Prue Leith on ageism in the fashion industry and dealing with obsessive Bake Off fans

by admin
Prue Leith on ageism in the fashion industry and dealing with obsessive Bake Off fans

Days away from completing the UK and Ireland tour of her one-woman show, Nothing In Moderation, Dame Prue Leith is recalling an uncharacteristically diva moment that occurred when a cancelled flight meant she was in danger of missing two shows in Dublin.

“I got very bossy and I’m afraid I ordered a private plane,” she says solemnly on Zoom, the hue of her faux suede biker jacket matching the striped wallpaper of the Cotswolds home she shares with husband John Playfair.

But The Great British Bake Off judge didn’t demand the £6,000 chartered jet for her own sake — her only concern was the audience expecting her on stage that night.

“It would have meant letting them down at four o’clock in the afternoon. So, I took a huge chance and thought, ‘Well, I hope to hell that the insurance will pay for this’.” (It did.)

After a few trial shows in America, Leith embarked on her first live tour, telling funny anecdotes from her career — which spanned catering, food writing and TV cookery before she landed the big Bake Off gig in 2016 — and answering audience questions.

“The most frequent question about fashion is ‘How can you be so brave?’. I’m 50 and I always used to wear colours when I was young, but I now think it’s not appropriate,” says Leith, 83, who is famous for her eye-poppingly bright outfits and statement necklaces.

Prue Leith wearing items from her Kettlewell Colours capsule collection

“What do you mean it’s not appropriate? As you get older you need colour more. When you’re my age, and from the menopause on, you need more and more help.”

Born in Cape Town in South Africa, Leith says her love of colour stems from the vivid blooms back home, and that her fearless personal style developed when she met John, a retired fashion designer (Leith’s first husband, Rayne Kruger, died in 2002).

“John was very encouraging. I’d say, ‘do you think this is too much?’ And he’d said, ‘no, no, not enough. Put on some earrings as well’.”

That’s why she was thrilled to be asked by fashion brand Kettlewell Colours to collaborate on her first-ever clothing collection, a 12-piece range of jackets, tops and accessories.

“I think it’s wonderful that they want to do it because most companies are always aiming for the youth market,” she says in her delightfully gravelly voice, a hint of her native South Africa still evident after more than six decades in the UK.

“We have an ageing population in the UK. 

There are more old people, and why should we be confined to some boring grey, beige, greige selection?

The TV veteran also thinks the fashion industry often overlooks older women in terms of body diversity.

“If you try hard, you can stay the same weight the whole of your life, but what normally happens is women put on a bit of weight as they get older, especially around the middle.

“But I think [brands] would rather design for a slip of a girl — and I’m not slip of a girl.”

The fashionable foodie had every intention of slimming down before the Kettlewell shoot.

“I kept saying to myself, ‘I’ll lose a stone before we launch it’, and of course, I haven’t,” she says with a chuckle, “I have not lost one ounce.”

She credits the 34-date tour with keeping her “pretty fit” in her 80s.

Prue Leith wearing items from her Kettlewell Colours capsule collection
Prue Leith wearing items from her Kettlewell Colours capsule collection

“I have at least a good hour walking around the stage in front of hundreds of people. I’m on my feet every night

“Like most people at my age, various bits of me ache incomprehensibly. I wake up and my ankle’s sore, then by 11 o’clock it’s not sore anymore. And my back sometimes hurts.”

Not that these odd aches and pains put a dent in her sunny disposition: “I think it’s about whether you’re ‘glass half-full’ or ‘glass half-empty’ — and I’m definitely the half-full variety,” she says.

“I often feel that if the sword of Damocles came down and finished my life today it would be more than a fair cop.

“I’ve had 82 great years — not every single year has been great, but I’ve had a great life.”

Now, she’s looking forward to the US leg of the tour starting later this year — and bracing herself for fervent fans on the other side of the pond.

Prue Leith with Great British Bake Off co-star Paul Hollywood 
Prue Leith with Great British Bake Off co-star Paul Hollywood 

“In England, if I walk down the street, two or three people might recognise me, but they’re usually very reticent and quite polite.

“They might want a selfie but they’re always a little apologetic about it, and they don’t want to bother you.

“Well, the Americans are just, ‘Oh! Is it you? Oh, I can’t breathe’.

“You think they’re gonna have a heart attack just because they’ve seen somebody from Bake Off.”

Selfies aside, Leith is more than happy to soak up the applause on stage.

“In LA, the audience was so wild that when I walked onto the stage, before I opened my mouth they were on their feet and whooping and hollering and shouting,” she recalls of one of the trial shows.

“I must say that it was the biggest buzz — it’s the best drug in the world.

“I now understand why all those old comedians don’t get off the stage, because they’re hoping for that feeling once again — the rush of people loving you.”

  • The Prue Edit is now available from Kettlewell Colours

Source Link

You may also like