British broadcasting icon Vanessa Feltz, 62, talks to Joanna Ebsworth about her new fashion range, giving women what they want, and living her best life.

‘What a load of absolute rot!’. That’s the response I get from television personality, broadcaster and journalist Vanessa Feltz when I raise the subject of a recent announcement from department store John Lewis that declared the floral midi dress – a beloved staple of many a wardrobe – to be out of fashion. But Vanessa has good reason to rubbish these claims. The astonishing success of her recently released fashion collection with new celebrity capsule clothing brand 4Love – which features many a beautiful floral midi dress – only goes to show us that as women, we know what we like and we’ll keep on buying and wearing what we want, thank you very much!

‘You know, the reason I wanted to do this collection is that I had so many women contacting me on Instagram to ask where I got my dresses,’ explains Vanessa. ‘Because there are certain women – and they can be any age – who don’t want dresses that are too short, too tight, and that let your bosom fall out. They want something different; more sartorial, romantic, pretty and celebratory. And so far, the overwhelming response has proved that to be the case.’

Vanessa launched her first capsule collection last December, despite warnings it was too close to Christmas for the range to do well. Thankfully, she says, the four female founders at 4Love – including Linda Plant, the dynamo behind British knitwear brand Honeysuckle and interviewer on BBC’s The Apprentice – ‘had faith’ in the designs, so they ignored the naysayers and launched anyway.

‘The reaction was beyond our wildest dreams,’ says Vanessa. ‘I think it’s done so well because it fills an evident gap in the market where boutique fashion for young people somehow doesn’t quite fit, or isn’t quite flattering, or is a bit too extreme. My dresses are beautifully made, very flattering, generously cut using gorgeous fabrics that float and flow, and they feature the kind of uplifting prints that don’t sock you in the head and give you a migraine,’ she continues. ‘They’re life affirming and joyful. Not in a loud, tacky, vulgar way, but in a pretty, romantic, feminine way. The dresses give you a lovely feeling when you put them on – like you’re a little girl playing dress up and feeling your prettiest self. I don’t think you ever get to an age where you don’t want to look your prettiest self. Everyone wants to feel their best.’

Image 1: Jodie Top, £65 and Jodie Trouser, £69 / Image 2: Barbara Chain Dress, £79 / Image 3: Mavis Dress Wild Flower, £49

The right timing

Vanessa reveals she has always wanted to launch her own fashion collection, and, as such, she took a very active role in making sure her ideas came fully to life. ‘It was just a question of all the stars colliding at the right time, really. I had a big hand in designing everything because I knew what I wanted, and I knew what other women wanted too,’ she says. ‘It was completely obvious to me what the shapes and styles and fabrics should be like, and I was very busy sewing and explaining what I wanted before we developed the actual dresses. I just hope everyone enjoys them as much as I do. It’s a fantastic thing to be a part of a business that’s completely run and owned by women of a certain age. We’re showing we can’t be written off, we’re not going to be forgotten about, and we can be in charge of ourselves and make something happen from nothing because we believe in it. We’ve worked very hard to make this collection happen, and it’s been wonderful to watch it take off.’

Vanessa admits the best thing to come from the launch has been all the messages she has received from women saying how much they love the clothes. ‘Every time someone gets in touch, I tell them to send me a photo of them living their best life. And they send me these pictures of themselves in the dresses – smiling, laughing, twirling – and it makes my heart sing! We’ve already increased our sizing to a size 22, and sometimes a 24, because it felt unkind to leave out all the voluptuous ladies who could say, “Hey, Vanessa, just because you’ve lost weight, don’t forget about us!”. And I haven’t forgotten at all. I get an absolute kick out of women saying how confident they feel in the dresses, so this range is for all ladies – not just the skinny ones.’

Clothes for everyone

The fact that it was Vanessa who approached 4Love with her ideas for a fashion range speaks volumes about her passion for the project. ‘Most importantly, I’ve designed these dresses so that you don’t have to fiddle with them once they’re on or worry that your bra straps are showing. They’re not too long or too short, and there are no zips or buttons or tricky fastenings. They just go over your head and hey presto, you’re all done!’ she exclaims. ‘You just feel confident and lovely, and you’ll never look overdressed, or like you didn’t realise you were going to a lovely occasion. You’re going to look just fine because a pretty floral dress can take you absolutely anywhere, from a wedding to a first date to a graduation ceremony, and from work to drinks or a meal with friends afterwards.’

While Vanessa describes her first collection as a ‘small, carefully curated capsule range’, she says the second collection is more versatile with lots of separates to ‘cater for people who don’t see themselves in dresses’, or just feel more comfortable in trousers. ‘We have skirts now, lots of different tops and jackets too, and I especially like the new Sofia Trousers that have very flattering wide legs. I’m only 5’2” and a bit, so I’d never have thought I could possibly wear them, but they’re so elegant. I’m certainly discovering new fashion styles all the time.’

