location, all the amenities and retail spaces at ground level make the development really convenient for those looking for a luxury residence in a really vibrant part of London. Recently, three new spectacular show flats were revealed, curated by interior designers Cocovara and Bergman & Mar.

Lucy Powles, Director of Cocovara Interiors, commented, “In creating these new show flats, our approach has been inspired by a sophisticated, natural colour palette which is muted and calm. We have used natural textured fabrics and materials such as wicker and terracotta and commissioned bespoke artwork. Custom-built furniture with a sustainable focus has been specifically placed in order for the occupant to enjoy the magnificent views of St Paul’s Cathedral. This has been an exciting three-year project so far for us, setting the specification not only for the show flats but also the design style for the reception area, cinema, private lounges, gym and more.”

Interior designers Cocovara opted for a natural palette and textured fabrics and materials as well as bespoke artwork.

Petra Arko, Director of Bergman & Mar, said, “Our aim for the interior design of the Triptych show apartments was to create a luxurious city home that is comfortable yet unique while including the Southbank’s rich cultural history and vibrant life. We paid close attention to incorporating different tactile materials, soft shapes and warmer colour hues. We wanted the apartment to portray a feeling of uniqueness by using contemporary furniture made by British and international artisans, mixing contemporary and vintage-styled pieces. The idea was to create heirlooms that could be passed down to future generations.

All of the apartments within the complex feature bright spaces with floor to ceiling triple gazed windows and spacious balconies. There is a large co-working space with multiple workstations, ideal for hybrid working, as well as private lounges, games room and an in-house cinema. On site there is an independent café run by 92 Degrees, state-of-the-art gym with a bouldering climbing wall run by The Font, cycle storage with showers and communal landscaped gardens.

Bergman & Mar aimed at making each apartment feel unique by using furniture made by British and international artisans.

Explore the rich history of this thriving area filled with iconic landmarks and world-class galleries against the backdrop of the River Thames. Walk a short distance to find a wealth of distinguishable and characterful pockets, culinary and retail hotspots, as well as convenient transport hubs that facilitate seamless access across the capital and beyond.

Nigel Fleming, Sales & Marketing Director of JTRE London commented, “This sales success so far is testament to the design, location and quality of development at Triptych Bankside, making the estate one of the foremost schemes in London and is reflected in the soaring levels of interest from the UK and further afield. We are attracting buyers away from traditional golden postcodes such as Kensington and Chelsea as they are pleasantly surprised when they discover how quiet it is in the immediate vicinity, yet with a host of amenities right on the doorstep. With easy access to both The City and the West End, Triptych Bankside offers incredible views of London’s skyline, as well as being closely situated to Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe and Borough Market.”

Find out more and/or book a private viewing HERE.

Words: Shelley Campbell

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