Former Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman's new book Clothes…and other things that matter tells the story of her life through the contents of her wardrobe. Having grown up a stone's throw from Sloane Square, Chelsea looms large in her book. She recounts some of those memories to Selma Day
What is your earliest memory of Chelsea?
My earliest memory of Chelsea was being taken with my siblings by our father for a walk every Saturday morning to Sloane Square and the King’s Road. We would buy newspapers from the guy there and then go and have a Coca-Cola in the Kenco Coffee House and often go to the WHSmith that was there and be bought a toy or a record. It was our weekly treat.
With your dad (Milton Shulman) being a theatre critic, did you visit the Royal Court Theatre?
Despite the Royal Court being the local theatre, as a young person, I didn’t visit it very much. Now I go there pretty often.
Which shops did you used to visit?
So many of the Chelsea shops – then and now – have strong memories. I loved to visit places like the Chelsea Drugstore, Forbidden Fruit, Kids in Gear and I think it was called the Jean Machine where we bought cotton loon pants. Also John Sandoe for books and, of course, Peter Jones with that amazing staircase.
In your book you mention your first grand event was in a ballroom in Chelsea where you wore your first ‘big ticket dress’. Where was that?
There was a private ballroom in a house between Eaton Square and Sloane Square where I went to my first dance. It was on Eaton Terrace and writing about it in Clothes… and other things that matter, I was surprised how much I remembered.
You mention your fondness for white Manolo Blahnik shoes. What is it about Manolo shoes in particular that you love?
Manolo Blahnik has been one of the most talented London shoe designers for decades. I was lucky to have him make me beautiful white shoes with a 90mm heel that were just gorgeous to wear and comfortable. But his shoes are really dreams for the feet and his shops are little treasure troves.
What are your favourite restaurants in Chelsea?
I often eat at Colbert which is such a nice place to spend time at either lunch or dinner. Before lockdown, we sometimes would eat with my mother who is a local at Manicomio in Duke of York Square.
What are your favourite shops on Sloane Street?
When I go to Sloane Street I like to have a look in Prada, Chloé and Harvey Nichols. And now it’s nice to wander down Pavilion Road and see what’s happening there.
What changes have you seen around Sloane Square?
Sloane Square used to be more of a locals’ spot and didn’t have big brands established there so that gave it a different feel. Sloane Street, when I was a child, could never have been thought of as a major fashion shopping street as it now is. I remember it for having Gallops where our shoes were repaired and the dry cleaners. And then Partridges and the General Trading Store.
Which artists and musicians have inspired you?
I am a great fan of contemporary music – rock, pop, indie. So many artists have formed the aural background to my life – people like Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Joan Baez, Neil Young. But I like newer artists too like Florence Welch, Beyonce, Aldous Harding and Charli XCX.
How do you think the situation with this pandemic will change attitudes to fashion and what impact will it have both in the short term and long term?
The fashion industry will be deeply affected by the pandemic as are so many industries. In the short term it has caused chaos but I am a believer that clothes are important to us; they always have been and always will be. So fashion will survive although there may be some major changes in the way it is distributed and marketed. I think it’s very important to support our local shops that sell fashion.