Fashion Trinny Woodall: 'Now I'm 60 I love myself, which...

Trinny Woodall: 'Now I'm 60 I love myself, which I didn't in my teens or 20s'

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Not for the first time, I hear Trinny Woodall before I see her. A crashing sound behind a closed door as phones and papers and “f***!”s are dropped like bombs. She blasts into the room – the otherwise peaceful make-up studio of her Chelsea office – plonks her willowy frame on a stool and starts talking at a million miles a minute.

Default Trinny speed. Her simple navy trouser suit is Trinny’d right up with a black fringed top that features suspended metal discs. Her tiny wrists are weaponised with the addition of massive silver cuffs and I’m shocked when she tells me the chunky crystal choker is £12.99 from Zara. She’s a cyclone in sparkles.

I haven’t yet asked a question and she’s laying out the roadmap with which her eponymous beauty brand, Trinny London, is gearing up to achieve world domination. “My team really felt the energy that I brought back from my day in New York last week. Which made them excited to think: ‘Let’s make this our challenge. How do we conquer America fully?’ We’re in there already, but I want to be 20 per cent more in there this year.”

You probably know the story. Launched in 2017, the now famous little pots of make-up that ‘click-clack’ together in a cylindrical stack, started as a germ of an idea in Trinny’s head, and was initially funded with £60k from the sale of her own clothes.

Woodall rose to fame alongside Susannah Constantine with the launch of their BBC series 'What Not to Wear' in 2001

These were dark financial days for Trinny, still reeling from the death of her ex-husband, Johnny Eliachoff. She was raising their daughter, Lyla, and trying to get funding for a beauty business that few venture capital investors (a largely male trade) were enthused about.

‘They’d say, “‘We’re just worried, will you really be able to run the business in ten years’ time?” I was getting that when I was, like, 51. That’s probably the most extreme ageism I’ve encountered.  Even when we stopped doing TV in England, it wasn’t ageist, it was just ‘We’re bored with them. We want something new.’ They went to Gok Wan and whatever else. That was understandable for me, because at some stage, you need to have a refresh of talent on television. I didn’t feel it was because I was “too old for TV”. But now that I’m running my own business, I probably come up against ageism less now than if I was employed.”

Today the brand is worth a reported £55 million and Trinny, who celebrated her 60th birthday in February, is more successful than at any time in her life. She will protest that it’s a team effort, but it is undeniable that the brand hits home with midlife women who have appointed Trinny as their guru.

Women all over the world, members of her “Trinny Tribe”, have bought into a make-up and skincare brand because they’ve bought into the woman behind it. She travels the world, meeting her tribe and dabbing them in the colours she decides suits them best. Her 1.3 million Instagram followers hang on her every move – from bare-faced bathroom confessionals, to a million different ways to style an old black dress.

She recently returned from a tour of Australia, where she was – and I quote – “a pig in s***” amongst the throngs of sequined women queuing to spend a few seconds with their leader.

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I’ve always known Trinny as a pragmatic workhorse: I hired her as a columnist for a magazine I used to edit. But would her 20-year-old self, struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, ever dreamed it could be this huge? Was this the end goal for 30-something, boob-honking, What Not To Wear Trinny?

“I don’t think I’ve ever thought like that,” she says, “what are my 50s going to be like, or my 60s. People have this traditional sense that things should be achieved by certain periods in your life. That narrative has changed. I’m 60 and I don’t own a home. I took a tiny bit of money off the table at the last round (of investment) to make me feel like I can work really hard and not be panicking that I can’t take a holiday.

“What I do feel now though is that I really love myself, which I didn’t in my teens or 20s. From 20 to 30, I was just trying to get back to zero. That’s what addiction is, just trying to get back to zero.

“When I finally had Lyla, at 39, it was after having lots of IVF, losing babies and I was down, but I had built bricks of recovery and support. Before recovery I was living on quicksand, you see? And by the time I had Lyla (now 19 and studying in Spain), I was beginning to learn to love myself. I think having a child actually makes you realise the importance of that.”

With daughter Lyla in 2005

What does that look like?

“Because I’ve spent eight years giving up everything to do this business, I’ve made a commitment to myself, in the last 18 months – I need to really, fully enjoy my life,’ she says.

‘I just know now that there’s certain things in my life I’ll never compromise on, because I know what makes me happy and I won’t let anything upset that. I wouldn’t have people come into my life with negativity. I’m very black and white in that regard.’

Trinny’s life reads like a hard-knocks bingo card: divorce, the riches-to-rags ending of a TV career, miscarriages, IVF failures. Most shocking of all was the death of her ex-husband, Lyla’s father, Johnny Eliachoff in 2014, from suicide. “But every woman has been through a lot,” she shrugs, when I make even a slightly sympathetic noise. “I don’t know any woman who gets to their 50s and has had a seamless life, with no hurdles at all.”

Woodall married Johnny Eliachoff in 1999

These hurdles are the levellers that stop all that glamorous, plummy poshness from alienating her fans. In recent times, she quietly announced she was single again, after splitting from her partner of 10 years, the advertising mogul Charles Saatchi – a cryptic reference to it in an Instagram post from the French countryside with a caption, “New life.”

Woodall was in a relationship with advertising mogul Charles Saatchi for 10 years until their split in 2023

“That’s literally the one line I said,” she says. “I never discuss my personal relationships in the public arena. And then The Times that weekend took a picture of me, put it on the front of their section and then did something which would look like I’d given them an interview. And so lots of people said, ‘You managed that split-up really well.’ But in fact, I hadn’t talked to anyone about anything.”

