“REAL FANTASY” and A RABID AESTHETE: CECIL BEATON at BROOK STREET



 

©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Cecil Beaton self-portrait, 1938 ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s



To this day, the name Cecil Beaton conjures up an abundance of signifiers for talent and taste: celebrated photographer, award-winning theatre, set and costume designer, illustrator, diarist, playwright, writer, dandy, socialite and intimate of royalty.

The impact and appeal of the 20th century prolific polymath have not dwindled since his death in 1980 and Cecil Beaton is still relevant today, commanding admiration and fascination with an ever-growing international audience.



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The influential Beaton has in fact been celebrated in various ways in the last six months and will be even more for the forthcoming weeks.
The acclaimed Cecil Beaton at Home exhibition which took place this summer at the Salisbury museum has now transferred, in part, to London until December 5. It is hosted by none other than the prestigious Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler – both decorators were close friends of Beaton – in its legendary Mayfair townhouse and
 A-Gent of Style was privileged to be given a private appointment last Wednesday morning at Brook Street for a guided tour.



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Nancy Lancaster, the owner of Colefax and Fowler, with her aunt Nancy Astor and Cecil Beaton in the 1950s (Unknown photographer) ©Colefax and Fowler

Nancy Lancaster, the owner of Colefax and Fowler, with her aunt Nancy Astor and Cecil Beaton in the 1950s
(Unknown photographer)
©Colefax and Fowler

 

Cecil Beaton with his pug in the Winter Garden, Reddish House 1961 (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Cecil Beaton with his pug in the Winter Garden, Reddish House 1961
(Cecil Beaton)
©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

Aptly named this time Beaton at Brook Street and once again beautifully and intelligently curated by Andrew Ginger of Beaudesert Ltd, this exhibition is a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of Beaton’s interiors and creative inspirations, and to delve into his inner sanctum and fantastical world.

 Cecil Beaton at Home – Town & Country takes us upstairs to the iconic Yellow Room which has been transformed beyond recognition for the occasion to become the temporary backdrop and repository for the reconstructed vivid room sets and vignettes of the effete’s houses, displaying some of the private retreats created by Cecil Beaton himself at his two country houses in Wiltshire (Ashcombe and Reddish) with the addition this time of his London home, 8 Pelham Place.

 

Against a red velvet upholstered wall stands Twiggy, recreating the iconic image Cecil took of her at Pelham Place for Vogue Oct 1967. A collection of vintage prints from the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's include celebrities of sixties London, also shot at his home, including Mick Jagger © Beaudesert

Against a red velvet upholstered wall stands Twiggy, recreating the iconic image Cecil took of her at Pelham Place for Vogue Oct 1967. A collection of vintage prints from the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s include celebrities of sixties London, also shot at his home, including Mick Jagger © Beaudesert

 

 

 

Twiggy by Cecil Beaton, Vogue, 1967  ©Conde Nast/Beaudesert

Twiggy by Cecil Beaton, Vogue, 1967 © Conde Nast



Cecil Beaton's original sofa from Reddish House sits beneath a copy of the Swinstead oil painting of his mother Esther ©Beaudesert

Cecil Beaton’s original sofa from Reddish House sits beneath a copy of the Swinstead oil painting of his mother Esther ©Beaudesert

 

 

Beaton on the original sofa at Reddish. Spot the original chintz on the curtains © National Portrait Gallery, London

Beaton on the original sofa at Reddish. Spot the original chintz on the curtains, source unknown

 

 

A corner of Cecil's Pelham Place sitting room with black velvet upholstered walls, an African mask and a copy of the portrait by Christian Bérard ©Beaudesert

A recreation of a corner at Pelham Place of Cecil Beaton’s sitting room with black velvet upholstered walls, an African mask and a copy of the portrait by Christian Bérard ©Beaudesert

 

The Drawing Room, 8 Pelham Place, 1963 (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

The Drawing Room, 8 Pelham Place, 1963
(Cecil Beaton)
©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 


The star of the show is undeniably the extraordinary ‘Circus Bed’ – a recreation of Beaton’s own bed originally designed by Rex Whistler in 1931 and made by circus-round-about-makers Savages – which has been made this time by specialist bed makers Beaudesert. The bed boasts Neptune, unicorns, sea horses, glittery back curtain, embroidered bed cover, gilded barley-twist posts and many frivolous Rococo designs – most probably instigated by Beaton’s trips to Austria, Italy and Germany – enough to make Liberace’s own boudoir look butch. On show are other delightful recreations painstakingly executed by Andrew Ginger and his team such as the reprinted rose-pattern chintz that Beaton cherished to cover a sofa from Reddish, hessian curtains from Beaton’s studio at Ashcombe ornamented with a plethora of mother-of-pearl buttons, and the replica of the 18th century-style ‘Rabbit Coat’ made of corduroy with muslin roses, woolen yarns and plastic egg shells that Beaton wore in 1937 at one of his infamous fêtes champêtres (it was one of his four outfits for the evening. As you do).

