At Fenn Wright Manson’s exclusive live Q&A session with Amanda Holden held at John Lewis Oxford Street, the Britain’s Got Talent judge revealed what she will be wearing on Christmas Day and her life-long dream of designing clothing. Discover Amanda’s favourite pieces from her first-ever collection, what we can expect from her Spring range for Fenn Wright Manson, and the flattering style tips she incorporates into her designs.
How does it feel seeing your collection in store?
It is like a dream come true. I’ve got sketches of clothes in my school books for my favourite subjects History and English. So, it’s always been in the back of my mind. I am fortunate enough to be in the profession I’m in, where amazing designers want to lend you their things. I would alter things to make them look better on me and all those little tips I’ve carried with me into these designs which are flattering for everyone, like cinching in waists, skirts and pleats.
What made you want to collaborate with Fenn Wright Manson?
Everything’s very classy, beautifully cut, beautifully made, and they are timeless pieces. I’m not one of those people that buys something that’s so on-the-money fashion that the following year you can’t wear it again, because I like to save my pennies.
How did you find the process of designing your first ever clothing collection?
It was so exciting because I came to your offices and literally met everyone on every level. I’d brought in pictures of my own friends who are all different shapes and sizes and said ‘I just want to make something that will make the women in my life really happy.’ I wanted to stick to what you’ve already achieved as Fenn Wright Manson and maybe add just a bit more sparkle.
What was the biggest challenge for you?
Making things that suit everybody. I’ve got friends who hate their bottom but love their waist or hate their arms. I’ve got friends that are tall, and friends that are skinny. All women moan about something, so I was thinking of them because each one is a fantastic example of women out there and we’re all in our late 30s or our 40s and I’ve got young people in their 20s following me on Instagram. I wanted to find something that I know young people might like who may never have considered this brand before. I didn’t want to let down people in my own age range and beyond, because my Mum has just turned 70 and dresses for her figure. I wanted everyone to find one piece that they absolutely love.
For years you learn about your own style and your body shape changes. I’ve had three children in total and I think by the time I’d hit my 40s, I honestly felt quite happy and comfortable in my own skin, I also felt quite confident where I don’t really care what anyone thinks. I dress for myself and for other women.
All 13 pieces are named after important women in your life. Where did that idea come from?
My friends were in my head the entire time I was designing for body shapes. The Angela dress, which is the shocking pink cerise, that’s perfect for Angela [Griffin], she adores it. Nicola [Stephenson] is the girl who’s not keen on her bottom but she loves her tiny waist so this is called the Nicola because this is totally the kind of dress that she wears all the time. The Judy fur jacket is named after my Mum because she covers up everything that she hates, which is everything. The Deborah dress fitted perfectly for my sister Debbie who is tall and slim.
How important and easy is it to keep up the friendships with these women in your life?
It’s just rubbish because we’re all so busy and we’re all Mums, and you end up wanting to spend weekends with your husband, if you still love them, like I do, and your kids. So trying to find time for the women who were always there when you were single and childless is quite hard, but we try to see each other at least once a month - we’ve got our Christmas drinks in already. My friend Lisa Faulkner got married recently, we all saw each other then, and we all have girls and all our girls get on so we’ll try and make it a Sunday lunch.
Which dress from your collection would you choose to wear on Christmas Day?
My Alexa dress. It’s so flattering on, and the cowl neck is something I really enjoyed in the 90s. So I brought it back.
What would you grab to wear for something special?
At the weekend my Mum celebrated her 70th and my sister wore the Hollie jumpsuit. She loves travelling, so she wants to feel comfortable and glamorous at the same time and this doesn’t crease. She’s taking it with her when she goes away over Christmas. I also took it on holiday. It looks amazingly glamorous, is beautiful and sparkly and you can take it anywhere. I think a lot of the collection works well with a little jacket, you can dress it down. If I had to choose a favourite, I would probably just choose Amanda because it’s what I’ll wear to a posh black-tie event. It was based on something I wore years ago on Britain’s Got Talent and it’s just stunning, and it’s Christmas.
Which item in the collection have you received the most positive feedback?
All the girls can’t believe that they’ve got something named after them, but the Tamzin dress has sold out and I think that’s for all the reasons that we wanted to make it - I know that lots of my friends don’t like their arms and it’s one of those dresses that beautifully comes down to the elbow at the back and up at the front and is almost like a cape and I can understand why that has done wonders. We are bringing out something similar in the Spring collection.
