Caryn is a well-known British TV Presenter, perhaps best known for BBC’s The Clothes Show, which ran for twelve years until 1998. Caryn has made many more shows for TV including 4 Documentaries, interviewing such iconic designers as Giorgio Armani and Yves Saint Laurent. She has written many books including the novel ‘Woman in the Mirror,’ published by Harper Collins. A Patron of the Eating Disorders Association ‘Beat’ she is also co founder of the award winning campaign ‘Fashion Targets Breast Cancer’. In recent years she has co founded ‘All Walks Beyond the Catwalk’ promoting a broader beauty ideal by working with a wider range of models in age and size.
In my latest Q&A Caryn takes time out after a hectic 18 months and shares with me what midlife means to her and how she balances such a busy life with being a wife and mum.
Caryn WOW you really do lead a busy life, what matters to you in your life right now?
Health actually. I have just worked very long hours in very stressful conditions (unpaid and underfunded) for the last 18 months to produce All Walks Beyond the Catwalk. We created four seasonal campaigns, which got global press, and we are changing education and meeting regularly with the Gov. Minister for Culture Lynne Featherstone. I exhausted myself and could see illness looming. But I really wanted to make a stand against this oppressive beauty ideal that our industry promotes ad nauseam. So I, Erin O’Connor and Debra Bourne rolled up our sleeves and went in to battle. Our latest campaign features models that are ages 18-80 and sizes 8-16 as well as being racially diverse. It’s about offering more reality, more breadth of beauty, and more diversity.
You have 2 Daughters, what do you hope they learn from you?
Gosh I’ve spent the last 18 years trying to instill stealth feminism in both…my oldest is like “oh not that old chestnut again there’s more to life than feminism mum,” but my youngest is much more on board. In the end though it’s not what you teach as a mother but how you live…I am happy and I hope they see that as a woman it is possible to make choices and have a fulfilling and exciting life but that the small things are important too.
For all the traveling and the glamour there are more small crucial family moments that mean just as much to any woman…it’s about choice and balance
What’s your proudest moment to date?
So many moments of pride from watching my children live their lives and make their choices, to seeing how ‘All Walk’s has made an impact on the lives of the young women and men we reach in colleges and art schools. These designers of the future now say they realise they have a choice to be proactively engaged in promoting broader beauty ideals and want to change things for the better through their work.
Do you regret anything in your life?
I can’t really – the wrong turns were part of my journey.
What prompted you to become a Patron of BEAT, have you ever struggled with your own body image?
My sister had an eating disorder and she educated me about the reality of her life. I have also seen debilitating illness close up for the last 20 years as my first daughter’s father has MS. I know how privileged I am to live in this healthy body. I don’t take all its inner workings for granted. I celebrate it every day. This is reflected, where I can, in my work and I have always looked for ways to create positive messages of well being to women. From ‘Fashion Targets’, which I’m very proud of and have been actively, involved in for 15 years to All Walks.
What do you want to achieve with ALL Walks Beyond the Catwalk?
Ultimately we wanted women to see themselves mirrored more in the imagery and feel better about their bodies.
We also wanted to broaden the way fashion is taught in colleges and art schools so that students worked with ordinary women’s bodies not exclusively size 8 tailors dummies. We are promoting the concept of emotionally considerate design. A small thing really but also very significant. If students aren’t getting any feed back for their designs how can they know what women want.
With your very busy life and family to balance what is your favourite way to relax and unwind?
Gardening – just sticking my hands in the earth gives me some magical serenity…can’t really explain it but love it!
What’s your favourite item in your wardrobe?
The same as yours! JEANS
What are you most passionate about?
On a large-scale That women everywhere can find the happiness they deserve, that the planet can survive this corporate rape, that human beings could just stop fighting and killing each other…the usual but on a small scale that people must stop concreting over their front gardens and grow flowers, shrubs, insect and bird friendly environments.
What are your hopes for the future Caryn, both Personally and Professionally?
Professionally: to see change through the work of All Walks. Personally to grow a long grey plait and study herbalism.
What do you ‘love’ about your years?
I am more of everything!
You always appear confident and stylish, what gives you body confidence?
I thank my body daily for doing its best to support me. My clothing choices are a reflection of the esteem I have for myself. I also don’t buy into media stealth bullying which undermines so many women…it is after all in part fueled by each and every one of us…if we didn’t buy the magazines with all the unkind comments about women, their bodies and their wrinkles…THEY WOULDN’T SELL and publishers would have to think of something else to attract us
What advice can you share with my guests about reaching midlife with fashion pizzazz!?
Your body changes to support you, it may be softer or rounder but it is yours, it is doing its best for you and with an understanding of the clothing features you need to flatter your individual shape you can look fantastic.
Caryn thank you so much for being a part of WOW Woman and my celebration of our inner beauty and wonderful diversity! You are an inspiration and I hope we’ve encouraged some of my guests to love their years, their bodies and their lives. I also totally agree, the outdoors and gardening just seem to hit the spot!