Cecil Beaton's Circus Bed, originally designed by Rex Whistler, recreated by Beaudesert Ltd ©Beaudesert

Cecil Beaton’s Circus Bed, originally designed by Rex Whistler, recreated by Beaudesert Ltd ©Beaudesert

 

Cecil Beaton wearing The Rabbit Coat covered with broken eggs and the trousers with bees.  (Photo by John Phillips//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Cecil Beaton wearing The Rabbit Coat covered with broken eggs and the trousers with bees. (Photo by John Phillips//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

 

'Replica of the Rabbit Coat made under licence from the V&A for Beaudesert by Jackie Josey & Claire Proctor .' (and ©Beaudesert

Replica of the Rabbit Coat made under licence from the V&A for Beaudesert by Jackie Josey & Claire Proctor ©Beaudesert

 

Cecil Beaton and the 'Rabbit Coat', 1937, Gordon Anthony © National Portrait Gallery, London

Cecil Beaton and the ‘Rabbit Coat’, 1937, Gordon Anthony © National Portrait Gallery, London



Bronze bust of Cecil beaton by Frank Dobson in front of the pearl buttoned curtains recreated by Beaudesert ©Beaudesert

Bronze bust of Cecil beaton by Frank Dobson in front of the pearl buttoned curtains recreated by Beaudesert ©Beaudesert




Part of the focus and angle of this show is to reassess and reacquaint the audience with Beaton’s overlooked flair and tastes for interior decoration as well as with his extraordinary life and legacy of work through the eye of artworks (such as a beautiful Christian Berard oil painting, an African mask), furniture, possessions, artefacts and garments. It is fair to say that Beaton’s anti-conventional, complex spirit and his bold, daring attitude to life transpire in his sophisticated, fanciful interiors more often than not replete for instance with velvet on the walls, marbleised skirting, silver braids, cushions made from geisha kimono sashes, gold satin curtains, gilded doors, Scamozian Ionic columns, Giacometti lamps, and wolf fur throws amongst exceptional modern art and, of course, lavish flower arrangements.

Reddish, the library, The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's

Reddish, the library, The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

Reddish, the 'hallway, decorated for Christmas, circa 1950s', The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's

Reddish, the hallway, decorated for Christmas, circa 1950s, The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

Reddish, the Drawing Room looking south to the Garden, date unknown (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Reddish, the Drawing Room looking south to the Garden, date unknown
(Cecil Beaton)
©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

 

Reddish house, from the garden, ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Reddish house, from the garden, ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

Mirror and ornaments at Ashcombe (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Mirror and ornaments at Ashcombe
(Cecil Beaton)
©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

Evelyn Waugh, Sibyl Colefax, Phyllis de Janze and Oliver Messel (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Evelyn Waugh, Sibyl Colefax, Phyllis de Janze and Oliver Messel (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

 

Cecil Beaton with Mickey the cat at Reddish house ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Cecil Beaton with Mickey the cat at Reddish house ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s



The Drawing Room, 8 Pelham Place, 1963 (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

The Drawing Room, 8 Pelham Place, 1963
(Cecil Beaton)
©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

The Bedroom Room, 8 Pelham Place, 1963 (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

The Master Bedroom Room, 8 Pelham Place, 1963
(Cecil Beaton)
©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s



The exhibition focuses also on the publication of Cecil Beaton: Portraits and Profiles by Beaton’s official biographer, Hugh Vickers, some photographs of which are on display throughout the showrooms. There are also some rarely seen paintings by Beaton himself and photographs on loan from The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s, private lenders and Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, which can all be viewed throughout the main rooms on the ground floor and two other rooms on the first floor,  grouped thematically as Stage & Screen, Writers & Scholars, Society & Politics, Royalty, The Coronation, Colefax & Beaton, and finally modern Beaton prints. They are nine modern high quality prints taken from Beaton’s original negatives from the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s which have been printed exclusively for the Brook Street show by Sotheby’s, and are available for sale only for the period of the exhibition. Be ready to be dazzled by these original, unearthed gems. There is also a series of lectures and screening (see below for details).



