A moment reflecting before giving a talk at the V&A Museum in 2015.
Welcome to my website or, as I prefer to call it, my ‘digital scrap book’….. Books More
Creating this space means I can share so much more – starting off by reminiscing about the three decades I spent working in the fast lane of the glossy, high-octane world of fashion publicity before changing tack in 1999 to pursue my ‘mid-life’ dream to write. I can also explain more about the life both my published books have taken on as their central characters journeyed away from the library shelf to come ‘alive’ when my stories were adapted for stage and screen.
As a biographer I’m often asked how and why I chose my characters and topics. The answer is that the years I spent working with some of the most glittering personalities on the world-stage of fashion, beauty, photography and film left me with a deep-rooted passion for all aspects of visual consumer and social history. Does ‘consumer history’ sound dull? If so, it shouldn’t! Looking back to explore the methods and routes by which the affluent and avant- garde dressed – their clothes, hair and cosmetics for example, how they shopped, travelled and entertained starting circa 1900 in the dawn of the modern age as we know it – is utterly fascinating. To me, it seemed a logical extension of what I had learned and absorbed through meeting so many erudite, acclaimed ‘masters of the art’ – what we might call ‘tastemakers’ today – many of them already old and wickedly worldly-wise when I started as an ingénue in my role in fashion at the age of just 20.
For most of the 1970’s and 1980’s and into the first half of the 1990’s I was too busy working to write my own diaries. My husband and I ran one of London’s most successful ‘boutique’ Public Relations Agencies (called WPR) and there was zero time left over from juggling home, husband and two children alongside a frantically busy career. But I kept notes about many of the colourful characters I met in London, Paris, Florence, Milan or New York feeling that one day I could put it all to good use. WPR represented a roll-call of stellar clients, many on the cusp of fame and others already global brands, amongst them Valentino, Nino Cerruti, Louis Vuitton, Wolford, Brioni, Oscar de la Renta, Krizia, Ferragamo, Elizabeth Arden, Yves St Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. I spent four 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 magazine! I often said that the fashion industry was rather like the Muppet show in those heady years before it became a juggernaut. Crazy, but fun.
I had some wonderful years but then, midway through the 1990’s everything seemed to stall. As this opening page is just a snapshot of those years, dedicated fashion fans can pick up on the stories further into this site. Suffice to say by the end of the decade I craved a total change of pace and stepped back from my work in fashion to write full time. My strategy was to resurrect the fame of some of the pioneering personalities who created the industry I had worked in. Because of my own life spent in promoting designers and helping create storied brands, I am particularly interested in the idea of taking innovators – nascent personalities who put their indelible stamp onto something inspirational that lives on today. All too often their own part in creating that story has been largely forgotten and I like to shine a light on their legacy.
So far I’ve written two books (and am now working on a third). My first was War Paint – the dual biography of Elizabeth Arden and her rival Helena Rubinstein who between them created the luxury beauty business. Published back in 2003, War Paint has been adapted as a Tony Award nominated Broadway Musical starring Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole, who lit up the stage during the show’s run in 2017. Already a distinguished documentary on America’s PBS channel, War Paint may yet make it to the big screen as an option is in place from a major Hollywood producer. Meanwhile – and something close to all author’s hearts is the fact that although published back in 2003, War Paint is still ‘out there’ in print. An accolade for a book that’s over 16 years old so my thanks to Weidenfeld & Nicolson in London and Turner Publishing over in Nashville, Tennessee.
Shopping, Seduction & Mr Selfridge followed in 2007. The rip-roaring yet achingly poignant story of arguably one of the world’s greatest retailers Harry Gordon Selfridge was Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’. Subsequently adapted by Andrew Davies for ITV Studios into their lavish drama series Mr Selfridge the show launched in 2013 and ran for four years – showing in 120 territories around the world – and is now streaming on Netflix. It was a real treat working with the team at ITV Studios and the thrill when my family and I saw the first trailer appear was an unforgettable experience. You can see that same trailer here.
Thank you for visiting this site. Over the next months we will be updating, adding more archive images and I will be starting to blog…….at least that’s the plan. I hope you will keep coming back to see some more.