A moment reflecting before giving a talk at the V&A Museum in 2015.
I’ve created this space so I can share my story with people who may have read my books, or seen how they transitioned off the library shelf and onto stage and television by watching Mr Selfridge or, for those who were in Chicago in 2016 or New York in 2017, might have had the pleasure of seeing Pattie Lupone and Christine Ebersole perform in the Musical War Paint.
Books have always been my ‘happy place’. It’s hard to describe how much I love reading. Over the years books have entertained me, informed me and consoled me. Reading has been a comfort when I’ve been lonely and energised me when I’ve been tired. I don’t just buy new editions – I search obsessively in second-hand book shops where I look for titles with a magpie’s eye – mainly non-fiction and biography – and hoard them so relentlessly that stacks are in danger of filling every nook and cranny in our home.
I always dreamed that one day I would write – and that happened when in 1999 I stepped back from my thirty-year career working in the fast-lane of the glossy, high-octane world of fashion publicity so that I could pursue that dream. Not that fashion was the huge juggernaut it is today back in 1971 when I started as an ingenue at just 21 – but it was a wonderful time to be involved in what would become ‘the birth of the brands’.
I learned how it all worked under the tutelage of one of the most superlative fashion buyers of the era, the legendary Joan Burstein CBE, who as the owner of Browns – which became London’s ‘go to’ location for fashion lovers – curated the pick of the emergent designer labels from Milan and Paris, adding to the mix with the best of British design talent. I worked for Mrs B for nearly three years before leaving to set up my own PR Agency. We are friends to this day:
I married my husband Colin in 1970. Having been first a fashion editor and then a menswear buyer for the CUE shops at Austin Reed, he and I shared the same interests and ambitions, so – in a move that was brave for the era – in 1976 we joined forces to work together running my fledgling business. Together we developed it into one of London’s most successful ‘boutique’ PR Agencies.
WPR represented a roll-call of stellar clients, many on the cusp of fame, some who would become global brands – and others who glimmered but failed to ignite and survive. Fashion is a tough business. As well as talent, it requires dedication, investment and more than a little luck. They don’t necessarily fuse together! Our client list has included Walter Albini, Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Daniel Hechter, Oscar de la Renta, Wolford, Hermes, Nino Cerruti, Narciso Rodriguez, Krizia, Elizabeth Arden, Adrian Cartmell, David and Elizabeth Emanuel, Ferragamo, Yves St Laurent, Brioni and Karl Lagerfeld. I spent three years working for the late, great Jim Henson (of Muppet fame) and hold the distinction of arranging for Miss Piggy to wear a Karl Lagerfeld hat on the cover of Tatler. I often said that the fashion industry was rather like the Muppet show in those heady, experimental years. Crazy but fun.
I had some wonderful years, but then, midway through the 1990’s everything seemed to stall. The ‘business of fashion’ had taken over and the creative synergy – for me at least – was out of synch, leaving me determined to forge a new career as an author. Given that fashion is a business full of rivalry, eccentricities and extravagant excesses – as well as being possessed of beauty, grace and glamour – it was clearly a lush scenario for a writer to explore. Having worked on projects and events involving Hollywood stars, rock stars, sports stars and the biggest royal star of all – Diana, Princess of Wales – the dramatic personae presented endless possibilities. I toyed with the idea of writing in ‘real time’ and worked on an outline I called ‘Black Tie & Tales’. But in the end I decided against that book, choosing instead to go back to the beginning of the ‘juggernaut’ and look at some of the pioneering personalities who had created the industry I had worked in for so long. All too often the reputation of those who came ‘first’ fades because others move into their space – I wanted to shine a light on the legacy of innovators because their stories deserved to be told.
Over the months to come in 2024, I’ll be adding lots more archive pictures from our own ‘fashion journey’ library along with nuggets about all sorts of memorable moments – not always rosy but hopefully always interesting. I hope to blog……at least that’s the plan.
Meanwhile, for those interested in my books (or to order them) as well as seeing the first – magical – trailer for Mr Selfridge –along with an extract from the Broadway Musical War Paint – please go forward to the Books page.
Thank you for visiting.