LIFE LESSONS Rigby & Peller’s June Kenton
Even the most powerful women need support, which is where June Kenton comes in. The woman behind Rigby & Peller shares the secrets of helping customers including the Queen and Princess Diana… and now Theresa May
I’ve been corsetière to the Queen for 30-odd years, and it has been a joy. It’s the most personal Royal role you can have. The first meeting was very nervewracking, but we did a fitting and The Queen approved of me. We had the new Prime Minster come to the shop just after she got the job, too. The relationships in this business are always good, because you’re making women feel better.
Fitting a bra can be an emotionally intimate thing. I’ve learnt to be a good listener. Most women are walking around wearing the wrong size bra, and that means most women are uncomfortable. You should be able to put your bra on in the morning and not think of it again until you take it off at night. A good bra can make you feel a million dollars.
Princess Diana was gorgeous. The relationship we had was wonderful. She used to phone up and say: ‘I’m coming to headquarters!’ That’s what she used to call the shop. We used to save up the posters we had of women wearing our lingerie and I’d give them to Diana. She would let the boys have them for their rooms at Eton – all the other boys would be jealous!
I’m lucky to have the most wonderful husband. Being able to buy a business with Harold and build it up was brilliant. Harold dealt with the finances, I went into the fitting rooms and ran the shops. It worked because we never stood on one another’s toes. Harold has dementia now. He smiles a lot and he is lovely, but he’s not Harold any more. We’re looking after him at home and he has wonderful carers. But we are never alone any more. If there is something you want to do with your partner, do it now, because you never know what will happen.
To have family is wonderful. Both our children are adopted. I felt they wouldn’t be given to us if we weren’t phenomenal parents, so that’s what we tried to be. I always wanted to be at home when the children got in from school. Make the most of what’s happening in that moment. One day they will have flown the nest and you won’t have had the joy of being with them. I’m a grandparent now, too, which is magical.
I count my blessings after having cancer. We’ve always made lingerie for mastectomy patients, but it’s only when it happens to you that you realise how terrifying it is. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. I was lucky – I didn’t need chemotherapy or radiotherapy, they were able to take it out. Having cancer really makes you feel: ‘Oh my goodness, isn’t life wonderful.’ I’m so grateful today for how well I am.
You have got to get up with a purpose. When we sold the business, it was liberating at first. But when you stop doing something that made you happy for a long time, you have to find other things to be happy about. You have to make a life. For me, friendship has become very important. I’m lucky to have had some of my friends for more than 50 years.
When you stop doing something that made you happy, you have to find other things to be happy about
Royal thumbs up: ‘We did a fitting, and The Queen approved of me’