What Not To Wear’s Trinny on her new makeup venture
As co-host of one of the UK’s most-watched TV shows back in the noughties, Trinny Woodall told women what not to wear. Now she’s had her own reinvention. Louise Gannon reports
Trinny Woodall is sitting on a greyblue velvet sofa surrounded by the cornucopia of gleaming beauty products that has taken over her chic London home. She is talking – at the speed of Usain Bolt – about skin tones, highlighters, her ‘vampire’ face lifts, a wonder vitamin A cream from South Africa called Dermastine, which she got her former PA’s uncle to send her from Cape Town (“I asked for 10 tubes. It’s miraculous for crepey skin”).
Her forensic knowledge of the 50 shades of red is extraordinary. As for eye bags, we are talking Mastermind specialist subject. But there’s a point to this tsunami of beauty tips. After years of co-hosting BBC’s What Not to Wear, the style show that regularly had four million viewers tuning in to see Trinny and her equally posh friend, Susannah Constantine, give women make-overs, she’s transformed into a beauty guru as well as a style queen. Thanks to her blogs, Instagram posts, YouTube videos, weekly Facebook Live sessions and her regular advice slot on the UK’s This Morning show, Trinny now has some one million followers in the UK, America, Australasia and Europe. With her latest project, Trinny London, she’s created a customisable beauty range that will particularly appeal to older women. “I wanted to change the way women bought makeup,” she says. “So many get stuck in a makeup rut. And I’m passionate about the over-40s market – no more solid black lines under the eyes!”
Since its launch in October, Trinny London has swiftly earned a cult following among beauty aficionados and writers. Featuring 56 products, from eyeshadows to foundation to lip and cheek colours, it is not so much a makeup line as a beauty concept. With its easy-to-use individual stackable pots (“that click together like Lego bricks”), her online-only range aims to streamline your beauty routine. Once you’ve registered on the website, Trinny’s Match2Me system will ask you a series of questions, including hair and eye colour, and skin tone, before matching you to your individual colour palette.
“Most women just buy a colour they like,” says the 54-year-old. “But I wanted to create an algorithm that finds the colour that properly suits you and can really make a difference to your face. I also knew once you have your colours, you want them to be convenient – hence the stacking – and small enough sizes to fit in your bag. Also, they’re all cream-based, so you can put them on with your fingers; it’s entirely fuss-free.”
There was never any thought the brand would be sold in stores. “I wanted an online brand because that way I could interact with my buyers through my blog and show how the products can be used.”
Charles and me
I t is too early to give sales projections, but clearly business is booming. As we speak, women flit up and down the stairs of the home she used to share with her partner of four years, Charles Saatchi, until her stacks of products, makeup chairs, makeup artists, and a pop-up makeup studio took up every room of her threebedroomed Chelsea cottage, and they had to decamp to his place. Every so often, Trinny goes to check on the ladies who have arrived at her HQ to find out how to use their bespoke bundle of colours (spaces are reserved with an NZ$85 deposit, which is redeemable against products on the day). “I think you trust Trinny because she knows exactly what she’s talking about,” says one woman – a 40-something mum of three – as she surveys the effects of a cheekbone shader. “And she looks fantastic. I want to look fantastic too.” Trinny and I move on to the subject of Charles Saatchi, whose investment helped Trinny London come into being. She met Saatchi through mutual friends after his highly publicised divorce from Nigella Lawson. “I wasn’t aware of any of the details of what had been going on, as I was out of the country,” she says. “We just saw each other as friends initially, then it turned into dating. He listens to me. He gives me good advice. He’s been amazing as far as Lyla [her 14-year-old daughter] goes because he has a great relationship with his daughter, Phoebe [23, from his second marriage to Kay Saatchi]. He’s a very good thing in my life.” There’s an assumption her new success is down to the 74-year-old art collector. She puts me straight on this. “Charles put in 4% investment into my business. He believes in it, but he is tough. The rest I got by going to financial backers and people in the cosmetics industry. I pay my mortgage and school fees, I buy my own clothes. I don’t spend as much money these days because I don’t have as much. Every year I’ll buy a Celine coat, three pairs of Prada brogues and three pairs of Stella McCartney shoes. The rest of my clothes come from Zara and Cos. “I went out with a very rich man [her exes include Constantine Niarchos, the late shipping tycoon] when I was an addict,” says Trinny, referring to the 10-year drug addiction that began in her teens. “He paid for everything and it added to my feeling of never being good enough. After I went through rehab [at 26], one of my vows was I’d never rely on anyone else. I pay my own way. If people think I live off Charles then that’s up to them. People who really know me, know how fiercely independent I am.” Trinny hasn’t always been happy though. The real reason behind her quest to make the best of herself, with clothes, beauty products and extreme treatments, is because she spent several decades believing she was deeply unattractive. “I felt so f***ing ugly until well into my 30s,” she says.