Cecil Beaton self-portrait, 1930s (Cecil Beaton) © The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's

Cecil Beaton self-portrait, 1930s
(Cecil Beaton)
© The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s



Cecil Beaton embodies the glamour of the 20th century, creative genius, fearlessness, irreverence as well as theatrical excess, decadence and flamboyance and thanks to this wonderful and triumphant collaboration, the legacy of one of Britain’s Renaissance men can live on and prosper.

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Beaton at Brook Street

Monday to Friday, 9.30am – 5.30pm

Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, 39 Brook Street, Mayfair, London, W1K 4JE

Admission free


Lectures information:

Doors open at 6.30pm and lectures commence at 7pm (prompt)

The Beaton Image on Wednesday, 26 November:  A rare showing of this excellent 1984 BBC documentary, with introduction by Andrew Ginger, curator of CECIL BEATON AT HOME – TOWN & COUNTRY

My Fashionable Life on Tuesday, 2 December: Fashion historian Dr Ben Wild considers Beaton’s own style and sartorial elegance in this beautifully illustrated lecture.

The Man, the Magazine, the Century on Thursday, 4 December: Josephine Ross, author of BEATON IN VOGUE, explores Beaton’s extensive contribution to Vogue magazine through his drawings, photographs and essays.

Evening lectures at 39 Brook Street, W1. Tickets £25 each, including a pre-lecture glass of wine. Contact Colefax Group Press Office on +44 (0)20 7318 6035, email: pressoffice@colefax.com

Signed copies of the book will be available at £28 each (rrp £30) or £50 for two throughout the exhibition. A selection of Cecil Beaton framed modern silver gelatin prints are for sale during the exhibition at £1,600 each.


Cecil Beaton by Gordon Anthony, 1935 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Cecil Beaton by Gordon Anthony, 1935 © National Portrait Gallery, London




– Images by Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s and Beaudesert Ltd

The exhibition would not have been possible without the generous support of Sotheby’s Cecil Beaton Studio Archive





 

THE EXTRA ORDINARY COLLECTION OF AN EXTRA ORDINARY DESIGNER: LUXURY – COLOUR – TEXTURE, THE COLLECTION of DAVID COLLINS at CHRISTIE’S LONDON





 
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The talents of the multi-hyphenated David Collins and its manifestations in our lives have been storied in manifold articles on this blog since its creation, and today’s feature will reveal this time not the illustrious and magical bars, restaurants, hotels and stores Collins is associated and revered for around the world, but one of his residential projects. And a special one at that. His very own house and its ‘eclectibles’.


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On 4 November, 2014 at 1pm at King Street, Christie’s will be offering at auction the collection of renowned interior architect David Collins. Following his untimely death in 2013, the estate sale, aptly named “Luxury – Colour – Texture, The Collection of David Collins”, crystallises his subtle yet distinctive vision that now pervades the contemporary aesthetic and urban landscape. His imagination and creativity brought to fruition luxury interior design and architectural projects across the globe. The projects created by his eponymous Studio, that carries the designer’s name and keeps his legacy alive and prosperous, represent deeply-textured interiors that feel simultaneously contemporary yet established, rooted in the life and traditions of their respective locations and exemplifying the designer’s extraordinary capacity to reinvent and reinterpret the past. Comprising 200 lots and with estimates ranging from £300 to £60,000, the sale is expected to realise in the region of £1 million.



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The official preview being scheduled only this evening, A-Gent of Style was thrilled to be given an exclusive preview and private tour of the exhibition last night by Christie’s sales specialist Jeremy Morrison and Jodi Feder, Brand Manager of David Collins Studio – . As he walked up the main staircase into the Great Room and its annex on the first floor, A-Gent of Style couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe and wonder as the beautifully and meticulously curated room sets and vignettes unravelled before his eyes revealing for the first time the objets in situ – principally of or inspired by mid-century French taste, either vintage or manufactured by the Studio – that so far had only been available to see in print or online, and therefore permeated with a certain mystique.

