One of the favourite collaborations I have ever done was being invited by Charbonnel et Walker owner Galvin Weston to design a series of My Fair Lady inspired Ascot hats in the shape of exotic and luxurious chocolates for the summer season Bond Street window of his chocolatier in the Royal Arcade.
What fun I had creating silk chocolates (the violet creams worked especially well) that looked so real that several of our guests at the glitzy champagne launch party – a few weeks before Royal Ascot – actually put them in their mouth before munching on my silk and satin creations.
I first got to know Galvin after he – during our honeymoon – kindly lent me and my husband one of his cottages at his famous Frenchman’s Cove resort in Port Antonio, Jamaica. It has one of the most beautiful and unspoilt beaches in the world. I was delighted to hear that he is soon to start renovating some of the resort cottages which were built back in the 1960s. When the Queen came to Jamaica in the sixties, she stayed there with Prince Philip, an episode that Galvin clearly remembers.
Dating back to 1875, Charbonnel also have plenty of royal customers and connections. I was not surprised whilst reading a recent biography of Wallis Simpson (aka The Duchess of Windsor) to learn that Charbonnel were her favourite chocolate. The company actually began with patronage from Edward VII, (then the Prince of Wales), with a chocolatier partnership forming between Mrs Walker and Mme Charbonnel, the latter from Maison Boissier chocolate house in Paris.
Exotic and glamorous handmade hats and posh handmade chocolates go perfectly together which is why I so enjoy the parties I co-host with Galvin Weston and Charbonnel at his chic little chocolate cave of a showroom on the end of the Royal Arcade.
Milliners and royal chocolatiers tend to have similar sorts of society clients: royalty, aristocrats, socialites and film stars. In addition to Mrs Simpson (she was never HRH much to her chagrin) Charbonnel’s customers have included Princess Diana, Princess Margaret, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Alec Guinness, Lauren Bacall, Noel Coward (who requested a box of their finest selections to be delivered to his home every fortnight ) and Prince Francis of Teck after courting her with Charbonnel et Walker chocolates.
No Charbonnel et Cathcart party is complete without the presence of Charbonnel’s model and muse Charlotte Radford, who also happens to be one of my brand ambassadors as well. So it was nice to see that when Charbonnel commissioned an ad campaign last year featuring Charlotte looking exotic in roaring Twenties pink, Galvin made sure that Charlotte was wearing one of my Charbonnel hats. The fluffy pink boa feather creation was inspired by one of my favourite Charbonnel chocolates; the pink champagne truffle.
I can’t wait until May comes around again in 2017 so we can have another glitzy Charbonnel et Cathcart evening party with millinery, chocolates in Bond Street. All washed down with pink champagne and dozens of A list society guests.