“As a teenager I had chronic acne and was completely miserable. I don’t think anyone realises how long that feeling of repulsiveness lasts. I spent years hiding my face or covering it with thick, orange foundation. In my late teens I finally had Roaccutane [an acne treatment], which got rid of the spots, but left scarring on my face, which I was horribly self-conscious about. It completely affected the way I lived my life. She spent a fortune on beauty treatments and always went to a particular restaurant to meet friends because the lighting hid the “bumps and flaws” in her skin. “When we were filming What Not To Wear, there would be nights when Susannah and I would have a bottle of wine and 20 fags. [Trinny still smokes – and drinks – but has Botox and a retinue of products and regimes to tackle the ‘cigarette lines’ round her lips.] “Susannah would do her night-time routine of Trilogy Rosehip Oil and cleanser and wake up in the morning with skin like a baby. I’d be in there for an hour [Trinny’s night-time routine involves cleanser, soap, balm, exfoliator, oil and a skin roller] and wake up with skin like an ancient wreckage.” A few months ago, she sent the “very lowmaintenance” Susannah a package of her
‘If people think I live off Charles, then that’s up to them. People who really know me, know how fiercely independent I am’
newly minted goodies. “She sent me a picture to show me she’d put everything on,” she laughs. “And there was no bloody difference. I needed to get down there [Susannah, now an author, lives in the rural county of Sussex] and show her how to use it properly. Classic Susannah.” The two women are as close and as loyal as ever. Susannah recently called out Victoria Beckham on Twitter for ‘ripping off’ Trinny’s beauty videos, “and not doing them nearly as well”. Trinny’s online response was, “How much do I love you?” It is impossible not to like Trinny. She has retained that same blend of Ab-Fab glam and gung-ho enthusiasm with an underlying core of a no-nonsense nanny, and will unashamedly hoist another woman’s illfitting bra or tackle head-on the issue of facial hair. Regardless of what you see on the outside (the lovely house, the glossy hair, the posh voice and the Stella McCartney shoes), her views have never come from a position of smugness but from vulnerability. The sixth child of the hugely successful banker Bruce Woodall – who died last year aged 88 – Sarah-Jane Woodall was sent away to boarding school at the age of six, where her mischievous behaviour earned her the nickname Trinny (after the St Trinian’s films). At 16 – largely due to her selfconsciousness over her acne – she began experimenting with drink and drugs, and by 18 she was part of a rich set whose appetite for designer clothes, hard drugs and partying had no limits. By 21 – after nights of drinking vodka and endless lines of cocaine – she did her first stint in rehab, but was kicked out (for screening a soft porn film). It took her five more years to get clean and to this day she follows the 12-step programme. Three years later, after working as a commodities trader, she met Susannah at a dinner party thrown by her then-boyfriend, Viscount David Linley. From their mutual obsession with clothes came a career as style writers for the Telegraph. Six years later – in 2001 – they were the presenters of one of the biggest shows on TV.
T heir books sold in the millions – “The first book we did sold more than Nigella and Jamie Oliver’s cookery books,” Trinny says – and Oprah secured them as style advisers on her show. In 2006 they switched TV channels in a $2.2 million deal to front Trinny and Susannah Undress… but after its initial success, they left two years later to take their show around the world. This coincided with Trinny’s split from her musician husband, Johnny Elichaoff, the father of Lyla. By 2011, Trinny had serious financial issues and in 2014, Johnny – struggling with addiction and financial problems – took his life by jumping from the roof of a building. Trinny, who’d remained a close friend, was distraught. They had married in 1999 and been through nine courses of IVF together and two miscarriages before having Lyla. Asked if she had any idea about her exhusband’s state of mind, she says “No. but if someone is on a mission to take their own life, no one around them has a clue. They hide it because they don’t want to be stopped. There’s a difference between someone who is doing something as a cry for help and someone who is hell-bent on suicide.” She pauses. “It’s only later you start to link little signs together. It is a devastating thing to deal with. My life is one of constant ups and downs. From going through rehab to losing Johnny, there has been so much that’s happened in between. But one thing I’ve learned in life is you just have to get through stuff. “There are times in your life that are amazing. When our show was one of the biggest on television, we had fantastic moments. Then there was the joy of earning a huge amount of money. I liked the fact people knew who I was. I like it now. Most people treat me as if I’m a friend.” After the show left British TV screens in 2008, Trinny and Susannah spent several years doing spin-offs in countries from Poland to Australia to Israel. “It was exhausting. We worked five days a week because we insisted on being home at weekends – unless we were in Australia. We spent our lives on planes, but we just couldn’t keep living like that. Susannah wanted to write books, I had this germ of an idea for a makeup brand. We decided to just stop.” But her route to Trinny London has not been straightforward. She began working on the project in the midst of a legal battle with her ex-husband’s creditors for his debts (she recently won her case), and in order to fund herself and her business, she moved out of her large London house and rented a smaller one. She sold all the clothes she had amassed over her TV days. “I kept a few pieces I loved and some I’d like Lyla to have,” she says. “But to set up a business I needed money. So I sold them and raised £70,000 [$133,500].” Her 50s are, she says, her absolute prime. She looks great. Long and lean, she’s lost that uber-thin look of the What Not to Wear days. She nods. “I used to weigh around 9st [57kg], which was too thin for my height. Now I’m just over 11st [70kg], which is my Christmas weight. I have boobs and a bum.” She continues, smiling: ‘As soon as I hit my 50s I started to feel great. I had a very early menopause which made my late 40s completely traumatic. I think my IVF treatments brought it on early, but it robbed me of my confidence and my emotions were all over the place. The best thing was coming through it. I’m still having Botox – I started at 35 – and I love it. I’m not ashamed of wanting to look my best and of wanting other women, of any age but particularly of my age, to look as good as they can. “I’ve always paid for my treatments and so when I write my blogs they are completely honest. My products are the result of years of trying to make the best of myself.” Mission accomplished, we’d say.
‘I liked the fact people knew who I was. I like it now. Most people treat me as if I’m a friend’
Clockwise from left: With Charles; with former co-host and close pal Susannah; always stylish.
Stacks of colour...