Robin Dutt – A Great British Dandy
Author, journalist, media consultant, lecturer, bon viveur and great British dandy, Robin Dutt let’s GDC Interiors Journal into a typical culturally crowded day of his life. Specialising in the arts, interior design and of course sartorial matters, Robin is frequently featured and interviewed in a number of magazines and books on dandyism of which he is both expert and exemplar.
I AM an inveterate creature of habit. I have learnt to not only love but rely upon the surety that familiarity can bring. And usually does. Typically, I wake up at around 7 a.m. having had the World Service on all night (or is that morning?) and sleeping often fitfully. Sometimes I wake up every two-three hours and digest the same news my sleeping brain has already gleaned. So, by the time morning breaks, I am pretty well informed – again and again. What an authority one can be – and as Prince once sang, ‘There’s joy in repetition.’
As the World Service melds into Radio 4 and thinking that I also now know all the shipping stations by heart (of course, I don’t) it’s a quick rummage around for les vetements du jour and out before the mirror raises any more doubts or suggestions. I always say my dressing room is my mind. I hardly ever change any detail of clothing or accessory and bolt for the front door. A moment of hesitation and you may be hooked. Passionate about black clothes, I make life easy for myself – in this respect, at least.
I have an ancient ‘tower’ CD player and I can’t remember when I removed the disc by 1980’s metal/New Romantic singer, John Foxx. A blast before leaving and often on entering the apartment at whatever the time in the early hours has now become a habit. I do not have breakfast which is possibly a bad thing. In my Soho days it would be a Mocha or two at the legendary Maison Bertaux in Greek Street run by the fabulous Michelle Wade, a one-time classical actress for whom the tea house is a stage. Perhaps also a cheese croissant (with wings) I would insist – that is where the excess cheese had bubbled over and crisped on the pan. But since my stamping ground has changed to the familiarities of Mayfair, close to Home House, the private members’ club, I am now more familiar with the marble top bar there, where I write and do my research. Far from being a distraction, I find it the perfect place to create and in fact, I practically wrote the whole of my first book on artists, Gilbert & George there and indeed launched it there too.
Its chic Robert Adam interior never fails to charm and even if I look at the same cornice , that slice of marble, the delicious tondo, it is always as if looking at all afresh
Image: Music Room, Home House, London
I’ve been a member of Home House for over 16 years. I am writing this here now. Even when the bar blares out its music list and people hustle and bustle about sotto voce or loud as you please, I am still able to compose and think and often meet my editors or interviewees for a constitutional – essential for inspiration! Believe me, daily work actually does get done! Its chic Robert Adam interior never fails to charm and even if I look at the same cornice, that slice of marble, the delicious tondo, it is always as if looking at all afresh. Sometimes I irritate whoever is behind the bar by continually requesting classic T. Rex – all of them born way after the glam master’s finest years. They oblige but never manage to find for me early Marc Almond. So no Baby Doll or Split Lip for me…
I often punctuate my schedule with a visit to the local galleries and especially The Wallace Collection which is really not only London’s but one of the world’s best kept secrets. It is a trove of sheer delight – paintings, porcelain, clocks, armour, sculpture. I try and look at any aspect of art every day as I feel it informs my imagination and sometimes makes me change the stubbornness of what one might always have felt. Custom often ossifies. Even if it is only to look at one painting or item in a lunch break can be an intense experience and one which almost certainly will be beneficial. One can never say, as some (perhaps most) do that they have ‘done’ this or that museum. It is impossible. And, all the better for it.
Lunch is invariably the same. I’m not a fan of lengthy dietary prevarications. Paul on Marylebone High Street is where I purchase a pair of Fougasses often (olive and grated cheese) and then as a lover of raw foods, pop a few pods of the goodness of a few broad beans, jewel-gem tomatoes or a handful of peas. I am sure early prehistoric food preparation was good for our ancestors – even if they couldn’t have a meaningful after dinner conversation. An avocado is good and if I do sit at a table, I have often been charmed by the cuisine of Topkapi or Fairuz also in Marylebone. But of course, the Club’s fine fare is also a delight. But in general, food does not excite me at all. As you can see!
