Sunday, 24 October 2021

Designer who just loves regatta fashion

NIKI SCHÄFER’S first taste of Henley Royal Regatta in 2003 was far from glamorous.

NIKI SCHÄFER’S first taste of Henley Royal Regatta in 2003 was far from glamorous.

The 44-year-old interior designer had recently moved to the town, where she met her husband Richard, and the couple had just had their first daughter, Genna.

This meant a visit to any of the enclosures was out of the question.

Instead, they walked their baby in a pram up the crowded Remenham towpath and sat down for a picnic.

Mrs Schäfer, of Walton Avenue, says: “That was an interesting experience in itself. It was quite a shock to the system but we were keen to visit the regatta at the earliest opportunity.

“We quickly learned there were two sides to the event — there were all the nice enclosures where everyone dressed formally but the first thing we encountered was the picnic areas and bars further up towards Temple Island, which were packed.”

The couple had two more children so they continued having casual family picnics on the riverbank until about five years ago, when they were invited into the stewards’ enclosure for the first time by a business contact.

Now that their children are older, they usually spend two or three days at the regatta and organise corporate events for their own clients.

Mrs Schäfer, founder of the Henley House and Garden Show, said: “I love the pomp, the ceremony and the little rituals like worrying about the length of your dress.

“Everyone enjoys talking about how ridiculous the rules are but at the same time they know it would be a travesty if they were abolished. It’s all part of the tradition.

“There’s plenty of Pimm’s and champagne and I gather there’s also some rowing at some point, but I’m not sure I see very much of it!

“I also think the regatta plays a part in keeping Henley an incredibly healthy town. Events like that and the festival are a chance to dress up and everyone wants to look good and comfortable in what they’re wearing.

“Fashion-wise, I definitely see it more from the man’s perspective so I’m keen to see Laurence Menswear do well. My husband will inevitably dress from head to toe in Laurence’s outfits and I probably spend more time thinking about what he’s going to wear. I don’t give it much thought as long as I can find a dress that meets the ‘below the knee’ rule.

“I love the hats I’ve tried on, though — they’re outlandish and add a fantastic splash of colour to whatever you’re wearing. I also thought the Rodeo dress from First Edition was an awesome outfit. It was very arty with a Boho chic feel.”

Chiropractor Jack Johnson, 26, first visited the regatta last year after moving to the area from Torquay. He works at Back In Line in Duke Street and has been a guest in the stewards’ enclosure twice, which he says is an “absolute spectacle”.

He said: “I’d heard many good things about the regatta when I was growing up as it’s a world-renowned fixture.

“I had to check it out when I had the chance and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a fantastic occasion and I was amazed by the glamour of it all.

“Henley’s pretty glamorous in general but it took me by surprise just how well-dressed everybody was. Fashion is definitely a big part of it. I treat a few rowers so I knew a bit about the regatta but you only truly understand it when you’re there taking in the ambience.”

He added: “I’d agree that it’s more about the men, unlike many events. There are other high-profile social events like Ascot but nothing focuses on the men’s clobber like Henley.”

Last year Mr Johnson wore a Claudio navy jacket and deck shoes from Laurence Menswear with a pair of pink trousers. After our photoshoot, he said he most liked the striped blazer with the shirt.

He said: “I think this year I’ll be sporting a more traditional look rather than anything too colourful. I’ve really enjoyed modelling all the clothes — they’re all well-suited to the occasion.”

• Special thanks to Aida Dellal for the use of her Fawley Court estate, our models and our clothing and hat suppliers, Laurence Menswear, First Edition, Liz Felix and Louise Claire Millinery.

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