Tania Llewellyn

I met Tania Llewellyn’s mother, Manora Simaika, in Cairo in the early 70s. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I remember her velvety dark hair and lovely pale blue eyes. She lived in an Art Deco apartment overlooking the Nile. The light through the open 1930s windows fell on polished floors and silver frames. It looked like a Noel Coward stage set. The smell of orange blossoms wafted from the courtyard below. Manora’s husband, Victor, was a jovial, handsome Egyptian polo player and jasmine planter. They were the Beautiful People in Cairo. Manora knew Truman Capote and my friend, Peggy d’Uzes, who had given us her number in Cairo.

My travelling mate, Helen, and I had a wonderful time in Cairo visiting Manora and Victor. We stayed at the Shepherd’s Hotel and joined the Simaikas at the old fashioned clubs, where we met the soignée and gilded society of Cairo. I remember a sun drenched lunch on the deck of a house boat. Hassan, the chef, barefoot and wearing a red fez, grilled wood pigeon over an open fire. It was flavoured with lemon, olives and cumin and was the most succulent game I had ever tasted. This was served with spinach and a fiery muhammara-a spicy dip of walnuts and red peppers. It was a memorable meal.

Manora’s friends were ex-pats and writers, Russian refugees, spies and playboys! They took us into the noisy souks where burlap bags brimmed over with mustard-coloured spices and red chilli peppers. Street vendors were frying whole fish in renovated oil drums. Mounds of pickles lemons and olives and luscious red pomegranates were piled up like pyramids, occasionally spilling onto a frightened pariah dog who was trying to steal a bite. I’ll never forget sitting on Manora’s balcony during the call to prayer at sunset, with all of Cairo’s chaos and smoke and busy roof tops sprawled out before us. I had just read the Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. Our stay in Cairo was like a chapter out of Justine. Before we left Manora gave me Tania’s number in London.

A year or two later, by sheer coincidence, Tania and I were sharing a flat in London at 37a Bolton Gardens with Tessa Codrington. Tessa’s garden basement flat was the haunt of many crazy people in the 70s. Tessa was a photographer, Tania had trained in dress designing at Dior in Paris, and I was trying to write a novel. In the meantime, I worked for Elizabeth David in her shop in Pimlico. Elizabeth had lived in Cairo during the War. We shared an interest in all things Coptic, especially Cairo’s people, literature and cuisine. We often raced off at lunchtime to an Egyptian café on the Edgeware Road where swarthy men sat reading Egyptian newspapers and smoking hubble-bubbles. We ate flat loaves of bread cooked in a clay oven, quail kebabs and chicken livers in honey and pomegranate. With our Turkish coffee we gobbled up the tiny qatayif – sweet pastries filled with cream, deep-fried and drenched with treacle.

I was very fond of Tania’s father, Paul Soskin, a film director who had fled Russia with his family in 1917. His family had moved to Harbin in Manchuria before settling in London. He was Manora’s first husband. He met her at the Savoy, when he was an elegant young man wearing a monocle and cutting a dashing figure. He was part of the Shepperton Studio set which included the Korda brothers. He married Manora and lived in the Long Barn in Kent which he bought from Vita Sackville West. Tania was born in the Long Barn.

After her years as an apprentice at Dior in Paris, Tania came back to London, and in1968 she opened her own venture, Tsaritsar on Pont Street, featuring ready made clothes which she designed herself. Her partner was Annette Worsley-Taylor, who went on to initiate London Fashion Week. Joan Collins and the Duchess of Kent were clients. Later Bruce Oldfield, straight out of college, joined their team.

Tania married Roddy Llewellyn in 1980 and spent the next twenty years raising their three daughters, Alexandra, Natasha and Rosie. She has now turned her highly trained eye to Designer Sales which she gives each season.

During London Fashion Week Tania snaps up clothes from top designers and sells them on to her country friends and neighbours for a fraction of their retail price. She also travels regularly to India on buying trips. Her market is the country lady, who rarely shops in London any more, and who wants Tania to choose the best look for her. She’ll choose at an outfit and ‘think that’s perfect for so-and -so!’

When Tania selects clothes and accessories for her friends, it’s usually labels like Edina Ronay, Paddy Campbell, Ann Louise Roswald and Jenny Packham. She doesn’t want anyone to feel pressured to buy. She says ‘if you can only afford one piece, then buy a nice jacket or a good pair of trousers that fit.’

Tania has a loyal following of enthusiasts who depend upon her Sales to keep up to date. It’s an effortless way to shop. Better still Tania’s kindly and trained eye will advise you what not to wear. I recommend these Sales highly, if like me, you need a bit of help with today’s fashions….and you love a bargain!

Mrs M

Tania Llewellyn
01608 661 947

One Comment

  1. James Campbell Jane Evans
    Posted October 7, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    I always go to Tania’s sales. You find yourself trying on garmets you would never find in shops, so your wardrobe becomes more adventurous than normal. Try it, you’ll like it.

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