Lucia van der Post in her eclectic work space - reflecting her strong affinity towards African design.
Lucia van der Post
Founding Editor, Financial Times - How to Spend It
Editor, Country & Townhouse’s Great British Brands
As founding editor of the Financial Times - How to Spend It magazine, Lucia is the Grand Dame of British Luxury. The original tastemaker, she is still dispensing advice on style, travel and design with her trademark wit and subtlety.
The South African-born journalist is passionate about her native continent and is at home when flying off for press trips, experiencing the adventure that is Africa – and writing about it. We were delighted to speak with Lucia and hear her stories – via an inspirational life and career – while letting us in on how she truly defines luxury.
Which individuals inspired your passion for travel and luxury?
My father, Sir Laurens van der Post - who, amongst other things, wrote an inspirational book drawing the attention of the world to the plight of the San people in the Kalahari - imbued me with a desire to see the places he had seen. Also, the writings of the early explorers in Africa – Burton, Stanley, Beryl Markham, Elspeth Huxley, Karen Blixen, Ian Douglas Hamilton - were very thrilling to a young child living in (what seemed like rather tame) suburban Cape Town and Durban; this made me long to get to know the real Africa.
Both my mother and father had a very instinctive, elegant taste - more on the understated side. They instilled in me a love of beautiful things - though neither had the money nor the inclination for what some would consider luxury.
What are the most treasured pieces in your wardrobe?
I suppose a couple of Dries van Noten dresses – one I saw in a Tokyo window and just had to have – and some beautiful understated but glamorous pieces by Brunello Cucinelli.
How has your style evolved over time?
I was probably a bit too eccentric in my younger days. A friend’s son once remarked that Lucia doesn’t dress the way mothers are supposed to dress. My tastes have become slightly more classic in the past years… I don’t want to look like a batty old woman! These days I prefer glamour to quirkiness.
Can you share a memorable fashion moment?
I just remember the breathtaking beauty of the haute couture shows I’ve been to... Christian Lacroix... Chanel... not being a full-time fashion editor, I haven’t been to very many. It is hard to convey the almost dream-like beauty, if you have never been to one.
Also, I recall the moment when designers, like Biba and Bus Stop, made their thrillingly up-to-the-minute clothes available for almost next to nothing - to the young and impecunious (as I was).
What is your favorite fashion decade that you would (re)visit?
It has to be the era of Mary Quant and Ossie Clarke who made fashion such fun! Ossie Clarke’s prints were ethereally beautiful while Mary Quant offered us clothes for our contemporary working life. Oh, the freedom of mini skirts teamed with tights, arriving just in time to make mini-skirts modest.
What do you feel are the best film wardrobes of all time?
Grace Kelly in High Society… Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.
Lucia's bestselling book, "Things I Wish my Mother Had Told Me: A Guide to Impeccable Grace and Style". (Shutterstock)
You are founding editor of the Financial Times magazine supplement, How to Spend It. How did you come up with this concept?
I had been editing and writing pages called How To Spend It in the Saturday edition of the newspaper for many years. The title had been coined by my predecessor, Sheila Black, so it was already there when I arrived. When we started the Magazine, it was really an extension of those pages offering much the same concept - except on glossy paper and in color - so the title seemed obvious.
As a leading writer on luxury, fashion, travel and interiors – what does luxury mean to you?
First and foremost, it means quality and it should be a little rarefied – if it is too quotidian we become a little blasé. And then it should be touched by beauty… sometimes it can be fun… I like it quite discreet, never exaggerated nor excessive.
What is your most memorable travel experience?
Hard to say but I think three African adventures are almost inseparably memorable: my first trip canoeing down the Zambezi river; then walking with the Samburu high up in the Ndutu mountains in Northern Kenya, and finally a trip to Chad. There, I was blown away by the magnificence of the landscapes and the wonders of the desert.
What is your favourite quote or saying?
My father had a saying, never be offended – only little people take offense. By little, he meant of course people of little substance.
Lucia in her element, at home on a press trip in Botswana.
Movie Jean Renoir's Le Grande Illusion
Actress Katharine Hepburn
Book Pride & Prejudice
Art Piece Picasso's Guernica
Song Schubert's Winterreisse
Scent Le Parfum de Therese by Frederic Malle
Restaurant The dining room at The Ritz
Style Icon Chanel
Images courtesy of Shutterstock and Lucia van der Post.