August 28, 2007

RIP Mark Birley

At the risk of becoming your local obit pages, another great has passed on to the great beyond. Mark Birley was the owner of the oroginal members only nightclub, Annabels in London. But that was far from his only claim to fame. He was from a distinguished family and went to Eton and Oxford. Then, in an unusual step, he went to work for J. Walter Thompson, the advertising agency, where he took the place of David Hicks! He opened the first Hermès store in London in 1959, their first venture outside of France. A young Terrance* Conran did the interiors.

In 1963, he founded Annabel's in Mayfair. The club was located in the basement level of the first legal casino in London and was designed by Sir Philip Jebb, who had never been in a nightclub before. Annabel's was named after his then-wife, who is now Lady Annabel Goldsmith. Mark Birley lead an interesting and full life, but it was marred by tragedies, including the mauling of one of his children by a lioness at a private zoo and the abandonment by his wife. In the early 1970's, he was the money partner for Nina Campbell's furniture store.

Birley was one of those people who is so interconnected... his sister is Maxine de la Falaise, and his niece is Lou Lou de la Falaise, both muses for Yves St. Laurent. His associations with trend-makers David Hicks, Terrance Conran and Nina Campbell, and his own personal style made him the center of a very interesting circle. For a more detailed look at this man of his age, check out New York Social Diary's obit.
*Thanks for the correction, House of Beauty & Culture!

6 comments:

  1. I think you mean (Sir) Terence Conran - Jasper is his son and was born in '59.

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  2. Right you are! So sorry for the miss.

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  3. Being a royal family fan/Anglophile, I have heard quite a bit about Annabel's, but never knew of Mark Birley until reading your post. It sounds like he led a full life, despite all of the tragedies. I am going to read up on him, thanks for the post.

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  4. I'm surprised that the NYT still hasn't printed his obit yet. I must admit that I've always wanted to go to Annabel's. Do you have the book???

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  5. Fairfax, I have to confess you are becoming sort of a "design obit service" for me :)

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  6. ^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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