This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
I am divorced with two grown up children and a lovely partner. I started Roadscents, which makes French perfumed car fragrance, a few years ago when a rare debilitating auto-immune disease prevented me from working my regular 10-8pm job as a magazine editor. My career highlight (although I didn’t know it at the time) was being offered the chance to create a magazine aged 35, for intelligent women. It was called Frank, was hugely fun and terrifically hard work and I learned so much from it. Neither it nor I lasted very long (we were both plagued by miserable male doubters) but it was a life changing experience.
How have you changed since you turned 50?
I feel 115 thanks to this auto-immune disease, but I’m fighting back and expect to be feeling 75 by the end of the year – which, as far as I’m concerned, is a great age. And possibly my own age again, 57, some time next year. I’ve changed so much since I was fifty. This illness has taught me what is important (love and friendship)and what is not (everything else). It’s also taught me to have a sense of humour about everything, including my own appearance. I’ve gone from glossy magazine editor to tracky bottomed work-from-home in less than five years. That’s before we even talk about the havoc that long-term steroids wreak on your body, skin and hair. I’ve spent life-years in NHS waiting rooms and seen so many sick people dealing with so much with grace and humility, it’s been terrifically humbling.
Where have you lived?
How long have you got? I’ve lived in Paris, Monaco and the French Alps, New Jersey, Boston, New York, Long Island and Westport Connecticut. But I always return to London. I think I always will. Although I have a lifelong attachment to the place I grew up in – Norfolk – and I own a tiny cottage by the sea in Suffolk, which makes me ridiculously happy the minute I pull into the drive.
What you like to do in your free time?
Yoga of course (I co-founded Britain’s leading yoga centre chain, triyoga). I’ve just started running after having stents fitted to free the blood-flow to my legs (the disease again). I walk my Vizsla dog and I’ve always got a book on the go. I’ve just finished writing my family history. I love art particularly Asian art (I’m halfway through a post-grad at SOAS on Asian art which I plan to finish as soon as I can!)
What’s your style?
Vestiaire Collective is my favourite place to shop. I love that these days you can share your fashion habit. Once you get bored with a piece, it can go up on line and someone else can buy it. I never pay retail for designer ready-to-wear, the prices are insulting. I love the high street, but I try to ration my consumption. My guilty pleasure is Uniqlo – their basics are classic pieces that last forever. The designer I will always love is Consuelo Castiglioni who created such special pieces for her brand Marni. I’m always on the lookout for vintage Marni on re-sale sites. The items I could not do without are my Nike trainers – I have never worn heels – I was an anomaly in the fashion world, and trousers by my friend couturier Anna Valentine, who makes the best ‘pants’ on the planet.
Technology: what are your thoughts?
I am in a constant and ongoing dispute with technology. I love it for its immediacy and I hate the invasion of my privacy and the tyranny it wreaks in terms of screen addiction amongst young children and adults. My favourite sites are The Land Gardeners and Remodelista, both set up by old friends of mine, The FT, WSJ and NYT for news and great weekend reads.
Any beauty recommendations?
Oil of Olay for moisturiser – I always return to it and have done since my twenties. Don’t think you can beat it for value and efficient delivery of moisture to the skin. I don’t cleanse or tone as I don’t believe in upsetting the skin’s natural balance, though I do use a flannel a few times a week for exfoliation. Also rely on updates on skincare from my friend Gill at Victoria Health – she turned me on to the brand Skinlixir which I like. I use ThisWorks for bath and body which I adore and MV skincare when my Aussie friend Sharon (the founder) remembers to send it to me! I don’t wear much makeup but when I do it’s Chanel makeup remover always, Charlotte Tilbury eye pencil in black, Laura Mercier and TrinnyLondon for everything else. All of these women really know what they are doing with formulations.
I started my career at Tatler as a Beauty Editor. Kevyn Aucoin, the first celebrity makeup artist and I, wrote a book together years ago when I was working in New York for Harpers Bazaar. Aside from it being huge fun, he taught me to always wipe the mascara brush on a tissue before application – this avoids cloggy mascara. I learned lots from the other makeup artists I worked with on shoots too: Laura Mercier taught me to apply makeup in tapping motions using my fingers. Bobby Brown taught me the ‘pop of pink’ trick on the apple of the cheek with the blusher brush and the legendary Stephan Marais, taught me all about using a light hand at all times -ie less is more – even today – or more especially today now that I am ancient!
Do you cook?
My signature dish is Cheese on Toast and very good it is too.
Chocolate (80% cocoa solids), Diet Coke, Caesar Salad and in that order…
How about reading – do you have a preferred author?
Jane Austen. I know its predictable but she manages to still make every other author seem lacking. Sense and Sensibility is my favourite book. I also love Dodie Smith’s 101 Dalmations and I Capture The Castle.
TV: what do you love to watch?
I don’t, much to the chagrin of my partner who works for the BBC! But I love radio – 3, 4 & 6.
R&B, Sade, Marvin Gaye, Lauryn Hill, George Michael. Fave Songs: Snow Patrol’s Chocolate, The Beatles’ Revolution, Style Council’s You’re the Best Thing, George Michael’s Faith and anything by Krishna Das.
Anything you can’t live without?
I’d be miserable without my Ugg boots and a hot water bottle during the British winter months. My two strap Birkenstocks during the summer. My collection of fragrance (I’m a perfume addict).
Who do you most admire?
My grandmothers – my maternal one is still alive. They both came from very different backgrounds and lived through very different wars. My paternal grandmother was Anglo-Indian and came to the UK as a refugee after the war. My maternal grandmother lied about her age to join the WRENS and contribute to the war effort. Both of them instilled in me a work ethic, an appreciation for style, beauty, art, the countryside and travel. Both of them were/are hugely open-minded about life, love and death.
I am most grateful to my father for suggesting to me aged 16 that I was of ‘average intelligence’ (there’s nothing like proving your father wrong). And to Anna Wintour for suggesting that we were perhaps ‘not suited to working together’ after I’d laboured thanklessly at American Vogue for four months in a windowless cupboard next to the boiler room. I have not looked back since.
What’s your top tip for #womenover50?
Anyone who doesn’t support you doesn’t deserve you.