Entrepreneur owner of the MAXMARA boutique in BELFAST, NINA WALLS enjoys weekends in the city and regular trips to Italy, France and the US …
Home is an Arts & Crafts house on Belfast Lough which my husband Chris and I bought from the politician Roy Bradford. It took us six months to renovate before moving in. It has been a labour of love and we restored it with the help of decorative historian Ruth Bothwell.
If we’re not travelling, on Friday nights I like nothing more than catching up at home after a busy week. I love to cook and will buy some fish (from McKeowns in Bangor) or else make a risotto or pasta dish and enjoy a glass of wine. We both work hard – Chris is a lawyer – while for me, no two weeks are ever the same – so enjoying my home is one of my greatest pleasures. I’d call my interiors style eclectic, though it betrays my attention to detail and is also filled with pieces – from ornate handpainted furniture to antiques – I’ve picked up on our travels.
Italy feels like a second home for me, as does Barbados. The latter is where I honeymooned (at Sandy Lane) and we go back every year, while the former has defined not only my working life but also my lifestyle to some extent. I particularly like Reggio Emilia in northern Italy, especially Bologna, and have been travelling there for 18 years. Quite often we will fly to Italy for the weekend and in Milan we stay at the Four Seasons, which is always buzzing during fashion week. In Rome we stay in a beautiful palazzo called Villa Spiletti Trivelli, though we’ve recently discovered the exquisite Seven Suites hotel above Palazzo Fendi, where I was fortunate to meet Silvia Fendi on my last visit.
Part of my business research is to check out luxury brands and their stores, though visiting museums is a real hobby – I never tire of the Uffizi in Florence. My Italian language skills are now passable but I am in the process of taking some private lessons with Federica Ferrieri, who is from the Italian consulate in Belfast.
My love affair with MaxMara began over 18 years ago when I stocked it in my multibrand store, Panache, on the Lisburn Road in Belfast, before acquiring the sole UK franchise. They have been an incredible partner and feel like family, especially valuable when you are a sole trader. Last year was particularly difficult because I lost my mother after a long period of illness, and my adopted work family helped me overcome this personal crisis. I often travel for events relating to the brand’s cultural agenda – for instance to the Whitney Museum in New York for the launch of the MaxMara Whitney bag. In fact I travel to New York two or three times a year and always have the same routine. We stay at the Ritz and a visit is never complete without listening to Woody Allen’s New Orleans jazz band play at the Café Carlyle.
I try very hard to achieve balance in my working life and work as hard as I play. During Fashion Week my feet don’t touch the ground as I meet with other buyers and so many interesting people. For my own clothes I wear a mix of MaxMara and like to accessorise with Chanel and Dior. I regularly shop at Ella in Brompton Cross and Selfridges in London. This winter I’m wearing a mix of classic camels and at the weekends I’ll usually layer up in jeans and cashmere.
I love going to Paris, where we got engaged, and we usually stay at Georges V or La Réserve. I often travel with my sister Soraya and a high point was seeing Karl Lagerfeld’s spaceship launch at the Grand Palais during the Chanel AW17 show. It was also a real pleasure to see Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner on the catwalk and meet them later at a private dinner; another highlight of this year. Another was the special MaxMara show we presented in Belfast City Hall, which is rarely used for events. Last month, I also welcomed my friend, society jeweller Kiki McDonough, to Belfast. I held a champagne reception and fashion show for her at the store and enjoyed introducing her to a number of our clients as well as showing her the city.
Chris and I are both walkers and on Saturday mornings at home we’ll get up and walk five kilometres along Belfast Lough and have brunch out at The Guillemot Kitchen in Bangor, an unpretentious family-run café. After buying a few supplies, we’ll walk back home. I was brought up by the sea in Sussex and living on the seashore is a dream.
In the afternoon I may be working – looking after clients who have become friends – so I don’t get home until 7ish. On Saturday night we tend to go into town and meet friends. Ox and Michael Deane’s Eipic are favourite restaurants. We’ve also discovered Noble in Holywood; it’s a small restaurant which has recently won a prestigious Michelin Bib.
On Sundays, we spread out the papers and have a leisurely morning followed by a walk along Crawfordsburn beach, which works up an appetite. I’ll cook a traditional lunch and then we both relax. In the evening we’ll catch up with reading or watch a film and plan the week ahead.
MaxMara, 723 Lisburn Road, Belfast.
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