My name is Veronique Henderson (I was French a very long time ago!) and for the past 30 years I have had the best job ever as Creative Director of Colour Me Beautiful. Our head office is based in South London. We are a small team and we all wear many hats. One of my hats is that of co-writing all the Colour Me Beautiful books with my partner in crime, Pat Henshaw (http://www.pathenshaw.com). Hopefully they will have inspired many of you, wherever you are in the world, to discover YOUR style and YOUR colouring. It’s all about YOU.
You are all individuals with your own characteristics and preferences, however, in a book, we have to work with the main body shape and colouring groups. I think of our books as style manuals, really, with lots of images and easy-to-follow advice. So, we have this third edition of Colour Me Beautiful (Hamlyn) coming out in early 2014. This title has been a real journey. The first edition came out in 2006, the second in 2010 and every time we fine tune it to fit with our ever-evolving world. This time, we are going global with lots of skin tones to reflect our diverse world. We’ll also talk a bit about work wear and how to dress for various types of jobs.
So, to the shoot! The shoot was in Hoxton and I discovered a car park for £9.00 a day – a snip in this gorgeous capital city! A shoot takes weeks of preparation. For this shoot we employed twenty-one models, thirteen of them were Colour Me Beautiful consultants and the rest were professionals. We made the selection based on the following: their colouring, body shape, height, age, size, proportions, scale, length of hair, proximity to London (though one came all the way from Lebanon) and their willingness to put themselves through the experience. Organising all these lovely women was no mean feat. And then, of course, we had to shop!
We had a pretty good idea of who was going to appear on which page (we had to make sure that the same model didn’t appear on consecutive pages). Yasia, our lovely art director at Hamlyn, very kindly suggested we had the help of a stylist (Nikki Ahmed http://www.nicolaahmed.com). Niki spent five whole days calling the fashion PRs, shopping, carrying, hanging, dragging, whilst Pat and I did the same. We all finally met up on the day before the shoot at the studio. We had six rails of clothes arranged in colour order, within which the garments were arranged in size orders. Then we had to pray that we had the right clothes for each and everyone! And not only clothes but shoes (high, flat, dressy, daytime, sporty, sandals, brogues, boat shoes, etc.); handbags of varying styles and sizes and the jewellery too from pearls to metallic cuffs to colourful statement necklaces, I could go on and on. Lastly, we always bring some bathrobes so that the models can relax in between make-up and being photographed. I nearly forgot the tights this time and we need enough to suit a range of skin tones and in a range of deniers from 5 to opaque, to colourful to plain. You name it, we need it, just in case!
So, once we carted the whole lot to the 4th floor, we were ready to go. It was an intense five days with lots of people involved. We had two hair and make-up artists (Victoria Barnes www.victoriabarneshairandmakeup.co.uk), one make-up intern (the lovely Ruby); our lovely stylist Nikki and her assistant Rosie (who lovingly steamed every single garment – more than once sometimes), the fabulous Ruth – our photographer extraordinaire – and Julie her assistant, Yasia, the Hamlyn art director, Claire, our editing director, Henry, studio manager (who got sent out quite a few times when a lot of disrobing was going on!) and finally Pat and I who tried to remain calm and remember what we were trying to demonstrate with each picture. So, that’s twelve of us before the models arrived.
We were all there by 8.30 (I actually arrived earlier and found a coffee shop to read the newspaper in peace and quiet). The models were scheduled to arrive between 9 and 1.00 so that they each had their turn at hair and make-up without having to queue. However, before they got to hair and make-up, they had to be styled. I was the keeper of the lists of who was wearing what colours and styles so that no one clashed. The days were long days and we were on our feet all from beginning to end; we were lucky if we got ten minutes to sit down and grab lunch.
By 6.00 pm I was ready for the longish drive to my home in West London (the shoot was the same week as the Chelsea Flower Show, so you can imagine the traffic on the embankment).
