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So, Trinny, how DID you build £180m company in lockdown? CLAUDIA CONNELL joins new queen of skincare

Towering over me, Trinny Woodall takes me by the arm and tells me we are going on a journey along the yellow brick road.

We are surrounded by lemon trees and exotic plants, I can hear pumping disco music and in the distance I see a room filled with giant pink balloons.

It may sound like a strange, psychedelic dream, but what I’m experiencing is very much real. I’m in Trinny London Land and am being given a private tour by the queen of the kingdom.

Trinny, 58, shot to fame in the early Noughties as one half of the bossy makeover duo Trinny and Susannah. 

Their BBC series What Not To Wear became a hit, with the posh pair barking orders at badly dressed women, ordering them into wrap dresses, better fitting bras and giant magic knickers.

Today, Trinny has reinvented herself as a make-up and skincare guru. Her brand Trinny London is valued at £180 million.

Having seen a 280 per cent boom during lockdown, it turned over £44 million during the last financial year. She is the main shareholder with a 42 per cent stake in the company. 

Trinny Woodall has reinvented herself as a make-up and skincare guru and her brand Trinny London is valued at £180 million

‘It’s exceeded my expectations . . . and the investors,’ she says. ‘I thought sales would be consistent but slow.’

Instead, she’s at the helm of a runaway train and, along the way, built up a devoted community of so-called ‘Trinny Tribes’, women with a shared love of her products who have formed online — and real life — support groups.

This week thousands of them will be flocking to see their idol at the Vinyl Factory in Soho, London — a huge warehouse where Trinny London Land is staging a series of pop-up events to promote her skincare line.

Had Willy Wonka made moisturisers and serums, it would probably look something like this. I meet her on the first day, where she’s wearing a dazzling silver sequinned coat dress by Balmain, teamed with white flared Zara trousers and silver platforms. 

‘I got it from The Outnet [an online designer discount store]. It was hugely reduced but it still cost a fortune — I’m not telling you how much — and it’s now the most expensive thing I own,’ she confides.

Ticketholders at the free event are greeted by stern lab technicians in white coats (they’re actually actors) who instruct you to complete an online survey about the state of your skin. It’s all very theatrical but, of course, the aim is to push the products.

The survey leads to a list of recommended products to purchase inside. 

And if the number of pink and yellow bags I see on arms are any indicator, people are happily parting with their cash. 

The yellow brick road then takes you through every stage of a skincare routine from cleansing, to exfoliating, to serums and moisturisers, with staff on hand to tell you about the products (and sell a few along the way of course.)

The skincare line was introduced three months ago and, as Trinny tells me, ‘it already accounts for 22 per cent of our sales’. She adds: ‘When we started we made what we thought would be a year’s supply and it sold out in six weeks.’

Trinny at an event in London on Tuesday to launch her new skincare brand and give fans the opportunity to spend time with her

Trinny at an event in London on Tuesday to launch her new skincare brand and give fans the opportunity to spend time with her

The brand started in 2017 selling make-up, the USP of which is that items can be put to multiple use —think a lip colour that’s also a blusher, or a mascara that can double up as a brow filler. 

They come in stackable pots, selling for a mid-market price of between £22 and £25 each, making them handbag friendly.

I use them. I think they’re good quality and value — I’m still using a concealer I bought two years ago. Her BFF De-Stress Cream (£39), a tinted serum, is my favourite. 

It makes my dull, menopausal skin glow. I’d bathe in it if I could. And I’m not the only fan; a tube sells every 12 seconds.

Trinny says that in recent years so many of her friends who previously had fantastic skin hit menopause and don’t recognise themselves.

‘I get calls from girlfriends saying: “What’s happened to me? My face has fallen off!” Susannah was one of them actually!’

Older women were her focus when she first came up with the brand. ‘I had the 35-plus woman in mind because at 35 you’ve experienced some emotional change — marriage, a baby a new job and that shows on your face, and it’s a time when a woman starts to think “what next?” for her skin.’

She wanted to target these women — but not by using impossibly young and beautiful models.

‘I’d look at pictures of models and they’re always 15 to 20 — that’s no good to me. At Trinny London I’ve never used a model. 

‘We have 150 women on the website and they’re aged 18 to 83 and many of them are from the Trinny Tribe.’

The main face of the brand, of course, is Trinny herself. Today, she’s wearing the lightest of make-up and — although she admits to regular Botox — I’m relieved to see she has a healthy amount of lines around her eyes. 

The English fashion and makeover expert, television presenter and author pictured as she rides into her three day pop up event 'Trinny London Land'on Tuesday

The English fashion and makeover expert, television presenter and author pictured as she rides into her three day pop up event ‘Trinny London Land’on Tuesday

Everywhere I look, there are giant moving billboards showing her doing everything from washing her face to applying her lipstick.

‘I look pretty bad in some,’ she says. ‘I think “do I want to be that real?” but I do because nobody else does. 

‘If you live your life growing up on the aspiration of airbrushed photography your benchmark is different. We give a very realistic benchmark — you won’t look airbrushed but you’ll look refreshed and energised.

‘Nothing you see on the website is filtered and I never filter on Instagram — it’s warts and all. 

‘The only time when we do is on the Tube billboards because they’re so huge and if you don’t tweak bad make-up it will look awful.’

Trinny boasts a million followers on Instagram and two million on Facebook, and as I chat to the visitors it’s clear her ‘realness’ is a huge part of the success of the brand, which she started after raising £60,000 by selling off her wardrobe — and then hustling for another £7 million from investors.