This seminal sale and accompanying exhibition will provide discerning collectors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to, firstly, see the contents of mainly one unique house (Bramham Gardens, Kensington), to recognise the ultimate legacy of an aesthete before its dissipation to disparate new owners, and also to acquire exemplary works of art, pieces of furniture and memorabilia from Collins’s personal world.

Despite the undeniable sense of bittersweet feelings when the extra ordinary collection of an extra ordinary tastemaker such as David Collins is dispersed after a sale, the tangible sense of thrill and intrigue as to which appreciative acquisitors will win the bids and carry on his legacy and memory through his belongings and creations as well as the anticipation of seeing said objects resurface at auctions in the future (and then find out their new values!) only serve to make us realise that David Collins’s journey to enhance our lives is far from over.

 

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Among the furniture, lighting, works of art, photographs and pictures by major 20th Century designers and artists included in the sale are works by Marc du Plantier, Jean Royère, Fontana Arte, Christian Bérard, Line Vautrin, Ado Chale, Wolfgang Tillmans, Steven Klein (including two photographs from the series ‘Madonna Rides Again’, which were a gift from Madonna), Nicolas Aubagnac, and Mario Testino. These are complemented by works conceived by the late David Collins and his eponymous Studio, in their signature style.

Highlights include a pair of floor lights by Paul Dupré-Lafon (estimate £30,000 – 50,000), a glass coffee table by Fontana Arte (£8,000 – 12,000) and a portrait of an acrobat by the French painter Christian Bérard (estimate £40,000 – 60,000).

To view the full catalogue, click here.


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A special thanks to Christie’s and Jeremy Morrison, Senior Director and the sale specialist, and Jodi Feder at David Collins Studio for their help, trust and support.

– Photos by Christie’s, David Collins Studio and A-Gent of Style –



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‘ABCDCS’ THE BOOK: A SPECIAL FEATURE AND INTERVIEW WITH DAVID COLLINS STUDIO





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“I have always wanted to see things I imagine made into a reality”

– David Collins –



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The wait is now over. Finally. The much-awaited ABCDCS book by David Collins Studio, heralded as the most important interior design book of 2014, is now available. After months of speculation and anticipation, the publication of the first monograph on (and partially by) David Collins will allow design connoisseurs and enthusiasts to ‘own’ a part of the rich legacy that the late designer left behind him in a career spanning almost three decades which somehow redefined people’s lives in public and private.

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A-Gent of Style has expressed in various features on his blog the unswerving admiration and deep influence David Collins has had on him over the years,
which reached their peak when his design icon unexpectedly left a marvellous and rather flattering comment a year ago on his feature of his latest Alexander McQueen store.


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Two weeks ago, A-Gent of Style had the privilege to be invited by David Collins’s long-standing team, now the custodians of his vision, to interview Communications Director, David Kendall, about the book, its genesis and its conception. Little did A-Gent of Style know he would be the first person outside the Studio to see the book that had arrived the day before from the publishers (Instagramers would have been teased that night by a preview shot of the final book cover). 



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And this is what A-Gent of Style will reveal about the book. ABCDCS is beyond chic. And timeless. Everything in this weighty tome is considered and striking (would you expect anything else from their studio?). It delights, surprises and is resonant with meaning. Organised alphabetically rather than chronologically, and showcasing David Collins’s myriads influences and inspirations, this unique and sleek epitaph boasts a bold portfolio of stunning images themed around buzz words and commentaries Collins had written himself.

As A-Gent of Style discovered ABCDCS for the first time, iconic but also lesser known or even unpublished projects  – hotels, restaurant, bars, residences or retail spaces – popped up, as well as a great sense of pace and colour permeating it. Madonna’s foreword is honest and well-worded. A meticulous attention to details appears and captivates. Favourite collectable objects such as Line Vautrin, Fornasetti and Primavera resonate with ideas and mesmerise. The palette of colours associated with Collins’s works, principally his beloved trademark blue and its various gradation, shines through and dazzles.


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ABCDCS
is a unique piece of memorabilia, an essential reference book and a fitting tribute and celebration to a towering and much-missed personality of the design world. No doubt ABCDCS will instantly become a must-have and a classic on many coffee tables.


The interview:

David Kendall, Communications Director, David Collins Studio

David Kendall, Communications Director, David Collins Studio



What was the inspiration for the book?