I am working on my next book at present and am about half way through. It is about the person of the Dandy and why this figure of style should always be considered and remembered, indeed celebrated at a time when there is much need so to do. I write for a number of magazines including Savile Row and Man London where because of the judicious vision of the editors and publishers, readers are put directly in touch with not fashion but elegance. Some may see all this interest in style as an affrontery to intelligence. They don’t in that case have much of the latter. And as for the former…well
It is about the person of the Dandy and why this figure of style should always be considered and remembered
Image: British dandy on London’s Carnaby Street, 1968
Typically, for the book, I might do a little picture research which is so time consuming and sometimes not very rewarding, as my idea is to use as many original images as possible so that the publication will truly not look like anything that has been seen before. I suppose it is most authors’ dream. I have taken to scouring antique markets and looking for Victorian calling cards, photographs, books, manuscripts, original drawings and of course any accessories such as fob watches, watch chains and my passion, cravat pins of which I have quite a number. I recently wrote an article for Savile Row Magazine on stick and cravat pins called Le point finale. This tiny accessory really informed the whole outfit and said much about the wearer. It still can do so today, along with a butonniere filled with water to keep a dawn-plucked rose fresh until cocktail hour. I have one, so plain that although Victorian it has all the delightful minimalism of a 1960’s Scandinavian artefact.
The structure of the day might be anathema to some but if you have a method of working or indeed living that actually works, it is a pity to change it.
Running three literary salons at Home House has been quite a boon as all require research and indeed composition or, actual reading. They are The Poetry Salon, Creative Writing and the Book Club. We have had some amazing talent performing including the late Sebastian Horsley, Graham Roos, Jeremy Reed and I once was part of a poem-play with Carry Ons Fenella Fielding.
I also use some part of the day to create new short stories and poems or rewrite and revise others. I am all too aware that I make life more difficult for myself by writing everything longhand first, long before I have to punch the keys. But I regard it as a form of initial editing. And in any case, the pen slows down your words and one might get a little creative in the margins! Of course, the computer is a daily reality but my daily joy is to begin with my ancient, steel Mont Blanc.
The evening falls and I make a bee-line for the bar at Home House for a Martini or two.
Image: Stairwell at Home House, London
A typical day will see me visiting antique markets, pop-up and charity shops in search of well, anything. It is amazing how one person’s trash is another’s treasure. I once curated a show called ‘Trash is Treasure’. It was a revelation. And whilst on the subject, I am always trying to come up with more ideas for pop-up shows and longer term projects at established galleries.
I try to discover inspiration in as many things as possible. The other day an abandoned invitation clinging to the railings of the Portman Square garden resulted in a story. At the very least I attempt to put down the bones of a short story almost every day. Even if these hastily scribbled lines don’t make it, they might for something else another time.
I’m a bad gym goer but when I do I have a distinct routine. Its on the treadmill at a varying gradient and speed for two episodes of ‘Little House on the Prarie’ or two of the classic ‘Waltons’. I used to listen to a number of tracks on the headphones but so much of today’s music deserves to dwell only in one place. And I am too polite to say exactly where.
The evening falls and I make a bee-line for the bar at Home House for a Martini or two. My latest obsession is a revelation and guaranteed to make you unpopular with all who have not lost their olfactory sense. Ketel One Vodka, Chase’s smoked vodka, basil, chilli, olive and… a large clove of garlic. It guarantees extra space to spread out the Telegraph. Often I meet with a friend for whom I am a script consultant. We have worked together before and this has resulted in a short film and a couple of rehearsed readings.
If I go to sleep too early, I know that it is a mistake. Too much sleep for me is akin to an over large meal which is leaden and renders one exhausted for little reason. 1 or 2a.m. is perfect when under the covers, currently a 1960’s haphazard crochet number – an emerald green border boasting neon-hued squares, it’s the World Service again. Gently sotto voce, I drift in and out of sleep until dawn commands. The dog next door starts its especial dawn chorus and life moulds once again with one of the most constant things ever. Radio 4.
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