Trinny Woodall: 'I hate the word younger'
As her beauty line launches here, Trinny Woodall tells Meadhbh McGrath about being a 'grown-up woman' and regaining confidence in your 50s and beyond
As I make my way to our interview, I'm watching Trinny Woodall apply her make-up in the backseat of a taxi. She's live-streaming her journey from Dublin Airport to Grafton Street for her 350,000 Instagram followers - her assistant Chloe filming on an iPhone and directing her to blend, while Trinny's 14-year-old daughter Lyla offers the front-facing camera on her smartphone as a mirror.
The TV personality is in Dublin to promote her make-up collection, Trinny London, which launched with a pop-up in Brown Thomas last weekend. And watching her pat on eyeshadow with her fingers in the back of a moving car is testament to the ease and practicality of the line, a range of cream products for eyes, lips and face in discreet stackable pots.
When Trinny arrives at the restaurant, she's a force of nature, bounding into the room in silver Stella McCartney platforms and a dazzling MSGM poloneck she dismisses as "a boring old sequin top". She zips about the room, gushing over a Joanne Hynes for Dunnes Stores coat and describing changing her clothes in the taxi, casually noting that she doesn't wear a bra and had to instruct the driver to avert his gaze.
When we meet, I just have time to introduce myself before she announces that I need a contour, whipping out one of her pots and smudging some on my cheekbones. "There you go!" she beams.
For an online-only range (bestselling products are now available at brownthomas.com, and customers can use the online Match2Me service to tailor products to their colouring), it may seem unusual to host such a big launch in Dublin, but according to research conducted by Trinny London, Irish women are the brand's third biggest purchaser. "We know you ladies love to look good, which we love," she grins.
Trinny first made a name for herself as one half of the team behind What Not to Wear, the BBC's beloved makeover series that started in 2001. With co-host Susannah Constantine, she travelled all over the UK advising women with unflinching honesty about how to dress to flatter their figures. The pair enjoyed great success through the Noughties, but Trinny has recalled how their popularity shuddered to a halt. "We were no longer flavour of the month," she said last year.
After a few years struggling with dwindling finances and personal difficulties, including the sudden death of her ex-husband Johnny Elichaoff in 2014, Trinny has reinvented herself, with the help of a surprising platform: Instagram.
Now 54, Trinny maintains an impressive online profile where, unlike many bloggers, she accepts no sponsorship for posts. Instead, she uploads daily videos of herself: testing face masks in her bathroom (camera taped up against the mirror), charging through Zara as she reviews this season's handbags or touching up her make-up under her helmet on the back of a motorbike.
"Because I have a background on TV, the decision I made with social media was that I would always talk to my audience," she explains. "I always felt I don't take a great photograph but I know how to talk to camera, so I put up my phone and I just started chatting."
While we chat, her assistant Chloe is circling the room with a smartphone strapped into an elaborate filming rig, capturing footage for Instagram.
"We started to get very good (numbers of) people following, and this engagement, it was so exciting for me because being on TV, someone edits you and pulls out what they think might be your best performance and puts it on the telly. With Instagram, you put out you. When women meet me, they expect to see the woman I am, and they will. I don't edit anything, I don't put a filter on. You just film it and it's up."
Trinny's daughter Lyla often features in her videos and, today, she and her friend Cordelia are sitting at the end of the table taking selfies. Given the current debate around young people and social media, I wonder how she teaches her own daughter balance.
"I find this trip very healthy for her because she and her friend are assisting Chloe on the social media, so it's a job. She knows she has to put up this hashtag with this writing - it's a job for her. I think Lyla does see a big difference between my work on social media and life - being on social media is work and this, in a way, reinforces it," Trinny explains. "I think it's weirdly going to be helpful. Lyla is going to be very hard-working."
In her What Not to Wear days, Trinny's calling card was her unapologetic honesty and the same is true today. She has spoken openly about getting Botox treatments, but worries that the likes of the Kardashians promote unrealistic body images. She makes a point of using minimal airbrushing in her campaigns, starring models from her social media following.
"We don't (airbrush), because I want you to see those are real 'real women', and they are. I don't like to call them real women because everyone is a real bloody woman, but I've looked at some sites and thought, make-up is being sold on aspiration, but aspiration to a role model that might be so flawless.
"We all bought into that, and I still buy into that - I still look at a great picture, read a great marketing thing and think, I'm in! Because I want to believe it," she sighs.
"But there's a balance… where the model, the woman on our site, is looking as good as she can look, but she's still her, we haven't made her eye bigger or taken away her spots or changed her birthmark."
During their hundreds of makeovers, Trinny and Susannah also wrote 11 books filled with style and beauty tips. Looking back now, Trinny says their advice was of its time, but still has value today.
"I had very strict rules when I did What Not to Wear because it was like I was finding the rules myself, and they're still rules I totally adhere to - I look through those books we wrote and they're still very strong principles, especially around colour," she says.
"But I think that, for example, in my second book I said 'don't wear cropped trousers if you've got short legs' - I do that all the time. I do that with a sock the same colour as the trouser, so there are new rules that allow me to navigate. What overcame, what became bigger than that, was the fact that a cropped trouser makes me feel my look is cooler, so I'm compensating."
Citing Iris Apfel and Leandra Medine - the blogger behind the hit Man Repeller - as her fashion icons, Trinny says her own approach to style has evolved with age.
"Age-appropriateness only works for me insomuch. If your skin is changing - let's say you have a very damaged décolletage and you don't like your saggy arms - sometimes the less skin you show, the younger you'll look," she says, before rolling her eyes and clarifying: "I hate the word 'younger', but there are women in their 50s that if you said 'oh my god, you look 35', they'd be chuffed. But I usually say, I'm a grown-up woman, that's my only definition."
Before its launch last year, Trinny London was two years in the making - her boyfriend Charles Saatchi, the art collector and ex-husband of Nigella Lawson, was an early investor - and the brand arrives at an interesting juncture in the beauty world as the perma-filtered Kardashian look is starting to lose its immaculately buffed grip on the industry.
Trinny's line, which aims to "change the face of make-up", is aimed at women who are sick of being told what brush they need to 'strobe' with and just want a great product that they can put a full face together with in a few minutes on the go.
She says the biggest beauty lesson she's learned is to "rethink your routine", whether you're starting a new job, after having kids, "or on a date with your husband of 25 years". "Make-up can give you that confidence," she says.
"I think that a lot of women find make-up complicated. Ordinary women are the women I've made this for," Trinny explains.
"Powder can be so ageing and I believe very strongly in cream-based products because I love to see a woman's face before I see her make-up. Even though she's wearing the most fabulous strong lip, you never lose sight of the woman behind it. It's about a woman making the most of herself."