This Week I’m Wearing
Mr Guillaume Glipa
The Frenchman who rules London’s nightlife talks us through his daily routine
Mr Guillaume Glipa’s route to the top of the hospitality business began with a single dollar bill in the early 1990s. The executive director of the Birley Group – and the brains behind the expansion and relocation of the storied nightclub Annabel’s – had no intention of pursuing a career in hotels and restaurants when he was growing up in Bordeaux, France. His interests ran more in the direction of films, and he wanted, in fact, to be a stuntman. “I loved every sport, was a bit of a daredevil. And I wanted to be in movies. Or rather I wanted to be Jean-Paul Belmondo, the French actor,” he says in his buttery Gallic accent. “I had romantic ideas.”
His eye only turned from the screen to table later, when a friend of his parents, a New Yorker, came to stay with the family. She gave Mr Glipa a dollar and invited him to come to New York City to spend it. So, on his 15th birthday, his father, a medical officer in the French army, paid for his flight out. “I fell in love with the place,” says Mr Glipa. “I went back every year until I was 24 and then moved there. I needed some money, so I got a job in a bakery by pretending to be a patisserie chef. I was French, so of course I was a patisserie chef. They gave me a little hat. I lasted four days, I think.”
From that inauspicious start, he flourished. Winding his way to the very top and becoming something of a style icon as he went about it. He managed two Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant Umu in New York before settling in London to manage, successively and successfully, Zuma, Massimo Restaurant and Coya. After which he spent two years confecting a social frenzy at the Chiltern Firehouse, where he was director of food and beverage.
His move to the Birley Group comes at a time of tectonic change at Annabel’s, the members’ nightclub created by the entrepreneur and arbiter of taste Mr Mark Birley in 1963 at 44 Berkeley Square in Mayfair. Traditionally, the club, which has welcomed everyone from the Queen to President Richard Nixon, opened only at night. But, having been taken over by Mr Richard Caring, along with Mark’s Club, Harry’s Bar and George, the decision was made to turn the club into a night and day venue and enlarge it to encompass four floors – with four restaurants, a cigar lounge and a terrace – of a townhouse two doors down from the current locations.
The aim, says Mr Glipa, is to attract a new clientele without alienating the existing members (some of whom have been with the club since it opened). “Annabel’s is the epitome of theatrical. The decor, the history of it. It is really a stage. The new venue will be a different stage, but with the same productions.” With Mr Glipa at the helm, you don’t doubt it will.
We spent a week with him to find out his favourite places in London – and what he likes wearing when he visits them.
“It is rare for a club or restaurant to stay open for more than four or five years, but Annabel’s has been here for more than 50. It has such history, so many famous names have walked through its doors – from kings to film stars. And we have had some of the most famous names perform here, too – Sinatra, Rita Ora, Grace Jones, Elton John. It has a special glamour that you want to live up to when it comes to dressing up. We have relaxed the dress code (you no longer have to wear a shirt and jacket), but we still want people to make an effort. I like to play with the rules when it comes to formal dressing. I like to mix and match, wear a different colour jacket from the trousers, that’s why I like this slim-fit aubergine Tom Ford tuxedo. It has a flattering cut, as do the slim-fit Saint Laurent trousers. Good cufflinks and a watch are some of the marks of a gentleman. I particularly like these rhodium-plated mother-of-pearl cufflinks – they are very subtle. As is the watch, a NOMOS Glashütte Metro Datum Gangreserve.”
Petersham Nurseries, Covent Garden
“I often go to Petersham Nurseries in Richmond with my wife and kids at the weekend. Walking around its greenhouse is like being out of London. So I was pleased when they opened in Covent Garden, not that far from Annabel’s. I like to walk around looking for inspiration. Everything in there is such good quality – I recently bought some plates and a mirror. In my job, you are always on the lookout for beautiful objects and this is a wonderful place to find them. I always like to be well dressed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean formally dressed. I love this leather-trimmed Saint Laurent bomber jacket, especially with this striped wool sweater from Prada. The Dries Van Noten trousers are a good cut, too – the leg finishes at the perfect point. I love that 1960s look when the trousers finish at the ankle, rather than dying on the shoes. I don’t often wear sneakers, but these ones from John Lobb are great for daytime.”
Paxton & Whitfield, Mayfair
“Paxton & Whitfield is one of my favourite shops on one of my favourite roads in London – Jermyn Street. I have always been attracted to the notion of the English gentleman. I loved the TV programme, The Avengers, and this is the closest you get to it today. You see some brilliant characters walking down here – with the rolled umbrellas and hats from Bates. Paxton & Whitfield has such history too. It is the oldest cheesemonger in the country and supplies the royal household. When I go, I buy only English cheese. I particularly like Stinking Bishop. Why would I have French cheese when I grew up eating that? This jacket from Italian brand Caruso is unstructured with a flattering fit in camel hair and I am wearing it with a light-blue Emma Willis brushed cotton shirt, a Drake’s wool-blend tie and pocket square with Private White V.C. cotton-twill chinos. I never feel uncomfortable in a jacket. It is like pyjamas to me. The shoes are suede penny loafers from John Lobb and are comfortable and stylish. Oh, and then there is the Saint Laurent tote bag to carry all my cheese home in.”
John Lobb Bespoke, St James’s
“I remember going to Lobb for the first time in London about seven years ago. I opened the door and was welcomed by this gentleman as if I was a friend. He explained to me the process that you go through to create bespoke shoes. I have always felt bespoke shoes are more important than having a bespoke suit. You feel it more; they carry you, after all. You can tell something about someone from their shoes. Mark Birley, who founded Annabel’s in 1963, had very thin shoes made, and he was known to suffer as his feet were actually wider than the shoes. He just didn’t want to ruin the line of his outfit. In this part of town, St James’s, people make an effort. This Boglioli double-breasted wool-blend coat fits that bill. I love the colour and it works very well when layered with a sweater from Saint Laurent and this William Lockie cashmere cardigan. I also have a gentleman’s umbrella, from Francesco Maglia, and a Piaget Polo S Chronograph. The look is very comfortable and elegant, but relaxed.”
Terry’s Cafe, Borough
“My friend Austin’s dad Terry opened the café in 1982, and Austin [named after Austin’s of Peckham, a former antiques shop on Rye Lane] has worked there since he was 14. It is his life. It is very small, very reminiscent of the cabbie cafés you see in films. They do an amazing big English breakfast, with sausage, black pudding and egg. It sets you up for the day. The music, the atmosphere, is like being on a movie set. Even though Terry’s is completely unpretentious, you can dress up in there. In fact, you could almost overdo it, so like a film set is it. I don’t think I have here, though, in this double-breasted Prada jacket – it is such a nice cut and looks great with this Ermenegildo Zegna rollneck sweater under it and this Berluti polished leather bag, which changes its patina over time. The slim cardholder is Bottega Veneta and is small enough to not ruin the silhouette of your clothes.”