Image 1: Ruth Dress Scarlet Daisy, £79 / Image 2: Tilly Black Rose Dress, £139 / Image 3: Bonnie Dress, £69

Does she have any advice for women who don’t feel confident enough to experiment with fashion trends or try new styles and prints? ‘Not really,’ replies Vanessa. ‘The whole point of my range is that it’s not something you’re going look at and think you could never wear. It’s the opposite of wild and wacky, and I’m not trying to persuade people to wear anything that pushes their envelopes. Women should wear what they like!’

Vanessa’s fashion icons include Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, Diana Dors, Jayne Mansfield, and even Coronation Street character Bet Lynch. ‘I’ve been doing the very glamorous ice blonde look for years,’ she admits. ‘I’ve always liked that 1950s starlet kind of glamour, and I like wearing things that are a little bit extra, theatrical and special. I like clothes to be life affirming. I don’t want to blend into the wallpaper, but I also don’t want to be terribly “look at me!”. I’d say my real barometer is: “Do I like it? Do I think it’s pretty and attractive? Is it flattering and does it fit well? And does it add a little razzamatazz and je ne sais quoi?” Ultimately, I like to wear things that bring me pleasure and joy.’

Ambitious and energetic

Other things that give Vanessa joy include spending time with her four grandchildren, holidaying with her family in her second home in east Cork, and gardening (she’s just planted lots of spring bulbs that very morning, including some hyacinths and tulips). ‘I’m a keen gardener, and it gives me a lot of comfort and solace. But I also like to cook, entertain, go out socially with people and just have fun. I think most people know I’ve been out every single night for the past 300 and however many nights [since she became single]. I’ve done my best to soldier on because what else can you do? I wouldn’t particularly expect other people to do the same thing, but that’s how I’m trying to get on with things.’

As you’d expect from someone who appears on television every week, you will often see Vanessa wearing her own creations when she’s presenting her daily politics and current affairs show on Talk TV, or appearing on This Morning weekly, or making guest appearances on other TV programmes and podcasts. If that wasn’t enough, she also writes columns for a national newspaper and magazine while juggling promotional shoots and content creation for her collection. Which begs the question: how does she find the energy to do it all?

‘I don’t know,’ she responds thoughtfully. ‘I just think I’m still ambitious. I’m still trying to make things happen, I’m still interested in what I do, and I’m also very, very lucky that I have a fantastically interesting job. Every day on Talk TV is different because it’s a different news day, and while we obviously return to subjects, one show is never identical to any other. That keeps things very interesting and fresh, and that gives me energy.’

Image 1: Tina Top Rainbow Chevon, £59, Sofia Trouser White, £59 / Image 2: Mavis Dress Red Multi, £49 / Image 3: Jodie Dress, £79 (left); Tahlia Top Pink, £59 (centre, with Jodie Trousers, £69); Jodie Top (right), £65

I put it to Vanessa that a good night’s sleep and a strict self-care regime must also give her the energy she needs to stay at the top of her game, but she is quick to dismiss the suggestion. ‘I take one multivitamin a day and that’s about it. And I don’t have any kind of skincare regime either,’ she maintains. ‘It’s just soap and water, no moisturiser, no night creams, and I use baby wipes to take off my make-up. I absolutely love make-up, but I’m not into anti-wrinkle creams. Lots of nice people send me their skincare ranges and want me to represent this and that, but I can’t do it in good conscience because I don’t use a single thing and never have!’

Conversely, Vanessa is open about her long-term use of Botox, which she says is a very good preventative treatment because it stops you from ‘wrinkling up your face’ and making existing lines worse. ‘No one ever says that, but it’s true,’ she affirms. ‘I’ve had Botox ever since my husband left me 24 years ago when I decided I wasn’t going to have him leaving lines on my face. And I’ve had it twice a year ever since. Sometimes I let it run out because I don’t get round to it, so I don’t live by it, but I do think it works. It stops you from getting a cross expression or appearing like you’re frowning all the time, and I don’t want to look like I am.’

Another thing that keeps Vanessa feeling youthful, she says, is her openness to new ideas. ‘If you want to keep young in life, I think one of the best ways of doing that is to keep an open mind and to not feel like you know the answer to everything. Instead,’ she continues, ‘allow yourself to possibly be open to change, and listen totally to what other people are saying. Appreciate their experiences, and then maybe you can learn from them. I really do think that keeps you much younger if you’re still open to having a different view on things.’

The Vanessa Feltz collection is available online at

Words: Joanna Ebsworth. Images: 4love

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