In conversation with...ELLE Decoration
ELLE Decoration editor-in-chief Michelle Ogundehin in conversation with Deborah Meaden, co-owner of Fox Brothers and The Merchant Fox, August issue.
Deborah Meaden may be a Dragon in the BBC2 Den, but she has little time for the assumption that her somewhat, shall we say, bullish on-screen persona is her true nature. 'My job is to establish whether or not this is a good investment, not to win a Miss Congeniality contest,' she's been quoted as saying. And as she puts it to me, 'They're judging me on the wrong basis. Call me stupid, call me unethical, that would bother me, but the programme's not about me.'
However, it does accurately convey the passion and gritty determination that inevitably lie behind a great business success. And she happily confesses to being extremely driven. 'When I'm engaged, I want to win. I'm really, really competitive.' So does she have a soft underbelly? 'I love business. I don't need to work, but why have I got 19 businesses? Because I love it. But without Paul, my husband, I could easily get out of balance. He reminds me what it's all about.'
I confess to awkwardness in wanting to ask if not having children was deliberate (yes) and if her husband works (he looks after their farm). She neatly sidesteps my impertinence, enthusiastically extolling instead the virtues of her brood of pets. Overall she comes across as deeply contented, grounded and very happy with her lot.
She's also very inspiring. When quizzed on what drives her, she's articulate and direct. 'Once I've set my mind to something, I don't talk myself out of things. I just get on with it,' she states, concluding with, 'The only difference between successful people and those who aren't is that the successful person acts on their ideas.'
And Deborah's latest action was the purchase of Fox Brothers, the luxury woollen mill founded in 1772 near her Somerset home. Its iconic weaves have been used in Savile Row for years, but it now has a new online retail arm, The Merchant Fox, selling 'unashamedly expensive' British-made accessories. But she's not complacent about its potential: 'People need to make non-disposable, quality products for life. Fox will work forever, as long as it stays relevant. It's about speaking to people in the right way.'