Select Page

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 and more

This site has been designed for those – like me – who prefer to browse and read on a desktop or tablet screen. I’m not a fan of small phone screens, so if you need to view this site on one, it won’t look anywhere like its best.

I’ve created this space so that I can share my story with people who have read my books and are interested in knowing about my exciting mid-life career change.  Having spent over 25 years in the high-octane world of international fashion and retail publicity, I stepped back in 2000 to forge a new career as an author, specialising in early 20th century biographical social history.  I’ve written two books – a third is underway – and both have had a long life beyond the bookshelf.  Shopping, Seduction & Mr Selfridge is the rip-roaring yet poignant story of the brilliant American retailer Harry Gordon Selfridge and his eponymous department store on London’s Oxford Street. I was particularly proud that on publication in 2007 it was chosen as Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’. In 2013, ITV Studios launched their 40-episode drama series Mr Selfridge, adapted by Andrew Davies from my book. You can see the trailer for Season One here:

Mr Selfridge
Mr Selfridge

I called my first book WAR PAINT because it was about the creation of the luxury beauty business and the life story of the two fearless, rival cosmetic titans – Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden – who, starting at the turn of the last century when coloured cosmetics were scandalous, made it all happen. Along the way, they become the richest businesswomen in the world and have left an awesome legacy.   Published by Virago in 2003, among all the incredible reviews, two really thrilled me:

‘The definitive biography of women and their relationship to their faces in the twentieth century’ Linda Grant – The Guardian and ‘I have seldom enjoyed a book so much. A wonderful read’. Lulu Guinness.

In 2016, the Musical stage adaptation of WAR PAINT opened in Chicago, before transferring to Broadway in 2017. The Tony-nominated show starred Pattie Lupone as Madame Rubinstein and Christine Ebersole as Miss Arden – both these amazing actresses lit up the stage.

Warpaint montage
Hilary Clinton

War Paint’s two stars with Hillary Clinton who came to our opening night. I thought the roof would lift off with the applause when she came into the auditorium.

Letter from Hilary Clinton

I sent a copy of my book over to her office and was so pleased to get such a friendly and supportive response. It’s hanging on my studio wall as an inspiration to me as a ‘working woman’ and to women everywhere.

Warpaint on Broadway

Opening Night on Broadway, April 2017. The Woodhead family; Oliver, Colin, Lindy and Max.

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 in 1999. As the new Millenium approached, I decided to move away from my long career in the glossy fashion business so that I could pursue that dream.  I had enjoyed the very best years in the glamourous evolution of an extraordinary industry, but it was time for a change. Fashion of course wasn’t the huge juggernaut it is today back 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’ and I so enjoyed the part I played in many of them making that journey.

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 in South Molton Street – made it London’s ‘go to’ location for fashion lovers.  She curated the pick of the emergent ready-to-wear designer labels from Milan, Paris and New York, adding to the mix with the best of British design talent.  I worked for Mrs B for nearly three years – travelling with her and the buying team to the Collections and being at all the shows – not to mention the buying appointments in the Showrooms, which was such vital training.  Editing a range into what ‘will sell’ – or not – is a rare skill.  Sensing a niche in the market for prestige fashion PR, I  left to set up my own fashion publicity venture – Woodhead Public Relations. Mrs B (now at the splendid age of 98 and as chic as ever) and our family remain the best of friends to this day.

Mrs B (Joan Burstein) with my son Oliver at a family party at The Savile Club, 2010

Mrs B (Joan Burstein) with my son Oliver at a family party at The Savile Club, 2010

A Who’s Who of fashion gathered to celebrate Mrs.B’s 90th Birthday Party at Claridges in 2016

A Who’s Who of fashion gathered to celebrate Mrs.B’s 90th Birthday Party at Claridges in 2016.

My husband Colin and I married in October 1970. Having been a Fashion Editor (on cult publication Town Magazine) and then a menswear buyer for the CUE shops at Austin Reed, he and I shared the same interests and ambitions, so in 1976  – in a move that was very innovative and brave for the era – we joined forces to work together running my burgeoning business.  Together we developed it into one of London’s most successful and highly regarded ‘Boutique’ Public Relations and specialist Retail Consultancies, calling it WPR.

