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RAISING THE BAR
Seeing London designers' edgy collections in all their glory is one reason to come to the city's fashion week. But after 12-hour days of scoping out shows across town, London's more traditional comfort spots hold a certain allure. The almost 200-year-old Connaught hotel, on Carlos Place in Mayfair, reopened in December after a subtle $140 million facelift that features dark wood furnishings and restored antiques. One of the hotel's star attractions is set to be The Coburg Bar, with its cozy, jewel-toned interior; velvet armchairs, and crystal chandeliers designed by Paris-based India Mahdavi. Meanwhile, artist Julian Opie has provided fake-antique portraits for the bar, in his signature line-drawn Pop Art style.
The Coburg Bar, Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1K 2AL; +44-207-499-7070
FASHION ON THE MOUNT
Mount Street's style evolution continues apace. The quaint Mayfair Street — on which Marc Jacobs opened his first U.K. store last year — is now home to Balenciaga's London flagship, which has bowed at 12 Mount Street in time for London Fashion Week. The store's Space Age interior, complete with plasma screens, shimmering silver walls and white padded, pod-like changing rooms, is a study in contrasts with its 19th-century red-brick facade. Nicolas Ghesquière, who designed the store in collaboration with the artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and lighting designer Benoit Lalloz, is set to mark the opening by hosting a cocktail party and private dinner Feb. 12. But the street's reinvention as a fashion destination won't stop there. Christian Louboutin and Australian beauty brand Aesop will open stores on the street in the spring, joining the established art and antiques dealers in the area. In late summer, Dunhill will unveil the Home of Alfred Dunhill on Davies Street, at the end of Mount, which will offer customers three floors of retail alongside a members' club, spa and lounge. Also later in the year, designer Jenny Packham, who's known for her red-carpet-worthy gowns, will open a store on Carlos Place, off Mount Street.
IN THE SHADES
Hadley Freeman, deputy fashion editor at the Guardian newspaper, takes a sidelong view of fashion in her weekly "Ask Hadley" agony aunt column. Freeman answers the questions that puzzle those outside style's inner circle, such as: "Surely Day-Glo tights are wrong?" and "Why is my teenage daughter dressing like Yasser Arafat?" Now, Freeman has collated her knowledge into a book called "The Meaning of Sunglasses" (Viking), which will be published in the U.K. Feb. 7. On Feb. 14, Mulberry — which has just launched a collection of sunglasses with London label Cutler and Gross — will host a party to fete Freeman's book at its Bond Street store. Music will come courtesy of London electro band Hot Chip, and another London band, the New Young Pony Club, will play a DJ set.