TV presenter Carol Smillie models the new Sixties trend from House of Fraser’s autumn/winter collection. Stephanie Smith caught up with her in Halifax. Pictures by Tony Johnson.
As Carol Smillie flips through the rack of clothes from which she is to select her fashion shoot outfits, it becomes clear that she is a natural stylist.
“I do like clothes shopping,” says the TV presenter and former model. “It’s the only sport I actually do. But I love a bargain.The talent is doing it from the High Street and then making it look like designer fashion.”
Creating fabulous designer looks on a budget sounds familiar. You can take the girl from Changing Rooms (the legendary BBC makeover show she presented from 1996 to 2004 – the original and still the best), but you can’t taking the basic “luxury for less” premise of Changing Rooms from the girl.
Carol is in Halifax to host a special afternoon tea-with-entertainment for her friend, Kate Hardcastle, and Huddersfield based fundraisers The Charity Dreamgirls. The theme is The Beatles, because, as Kate points out, it’s 50 years since their heyday in 1964, which was also the year they stayed at Holdsworth House Hotel, near Halifax, the chosen venue for the tea. The event is to raise money for Simon on the Streets, a charity that helps homeless and vulnerable people.
For our Sixties’ themed shoot, the fashion team from House of Fraser in Halifax has come along with clothes and accessories from the store’s new autumn/winter collections, with brands including Ted Baker, Warehouse, Therapy and Biba. The Sixties in a key theme of the season, especially the A-line tunic shape and the prom dress, both of which feature here, plus shiny handbags and bucket hats.
Holdsworth House is a bit of a star in its own right. Many celebrities have stayed, including The Beatles on October 9, 1964, John Lennon’s 24th birthday. Two of the bedsteads they slept in are still in use in the hotel. Jayne Mansfield visited in 1967 when she appeared at the Batley Variety Club, and other stars who have stayed include Rudolph Nureyev, REM and The Small Faces. Recently the hotel starred in TV series Last Tango in Halifax.
Still presenting on TV in Scotland (she’s hosting the STV series Finding Scotland’s Real Heroes), Carol now devotes much of her time to Diary Doll, the business she founded in 2012 with her friend, tennis player Annabel Croft. It’s a pants company, quite literally, making attractive, normal-looking knickers which have a secret, breathable, waterproof panel that protects against leaks, perfect for use during periods, after having a baby or to help with pelvic floor problems. The idea came about while shopping for pants for their own teenage daughters. As Carol says, any girl or woman aged between 10 and 70-plus is a target customer.
Married to restaurateur Alex Knight, Carol lives in her home city of Glasgow, and is mum to Christie, 19, Robbie, 17, and Jodie, 15.
“Annabel Croft and I have been friends for a number of years,” she says. “We team up for holidays and our children are about the same age – girl, boy, girl.” Both elder daughters are involved in the project with Carol’s daughter, Christie, modelling the pants and Annabel’s daughter, Amber, styling the promotional images. Diary Doll pants are all made in Britain by disabled workers through a social enterprise scheme. John Lewis started selling them in March this year, after Kate introduced Carol to the chief executive at a dinner event. Before that, says Carol, no one was prepared to take it up. “It’s given us credibility and a trust,” she says, adding that the market they have tapped into is “huge”.
Carol is now 52 but sure doesn’t look it. “I’ve never smoked and I hardly drink. I’m quite a cheap night out, really,” she says. “I’m not a gym bunny and I don’t even own a pair of trainers. I definitely go for the looser tops, highlight the better bits and be a bit clever with the not-so-good. But I don’t fret about these things. My daughters still borrow my clothes – though I don’t borrow theirs.”
All clothes and accessories from House of Fraser in Halifax. See www.HouseofFraser.co.uk
Pictures: Tony Johnson
Location: Holdsworth House Hotel, near Halifax,www.holdsworthhouse.co.uk
Diary Doll pants costs £14.99 and are stocked at John Lewis, and at Fleur in Skipton, see www.diarydoll.com.
For imformation on The Charity Dreamgirls see www.charitydreamgirls.co.uk
For information on Simon on the Street, see www.simonon thestreets.co.uk