Shopping with Emma Bernhardt: Latin love affair

IT'S NO surprise that Emma Bernhardt likes to buy in multiple. Inside her Portobello shop, stacks of plastic rainbow-coloured kitchenware - buckets, scourers and brushes - are piled next to hundreds of mesh bags, candles and key rings. "If I see something like a vase, I always think it would look much prettier if I had five of them, in lots of colours. I'm used to buying in bulk from wholesalers and markets in Mexico."

It's shopping in Mexico and Spain which really inspires Bernhardt. "They have dedicated sequin shops in Mexico, selling all sizes and colours, and they have markets just selling flowers: paper, plastic and silk ones as well as real. The markets are massive - about the size of a US block." Her favourite places are the old haberdashery shops filled with "boxes of thread in amazing colours, beautiful beads and fringing that you just don't find in England".

In a haberdashery in Malaga recently - Merceria Torre (16 Santa Lucia, Malaga, tel 00 3495 222 2615) - Bernhardt delighted in finding "full-on fringing this long". In Valencia she loves the haberdashery El Diluvio (Plaza Reina, Valencia, tel 00 34 963923023) which sells fans and shawls too. What does she do with metre-deep fringing and highly coloured thread? "I try to keep them as they are - I've got a secret desire to turn my home into a haberdashery!"

Nowhere in this country quite compares to these Latin haberdasheries for Bernhardt, although the "old, old" haberdashery Morgan's (28 Chepstow Corner, Chepstow Place, London W11), stacked to its ceiling with tiny old drawers, she considers "best for atmosphere; it certainly looks the part."

Bernhardt loves to change around the brightly coloured decor in her own home. If she fancies a swift change, she simply "bungs up a different coloured sari in the window - it's a quick way of making a new start!" She finds the best saris "for about a fiver" from shops along The Broadway in Southall (catch the train from Paddington). "You can't go wrong down there," she enthuses, "there's this wonderful place which sells wedding fabrics, really beautiful brocades and silks encrusted with glitter."

Not surprisingly, Emma Bernhardt's idea of heaven on a Sunday afternoon consists of sitting at home in front of the fire with a bottle of wine and a sewing machine. She likes to customise her clothes. "I buy skirts from Ghost [enquiries: 0171 229 1057]. The fabric is wonderful and light, but they are a bit boring for me as they are, so I like to sew on sequins and stuff."

Lots of her clothes are bought from the Marylebone area of London where she lives. "I live behind Selfridges [tel 0171 629 1234] and sometimes use their shoe department for shoes by Katherine Hamnett, Emma Hope and Jimmy Choo.

"Otherwise, I buy Prada shoes second-hand from a shop called Catwalk [52 Blandford Street, London W1, tel 0171 935 1052]. I've finally realised that the shoes I'm buying belonged to the same woman - I'd like to go shopping with her! Also I really like Georgio Rossi [94 Wigmore Street, London W1 tel 0171 487 4054] for shoes encrusted with diamantes."

At Charon (74 Marylebone Lane, London W1, tel 0171 486 2901), Bernhardt "battles" through rails of second-hand designer clothes, but she buys many of her basics from the branch of Zara opposite the hotel she stays in whilst on business in Mexico City.

Emma Bernhardt's best tip is for underwear. "There's a Brazilian shop, Exotica [126 Gloucester Road, London SW7, tel 0171 835 0669]. It's a real treat, they've got brilliant bras and knickers in lots of colours, and the fit is fantastic, Brazilians really know how to cut their knickers!"

Emma Bernhardt enquiries: 0181 960 2929