PLUM SYKES - In Conversation
Meeting Plum Sykes you are struck instantly by her beauty. Her face is symmetrical, cheekbones high, she is statuesque and slender. Her skin is beautiful and her face unmade up.
Plum exudes genuine warmth and has the ability to put one so at ease it’s easy to forget that she is Oxford educated, aristocratic and has a hugely successful career spanning over 20 years....and she mixes with the glossy circles of America’s fashion elite. She lives between London and the Cotswolds with her two daughters and her husband Toby Rowland.
STIL: Was it chance or a decision that led you to be a fashion writer and a novelist?
PS: My mother was a fashion designer and my grandfather was a writer so I grew up surrounded by fashion and literature. Having studied Modern History at Oxford it was just a natural progression to write and enter the world of fashion.
STIL: Who is your favourite female writer?
PS: Nora Ephron. For her fun and her wit.
STIL: Which artist would you most like to have been painted by?
PS: John Singer Sargent. Because he painted in such a way that all his subjects looked beautiful!
STIL: I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Bergdorf Blondes’ and ‘Party Girls Die in Pearls’ and wonder whether the characters are based on real people?
PS: They are composites of real people. I might have someone in mind when I begin to write about a character but then imagination takes over and the character develops his or her own personality.
STIL: Has your work at American Vogue influenced the way you dress?
PS: Yes! Most definitely. When I arrived in New York I had a very 90’s English style but I soon discovered that I loved the simple clean lines of New York designers.
STIL: How important do you think specially tailored clothing is as you get older?
PS: It’s so important, especially for jackets. I usually have my jackets made as I have such long arms! There’s nothing quite like a perfectly tailored jacket, even if you just wear it with jeans. Henry Rose is a favourite.
STIL: Do you have a favourite dress at the moment?
PS: Yes, I do - it’s an Anna Mason. My friend India Jane (Birley) introduced me to her and now I own a few. I love them for the colour and simple style.
STIL: Do designers often ask you to wear their clothes?
PS: They used to a lot more than they do now!
STIL: You live between London and the country. Do you pack between houses or just jump in the car?
PS: I try to just jump in the car. The country house is our main home so I have everything I need there.
STIL: Are you nostalgic for the pre-digital age?
PS: Yes, very much so. In fact I no longer use my social media accounts. They take up too much time.
STIL: At what age will you let your girls use social media?
PS: I think that when they are in their early teens I would probably allow it with some restrictions.
STIL: Do you have a hobby?
PS: Yes, I’m passionate about riding and I try to ride as much as possible when I’m in the country.
STIL: Do you have a favourite garden?
PS: Lots, but one that I particularly love is Claudia Rothermere’s Garden at Ferne Park in Wiltshire. Simply stunning.
STIL: What are your favourite purchases from STIL?
PS: My Saloni dress. It's beautifully cut and it’s useful for so many occasions. I love Amly’s facial mist as it keeps my skin hydrated, and as you know, I can’t have too many pairs of Citizens of Humanity jeans! I think that currently they are the best jeans on the market. I love that I can now shop from STIL online, so much easier.
STIL: Your lack of make-up. Is it actually hard work to appear so effortlessly beautiful…...?
PS: If I have time I’ll wear a little foundation and mascara but for me, the key to good skin is no alcohol and lots of water.
STIL: Female friendships. Many or just a few?
PS: Oh, many! I’m fortunate to have lots of friends.
STIL: What lasting values did you learn from your mother?
PS: To be honest and above all to be kind.
STIL: Do you have a style icon?
PS: Without a doubt the chicest woman I know is Amanda Harlech.
STIL: What is your earliest fashion memory?
PS: Going to school in a smocked dress that my mother had designed.
STIL: A typical Sunday?
PS: A roast made in the Aga, a long walk… and trying to organize the school uniforms!
STIL: Snow or Sun?
PS: Most definitely Sun.
STIL: A Plum Sykes style tip?
PS: Be yourself and don’t be a slave to trends.
STIL: Your favourite quote is ‘this too shall pass.’ Is this a coping strategy or a philosophical take on the transience of everything? Or, to quote Prince, ‘Life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last’....?
PS: It’s a good way to look at problems. Difficult times will pass.
STIL: A secret guilty pleasure?
PS: Dark chocolate.
Plum Sykes, thank you so much for talking to STIL; it's been a real pleasure.