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Karren: I wish Lord Sugar would give me allowance

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    Posted: 12 May 2011 at 09:48

Karren Brady: I wish Lord Sugar would give me a wardrobe allowance on The Apprentice

By Sarah Ewing

Last updated at 9:38 AM on 12th May 2011

Karren Brady, 42, grew up within sight of Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium in North London, the daughter of a printing and property millionaire. She sent tidal waves through the football world when, at 23, she became the first female MD of an English football team, Birmingham City, helping to turn their fortunes around. After 16 years, she quit and is now vice-chairman of West Ham, as well as Alan Sugar’s boardroom co-star on The Apprentice. Married to former football player Paul Peschisolido, she has two children, Sophia, 14, and Paolo, 12.


Fashionable choice: Karren in her favourite Vionnet dress

Looking smart underlies everything I wear. It’s important for work that I project the right image, but I don’t want to wear typical power suits — it’s possible to have style in the boardroom.

The thing I struggle with most, and I think it happens to a lot of women when they hit their 40s, is the more casual look.

If you wear a tracksuit, you look like you’ve just climbed out of bed, and jeans, when you hit a certain age, are impossible to find in the right style and fit. So I steer towards the more formal side of dressing and have a lot of dresses, which I find fit me better and are easy to wear because it’s just the one piece to worry about.

I love fashion, but I hate shopping, even more now I’m stuck between young at heart and old in body.

I used to love the thrill of buying something on a Saturday afternoon to wear that night.

Something in a size eight that showed my legs, arms and anything else I fancied.

In your mid-30s, you can still wear what you wore in your mid-20s, but when you’re in your mid-40s you can’t get away with what you wore in your mid-30s. There are designers such as Missoni that look hip and cutting edge on young people, but on older people just make you look even older.

I cringe when I think back to wearing a pink puffa jacket to my first board meeting as MD of Birmingham City.

My arms are on the tip of being covered up for the rest of their natural life and my legs are still OK, but only to my mid-thigh, and I don’t like my bottom. I like my waist, though. I’ve always preferred strapless dresses in the summer and the evening, and I’m wondering how long I’ve got in those.

It feels as if I’ve gone from vamp to frump, too young for elastic-waisted trousers and too old for current trends. Style dilemmas descend upon me like a black cloud. What length of skirt is appropriate? How long should a jacket be before it becomes a coat? The list goes on . . .

I like LK Bennett because it’s British and the clothes are cut well. On the High Street, it’s Wallis; I shop there a lot. If I need an outfit for an important event, I go to Harvey Nichols because it’s a one-stop shop from my head to my toes, as well as the make-up and accessories to go with it. The customer service is really good as well.

A lot of my wardrobe is black, grey and navy. In summer, I inject cream, white, pink and pastel colours, like this creamy ruched Vionnet dress (above right) I wore for the cover of a glossy women’s magazine. I avoid red because I don’t think it suits my colouring.

Away from work, I like comfortable loungewear. The White Company is great for that — I recently bought a couple of nice blouses from there and the knitwear is fab. I like nothing more than a nice, cosy cardigan.



My husband Paul bought these tan slingbacks from Christian Louboutin for my 40th birthday. He’s pretty good at buying me special presents, like my Chopard watch. These Louboutins are more of an ornament than a practical shoe because they’re so high. I wore them to the wedding of Ann Summers boss Jacqueline Gold, and my feet were lifeless at the end of the night.


Handbags are a weakness because they can last for ever. You can’t go wrong with this pink quilted Chanel handbag. It was part of the Rena Lange outfit with matching dress and formal coat I wore when I met the Queen.


I wore this necklace a lot when I was filming my first season on The Apprentice. It’s a cream and black pearl necklace on a gold strand, with their distinctive tiny CC emblems. It really makes a difference, whether you wear it with a formal dress or jeans and a T-shirt. I wish Lord Sugar gave me a wardrobe allowance — unfortunately, everything I’m wearing in the show is my own and paid for out of my own pocket.


Designer accessories: From left: Christian Louboutin heels and bag and necklace by Chanel


IF I’M going to an important meeting, I’ve got this beautiful rose-printed sheer blouse from Valentino that I wear under a suit. When David Gold and I wanted to buy West Ham, I had to do a presentation in front of 25 bankers. I wore that blouse and we came up trumps, so I now consider it my lucky blouse!


I wear this dress when I’m having a wardrobe crisis moment. It’s made of black crepe material. I’ve had it for a few years and it looks as good as the day I bought it.


Work wear: Valentino blouse, left, and D&G coat


My second favourite dress is a black and white D&G knee-length dress. I wear it a lot — it’s feminine but formal. You could wear it to a business meeting or to a dinner party. My wardrobe has to work as hard as I do, so if something can work during the day as well as the evening, it’s a bonus.


PAUL hates my cashmere jumper and more than likely would love to burn it because he thinks it’s frumpy, but I love it! It’s really cosy and has gone a bit shapeless over the years as I’ve worn it to death. If I knew the label, I’d buy another one.

For tips on how to manage a healthy, busy and balanced life, please visit lifesqueezer.co.uk


TOPS/T-SHIRTS: Approximately 30 — I get my favourite fitted T-shirts from Wallis.

DRESSES/SKIRTS: Oh God, at least 50, including Michael Kors, Dolce & Gabbana, LK Bennett and French Connection. I also like Osman Yousefzada — he sells in Selfridges and Harvey Nichols and he has a studio in London.

TROUSERS: Fifteen, including a pair of classic Nicole Fahri linen trousers in white that I really like. I wear them for a lunch or when friends and family are coming over.

COATS/JACKETS: Six main ones, but plenty more as I’m always outside watching football! I’ve got a beautiful D&G coat with crystals around the collar, as well as a sheepskin coat from Joseph that the sports photographers often picture me in, and a Michael Kors
cashmere caramel fitted coat. My bargain is a casual tan leather coat I’ve just bought from Wallis that cost £100. I’ve got a fake-fur trimmed parka for sitting in the stands.

BAGS: Probably 30, the majority of them Chanel. I’m keeping them all stored away in the loft for Sophia when she gets older.

SHOES/BOOTS: Thirty again, including Prada, Gucci, LK Bennett and some YSL heels for work.


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