It’s been an adjustment, she will concede, not least of all because she struggles with being alone in a house. “I’m good with my own company, but I’ve always been nervous to stay in a house by myself. When I moved out of where I’d lived for 10 years, and then Lyla went away for a week, I realised it was the first time in 35 years I’d been on my own in the house – 35 years!’.

But that alone won’t have her rushing to sign up to dating apps. “Here’s a few lines of thought,” she says. ‘If your thing is, “‘I want to not be single’, so you’re looking actively to be with somebody. That’s one headspace. That’s not my headspace. Do I want to die, by myself, alone? No. Do I want to be on my own for the rest of my life? No. Where I am now, am I content and fulfilled? Utterly.”

I wonder aloud if she might terrify a lot of men. She nods.

‘‘A friend said to me, ‘Trinny you’re such a businesswoman, I think it can intimidate some men. I think for any woman who has been in a relationship for a long time, when you go on dates, there’s that thing of “Who am I on a date now?’ I’m sharing this because it’s what so many women go through. Everyone asks themself that question. And I’ve been in that situation. I experiment each time. I think we all have a number of sides of ourselves, and it’s just depending on how we walk into an occasion.

“I recently had dinner at somebody’s house where they’d actually invited somebody just to kind of see if we’d get on.”
A vibe check? I joke.

“A vibe check! Yes! Thank you!” she laughs. “Anyway I found them entertaining, we had a lovely evening.  My friend texted me the next day to say, ‘So, what did you think?’ and I said, ‘Well I thought it was lovely.’ And they said, ‘But when you went to the loo, he said I don’t think she likes me.’ And I was thinking, ‘Is that what came across?’ My perception of how I come across is where I’m the most juvenile. I think I’m showing that I’m finding someone entertaining and amusing, and yet their words were, ‘I don’t think she likes me.’

“So I need to work on that.

“And I’ve never been a naturally good flirt,” she laughs. “I look at some women and they have a body language, a flirtatiousness. That evening I was quite tired. I’d had a long day at the office. I texted my friend to tell her I was wearing jeans and a silk shirt with my clompy boots, because that makes me feel comfortable. And she said, ‘Think more Audrey Hepburn’.”

With co-star of What Not to Wear Susannah Constantine in 1999

“So I just thought, ‘All right, what am I gonna do here?’ I have a formidable girlfriend, the smartest woman, I know. She’s a bio scientist, she worked on the human genome project at Oxford. She’s smart, beautiful and dresses like a dream, she has the most incredible selection of feminine dresses. And so I said, “Give me some tips”. She said, ‘Trinny, men don’t like clompy boots, sequins, shoulder pads, really bright colours, odd textures, and layering…’”

We both laugh at the textbook description of everything that makes Trinny Trinny.

“So I’ve purposely invested in nice shoes, because I want to not always be wearing a big clumpy trainer. But I’ll still do my layering! I can’t be totally somebody I’m not: let me just experiment with another aspect.”

The penchant for comfortable footwear aside, no one could ever say Trinny looks anywhere near eligible for a free bus pass. It’s obvious from Instagram that she’s diligent about fitness but there are, naturally, things a woman of a certain age needs to manage. A year off HRT taught her that she’ll never do that again.

“It was harder during Covid, because my doctor was in America and the inflammation in my body came back to hit me hard.” She has to work to keep a sugar fixation in check. “I think that relationship with sugar is there for anyone who’s had addiction issues. It took me about nine months to go from three sugars in my tea to none.” She’s prone to swollen ankles if her body gets too inflamed.

And I love her for, like me, not really loving her legs.

Woodall has an Instagram following of more than 1 million

“I did a midnight order from Zara and this short sequined dress arrived which I’d bought knowing I could cut it off into a top. But I suddenly thought, ‘Just try it on as a dress, would you? Don’t always presume you can’t wear short dresses.’

“So I put it on with black tights, chunky boots, a big coat over it and I looked in the mirror and I thought, ‘What’s stopping me doing this?’. I asked my Instagram followers what they thought. So there was sort of half and half in my DMs. There were lots of sort of ‘Hmm, not sure it’s that classy’ and things like that. But I felt good in it. So what in my head is making me feel it’s not possible? It’s hanging up there now as an outfit to be worn. When I‘ll do it I don’t know. The situation. But it gave me a feeling of sexiness. And that’s very different in different stages of your life. I think when you get to sort of 50, 60 that changes, because there’s so much more judgement over, ‘Ooh, she’s wearing a really short skirt’.”

At 60, Trinny has packed in many, many lives. She jokes now that when she was 26 and coming out of rehab that she felt, “God, I’ve lived three lives.” Does she ever wonder what the future will bring?

“If I could be a tenth of Iris Apfel when I’m 80, I’d be happy,” she says about the centenarian fashion star who died in March. “I met her once, in the 90s, so I’d say she was around 75. And she was amazing because she would talk to you and she really wanted a download of what made you you. She had this permanent inquisitiveness. Whereas, with my parents, their world became smaller and smaller.

“That’s what I think it’s about–- still learning, being excited by things, being inquisitive. And keeping up with technology, which is a little chapter in my book (Fear Less). It’s never feeling like somebody has to do it for you because you don’t know how to do it yourself. You’re really buggered with that dependency.

“That’s what I want when I’m 80. Oh and HRT till I’m in my coffin.”

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