THE food hall of Harvey Nichols’ flagship store in Edinburgh is likely be full of over-excited teenage girls this weekend when Made in Chelsea star Jamie Laing makes a personal appearance.
Laing is in town to promote his upmarket confectionary range Candy Kittens – currently on sale in selected stores and online.
The young entrepreneur, also known as Jamie Biscuits, is one of a new wave of retailers out to make their fortunes with a little help from reality television.
“Generally we do get quite a good response,” says Laing bashfully. “The sweets are good and people are quite excited to meet me, for some reason.”
Laing is one of the key players in the scripted reality show about a group of good-looking young socialites, whose lives seem to revolve around endless cocktail and fancy dress parties
Although on his website Laing describes himself as a cross between Willy Wonka and Hugh Hefner, on the phone he is keen to play down his similarities to the Playboy founder.
He says the young girls who he recruits to sell his candies are fully clothed and more “girl-next-door” than bunny types.
Laing, whose family earned its fortune from McVitie’s biscuits, decided to get involved with the reality show in order to get a head start in business.
“I think it is a great launch pad,” he says. “It’s a great platform to promote a business.
“My family have always been entrepreneurs and I have always wanted to work for myself. I’ve never understood why you would work to make money for someone else.
“I wanted to set up Candy Kittens before getting involved in Made in Chelsea.
“I’ve always been interested in fashion, sweets and girls – so I thought, why not put the three of them together?”
As well as selling sweets and lollipops Candy Kittens also sell hoodies, T-shirts and jewellery stamped with slogans made popular by Laing’s reality show antics.
You can buy iPhone covers, baseball jackets and underwear which say ‘I’m a Candy Kitten”, “Pardy” and “Yea boi!”
Although it may sound off the wall, the retail/reality show mix makes perfect sense in a declining high street in desperate need of excitement. Laing has built his business by creating pop-up shops, where his girl-next-door shop assistants flog lollipops, pants and hoodies in a party atmosphere.
“It is more exciting to have pop-up shops rather than having anything permanent. It is more theatrical, more exciting for everyone.”
“Over the next 15 months we will have a permanent store but pop-ups are best for us at the moment.”
Laing says watching your social life playing out on screen can be an embarrassing and a humbling experience “especially when you know your mum is watching”.
And while some things are exaggerated for television, he says the cast, who have known each other since they were about 13, really do socialise and really get on in real life. He is determined not to take the whole thing and himself too seriously.
“We aren’t actors, we aren’t musicians, we aren’t soldiers. We are playing ourselves. We have cheated ourselves into fame. We haven’t really done anything worthy. But I think as long as you realise that and accept it, it is okay.
“It does still baffle me that people want to come and meet me,” he says.