In October 2020, we couldn’t host a party due to Covid restrictions, so celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary a deux at the Lygon Arms in Broadway. We bought a couple of Bella Freud’s marvellous 1970 golden candles to mark the occasion.


Our friend Ossie Clark made my wedding dress in the divine lily print Celia Birtwell chiffon

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 all at the right time!

Over the decades, WPR represented, amongst others, Walter Albini, Valentino, Bruce Oldfield, Oscar de la Renta, Daniel Hechter, Adrian Cartmell, The London Designer Collections, Krizia, David and Elizabeth Emanuel, Garrard & Company (when Crown Jewellers), Louis Feraud, Wolford, David Hicks, Harvey Nichols, Elizabeth Arden, Louis Vuitton, Nino Cerruti-Cerruti 1881 and Narciso Rodriguez, Ferragamo, Hermes, Yves St Laurent Rive Gauche, Brioni, Karl Lagerfeld and Bicester Village.

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.

Miss Piggy on the November 1984 Cover of Tatler, styled by the legendary Michael Roberts. Shoot co-ordinated by Lindy Woodhead @ WPR

Miss Piggy on the November 1984 Cover of Tatler, styled by the legendary Michael Roberts. Shoot co-ordinated by Lindy Woodhead at WPR.

Lindy with Jim Henson, photographed in London in 1983.

Lindy with Jim Henson, photographed in London in 1983.

In London circa 1992 for the opening of his Sloane Street shop, Karl had left his fan behind, so borrowed mine.

In London circa 1992 for the opening of his Sloane Street shop, Karl had left his fan behind, so borrowed mine.

I had enjoyed some wonderful years. Our Agency specialised in forging client and Charity relationships to create memorable fund-raising events – many of them held in the presence of HRH the Princess of Wales – and I’m particularly proud of the amounts of money we helped raise for Birthright and Barnardos.

Diana Princess of Wales
Princess Diana

We worked on special events for a wide-ranging list of clients, raising funds for amongst others, the National Theatre; the Haymarket Theatre; the V & A – a perfect match of stunning window displays at Harvey Nichols to support the Museum’s Fashion & Surrealism Exhibition sponsored by the store.

Our work wasn’t just in fashion – but it was always done in a fashionable way.  We hired the most innovative caterers; the most imaginative florists; the best D.J’s – invitations were written by our calligrapher. We were invited by Sir Geoffrey Leigh to organise the opening of the prestigious educational venue Fulbright House:

Fullbright Commision

But then, midway through the 1990’s things began to stall. The ‘business of fashion’ had taken over. Clients were retreating from cultural budgets in favour of parties in their shops which were easier – but less appealing for me – to organise. Their growing passion was to attract ‘celebrities’ to their front rows. Having reserved Clint Eastwood’s seat at Cerruti, Gregory Peck’s at Ferragamo and Sly Stallone’s at Karl Lagerfeld’s, I felt I had ‘been there and done that’. The tragedy of the deaths of both Princess Diana and Gianni Versace in the fateful summer of 1997 cast a deep pall.  I started to feel it was time for me to bow out of a world I had loved but which was irrevocably changing pace.

As I planned my exit – leaving Colin, a distinguished retail and menswear consultant in his own right still running the business – I had to settle on my subject as a writer.  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 and Tales’. But in the end I decided against that book, feeling there were too many stories I didn’t want to share.  Instead, I chose 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.

Now, I’m busy putting together the conceptual outline of my next book, but over the months to come I’ll be adding lots of pictures from our fashion archives and sharing all sorts of memorable moments on this site. I hope to blog – particularly when fashion stories that catch my eye inspire a trip down memory lane… at least that’s the plan.

Thank you for visiting this site.  I hope you will return.

Lindy Woodhead

Oxfordshire, 2024