Dressing gown and flip-flops: that's my look
Pack a cotton robe plus thongs for holiday heaven
by: Anna Murphy
I — like you, I am guessing — have been nowhere much recently. Which is why,
when I arrived at my sister's house on the south coast at the weekend —
exciting! — she professed stupefaction at my suntan. She had never seen me so brown, she told me.
I have never gone in for a tan, you see, whatever and wherever my travels, and there have been a lot of those. So I will accept that it is somewhat perverse to have picked up the most notable bronzing of my life to date on my roof terrace.
Whenever the weather has been hot I have sat out with my morning coffee and my Times app, listening to the bees buzzing, admiring my new geraniums in precisely the perfect shade of pink — neither too pale nor too bright; so happy-making — and watching the V of my flip-flops tan itself on to my feet. It's been akin to a holiday, not least because I have divested myself of my warm winter dressing gown in favour of a light cotton one. It's this gown more than anything that has made my matins feel like a staycation.
Which is why Jess Linklater insists that she is anything but worried about her boutique brand Robe de Voyage. As its name suggests, it specialises in cotton and silk beauties designed to pack up and go. "Travel is a state of mind," Linklater says. "You can travel without travelling. You can sit in the garden or on the edge of your bed in one of my robes and imagine yourself somewhere exotic." You can indeed. I speak from experience. Or, conversely, you can be somewhere exotic and imagine yourself at home. I also speak from experience. Linklater's initial inspiration for her brand was the wonderful 1951 photograph of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall breakfasting á deux in the Congo in his-and-hers dressing gowns. The discomforts on the set of The African Queen may have passed into legend, but this tableau appears, largely thanks to the robes, more like something out of To Have and Have Not. Because of course there's no greater dressing gown seduction scene in cinema than Slim, aka Bacall, in her apparently simple stripy cotton number. "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve?" (Although — a note to all would-be imitators — Slim's actually has shoulder pads.)
Robe de Voyage's are quite simply the loveliest around. Don't take my word for it. Fiona Shaw insisted on wearing her own for a breakfast scene in Killing Eve. They are made from khadi cotton, the yarns spun by hand, the textile woven by hand, the pattern screenprinted by — you guessed it — hand. The aqueous prints were inspired, Linklater says, "by the ripples of sunlight or moonlight on water". Choose from skeins of white on blue or fuchsia, or black on white or grey, and from a shorter or a longer length (E195 and E245 respectively, firstname.lastname@example.org). The wool shawls are also gorgeous (E175).
Linklater describes her brand as "the ultimate in slow fashion. I work with small female co-operatives in West Bengal, and I know who has made every piece." Not enough for you? Linklater used to work for couture houses in Paris, so her designs were created by a pattern cutter at the Dior maison. The Calcutta factory that assembles the finished robes also works for luxury brands such as Dries van Noten.
It was Linklater's couture-related journeying that led her to thinking about a dressing gown to go. (Each comes with its own travel pouch.) "I was always travelling to India to work with embroiderers. I would find myself going to the hotel swimming pool in a huge white fluffy gown. It was roasting. And I found myself thinking, 'Why?'"
Right now, with the world re-opening, I find myself thinking, "Where?" And I know what I will be taking with me.