You’ve talked about clothes being your body armour - could you explain that?
Not just in the industry I’m in which is scrutinised, but you judge on how somebody looks, rightly or wrongly. We’re getting better at that. My grandmother said to me ‘never let your husband see you without lipstick’. What she means is that I’ve got certain standards. I treat clothes and makeup like an armour when I go out into the world, because I think ‘I’m dressed, I feel good, I look better than I normally do when I’m in a tracksuit’, which is how I look on a Saturday. I see it as a strength. I’m a strong person inside but I think outside as well, you can make yourself look so much better if you’ve got a bit of lipstick and sparkle on. Then I take it all off and I’m still the same person underneath, but even my children have said to me at the school gate, ‘Oh Mummy, I don’t recognise you with no makeup. Can you wear makeup next time? Oh, you look awful, you don’t look well.’ All the other mothers look much nicer than me at the school gate.
When you’re not in work mode and all glammed up, what do you like to wear around the house?
I love it when it’s winter and it gets dark at half past four because if I’m not working in the afternoons I go home, have a bath and put on my pyjamas. In the summer I’d be in tracksuit, shorts, flip flops, anything to relax really. I dress appallingly at home, cosily. And I clock watch until 6 o’clock when I can open the fridge and pour some wine. Is that wrong?
The collection has been so well received, and you have started to work on the next collection. What can we expect?
We’ve brought in more trousery things, lots of things you might wear for a special event like a wedding or a Christening, very feminine lace and really gorgeous pastel colours. And again timeless. They are things you can keep in your wardrobe for ages because they’re beautifully made. The spring collection is based around women I look up to or have inspired me, so some are friends and some are just women I think are fabulous.
You did the countdown for the Christmas lights in Regent Street this year. How excited are you for Christmas?
I’m such a Christmas person that as soon as I see everyone’s windows being done in October I celebrate it. I always think Christmas Day is rubbish and Boxing Day is depressing. The build up is everything. All the parties and just getting to see everyone and wrap presents, that’s the best. I love it.
What are you looking forward to this festive season?
For the first time we are with friends not family. I’ll be doing a fake Christmas with my parents who actually wanted to be on their own. One of my best friends Jane [Wall], who the Jane dress is named after, lives in America and is coming over. I like being with people I love and I like giving presents, I like decorating the tree and I like sitting back watching my children have the best time. I do love cooking, but we’re going out so I don’t have anything to do.
Who generally does the cooking?
Me! If I’m not there, my husband [Chris Hughes] will literally feed toast and dips to the kids. I’m teaching my eldest daughter how to cook because Chris is just awful in the kitchen. She’s 14, and I was 12 when I was doing it!
Do you prefer Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve?
I hate New Year’s Eve! It’s just a day I want to be over. I like looking at the fireworks, I might clink and say happy new year, but I never make a big fuss. What I like to do is just be in with the children and my husband. Christmas definitely, all the way.
Do you make any New Year Resolutions?
No! It’s utterly pointless because you break them within the first week. I love going running and in January it always makes me laugh because everyone is out running and by March it’s just the three of us on the track; everyone else has given up. Just try and be good to yourself all year.
Do you have any favourite family games over Christmas or New Year’s Eve walks with the family?
On Christmas Eve we go for a lovely walk because we are believers. On Christmas Day, Give Us A Clue is my favourite, or charades - I never tire of playing that game. I have to buy the Christmas Radio Times, and I do the what-we’re-going-to-watch with a highlighter pen.
What’s on your Christmas list this year?
Chris keeps asking me this. Ironically, I always ask for pyjamas, a dressing down and socks, and I never get any of it. He says ‘I’ve got to get you something more exciting.’ One year my Mum bought me an electronic head tickler thing. She really thought out of the box two years ago and gave me a bird cage full of lemons, she went to a wedding and it was a table display. It was great for the gin and tonics that year and my daughter used the cage as a Barbie prison and now it’s rusting in the garden. I've said, ‘Mum, can I just have a posh pair of socks. That’s all I want.’ I’ll see what I get. It will be interesting.
Shop Amanda Holden’s collection online or in-store, from luxurious dresses to party season jumpsuits, you are sure to feel at your best whatever the occasion.
Watch the highlights from the live Q&A here.