WHEN Lady Helen Taylor was dubbed ‘Melons’ while a pupil at Gordonstoun, she could never have realised how long it would take to shake off the nickname. Now, thanks to a combination of beautiful clothes and diamonds, she has done it.
Lady Helen has been the ambassador for Calvin Klein, Bulgari and now Armani. In Edinburgh for the launch of Emporio Armani this week, she admitted she was lucky to be able to combine a highly-lucrative part-time career with her family commitments.
The mother-of-three said: "It is an absolute dream to have a job like this. I travel a lot and I’m able to spend the majority of my time with my children. I am totally involved with their lives. I am very lucky. A lot of my friends are really jealous - but I lend them clothes, so not too jealous."
Lady Helen has a generous clothing allowance and finds it easy to wear Armani every day. "There is not a lot of room for error with Armani," she said. "He doesn’t go to extremes but the clothes aren’t boring either. You feel well cared for when you are wearing them.."
The daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York is 40 this year and elegantly slim, a far cry from her ‘Melons’ days.
"I was slightly chubby," she said. "It was the boys at Gordonstoun who called me that. I think there are only about two people who call me that now. The original context has long gone."
Unlike other royals, Lady Helen enjoyed the school in Moray, despite the spartan regime. "Yes, we did have cold showers, the heating never worked and we had to go on morning runs before school," she recalled. "But it was a very healthy lifestyle. That’s where my love affair with Scotland began. It’s a really special place."
Gordonstoun was also where stories about Lady Helen’s party-girl lifestyle began to surface, but she insists her career as a wild child was exaggerated: "It’s all relative. If having a pint of Tennents in the woods at Gordonstoun could be considered wild, then I was. The trouble with me and parties is I like to be in bed at 10.30. I did used to smoke but I was always terrified of drugs."
Today, Lady Helen works far too hard to consider such excess, combining her Armani role with looking after Columbus, nine, Cassius, seven, and one-year-old Eloise.
She also acts as an "unpaid adviser" to husband Timothy Taylor, who runs a contemporary art business in London. Six years ago, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, a form of cancer of the lymph nodes. Friends say Lady Helen was "unbelievably strong" in dealing with the illness. Since he was given the all-clear, the couple have worked for cancer charities, including the children’s hospice, Rachel House, in Kinross.
One of the annual events she organises is a star-studded Burns Night in London, where this year Ewan McGregor addressed the haggis. Next year, she hopes to host the evening in an Armani kilt. "I have yet to persuade Mr Armani to design it for me; that is something I need," she said.
Before her marriage, Lady Helen worked for Karsten Schubert gallery, and was part of the scene which saw the emergence of Young British Artists like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.
She used her contacts in the art world to work behind the scenes for last year’s Armani retrospective at the Royal Academy in London, which covered the 25-year career of the designer, now 69. "It was an exhausting time, working with Mr Armani," she said. "He has boundless energy. I was spending days in meetings, getting my hair done, then rushing home to help the children with their homework and going out at night."
Next month Lady Helen flies to China to visit Armani’s new flagship store in Shanghai. She is looking forward to meeting her boss: "He is a very inspiring person to be around and great fun."
The respect is mutual. Mr Armani said: "While she has always enjoyed my fashion philosophy, I have always greatly enjoyed her company. It is this wonderful chemistry that makes our relationship so special and why she has become a perfect ambassador for me in the UK."