De­lec­ta­ble, but not de­ductable

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

El­lie Pat­sa­los, I think I can safely say, is a tax in­spec­tor like no other. For a start, she’s not re­ally a tax in­spec­tor. She’s an uber­guru who ad­vises mighty fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions (HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Bloomberg) and glam­orous fash­ion houses (Burberry), and writes books about tax struc­tures in East­ern Europe in her spare time (she was based in War­saw in 1992, where she helped train the newly es­tab­lished tax au­thor­i­ties).

For another thing – well, look at her. Grey she is not. When we meet at her of­fices in the City, she’s wear­ing splashy Mary Ka­trant­zou. This is a woman who knows her Young Bri­tish De­sign­ers – and she’s not mess­ing around with the grunge-mer­chants or the min­i­mal­ists. Wear black, she says, and you age 10 years. Wear colour and ev­ery­one re­mem­bers you. Only once did a col­league sug­gest that her ex­u­ber­ant wardrobe(s) of bright, form-fit­ting frocks and el­e­vat­ing heels might be in­ap­pro­pri­ate. And he was on his way out the door to re­tire­ment.

“The fact that I was a for­eign woman with an ac­cent who loved fash­ion and was al­ways in miniskirts made me stand out. I never dress in­ap­pro­pri­ately, but once peo­ple meet me they never for­get. And if you pro­vide an ex­cel­lent ser­vice, that’s a pow­er­ful com­bi­na­tion. Now my clients dress up when they come to see me. I think I’ve helped change the cul­ture.”

That ac­cent, now that she men­tions it, is like gen­tle gun­fire. She’s 0-60 in ev­ery­thing she does. “When I do mo­ti­va­tional speak­ing to other women I al­ways tell them, one, love what you do. Two, get a sup­port­ive fam­ily. Three, never feel guilty and four, don’t dwell on chau­vin­ism. I’ve never en­coun­tered prej­u­dice once in my ca­reer be­cause I was the best per­son around.”

Five, work on your self-be­lief (I added that one).

The youngest of seven chil­dren, Pat­sa­los was the first girl to leave her vil­lage in Cyprus to study abroad; she ar­rived in Lon­don in 1972. You’d think it would have seemed very dull to a Mediter­ranean. But she was in heaven. “No one in Cyprus wore much colour in those days. Sud­denly in Lon­don I was shop­ping in Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket and get­ting lots of nice cheap clothes made by other Greek Cypri­ots.”

Her teacher told her that her English was not good enough for her to go to the LSE. Nat­u­rally, she proved oth­er­wise. Then came an MBA at City Univer­sity, where she met her hus­band, Philip Pat­sa­los, a fel­low Greek Cypriot who was do­ing his PhD and em­bark­ing on a ca­reer in neu­rol­ogy.

“My fam­ily would have dis­owned me if I had mar­ried a for­eigner,” she says, with the tol­er­ance of a woman whose mar­riage has worked out. By the late Sev­en­ties, the Pat­sa­loses were liv­ing in Houston, Texas, where she got a job in the tax depart­ment, with the oc­ca­sional month off to have her two chil­dren. By that stage, her ca­reer had be­come the fi­nan­cial en­gine of the fam­ily. Luck­ily, her mother-in-law stepped in to look af­ter the chil­dren, be­cause the more suc­cess­ful she be­came, the more she had to travel. “And my bright clothes made me stand out, be­cause al­though ev­ery­one in Dal­las was very groomed, they were so con­ser­va­tive. I couldn’t wear the nude tights though, even though they were com­pany pol­icy. Not in that heat.” So she didn’t. She did, how­ever, buy her first de­signer hand­bag, a Louis Vuit­ton: “Ev­ery­one had one.” A fe­ro­cious – but not un­man­age­able – ad­dic­tion was born.

When the fam­ily re­turned to Lon­don in 1983, Bri­tain was a dif­fer­ent coun­try, she says. “We left be­hind the three-day week and 98 per cent tax­a­tion, and got back to find op­ti­mism, pave­ment cafés and a city where you could ac­tu­ally go out af­ter 11pm.”

Work­ing for Deloitte, her rep­u­ta­tion soared along with

In­vest­ment pieces: El­lie Pat­sa­los in Peter Pilotto, right; be­low, a piece from Pilotto’s a/w 2014 col­lec­tion. Be­low right: dress, £990, by Mary Ka­trant­zou (match­es­fash­ion. com)

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