So that’s it from this sexagenarian – I understand why there are not that many of us (sexagenarians) doing these kind of shoots, they are jolly exhausting! Following the shoot we had to return the clothes, the shoes, the handbags, the jewellery … and then Pat and I had to finish the copy too!
Over and out.
So there I was, a harried mother on the wrong side of 35, bouncing a teething baby on my lap while my three year-old ran riot through a friend’s flowerbeds with his pals. None of us Mums sitting round the patio table even batted an eyelid. I announced I’d bought some clothes online.
‘So what did you buy?’ someone said.
‘This,’ I said plucking at the frilly, ruffled neck of my baby blue and pale pink striped top.
My friend’s sister, Gillian, smiled and said, exuding a cool, easy style that I had never mastered, ‘You would look fabulous in turquoise, coral and hot pink. Emerald green too.’
‘What?’ I never wore strong, bright colours like that. I was a pale pastel girl during the day, black at night. I had also not been to the hairdressers in several years (my straight hair was half-way down my back) and all my shopping was done mail-order. I didn’t used to be like this. I used to care what I looked like. But Gillian was a consultant for Colour Me Beautiful and I reckoned she knew what she was talking about. ‘Tell me more,’ I said.
The next week I found myself sitting in her front room draped in swathes of brightly coloured fabric. And she was absolutely right. The strong, clear bright colours lifted my entire complexion, made the blue of my eyes sharper and brighter and my pale Celtic skin glow like finest porcelain. The pale, muted, earthy colours that I had, until then, favoured drained my face of all colour. I learnt the difference between an orange-red and a blue-red – how one can look great on you, the other awful, depending on your colouring.
And it wasn’t just the colours I was wearing that were all wrong. I’m tall and thin and I looked like a leek, straight up and down. Gillian showed me how to break my long, lean figure up with vertical breaks, e.g. a short skirt over knee high boots and layers over one another, and how to create the illusion of a waist. The hair had to go too as it was adding to the overall lanky, drippy impression. I got it cut into a graduated shoulder length style. And there’s more. Gillian helped me identify my style – I’m most comfortable in classic, tailored, clean cut styles. Explains why I never felt comfortable in that new top with the frilly neck. Finally, I learned that I should have one day in the shops at least once every season, to keep track of trends and see what’s new.
Next came the wardrobe clear-out. Gillian helped me discard four black binbags of clothes that were the wrong colour, the wrong style or just plain old-fashioned (who isn’t guilty of holding onto something long past it’s sell-by date because it cost a lot at the time?)
I never looked back. Ten years later I still follow those CMB colour and style rules. I take my colour swatches with me when I go shopping. It makes the whole process so easy – I can walk into a shop and see with one glance whether or not a rack has anything in it of interest to me. I know, almost without exception, that the frills and flounces of Per Una at Marks and Spencer, while they look fabulous on my petite friend Alison, are not for me. And I no longer buy things that look gorgeous on a curvy friend, or the model in a magazine, but ridiculous on me. I now know that on-the-knee dresses make me look frumpy and A-line skirts just look plain awful on me. I still make the odd mistake but I’m more confident about shopping and how I look. I buy less and what I do have, I wear.
I think every woman should have a CMB consultation for her 21st birthday. I can honestly say that of all the (probably thousands) of pounds I have spent over the years on the way I look, the CMB consultation was the best money I ever spent. And the best value. Go on, book your appointment today.
Erin Kaye is a warm and highly emotive Irish writer who deals with issues that affect real women. Her new novel, Always You (Avon) is out on the 6th June and centres around a pair of star-crossed lovers trying to rewrite their past. At university it all seemed so simple, Sarah and Cahal would conquer the world. Nothing could separate them. But Cahal was from the wrong side of the tracks and when family pressures mounted, they weren’t as brave as they hoped they’d be. Fast-forward twenty years and Sarah and Cahal lead very different lives very far apart. But a chance meeting will bring them together. Can they do things differently this time?
Available to buy from Amazon now: amzn.to/17alVKq