The Inventory: Luella Bartley

Luella Bartley, 38, worked as a journalist at publications including Vogue, where she was fashion director, before launching the Luella label in 1999. Although the Luella brand was a victim of the recession in 2009, she was appointed MBE in 2010 for services to the fashion industry.

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What was your earliest ambition?

Professional netball player.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

A rather strange progressive comp in Leamington Spa with leanings towards the arts and not so many Bunsen burners – the science labs seemed slightly neglected. From there, straight to Leamington College and then on to Saint Martins, which I left after two years for a job at the Evening Standard.

Who was or still is your mentor?

I don’t really have mentors. I rely on people around me, mainly friends, for good advice but in the end I mentor myself – I talk to myself a lot. I have had very supportive people along the way, from an art teacher called Stella to my boyfriend now.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Both – but personally I would rather have the talent. Ambition becomes harder and harder to give any energy to but the good thing is that, with the waning ambition for success, comes the desire to please yourself.

How physically fit are you?

I ride horses and walk on the cliffs fairly regularly.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

No. I fear I would not fare too well.

How politically committed are you?

More and more, but still not enough. Worrying about your kids’ future lessens the apathy.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?


What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

I’d quite like a dog, but I’m not sure I can cope with another dependent.

Biggest extravagance: horses

What’s your biggest extravagance?


In what place are you happiest?

I like being on holiday with my kids and I like being in my studio when I’ve got a good idea, but I guess mostly at home.

What ambitions do you still have?

They change on a weekly basis. Today, maybe to be a folk singer to rival Bob Dylan, tomorrow, to find the meaning of life, the next day to get my kids to do their homework without shouting.

What drives you on?

Being creative and having what I call my bliss moments.

Ambitions: to be a folk singer to rival Bob Dylan

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Realising how great it all is.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

Seeing how scary it can all be.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?

“I’m doing all this work for you to go and blow it like that.” But luckily the 38-year-old self knows better.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Panic, then get it back, at least the things that warranted it.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

I don’t know. I think so.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

I hope so. My children like to play a game where they choose what they will be next, which I like.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

I wouldn’t want to jinx it by putting a number on it.

‘Luella’s Guide to English Style by Luella Bartley’ is published by Fourth Estate

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