By Stephen Doig
The lockdown measures have been tough on all of us, but for your average jetset social butterfly, being grounded is unfamiliar territory. But once the New Normal set in, lifelong friends Alice Naylor-Leyland and Poppy Delevingne - who met at school, aged four - realised that the enforced pause meant they had time to catch up and reconnect.
“We’re both always travelling,” says model, writer and interiors guru Naylor-Leyland of her relationship with model Delevingne. “So suddenly we found that we had time to talk on the phone to each other in a way we hadn’t for years. And from that, we produced our lockdown baby."
The rosy-cheeked newborn in question is Poppy for Mrs Alice, a collaboration between Delevingne and Naylor-Leyland, both 34, which debuts today. The former has applied her fashion nous to the latter’s Mrs Alice 'tablescaping' business, which debuted in November 2019 and offers curated sets of ceramics, linens and ornaments designed to create a visually appealing - and Instagram friendly - dinner table set-up at home.
The new collaboration is a wildly opulent array of table designs that veer towards the joyful and glamorous rather than the painstakingly chintzy and formal.
Tablescaping doesn’t have to be fussy; when I started the business I wanted it to be fun and unique,” says Naylor-Leyland. Instead of politely organised silver service like a Downton Abbey theme night, the designer’s tables feature lush, organic flora and the odd ornamental parrot peering from a candelabra.
Poppy Delevingne hasn’t had time to perfect her banana bread on lockdown - she’s been busy launching a business with her two sisters, fellow model Cara and property developer Chloe, debuting the vegan Prosecco label Della Vite in spring.
"In creating the Poppy for Mrs Alice range, she found herself “holding up table linen samples to the Zoom camera. I love that she’s bringing fashion and tableware together; designing the tablescapes with Alice has been a dream come true.”
As you’d expect, there were some strong opinions from both the tastemakers. “I’d come with a floral pattern and Poppy would say 'no, I hate that', so we started looking at 18th-century Chinoiserie designs,” says Naylor-Leyland, whose dreamy Instagram account featuring her bucolic Cambridgeshire country house (and guest appearances from five -year-old daughter Nancy) has amassed a following of 137k.
“We developed that idea for linens and ceramics, and I wanted to keep the colours deliberately deep and off-piste: dusky tones, rich teals, mustards. Poppy has also been spending a lot of time in LA so that came through in her suggestions of stars and moons, sunset tones and palms.”
Naylor-Leyland looked to UK ceramicists to craft the plates and ornaments, and Stoke-based glass makers for the glassware, in a bid to support the UK artisan industry at this perilous time. The particular USP with Mrs Alice is that, alongside the individual pieces available for purchase online, a customer can opt for an entire tablescape, from napkins to plates and whimsical ornaments.
“It takes the decision making away,” says the interior designer. “Someone who is time poor can click on the whole set-up and have it delivered.”
The collaboration couldn’t have come at a more pertinent time, as we mark six months since the beginning of lockdown and contemplate six months of further restrictions throughout autumn and winter. “Our homes have become our whole world,” says Naylor-Leyland. “So instead of that being a drudge, we wanted to celebrate our homes and the ritual of mealtime. We need to look for things we can celebrate in any small way right now.”