This morning we meet with the fascinating Anglo Russian equine adventurer, TV presenter, writer and fashion devotee, Alexandra Tolstoy. Like Leo Tolstoy’s heroines, Alexandra is a strong, independent, passionate woman and mother.
Could you introduce yourself in a few words?
I am English born but with some Russian heritage and this has played a big influence in my life. From the age of 18 I began travelling all over Russia and Central Asia but now have settled back in the UK.
How would you describe your education’s style? What sort of Mum are you?
I would say it is very traditional. My children speak three languages; Russian, English and French, a combination spoken by the Russian aristocracy up until the Revolution, and so there are many overlaps. I have put a lot of emphasis on the literature that the Russian nanny and I read to them, preferring classical books with sophisticated, expressive language and subtle illustrations as I believe from the youngest age children’s senses are susceptible.
I have chosen the French education system because I wanted the children to speak French and because I like the traditional, academic approach of the French system.
My father is a historian and has encouraged a passion for history in my two boys, and as a consequence they seem not to be interested in computer games or gadgets, only dreaming of the Second World War! We have a cottage in the English countryside and spend as much time as possible there, where the children run free in the fields and woods and spend days amusing themselves by building camps, looking at insects and playing on their bicycles. I believe this time is just as important for them as their education – it is rare nowadays in London to see children truly free and using their imaginations.I am very close to my children as I have been fortunate enough to always be at home with them and as siblings they are a unit, preferring each other’s company to friends’.
On your Instagram account, I see you share numerous activities with your three children, could you tell us about your favourite places and activities for the week-end?
My cottage as above…but we also love weekends in London during the winter when we go to a museum – this weekend we will go to the Tower of London – and our favourite pizza restaurant, La Delizia in Chelsea. My boys are not very sporty but love playing for hours at home with Playmobil – the latest craze is Egyptian History so they have toy pyramids – and my daughter loves playing board games and drawing.
Because I grew up in England I have friends all over the UK and we often go to stay for the weekend in Suffolk, Wiltshire, Scotland etc. The children love to get out of London and I think it’s important for them to have friends outside school as well.
What is your favourite moment of the day with your children?
Not the morning!! It’s chaos! I love reading to them and I love hearing them telling me very earnestly and passionately about something they’re interested in – at the moment it’s owls and bush babies! It is so sweet how excited and natural their enthusiasm is for such innocent subjects.
Could you share with us your best memory with your children?
It’s difficult to say but we had some wonderful holidays on St Barths when they were younger. We used to go for three months a year and they even went to school on the island for a term. They were such free times, being outside on the beach and the children were still small and none of the pressures of school and London life.
What sort of little girl were you?
I think I was daring and quite naughty. I chose to go to boarding school at the age of 11 and loved the adventure. Reading was my passion and from a young age I was reading all the European classics.
You have an amazing style, colourful and bold with a real sense of fashion so I’m curious to know what has forged this very unique style:
As a child I hardly had any clothes and I think it perhaps sparked a hunger for them! I have always had a passion for all things aesthetic, whether it’s an Uzbek dressing gown, Russian tablecloth or Spanish basket. I love to be brave and experiment and am confident enough to not mind what other people think! With my children I am more conservative – I adore Amaia’s style – old-fashioned and pretty and real children’s clothes, rather than mini adults’ clothes. My boys love to dress the same as each other as they are so close, so each year I buy them matching outfits from Amaia. My daughter is quite a tomboy so I can’t always persuade her to wear what I like!
What are your key criteria when buying clothes for yourself? And for your children?
For me, it’s the look and the quality. I like dreaming up different combinations and am wearing clothes I bought ten years ago but constantly reinventing them. For the children I like good quality clothes, and of course stylish.
What do you like most about Amaia as a brand?
I adore the designs – the lace, the flounces for the girls and the stripes for the boys. When the children were babies I could hardly control myself from buying everything – the baby clothes are out of this world!
What are you favourite items from this season’s collection?
I am asking Amaia to make me a special aged 8 dress for Maria in the blue stripe with smocking.
Follow Alexandra @alexandratolstoy