You've had an exciting career as a Cabinet Minister, Secretary of State for Scotland and recently spending time in Australia as British High Commissioner. What would you say is your biggest style challenge since you started your career?
The problem for women in front line politics or diplomatic life, is having a bit of style, without frightening the horses, (or the elderly men who still predominate!). Long days prove hard on clothes and having something that is comfortable to wear is a real bonus, if you feel good you perform well. Having authority is really important and a challenge if, like me, you are only 5 foot 3 inches, that usually means wearing at least a jacket that is structured, checks and stripes are out, at least around the face and shoulders, if you don't want news viewers adjusting their TV sets. Skirt length matters too, news photographers love the ungainly, immodest or just plain ugly photograph, and getting out of the back seat of an official car with a few dozen snappers just waiting for that shot is a nightmare for the best of us! I am also not above a bit of one-upmanship, the notorious"family" photograph at the end of a Summit is a great chance to stand out with a bit of colour!
Your wardrobe within the 'Corridors of Power' must be very different from your style when you're not working. How would you describe your personal, more relaxed style?
I love to get away from the structured, tailored, look and go for soft fabrics. That is where Winser London cashmere comes into its own! It is also a chance to be a bit more outrageous, I love shopping for pieces that are a bit unusual, and travelling a lot means that I can sometimes steal an hour to look in local shops. Sadly the life I lead doesn't allow for "dress down Friday "and even when travelling I have to think of the risk of having to do an interview. I arrived in Australia to take up my post as High Commissioner to the news of the London bombings and was on live television across the Continent within minutes of coming off a 30 hour flight. A casual day is a real luxury!
The Winser London Collection has an elegant, timeless feel. Can you tell us what your favourite must-have pieces are from our current Collection?
I love the long length silk tunic shirt, I have the pale pink one and I am planning on adding a few more colours! I wore it for the first time to a Board meeting and got emails from across the table from two women who wanted to know where I bought it. The Miracle Dress is great too, it is very forgiving and can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion, I have worn it with the white Parisian cotton silk cardigan and got lots of compliments.
I know you love to travel and have been to some amazing places. Can you share with us your tips on packing for both versatility and style?
Life is too short to waste time at a luggage carousel (or in the holding cell known as the VIP lounge). I would have to be going away for a very long time to a number of countries with very variable climates before I would agree to put a case in the hold. I look for clothes that do not crease, black in winter and cream in summer form the basis of my wardrobe, and I ring the changes with scarves and jewellery. The Winser Trench is great, it is weightless and can be rolled up in a ball and come out as good as new.
I'm sure you've met some very interesting people, both through your career and whilst travelling. Is there one particular person you've met, or would like to meet perhaps, whose style you really admire?
Christine Lagarde is the thinking woman's style icon! She has that effortless French chic, but my favourite is Her Excellency Quentin Bryce, the first ever woman Governor General of Australia, have a look at her online. Model girl tall and slim, this former human rights lawyer has style to die for! From the tip of her wonderful Aussie hats, and Aussie milliners are terrific, to the soles of her elegant high heels, she is never less than perfect. And thanks to her advice and access to her address book, I got the perfect outfit for my son's wedding.
With a busy life, how do you get time to shop?
Shopping online has been a huge boon for women like me, that is one of the reasons I love Winser London. I may not have much time to shop, but when I am putting outfits together I need to be able to ring the changes, so I buy a lot of my accessories from young designers both here and abroad, usually at very reasonable prices. At the end of a very long day, with five minutes to put on a bit of glitz, there is nothing to beat an unusual piece of jewellery, or a delightful cashmere wrap.