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June 7, 2012updated 29 Jan 2016 5:13pm

Lotions, Potions and Finding the Perfect Washbag

By Nicholas Foulkes

Fop Gear What is a globetrotting old peacock to do with all his oceans of anti-ageing lotions and stacks of rejuvenating blisterpacks? Fear not: papa’s got a brand new washbag, says Nick Foulkes

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Fop Gear

What is a globetrotting old peacock to do with all his oceans of anti-ageing lotions and stacks of rejuvenating blisterpacks? Fear not: papa’s got a brand new washbag, says Nick Foulkes

WHILE CONVALESCING IN an Alpine resort recently I met a glamorous and intelligent woman who happened to be the widow of a pharmaceuticals magnate, and it was all I could do to stop myself from asking her if she could spare any free samples of, well, anything. In the end my restraint was not born of good manners — I do not presume to possess any — but really because I am running out of luggage space.

You see, one of the few joys of entering what is, in my experience, erroneously known as the ‘prime of life’ is hypochondria. It is not one of those things you give much thought to when you are the age of Emily Rookwood of Spear’s, who is apparently the youngest managing editor in London. But when one approaches the half-century it is entirely logical that I find the amount of paraphernalia that I need to jam into my spongebags — notice the plural — has increased dramatically.

The second half of my forties has been characterised by a spike in the number of dietary supplements that I have taken to ingesting in the Canute-like hope of keeping the ravages of age at bay. Then came my discovery of QMS Medicosmetics. My touching belief in the promise of unwrinkled skin possessed of a perennially youthful glow is, I think, one of my more human characteristics, and for what it is worth I believe that QMS delivers: if you have not visited the great Dr Schulte’s glittering palace of the revitalised dermis just behind Peter Jones by Sloane Square, I urge you to cut along as soon as possible, as I have become addicted to his seemingly infinite capacity for creative cosmetic science in cream and lotion form.

Anyway, factor in the necessary shampoos and what have you from Philip Kingsley that I pile on to my head in the hope of anchoring the remaining follicles to the scalp, and the precautionary pile of further unguents and tablets, sprays and lotions that I lug around with me ‘just in case’, and I can keep an entire luggage carousel at a medium-sized international airport busy for an afternoon — and it is in this observation that the much vaunted but seldom located silver lining resides. The need to transport ever greater quantities of ever more potent skin creams and an ever more numerous and colourful selection of pills requires specialised luggage.

My life has settled into a pattern whereby I cope with the inconveniences that life throws at me by purchasing or commissioning stuff to soften its impact; for instance, I didn’t much fancy standing around in the snow until I had got that nice Mr Zaks of Seraphin to build me a heavy Afghan goatskin parka, whereas now I positively court the cold. My recent trip to the Alps was as much to do with the chance to wear it as it was with gulping down nice lungfuls of crisp air and perfecting my blanket-folding skills, as per Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain.

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THE EXPANSION OF my ablution-related baggage began innocently enough. For years I used an increasingly knackered Louis Vuitton washbag, which, having been to the factory at Asnières where such vintage treasures are gently coaxed back to life by experienced restoration experts, I know I must get repaired. This was joined, almost surreptitiously, by a rather handsome leather-trimmed Goyard zip-up washbag with plenty of sleeves and pockets in which to stow many different types of blister packs, while still leaving enough space for a quintet of child-proof screw-top tubs of jewel-bright tablets and capsules of various types of snake oil.

This (sort of) manageable system of an almost matched pair of washbags was thrown into disarray by the agents of international terror and their liquid explosives. The aesthetic possibilities of a zip-lock plastic bag are limited. However, a chance visit to Arnaud Bamberger, the Gallic charmer who is Cartier’s executive chairman in seeming perpetuity in London, yielded the rewarding knowledge that — assailed by equal concerns about the aesthetics of terrorism-compliant ablution-specific luggage — he had commissioned a very covetable washbag from Dunhill.

Of course, I could not attempt a piece as elaborate as Arnaud’s, which had the beauty of an Hermès briefcase in miniature, but with the key difference that it had been made in Dunhill’s Walthamstow workshops. Nevertheless I felt that with both Goyard and Vuitton already involved in my travel arrangements it was necessary to strike a patriotic note, and accordingly I commissioned a see-through zip-up travelling washbag with leather trim — it is a triumph.

However, that was a year ago, and I have since added more pills, potions and pump-action dispensers to my travelling essentials and, every time I manage to fasten the zip without bursting the bag, I raise a short silent prayer to the stoutness of good old Walthamstow workmanship. Even having loaded both that and the Goyard (from which the leather tab on the zip has now become detached) to capacity, I am still left with about a shelf or so of stuff to pack.

I was fretting about this very problem when, passing my favourite vintage store, Deja Vu in Marbella’s Old Town, my eye alighted on a 1970s Gucci canvas and pigskin valise-type piece of luggage that has the dimensions of a medium-sized briefcase. I hastened inside and, in addition to the handsome monogrammed exterior, striped canvas ribbon, pigskin sides and strap with heavy gilt buckle, it featured a light butterscotch leather interior of velvety softness. I bought it at once and it is perfect, as it accommodated both the Goyard and Dunhill washbags, as well as a few loose tubs of tablets and one or two handy wand-like dispensers of Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir. These few litres of extra space should tide me over until the Vuitton is back from Asnières and I stock up on yet more homeopathic life-extending miracle cures (capsicum, I believe, is being touted as the latest panacea).

REASSURINGLY, I AM clearly not the only midlife man in crisis, as I attended a symposium on the washbag that had been convened by my hairdresser, Monsieur Brent de Londres, or Pankhurst Barbers as he prefers to be known. Brent has decided to create the ultimate washbag, and I produced my vintage Gucci with a flourish whereupon a team of craftsmen started to study it and make detailed technical drawings of this venerable antique. I await the results of Brent’s researches with interest.

However, as I get older I do not see this getting any easier, especially once I have added in my portable altar honouring that medicine god of antiquity, Aesculapius… and I try not to think too deeply about the trouble I will have getting a caduceus through T5 in my hand luggage.

Read more by Nick Foulkes

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