For the ‘Valley Girl’ story from our Exploration Issue, we boarded a flight to Greater Palm Springs. With the San Jacinto Mountains as a backdrop, the photographer Steven Chee captured the model Carolina Sanchez in high-wattage separates from the resort season, as styled by GRAZIA Fashion Director, Charlotte Stokes. Here, languid tailoring and throwback-style swimwear do double duty when the mercury starts to soar. All you need to do is add water. See this and more in Stokes’ behind-the-scenes look at the eternal glamour of Palm Springs and the Parker Palm Springs.

When you think of Greater Palm Springs, you think of the Parker Palm Springs. Everyone knows the iconic brise soleil entrance, which has been documented on countless Instagram accounts across the globe. Staying at the Parker Palm Springs is like experiencing desert modernism in its entirety, from the architecture to the interiors and gardens. It’s a perfect midcentury oasis for the traveller who loves boutique hotels and great design. The Parker Palm Springs has aways been one of my favourite hotels and a dream location for a fashion shoot; it’s fortunate then that GRAZIA’s fashion team were lucky enough to shoot a fashion editorial there for our September 2018 print edition, The Exploration Issue.

Like everywhere in Greater Palm Springs,the Parker Palm Springs has an amazing history. First built in the 1950s, it started as a Holiday Inn until it was purchased by Gene Autry, whose nickname was ‘The Singing Cowboy’ and who was one of the most famous residents of Palm Springs. Autry saw an opportunity to run a hotel and provide his baseball team, The California Angels, with an off-season escape far away from the distractions of Los Angeles. He rebranded the hotel as Melody Ranch, built a second pool, tennis court, restaurants and quarters for the Angels. Autry sold the hotel in 1994 to Rose Narva, who at the time was business partner of the fashion designer Hubert De Givenchy and who relaunched the hotel as Givenchy Hotel and Spa, though Autry continued living on the property in a two bedroom free standing house. Today, the house is known as the Gene Autry Suite and is available to rent, and it’s where we were very fortunate to be able to shoot as part of our editorial – it is truly incredible.

The hotel’s next intriguing owner was TV personality Merv Griffin, who purchased the hotel in 1998. It became a destination for celebrities; in 2000, Robert Downey Jr was arrested on the property. The hotel remained largely unchanged until Jack Parker bought the property in 2004 and renovated it to its current glorious state. It was only then that it became formally known as the Parker Palm Springs.

Parker enlisted the interior decorator Jonathan Adler to design the boutique property and his touch is what really putthe Parker Palm Springs on the map. The design has a strong sense of nostalgia. It is filled with vintage trinkets from the past to make it truly one of a kind, while retaining uniquely modern and luxurious finishes. The property itself is a large, luscious maze of gardens dotted with palm trees set against a stunning backdrop of desert mountains. It’s a dream location to both stay and work in.

Speaking of work: we start our days at 4:30am, with hair and makeup done in the rooms so we can start shooting at first light. The rooms, like everything else at the Parker Palm Springs, are spacious and beautiful, the morning light streaming through the bougainvillea and into the rooms. We start at the hotel’s lemonade stand, which serves drinks poolside. The scene is ‘retro luxe’ under striped canopy the colour of oranges. The lemonade is just as sweet.

One of the things I love most about the Parker Palm Springs is time spent filling the day with a cool drink in hand while playing games on the grounds with a nostalgic bent. The pétanque court was our next location for the shoot. A nearby café offers even more respite than the shade provided by palms overhead. Strung between then, hammocks tempt us with the perfect setting to settle in with a good book. Soon, it’s time for croquet on another of the lush lawns. It often feels as though you have stepped back in time to the middle of the century, filling your days as though you were Frank Sinatra. As the sun climbs overhead, we move onto one of the two pools on the property, the Gene Autry pool, which is adults only. Surrounded by palm trees and cabanas and with the desert mountains forming a distant backdrop, this is like where you would want to spend a large part of your day.

When you can no longer stand the heat of the midday sun, it’s time to retire indoors – preferably for lunch at Norma’s. The hotel restaurant – like most else at the Parker Palm Springs– boasts an interior so colourful as to rival the flavours of the palette. A citron spectrum from lime to orange and lemon is squared off against impossibly fresh whites and blues. Much like the visually stimulating interior, the restaurant menu (an all day affair) is just as fresh: try a Charlie’s Chopped Cobb Salad with fresh Ahi tuna and a wasabi chive dressing.

While each room at the Parker Palm Springs is amazing, none can compare to the Gene Autry suite. A freestanding house on the property, the suite is concealed behind high walls, behind which lies the suite’s incredible interiors: a warren of impeccably styled rooms sporting vintage trinkets and immaculately preserved vintage furnishings. Should you be in town for a special occasion, the suite is undeniably worth it.

It’s to the pool that we head next – this time for a rest and much-needed cool off after a long day of shooting. For dinner, we visit Mister Parker’s, a hotel restaurant that is so committed to maintaining an air of intimacy and privacy that the menu is read by torch light. In the cool near dark, Mister Parker’s is an escape from the heat of the day. With an eclectic interior that speaks to a bohemian influence, the restaurant is also a great place to spend the evening and get – in keeping with the spirit of the hotel’s history – get up to a little mischief.


Tile and cover image: Charlotte Stokes