And, yes, those investors do include businessman Charles Saatchi, her partner of nine years.

‘Charles did invest at the beginning, along with other people — a smaller amount than any of them.

‘It was very sweet that he did that — and he’s done very well,’ she said in a recent interview.

While lockdown spelt disaster for so many businesses it was the making of Trinny London.

‘We are four years old now and there’s 200 employees but we were only 68 going into lockdown,’ she says. 

‘In lockdown there were a lot of women sitting at home, not buying clothes and they were waiting for us to come to them because they’re traditionally retail purchasers.

Trinny pictured out and about in London on a yellow motorcycle last year. She shot to fame in the early Noughties as one half of the bossy makeover duo Trinny and Susannah

Trinny pictured out and about in London on a yellow motorcycle last year. She shot to fame in the early Noughties as one half of the bossy makeover duo Trinny and Susannah

‘Then we launched these virtual appointments, and we were the first company to do it, and 3,000 booked on the first day and we jumped to 650,000 customers.’

Trinny thanks her followers, who sent her messages and videos, for getting her through lockdown. In return, she did daily video updates.

‘In lockdown we had our family, we had our friends and then there was this little bit of loneliness we all felt. 

‘Women were spending their day being the partner someone wanted them to be, the mother, the daughter and it left no room to be the woman they wanted to be. That was the message that came through in our Trinny Tribe groups.’

These groups exist on Facebook, covering different regions of the UK and the rest of the world.

‘They are so embracing of each other and other women, if a woman posts a photo of herself they get so much love and support back and it’s f*****g amazing, it truly makes me quite emotional. I love it,’ says Trinny with tears in her eyes. 

The Tribeswomen present today are all ages, although very smartly dressed 45-plus ladies seem to dominate. It’s a sea of flattering jeans, teamed with well-cut blazers and white trainers.

Maureen Roberts, 61, from Ongar in Essex, is here with her daughter Rebecca Dunn, 36, a project manager.

‘Rebecca introduced me to Trinny,’ says Maureen. ‘I’m not great at putting on make-up and I love her little pots that you can dip your fingers into and do your blusher and lips with.

‘We’ve already done some selfies with her and she’s as lovely as we hoped she’d be.

‘I’m here today to look at the products, maybe get a makeover and get some new ideas.’

I notice how many American women seem to be here, charmed by Trinny’s passion and English eccentricity. 

Certainly her social media content is colourful, manic and leaves you feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck at 100 mph.

Laurie May, 51, a psychotherapist who lives in South Carolina, is one of the U.S.-based Trinny Tribe members (46 per cent of Trinny London sales come from overseas territories).

She’s in London visiting her friend Sophie but meeting Trinny has been one of the highlights.

‘I love her energy, her creativity and her whole ethos. She’s a woman of a certain age who has been through a lot in her life, and she feels like a friend.

‘I love her products but even if they were lousy I’d still be here. It may sound silly but she makes me feel good about myself.’

Queuing for a selfie on a bright yellow garden swing is Alex, 48, from Maidstone. She checks Trinny’s Instagram account daily. ‘It’s like my therapy, she makes me laugh. She’s silly and she doesn’t mind making a fool of herself.’

There are squeals of excitement whenever Trinny comes into view, as women clamour for photos and skincare advice and come away cooing over how lovely she is.

Juliet Risdon, 51, a property developer visiting from Macau in China, has orders to take products home for friends.

She says she realised she’d reached middle-age clueless about skincare and make-up and that thanks to Trinny, she now, at least, knows how to apply a quick five-minute face.

Trinny pictured at the Turn The Tables 2020 event in aid of Cancer Research UK in March 2020

Trinny pictured at the Turn The Tables 2020 event in aid of Cancer Research UK in March 2020

‘She’ll do videos with greasy hair and no make-up and it makes you think, “OK, she’s just like me, she doesn’t look amazing all the time”.’

Michelle Grayson, 60, from Surrey, has dressed up for the occasion in a sparkly silver top. ‘I felt a bit of an idiot on the station platform but it’s a special occasion and I wanted to wear something nice.

‘I use the make-up because it’s easy. I don’t want to learn what to do with half a dozen different make-up brushes, I don’t have time for that.’

Everyone I speak to remarks on how ‘real’ Trinny is. But are they seeing the real her — or has she created a character to sell the business? 

‘I’m always me, I don’t feel I have to turn it on — I don’t have a different personality for the brand I’m too long in the tooth for that,’ she tells me.

‘What you see is what you get. I am not a twentysomething entrepreneur thinking, “Let me make my first trillion”. 

‘I’m a 58-year-old woman and I’ve been through a lot and to have a business where you shift how women feel, it’s fantastic.’ And she prides herself on being a good employer.

‘I work from 7am to 8pm every day and I love growing a business; we’re 83 per cent female and I love giving a career to girls.

‘I’ve got girls who started with me as their first job and now they run a division — I love doing that for other women. We do a really good maternity package, too. I’m always the first to know if anyone is pregnant.

‘I don’t want them to feel like I’m their mother but I’m the oldest one in the business and I feel a huge emotional responsibility towards them, and it brings me a lot of self-worth.’

No sooner have I left Trinny London Land than a ‘how did we do’ survey pings up on my phone. If the women I met are anything to go by, then the answer is surely: ‘Very well indeed.’