Keira Knightley strode purposefully in Hyde Park, her hair falling freely on bare shoulders and her brand of easy beauty being telegraphed tonight by a multi-hued Chanel number – Keira and Chanel going together like a bow and arrow, or perhaps wasabi and sushi. She'd just spotted friends Cara Delevingne and Alexa Chung. Catching up, the three of them now – as we all pretended not to look – it was a eureka of Brit It Girl proportions at the annual conceit that is the Serpentine Gallery summer party, held earlier this week in London.
“And she's still not even 30,” a Greek Chorus of one nudged me re: Keira, as the London skies above us devolved into sunset-smears of purple and pink. It's true! The actress was so young when she debuted in Bend It Like Beckham an eon ago. And she has been so ubiquitous in popular culture since that it's hard to believe that the precocious beauty doesn't quite jump the 30 fence until 2015.
Shortly afterwards, it was Pharrelltime, the reigning prince of jubilation was the surprise musical guest. He wore a hat. People danced.
As the art crowd schmoozed with the showbiz one – there was Suki Waterhouse adorably wrapping her arms around boyfriend Bradley Cooper's neck, and the avant-garde Tracey Emin giving solid tête-à-tête with billionaire patron Dasha Zhukova – I got an earful. As I've discovered from previous British shindigs, the level of banter is always memorable. “If I wasn’t in fashion, I would have been a psychiatrist,” a man in prints was saying at the bar, as he went on to give a mini-symposium on Carl Jung. "Sitting all day is dangerous as smoking," another someone was saying to a newly engaged couple, all of whom were consuming watermelon martinis. “I read it in a blog.” Meanwhile, a man of some years stood giving instruction to several young lasses in another circle as I snatched one prized quotable of his while passing by: "It's 80 per cent moxie; 20 per cent talent.”
“Moxie”: there was spades of it in the unveiling of this year's Serpentine pavilion. This is a tradition of this party – a different pavilion and different architect every year. And this year's pop-up came courtesy of Chilean Smiljan Radic. A “spaceship docked on top of Stonehenge” is one way it was described.
Other guests at the party included Naomi Campbell, Lily Allen, Bianca Jagger, Liam Gallagher and Erdem Moralioglu. We had a good chat with literary royal Zadie Smith – looking smooth in a Roman silhouette and her signature turban – and crossed paths, too, with actual royalty: Princess Beatrice. The latter was talking to luxury goods magnate François-Henri Pinault when we spotted her. She's rather striking in person.
Seeing Beatrice, I was reminded that it had been this party in 1994 that the late Princess Diana appeared, looking glam – on the very night that her estranged husband, Prince Charles, famously appeared on TV to admit the problems in their marriage. It was that point when the Serpentine Gallery soiree became firmly ingrained in the jet set’s imagination.
The night was cooling, and many, soon enough, were exiting. Orlando Bloom,who'd come suited out in custom Brioni – the official sponsor of this year's party – was talking about grabbing dinner at Il Barretto restaurant, a fave among celebs. Others were making a beeline for the after-bash at the Groucho Club, a private members' boîte that has seen many a London celebration and will, no doubt, continue to see many more into the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, back in Toronto:
* Don't miss the musical theatre event of the season, happening now at the Berkeley Stage Theatre. A remount of Stephen Sondheim's 1970 classic Company, about a commitment-phone fella – hey, some things never change – it has a troupe that includes Tony winner Brett Carver, Tony nominee Louis Pitre and even Oscar nominee Nia Vardalos. Worth the price of admission alone: Louise's righteously indignant, let's-burn-it-all-down riff on the classic song “Ladies Who Lunch.” It's a stage tour de force if there ever was one.
* Huddling with Ms. Vardalos at the opening night after-party, meanwhile, we enjoyed a lot of laughs. The triple threat admitted that she's basically humming the lyrics for the musical in her sleep these days. As well, she told me that the script for her much-anticipated My Big Fat Greek Wedding sequel was in…and that the movie is definitely a go.