While walking down Lower Sloane Street this week, I have been reminded of Sebastian Flytes’s supplication in Brideshead Revisited when he said ‘if it could only be like this always—always summer’. There is a changed atmosphere in Chelsea as hordes of horticulturalists and tourists flock to the Royal Hospital to witness dazzling and creative displays of floral abundance, and the weather has responded as well. Golden rays of sunlight have been dancing on the storefronts that are decorated in communion with the Flower Show, and revellers have donned their Panama hats and linens without a care for that old rule of ‘no brown in town’ or recognition that we are in London, not the French Riviera. One might easily imagine that all of the boat race parties and garden parties and picnics of the summer have been rolled into one festival, and we at Oliver Brown, do not ever wish for it to end.
The languid mood of summer may have infected our moods with a desire to be outside whiling away the hours, but we have not allowed ourselves to be distracted from the roaring trade happening within-doors as we count down the days to Royal Ascot. Our shelves are radiant with the offerings of our Spring and Summer collection: old favourites such as linen suits, daringly-coloured cotton trousers, an entire room dedicated to morning wear; new products such as linen gilets, unlined cashmere-cotton jackets, and fine silk ties; and, as ever, the world’s largest collection of antique silk top hats.
Our front windows reflect the mood of the Royal Borough. A waterfall of antique hat boxes and silk hats are studded with flowers and other morning dress accessories. Crowning this display is our temporary mascot whom we’ve nicknamed ‘Eclipse’ after the historic racehorse who is famed for being in the pedigree of most modern thoroughbreds. ‘Eclipse first, and the rest nowhere’, the saying went.
Well, we like to imagine much the same here. As the leading supplier of morning wear and top hats to the attendees of the Royal Enclosure, these weeks of May and June are as thrilling as that description of Opening Day in My Fair Lady: ‘pulses rushing, faces flushing, heartbeats speed up…’. We’ll no doubt be ready for a bit of summer respite once the final hoof-falls have sounded, but for now—we’ll ‘maintain an exhausting pace’, springing forward, enjoying every moment of the race.