Cara: Some people have all the luck when it comes to getting away to chillout at a paradise resort
With five fancy-dress soirees, a star-studded guest list and millions of Instagram followers hungryfor hourly updates, the Delevingne Maldives takeover is peak escapism, says Phoebe Luckhurst
Holidays are immoderate. You delight in indulgence then come home and relish the retelling - glossing over the relative smallness of these indulgences (an extra glass of wine with dinner). And then Cara Delevingne bags her own island and spends four days belittling your own efforts via Instagram.
If you are not one of Delevingne's 35.7 million Instagram followers, the hashtag #MaldivesBeachParty has likely eluded you. You will have been spared the luxe beach huts, the sunsets and the blue horizons. On the other hand, if you follow the 24-year-old model-turned- actress, you have likely spent the past few days growing disillusioned.
For you will know that Delevingne has been gifted a mile-long resort in the Maldives, for a week, all for the price of posting a few photos on Instagram, in what is an unprecedentedly lavish arrangement between a resort and a celebrity. You will have observed that Delevingne and her cabal have made your honeymoon look about as luxe as the Duke of Edinburgh's expedition in the Trossachs where everyone got food poisoning from undercooked sausages. You can neither beat them nor join them, but you can pry mercilessly on their lives. Welcome to Caradise.
It all started as a romantic holiday. Reportedly, Delevingne had been planning to visit the island with her ex, singer St Vincent. However, when they split up in September, she rearranged the dates and made a new guest list.
Who made the roll call? Obviously, sisters Poppy and Chloe were invited, as was fellow model Arizona Muse, and Cara and Poppy's good mate Jaime Winstone. Preston Thompson was invited: he directed Cara in Kids in Love, and is part of a fast Notting Hill set that includes Gala Gordon and heiress Jazzy de Lisser, who was also on the trip. Tatler editor Kate Reardon was in residence, as was Savannah Miller, Sienna's sister.
Other notable guests included members of Poppy's London aristo set: Arabella Musgrave - Prince William's first girlfriend and now Gucci's head of communications - and Vassi Chamberlain, features director at Porter magazine. Dishevelled socialite Jack Guinness made the trip, as did zeitgeist stylist Martha Ward - who is close with Poppy - and Melinda Stevens, the editor of Conde Nast Traveller. Make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury - a loose member of the Mossy posse - headed out there with her husband. The token curious addition was actor Tom Hollander, not typically seen on nights out with the Delevingne Instaset.
The island reportedly caters for up to 272 people across 125 villas. The group has commandeered the whole resort, though they flew out on a commercial flight. "I saw about 15 to 20 of them on the plane, including Cara," explains a passenger going to stay at another island near their resort. "They were running up and down the plane - I think two of their entourage were back in economy so they were weaving in and out of the curtains, to include them in the fun."
They were reportedly friendly, though another passenger observed that "the stewardess made one of them sit in a seat after she tried to sit on the floor".
There are big numbers in play. Cara has 35.7 million followers on Instagram, Poppy has 1.1 million. Chloe has almost 900,000 and Jaime Winstone more than 42,000. Muse has 147,000, Guinness almost 50,000 and Savannah Miller more than 11,000. The resort itself has almost 17,000, though has not yet shared any pictures of this week's cast of stars.
The "contract" between Delevingne and the resort appears to be relatively casual: the group must tag the resort in all images. Most are attaching the hashtag #MaldivesBeachParty to posts.
Cara's pictures from the trip include a sunset drenched in pink (874,000 likes) and a group shot including Hollander, Winstone, Thompson and de Lisser, captioned with a heart (almost 750,000 likes). She shared a picture of the island, shot from the plane, captioned "so hard to leave" (182,000 likes).
Poppy has shared a bikini picture, (captioned:"Needless to say I'm thrilled to be here") and a picture of a palm tree canopy ("Never. Leaving"). Friend Dean Piper, MD of PR company Beak Comms, who was also on the holiday, shared a picture of himself and Muse next to a "quirky" sign reading "Time to drink champagne and dance on the table", which might be extrapolated as the trip's mission statement.
Guinness has shared a sequence of selfies, while Musgrave prefers pictures of the glass-like azure swimming pools. Tilbury's Instagram is an insight into riotous nights spent in fancy dress (of which more later).
While it's rumoured there are glossy-magazine deals, the resort presumably considers the real-time social media coverage and cool factor that comes from association with a brand of Delevingne's standing to be the greater coup. So what is the ballpark value of such coverage? "Oh, my goodness," explains a representative from luxury concierge service Quintessentially Travel. "Millions, probably. God knows what the exposure is worth. It's basically priceless."
This season, there are more Maldives resorts than ever: the island nexus is beloved by those who can afford it. Accordingly, each must work harder to differentiate itself and attract the clients it covets.
Notoriously, riotous gangs of poshos adore fancy dress - parties must be themed. Nights out in Caradise required bespoke kit or, as Piper bragged via Twitter last week, "Just been given a list of five different themes for fancy dress. For five different parties. On a tropical island. I mean: panic stations." Indeed.
Themes included a Nineties hip hop night and a Seventies pool party. Tilbury shared a picture of herself next to a pair of can-can dancers while Muse captioned a picture of herself and Tilbury - bronzed and dressed up in wild prints - with the word "animals". Obviously, at some point, there was a human pyramid - Guinness's image of it was captioned, understatedly, "Few beers. Few laughs."
The resort, which is set in a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, includes a cinema, five spas and a hair salon. There are five restaurants, serving £70 lobsters caught fresh from the Indian Ocean and black truffle roast duck. Rooms are stocked with Neal's Yard toiletries.
The marketing is priceless - but what about the real cost of hiring your own island for a mash-up? "I'd estimate about $100,000 a night," says Lilly Grimaldi from PR firm Massey, which manages the Shangri-La resort on a nearby island. "For an entourage of 30 to 50 you'd need about 600 members of staff, then cover the cost of the rest of the rooms. These resorts are perfect for celebrities - they're very private."
What about the logistics? "Hiring out an island is becoming a trend," says the Quintessentially representative. "We have done a few private islands. The price obviously depends on the season and number of people but logistically it's simple if you can afford it." What sort of things come as standard? "A private butler, a chef." And security? "You'd normally bring your own. But it's very private - no one will know you are out there."
Unless, of course, you're "paying" for it all in selfies. It's an extraordinary life, being Cara Delevingne.