The stars of my second Fabulous Females Interview series are mother and daughter, Marilyn and Jacynth Bassett. Ahead of a weekend when mothers take centre stage it seems only appropriate to put the spotlight on a very special mother-daughter relationship which lies at the heart of Jacynth’s online fashion business, the-Bias-Cut.com
For those unfamiliar with her story, Jacynth followed in her mother Marilyn’s footsteps to pursue a career in law, but after graduating from Cambridge was struck by her mother’s frustration at her love for style being squashed by the fashion industry, with offerings of dowdy and unflattering garments for her age.
A lover of clothes herself, Jacynth set out to tackle the ageist attitude inherent in the fashion world and has been flying the flag ever since for style at any age, with her carefully curated contemporary and stylish collections.
There is no doubt that Marilyn is a source of inspiration for Jacynth on many levels and having met them both I can vouch not only for their unique bond, but for their shared drive to stand out in a crowd and really make a difference.
Marilyn fought hard to prove herself as a highly competent City lawyer at a time when men were very much the dominant figures. Similarly Jacynth will not allow herself to be defined by her age and is a vociferous campaigner for the modern midlife woman.
Although Marilyn and Jacynth answered the interview questions separately there is a thread of similarity in some of their answers that made me smile and I hope it does you too.
- Who is or was your role model?
Marilyn : I don’t have one and never have. It’s not something that ever occurred to me to have, although I always had a close relationship with my mum.
Jacynth : I don’t really believe in ‘role models’ purely because everyone has strengths and weaknesses and everyone is flawed, so it can be dangerous to put someone on a mental pedestal – for both individuals involved. But I hugely admire and am inspired by lots of different women for different reasons and of course I’ve always looked up to my mum. She is incredibly selfless, and I’ve really respected her for her ability to be a very successful career woman, whilst always putting her family first in every way.
- What motivates you?
Marilyn : Achievement and the view that if something is worth doing its worth doing well
Jacynth : Opportunities
- What are the values you hold dearest in life?
Marilyn : Family, health, integrity, kindness
Jacynth : Family, health, love, integrity, and kindness
- What has been your biggest challenge so far & how did you overcome it?
Marilyn : Establishing myself as a respected and well regarded in-house lawyer in the City at a time when it was a male dominated environment. I worked hard and became the first female senior executive in my company before going on to bigger and wider roles there and elsewhere in my field.
Jacynth : When I really think about it, it’s running the business. It’s a challenge every day and the lack of certainty and stability can be difficult at times. But strangely it’s not the obvious answer to me, probably because a) I enjoy it and b) it’s permanently ongoing. So rather than a challenge per se, it’s just my life!
Instead, my first instinct is to say my Cambridge interview. It was hugely intimidating and I felt way out of my depth. I remember sitting in the waiting room with everyone around me reading books, calculating sums and muttering under their breath and I just sat there with nothing, admiring my new D&G shoes! Then I managed to spill water over one of my interviewers…. It’s probably the most terrified I’ve ever been, but I got through it by just being myself and trusting my instincts. Since then I’ve always told myself, if I survived that, I can survive anything professionally that scares me!
On a much more personal note, it would be coping with my long term mental health issues and the death of a close friend at 17. I can’t say I’ve overcome them, but I’m working on it with help and support and through being kinder to myself.
- What is your proudest moment?
Marilyn : My proudest moments have definitely been with regard to my children. But, as far as my own achievements are concerned, a standout is when, as a young woman, I stood with my husband in the Pacific Ocean off Taihiti and realised I had been able to pay for that holiday myself as a result of my own hard work, whereas my parents had paid for previous long haul holidays.
Jacynth : That’s a tough one. I’m very self critical, so I often struggle to be proud of myself. Although I am pleased with the success of the Ageism Is Never In Style badges. The idea came to me one evening, a few weeks before London Fashion Week and they’ve been a much bigger hit than I thought. It’s been really rewarding seeing how many people love them and hearing of the conversations they’ve sparked. I saw a school friend the other day who had hers on her bag, and she said lots of people had stopped her to ask about it!
- What motto do you live by?
Marilyn : It’s never over until the fat lady sings! That’s closely followed by: “Don’t panic Mr Wilson”!
Jacynth : Anything can be fixed, except death and taxes. (Not quite Benjamin Franklin’s exact words but I prefer this version!)
- What advice would you give to your teenage self?
Marilyn : Realise that brains are valued as much as beauty and what hard work and application can achieve; and don’t worry about what other people think.
Jacynth : Try to relax and find pleasure in the things you love.
- Who gave you the best advice and what was it?
Marilyn : My father said always be polite to people and treat them well as you would wish to be treated; you never know when you will be glad you did.
Jacynth : Trust your gut – my mum.
- How would your friends describe you?
Marilyn : I really don’t know and suspect that might depend on how and when they became my friends. I’ve been told I’m intelligent, interesting and amusing and I think others think I’m thoughtful. Otherwise you would have to ask them.
Jacynth : I always find this question difficult as I probably see myself totally different to how they see me! But probably outgoing, chatty, ambitious and quirky and hopefully loyal and supportive.
- What makes you laugh out loud?
Marilyn : I rarely laugh out loud though it doesn’t mean I’m not amused. I think it’s usually my mood more than anything that determines it. I certainly laugh out loud on the rare occasions I get one over on my children, such as when they believed my husband and I were carrying a couple of hundred toilet rolls (long story!) when on our way to meet them at one of the world’s top restaurants.
Jacynth : A lot of things, but especially weird, inside jokes between me and my boyfriend
- What would your autobiography be called?
Marilyn : Ups and downs!
Jacynth : The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
- What does midlife mean to you?
Marilyn : Being fortunate to have the time and money to travel, indulge my interests and develop new ones, and reconnect with old friends as well as making new ones. These are the pros but inevitably there are the cons associated with getting older and of no longer having my parents around.
Jacynth : I’m not there yet, but I see it as hopefully a time I will feel confident and content with myself and not care what others think.
- What would be your desert island essential?
Marilyn : A foolproof escape plan! Failing that, a well stocked non fiction library.
Jacynth : Practically speaking I would take an axe so I can build a hut, eat, and build a raft if I want to get off it. If we’re talking ‘luxuries’, a playlist of my favourite music I can dance to.
- What makes you feel fabulous?
Marilyn : Beautiful clothes and wearing the wonderful eclectic pieces I have bought from the-Bias-Cut.com.
Jacynth : Putting together an awesome new outfit.
- In your own words – a fabulous female is….
Marilyn : …”a woman who feels good about herself, lives life to the full and doesn’t care what other people think.”
Jacynth : …” someone who knows herself, and supports other women.”
the-Bias-cut.com is not just a fashion destination, it is an online community of women who refuse to be invisible. If you want to find out more about their clothes and movement Ageism Is Never In Style you can follow them here:
Twitter : @the-Bias-Cutcom
Instagram : @the_bias_cutcom
Editor’s Note: To find out more about Jacynth’s stance on ageism in the fashion industry please take a read of her earlier Guest Post “Why Does Style Change At 50?”