Olivia Thorpe gave up her full time career in Investment Banking to create an exclusive, online forum – Vanderohe.com – that would celebrate the unsung heroes of the beauty and wellness industry. Soon after launching the site, Olivia fell pregnant with her first child and suddenly became aware of the potential dangers of mainstream beauty ingredients for her baby and for herself. Despite speaking with the world’s leaders in the natural beauty space on a daily basis, Olivia wanted to learn more and naturally found herself applying the same academic rigour she had successfully applied to her research as a Modern Languages graduate from Oxford University. She began attending skincare workshops and immersing herself in literature, both historical and current, on all aspects of natural and organic beauty, in a quest to create the perfect face serum. So, Olivia created something wholly unique: a totally organic and natural face serum made from such high quality oils that they are listed “food grade” by the Soil Association, and sourced from their true country of origin in their natural habitat, for optimal potency and results. A serum that would work twofold, benefiting all aspects of skin health from pigmentation to wrinkles, but also working simultaneously on the mind, thanks to its delicate, aromatherapeutic scent. Olivia painstakingly handcrafts each serum with the utmost precision and care to ensure that the synergistic benefit of the ingredients is wholly optimized.
We caught up with Olivia for the latest in our ‘My London’ interview series.
Marylebone. You’ve got the high street with its beautiful little shops and healthy delis, the Wallace Collection, RIBA (where we got married), Dinings (the best and most discreet Japanese restaurant in London) and you’re a stone’s throw from the Parks (Regent’s and Hyde Park), Little Venice and Mayfair.
Favourite place for brunch:
The Charlotte Street Hotel. Before we had kids, my husband and I would spend all morning there on the weekend, reading the papers and enjoying a long breakfast before wandering into Soho. We’re sticklers for food being fresh and organic; eggs have to be free-range, orange juice squeezed fresh per glass, organic milk in the coffee etc. The Charlotte Street Hotel pretty much ticks every box for this. Their bubble and squeak with a runny yolk on top is divine!
Best coffee in London:
St Ali in Clerkenwell, which is now called Workshop. I used to meet my husband there when they opened their doors in the morning for a coffee and friandes before work.
Favourite gallery or museum:
The Royal Academy. The Hockney “A Bigger Picture” exhibition there was mind-blowing; the whole gallery was filled with these floor-to-ceiling colourful landscapes from Yorkshire with the changing seasons. I’ve never seen an exhibition quite like it, it took my breath away.
Tell us a secret:
It was my ancestor Sir Richard Francis Burton who translated the Karma Sutra. He was a polyglot – he spoke 29 languages, was an explorer, geographer, translator, writer and soldier. A true Victorian eccentric hero.
Favourite place to shop:
Pimlico Road for flowers (Wild At Heart), food (Daylesford Organic) and chocolates (William Curley); Gianvito Rossi on Mount Street for shoes; Content Beauty in Marylebone for natural cosmetics; Liberty and Matches for the rest.
Favourite place to find inspiration:
Anywhere my husband takes me. He’s given me some incredible experiences; I’ve watched the sun rise with him at the Taj Mahal, flown over New York with him by helicopter, watched Carlos Acosta dance, visited the magical tomb of Sir Richard Burton in Mortlake. We broke into the American Church after hours in Paris so he could show me the Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows, he got me stoned in Amsterdam before bicycling around the city and has even dragged me to a Jah Shaka sound system in north London. He’s taught me that if you look for it, you can find inspiration absolutely anywhere.
Best London destination for a date:
The River Café. My husband wooed me there. My husband would always ask for a sliver of all the desserts so we could enjoy them all, and we’d leave armed with bottles of their own olive oil, which is one of our favourites!
Regent’s Park. The rose garden is particularly beautiful – I once met a poet there who asked me to describe the colour of one of the roses for his poem! There’s something magical about Regent’s Park. I love strolling slowly through from the south side all the way, and into, Primrose Hill for the most magical view of London where you can hear the lions roaring in the zoo.
Favourite food market:
Borough. It’s full of so many delicious food vendors, selling everything from hand-smoked salmon from the south coast to bbq chorizo rolls from Spain. The yoghurts and butter from France there are wonderful.
Your sanctuary in the city:
Claridge’s. Nowhere makes me feel quite at home as Claridge’s – they have a magical knack of making you feel like the most special guest, no matter what you’re wearing or who you’re with. There’s nowhere I’ve been that manages to be so prestigious and yet so welcoming. For my wedding night they put me in the Linley Suite. There was a special room with a directors chair in front of beautiful art deco mirrors where I could have my hair and makeup done. We ordered club sandwiches room service in the evening after our celebrations and the butler roared with laughter watching me sitting in my wedding dress dipping chips in ketchup! The following morning he rang the bell and delivered us two Frette dressing gowns with our initials embroidered on them (my new initials!) as a gift from the hotel.
What inspires you?
Apart from my children and my husband, I’m inspired by artists the world over, in all different fields, from all different times: the sculpturist Val Goutard; the authors Proust, Cervantes, García Márquez, and lately Patrick DeWitt and Jesmyn Ward; David Hockney; David Thorpe (my late father-in-law) and his Rude Food books; Vanderohe’s artist Lara Pilkington; Instagrammers (so many of them!); and, of course, by nature, birdsong, the sound of waves, the smell of flowers, light, shadows… basically any sensory experience that makes you really feel like you’re living.
This season I’m loving:
The dreamlike long, embellished, lace and tulle gowns that are completely sheer save a bodice-type undergarment. Louis Vuitton and Dior have the best.