AMONG JASPER CONRAN’S most precious possessions is a signet ring given to him by his mother. Engraved with the Conran crest — a dove perched on two crossed snakes — it bears the motto “In peace lies wisdom.” A lovely sentiment, to be sure, but considering the polymathic British designer’s wildly accomplished and famously unpeaceful family, it’s easy to infer a bit of classic English irony in the gift.
Jasper’s father, who died in September at 88, was Terence Conran, the man who upended fusty British postwar design in the 1960s with his empire of Habitat stores, which introduced minimalist housewares and Scandinavian-style flat-pack furniture to the British high street. In 1973, he opened the upscale Conran Shop on Fulham Road in Chelsea, and in the late 1980s moved the store down the street to the old Michelin House, an Art Nouveau jewel, where it still stands today. There he continued to reshape the retail landscape, staging modern furniture by the likes of Charles and Ray Eames and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe alongside traditional French cookware and global crafts. (There are now Conran Shops in Paris, Tokyo, Fukuoka and Seoul, and additional London locations at Selfridges and in Marylebone.) Over the course of Terence’s career, he also founded London’s Design Museum, a homage to graphic, fashion and industrial design, and opened more than 50 restaurants, including the still-popular Bibendum on the ground floor of the Michelin building, which ushered in the city’s era of modern cuisine and high-ceilinged brasseries when it opened in 1987.
Shirley Conran, a best-selling author of steamy blockbusters, including the 1982 “Lace.” (Shirley was the second of Terence’s four wives; they divorced in 1962, when Conran was 2 and his brother Sebastian was 5.) When Jasper wasn’t at boarding school, he was shuttled between his mother’s series of London flats and the 145-acre Barton Court family estate in Berkshire, which his father purchased in the early ’70s. There was also a farmhouse in Provence.
Henri Bendel. In the ensuing years, his output has approached that of his father’s. In addition to his namesake women’s wear label and J by Jasper, a diffusion line, he has created bone china for Wedgwood and costumes for more than a dozen ballets, operas and theatrical productions, including the Royal Ballet’s 2019 production of Christopher Wheeldon’s “Within the Golden Hour.” In 2011, the board appointed him creative director of the Conran Shop; a few years later, after his father stepped down, he was named chairman of Conran Holdings. He worked to return the stores to their original glory until 2015, when he resigned in order to focus on his own lines. The Conran Shop was sold in 2020 to the British entrepreneur Javad Marandi, who has a large real estate portfolio in the U.K., including the 100-acre property on which the Soho Farmhouse, the Soho House chain’s Oxfordshire retreat, is located.