When NAJO founder Jo Tory travelled to London recently, she was struck by the renewed vibrancy of the capital’s fashion and art scenes. London, it seems, is well and truly back at the forefront of cool. Here, Jo shows us the best of London via a few of her personal highlights.

The V&A and Balenciaga

London’s V&A Museum has always been one of my favourites – no surprise given that it’s the world’s best repository of decorative art and design. But I was particularly thrilled with the Balenciaga exhibition currently on show.

Spanish couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga was considered the master of haute couture in the 1950s and 1960s, even by fashion icons Christian Dior and Coco Chanel. To be able to get up close to the details of his original garments was a treat. He truly understood the architectural potential of a garment to transform women.

My favourite Balenciaga quote says “a woman has no need to be perfect or even beautiful to wear my dresses, the dress will do that for her”. I love this idea. At its heart lies the genius of simplicity in design, part of NAJO’s core ethos. As contemporary UK fashion designer Gareth Pugh puts it: “There was always an assumption that if something is incredibly expensive and very laboured over it needs to be very fussy. And I think that with Balenciaga the most beautiful things that were produced were the things that were the most simple and sublime.”

The Saatchi Gallery

Anyone who finds themselves near Sloane Square should definitely take a little time to explore the area, including the stunning window displays of the design boutiques along Pimlico Road and the contemporary art found at Saatchi Gallery.

A high point for me was the exhibition Calder on Paper: 1960 – 1976, a presentation of gouaches on paper by the American artist Alexander Calder. I have always loved the whimsy of Calder’s work in his signature sculptures and mobiles, so to see these graphic works on paper was inspiring.

Sculpture was a highlight at the gallery’s exhibition Iconoclasts: Art Out of the Mainstream. For me, the standouts were Echoes of the Kill (2015) by Alexi Williams Wynn, whose intricate wax sculpture was executed with an extraordinary and innovative technique, and Corvid (2011) by Kate MccGwire, a complex twist completely and perfectly covered in black crows’ feathers.

Old hotspots are new again

Regenerated in recent years, London’s traditional hotspots for fashion and art are enjoying a new lease of life. Don’t miss Oxford Circus for an iconic high street experience, Knightsbridge for a taste of London luxury, and Camden for an edgy market scene. First-time visitors will need to check Carnaby Street off their list in the heart of fashionable Soho, home to some of the city’s best dining. Shoreditch, in the city’s arty East End, is also enjoying renewed favour along with the adjacent Spitalfields, bustling with hipster cafes, cool markets and independent boutiques.

Play tourist, wherever you are

Travel reinvigorates creativity and regenerates our spirit for life’s next chapter. Wherever you’re headed this holiday period, even if you’re enjoying a staycation, be sure to include a gallery or museum visit to enrich your perspective. From all of us at NAJO, Happy New Year! Shop our latest collection now >