Back in 2009, we wanted to put together some sort of collateral for the launch event of our Ritz-Carlton residences, MahaNakhon, in Bangkok, and David came up with the idea of an alphabetical portfolio which would take the form of a small give-away book (fifty-two pages in the end) organised from A to Z, with one letter for each page, each letter representing a word, for instance Architecture, Beauty, Colour etc, and one image illustrating that word.


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MahaNakhon, Bangkok

MahaNakhon, Bangkok

 

MahaNakhon, Bangkok

MahaNakhon, Bangkok



How did the ABCDCS come about?

After the event, David thought about turning this small book into a ‘proper’ book. We worked on it on and off for five years, updating it along the way. David would at times look at it, make amendments, edit it. The keywords changed every time we looked at it. M was for Music then he wanted it to be Madonna [he settled for Music in the end]. But the themes are the same; they were just refined over the years. We were very fortunate David finished writing the text for every letter by the end of last year. He was very good at writing. He was very much involved. He’d laid out the bones. There was little editing to do in the end [David points out David Collins had written a book on hotels, not his own, called ‘New Hotel: Architecture and Design’ published in 2001]. And we already had all the images. David had chosen some of them already and he also suggested we cropped others or use some details. All we had to do was produce and edit the final version.



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ABCDCS. Why this title?

ABCDCS was David’s choice from the beginning. He always said that’s what it would be. And that’s what it is, ABCDCS!


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Can you describe the covers?

The front cover is David’s home in London. We went through many images but we wanted it to be one of his homes in the end. This image captures materials, colour, texture, a slightly abstract, dream-like quality, which is more engaging and intriguing than a ‘hero shot’, with the usual symmetry. We also preferred a close-up to show details. The image is layered with antique marble, metalwork, mohair carpet, shagreen, silk velvet. And of course, it shows shades of blue, David’s favourite colour. We worked for instance on the gold lettering which was too gold originally and settled on a more subtle brass finish. The actual book without the sleeve is covered in a purpley blue linen, another favourite colour of David’s.
The back cover is a close-up of the hand-stitched green upholstered walls in David’s home.

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Can you tell us about the graphics?

The typography and the font were developed by the same graphic designer as the original small book, which were somehow inspired, amongst others, by the Goyard logo.


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Are all of David Collins Studio’s projects in the book?

Most of them have been included. The book has a variety of sectors, residential and commercials, and includes some of the last projects up to the last nine months.
We didn’t want to have a portfolio whereby there would be a section dedicated to each project. The themes dictated the images.

Private residence

Private residence

 

The Blue Bar, The Berkeley, London

The Blue Bar, The Berkeley, London



What can we expect from the book?

Something chic but also a sense of pace and colour as you flick through the book. 

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Can you tell us about your collaboration with Assouline?

It was a great collaborative project. I remember we’d produced first drafts. I had different dummies on my iPad and I ended up having a meeting with a publisher from Assouline in New York and, soon after showing them to her, she decided then and there they would love to publish it because it was so chic. Assouline were very supportive from the inception of the project. We’re delighted with the result. The photos are so strong as we worked with so many talented photographers over the years. The quality of the print is amazing. It would be lovely to see it translated in different languages.


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How was the process for you?

It was a fun process, quite emotional of course too, but I thoroughly enjoyed the process and finally seeing the final copy. For me, personally, it had to be done properly; it’s David’s book, it had to be perfect. We’d been working on it for so long. We came close and true to David’s vision, I hope. We think he’d be happy with it. I’d love to do another one.


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How was Madonna involved?

We reached out to Madonna because David had always said he’d like her to be part of it. She was wonderful. What came back from her blew our mind. It is a long, personal, beautiful and touching introduction. It hasn’t been changed at all, it’s completely verbatim. We’re very grateful to ‘Muriel’. You’ll have to get the book to understand why…


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David Collins


What does ABCDCS represent?

ABCDCS is a landmark for us. It marks the legacy we’ve inherited from David. It is timely. It is also a way of celebrating the Studio. We are very lucky to still be very busy; we have some exciting projects coming up. It will also be fun to celebrate the book, which was a huge task in the last year. We hope people will like it.



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A-Gent of Style would like to thank David Kendall, Jodi Feder and Simon Rawlings at David Collins Studio for giving him the amazing opportunity to preview the book with an interview, and for all their help and support.


– Photographs by Assouline, David Collins Studio and A-Gent of Style







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