The Lowdown on: Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine

August 19, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

t-and-s-main.jpgThese days Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, the straight-talking TV fashion advisors, have a bit of competition. New kid on the block, Gok Wan, is the latest wannabe style expert to prod the fleshy bits of Britain’s women and give them tips on how to boost the sag. His ‘everyone is beautiful, darling’ approach is proving very popular with ladies everywhere. But Trin and Sus don’t go in for all the hugging fluff- theirs has always been more of a stiff upper lip attitude- ‘this is your body, deal with it’. Surely, with their plentiful history the pair must rightly be named the true queens of style. Just look at what they’ve accomplished…

Before 2 became 1

Susannah Constantine was born in 1962 into a wealthy family. She was privately educated at boarding schools and worked as a teacher and a shop girl in Harrods before working under fashion designer Giorgio Armani as a shop girl in America. She later retuned to London, working for designers including John Galliano. After getting into journalism, she wrote initially about cars, a world away from the fashion she was eventually to end up in.

Trinny Woodall (born Sarah-Jane in 1964) was also privately educated. Random fact: The name she uses, Trinny, derives from an incident at school when was sent home for mischievously cutting off another pupil’s plait and a family friend, Ronald Searle, who wrote the scripts for the St. Trinian films likened her to a naughty St Trinian girl. The scamp was not without her share of trauma though- once at school she was made to stand totally unclothed in front of other pupils as a punishment for having water fight. What the hell were her teachers thinking?! This, she maintains, led to a fear of being naked. Uh, yeah, no sh*t.

She spent 10 years struggling with alcoholism and discontentedly working in marketing before her career turned to fashion.

Opposites attract

Believe it or not, Trinny and Susannah, the pair behind Britain’s biggest wake-up call to women’s dress sense, almost scratched each other’s eyes out when they first met. Introduced at a posh dinner party in 1994, both looked upon each other with catty contempt. Trinny on Susannah: a stuck-up aristocratic snob. Susannah on Trinny: Eurotrash. Looks like they couldn’t stay away from each other though. Now, they’re a beautiful fusion of the two.

“Don’t put that on you fool!? (What Not to Wear)

t-an-s-wntw.jpgAfter co-founding a dot-com fashion advice business, which ceased to be in 2000, losing investors a supposed £10 million (ouch!), a stint at Granada Sky Broadcasting on Ready to Wear and a make-over slot Richard and Judy, these independent women were signed up to BBC Two in 2001. They shone for the next four years with their series, What Not to Wear advising people to ditch their crap clothes and put on shapes that accentuated their natural body shape. Their frank chat about ‘tits and arse’ and thoroughly hands-on approach to participants’ bodies gave everyone quite a shock, them being posh birds and all. Granted, they’ve been labelled ‘patronising’ but they maintain that their approach is one of concern for their guests- a sort of cruel to be cruel (and a bit kind) ethic. Their show was promoted to BBC One in 2004 and in a celebrity slant on the format featured the likes of Jeremy Clarkson and Jo Brand.

“Take off your kecks…? (T and S Undress)

In 2006 the ladies left the BBC behind and went running into the arms of ITV, who was fervently waving them over with a shiny-looking wad of £1.2m. They began their new show, Trinny and Susannah Undress, and for two series helped couples with marital problems in their belief that the right cuts and a bit of nudity here and there can solve any disaster. Using makeovers as confidence-building exercises they attempted to revitalize their relationships. The pair did come under criticism for their lack of qualifications to deal with the subject matter but again, bit back (probably with a comment about kissing their firmly supported, big pant-clad tushes)- which reminds me, they also have their own range of Magic Knickers which they launched in 2006 and will “transform your figure?.


“…everyone!? (The Nation)

The newly configured series, Trinny and Susannah Undress the Nation, begun to air in 2007, investigating key fashion errors over Britain and sees the last episode in the current series air next week.

And it isn’t just a one way process. Nope, they don’t mind practising what they preach. For their programme, The Great British Body, they stripped naked with 300 others on a hill to create a colossal living sculpture adding a few lumps and bumps of their own to the Sussex landscape.

Books, Awards, Ramsay’s Pigs and Doctor Who…

As well as winning a Royal Television Society Award in 2002, the ladies have written several successful books on fashion, all of which have fetched them a fortune. What Not to Wear profited £8.7m in 2001. Their next one, which centred from their fashion show bagged them a British Book Award in 2003 for ‘The TV and Film Book of the Year’ and sales figures reached 670,000 copies. Consequently, they obtained a £1m book deal to produce three more of their fashion books, which have become number one best sellers in Britain and the US and have been translated across the globe, selling over 2.5m copies. Gosh. Haven’t they done well?

So well, in fact, that Gordon Ramsay named the two pigs that he fattened up and ate for his show, The F-Word, after them, which they found highly entertaining.

Oh, and also, in 2005, not content with fashion, they voiced a robot version of themselves for Doctor Who in the episode, Bad Wolf.

Those bloody Littlewoods adverts (are actually gold dust)!

And who could forget those cringe worthy Littlewoods ads where they try and rob the store or hijack Santa’s sleigh. Mind you, this was a particularly canny move for the internet shopping company, who not only saw orders rise thirty percent during its sponsorship of Trinny and Susannah Undress, but who in enlisting of the style gurus as the faces of Littlewoods also has seen the brand awareness grow by 13 percent, total sales by 18 percent and visitors to the website by a whopping 56 percent. These girls mean business when it comes to brand representation.

What next?…

So, the two have shown us what they’re made of and no doubt, have a pretty decent CV.

They haven’t just kept their eagle eyes for British bodies only. Often appearing as makeover extraordinaires espousing fashion tips on The Oprah Winfrey Show in America and appearing on NBC’s The Today Show in 2006, they also announced a tour to New Zealand and Australia for a series for public appearances just last year.

But what happens now? Is there still room for the clothing crusaders or has the world had enough of Trinny and Susannah (just like Gordon Ramsay and his two pigs) and enlisted in the Gok Wan club? Either way, their success cannot be denied in helping ladies lose their muffin tops and camel toes and dress a bit sharper. Ta for that.

By Susan Allen