Frock star

Lives don’t come much more colour­ful than TV fash­ion guru Brix Smith-Start’s. Here, she tells Ni­cole Lam­pert her in­cred­i­ble story

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FEATURE -

C lad in a lit­tle black dress that clings to her curves in all the right places, tow­er­ing black heels and a fake fur stole, Brix Smith-Start looks ev­ery inch the glamorous stylist she now is. But were Brix to go into one of her 10 — yes, 10 — gi­ant wardrobes at the apart­ment she shares with her hus­band, fash­ion mogul Philip Start, she could quickly pull out a skimpy out­fit from her punk-rocker days or a de­signer dress her time as Nigel Kennedy’s girl­friend. Or how about her uni­form from the time she lived in a garage, wait­ressed and went to drama school at night? Or a grungy num­ber from her time in Court­ney Love’s band Hole? For­get the cat with nine lives; Brix has lived 20.

She may have started as Gok Wan’s mouthy side­kick on Gok’s Fash­ion Fix but now has her own show, Ul­ti­mate Shop­per, on TLC. Look­ing years younger than her 50, she’s open about cos­metic ‘help’: ‘I think for a lot of peo­ple, hav­ing Bo­tox is like go­ing to the den­tist. ‘Al­most ev­ery­one in TV does it — men too.’ Born Laura Salenger in LA, she changed her name to Brix­ton, later short­ened to Brix, af­ter The Clash’s song Guns Of Brix­ton. She taught her­self bass gui­tar and, at 19, left univer­sity to start a band. When Manch­ester punk group The Fall played in Chicago, Brix went to watch. ‘I saw their lead singer, Mark E Smith, and thought he looked a lit­tle bit scary,’ she says. ‘I never imag­ined that six months later he’d be my hus­band.’

She moved to Manch­ester and joined The Fall, writ­ing some of their most pop­u­lar songs. But she never em­braced punk’s he­do­nism. ‘I was se­ri­ous about my work so af­ter a gig I’d go home to bed,’ she re­calls. Mark didn’t. She left him when she learned he was hav­ing an af­fair with a 16-year-old girl. This led to a mini-break­down and anorexia: ‘My life was to­tally out of con­trol; the only thing I could con­trol was how much food I could eat.’ But she soon fell in love with vi­o­lin­ist Nigel Kennedy, at the height of his fame. ‘Nigel is an in­ter­est­ing crea­ture but he’s a lit­tle crazy,’ she says. Next, she moved back to LA, where she lived in the garage of child­hood friend Su­sanna Hoffs, of The Ban­gles, be­fore briefly join­ing Court­ney Love’s band Hole, only to re­turn to Bri­tain and The Fall once more.

In 2000 she met Philip in a lift in Lon­don and the pair have been to­gether ever since. In 2002, they founded Start, a trendy bou­tique, where Brix found she had the knack for dress­ing her cus­tomers. She was soon snapped up for Fash­ion Fix and that led to Ul­ti­mate Shop­per, which set Twit­ter alight when it first aired. ‘I’ve learnt from my mis­takes and to trust my gut,’ she says. ‘Now I just want to give peo­ple joy.’

Ul­ti­mate Shop­per, Thurs­days, 8pm, TLC

Above: Brix and Gok Wan, with whom

she worked on Gok’s Fash­ion Fix

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