Prue Leith on stepping out into the world of fashion
PUBLISHED: 11:42 17 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:47 17 September 2019
Best known for The Great British Bake Off and her novels, now Prue Leith is stepping out into the world of fashion
In 2017, not only was chef, author and television presenter Prue Leith announced as the brand-new host of Channel 4's The Great British Bake Off, but she was also named as a 'Spectacle Wearer of the Year' by Specsavers. "It's the only award I've won for doing absolutely nothing," she chuckles - but the award gave Prue an idea. "There were lots of pictures from the evening of me wearing my Ronit Furst specs, and everyone started asking me where I got them. So I thought: 'I've been in business my whole life, why not create my own range?'"
And in-keeping with her hard-working ethos, that was exactly what Prue did.
As a long-term fan and an avid wearer of Ronit Furst eyewear, a collaboration with the Israeli designer seemed like the natural move; coincidentally, the brand was looking to create a more affordable range of glasses at the time as an alternative to their hand-painted frames, and with that the seeds for the partnership were sown.
In the months that followed, Prue worked closely with Ronit to cultivate a collection that would offer a bright, interesting option compared to the monochrome frames that line opticians' shelves. "I told Ronit what colours I liked and we discussed every one of the pairs that are in the range. It was an easy collaboration," she says.
'Prue' by Ronit Furst launched earlier this year, and it consists of 72 different pairs of glasses, which vary from an electric blue frame to multi-coloured stripes. For Prue, a pair of glasses is an accessory that you can have just as much fun with as you can with a handbag or a pair of shoes, and they represent a welcome opportunity to express her personality both on-screen and off. "Sometimes I decide on what glasses I'm wearing first and then choose the clothes to go with them," she laughs.
Although the collaboration is Prue's first foray into the world of fashion, it's by no means her first business venture - Bake Off aside, she is a well established chef and restaurateur and has been for the last four decades. It might come as a surprise, though, that cooking and baking haven't always played a prominent role in her life: it was only on her move from South Africa to Paris for university that she began to see it as a possible career option.
"It is difficult to live in Paris and not be interested in food. I was a student there so I was eating very cheaply, but it was things like couscous from Moroccan street vendors, and really great baguettes," she remembers. From there Prue moved to London and attended the prestigious Cordon Bleu cookery school, before setting up her own catering business, Leith's Good Food, which saw her cooking for smart dinner parties and weddings.
An ultimate aim, though, was setting up her own restaurant, which she did successfully in 1969: Leith's offered fine dining in the heart of Notting Hill, and it went on to win a coveted Michelin star. Although Prue is quick to credit this to the work of her chef at the time, Alex Floyd, she does admit that she had at least some hand in the accolade. "At one point, I was so upset that we hadn't yet been awarded a Michelin star that I rang up Michelin myself and asked to speak to the editor! So he came along with his inspector and told me everything I was doing wrong," she recalls.
Encouraging more people to cook has been a prominent theme throughout Prue's eclectic career: she set up her cookery school in the 1970s, and has since worked as part of various schemes to help in improving the diets of children. "If young people aren't being told about healthy eating then what's to stop them stuffing their faces with Pot Noodles and chips? Teaching them to eat is every bit as important for society as teaching them to add up and speak English," she stresses. She chaired the School Food Trust, which made a huge amount of progress, but getting governments to really take action is "an uphill struggle," she admits.
Prue's drive and passion for what she does, whether it be cooking, writing books or designing glasses, is inescapable - and she doesn't look to be stopping any time soon either.
'Prue' by Ronit Furst is available in independent opticians across the UK and Ireland. Browse the range at pruebyronitfurst.com
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