A peacock in a land of penguins
By Cherrie, Dec 2 2015 10:29PM
Dressed in a vibrant kingfisher top, mustard scarf, jeans, cappuccino cardi-coat and her characteristic orange lipstick, Jane Brook is running late for our meeting. I’m at her Worcester studio to talk about colour and how it’s changed her life from working in accountancy and wanting to fade into the background, to the successful business woman, accomplished public speaker and inspiring mum she is today.
Discovering Jane’s favourite colour seems a good place to start. She says, “It’s got to be one from the autumn spectrum because I look so good in them. The colour I like and am associated with most is orange.”
I first met Jane in 2011 when I sought her help to choose a colour for my wedding dress. She’s a colour analyst and personal stylist for House of Colour. The company’s mission statement is to help people ‘look fabulous and radiate confidence in the colours and shapes that suit them best’. For Jane, it’s really about giving people confidence and making them feel better about themselves. “So much of the way we feel about ourselves comes from not liking how we look.”
Colour analysis entails identifying which seasonally categorised palette of colours works best for a person’s skin tone and eye colour. Jane admits that when she went to have her own colours analysed she thought it would be a load of rubbish. But it turned out to be life-changing.
Hundreds of Jane’s clients can testify to the impact of colour on the way people look and feel. Jane tells me, “If you’re in somewhere drab you’re likely to feel drab. From personal experience, you’ve read my story, colour has affected the way I felt. When I wear colour I feel better and people react to me better.” She thinks everyone should wear some colour, so what’s her advice for people who don’t know where to begin? “True red is the one colour that will suit most skin tones. Whatever colour you choose, start small with something like a scarf, tie or handkerchief.”
Has colour always been important to Jane? “Gosh that’s an interesting question. I used to wear a lot of colour when I was younger.” Like me, Jane grew up in the ‘80s. We recall the vivid blue eye shadow and shirts that matched your shoes and belt. After the birth of her daughters, Emma and Milly, and her subsequent divorce Jane lost confidence. “I was in a place of low self-esteem. You think the bigger you are you need to wear dark colours to disguise that. I didn’t know what suited me. I wanted to hide away and not be seen.” She still liked colour, but didn’t wear it much.
After Jane’s colour analysis things began to change. She bought a cheap t-shirt in a colour that suited her. As soon as she wore it people started saying how good she looked. She says, “I gradually changed my wardrobe so I only wore autumn colours. What I noticed was that I felt better and people gave me more compliments.”
Around the same time, Jane’s employer halved her working hours. Her 11 year old daughter, Emma, said, “You hate your job anyway Mum. Why don’t you do something you’d enjoy?” Jane applied for a franchise with House of Colour. “I went into it with no background. Never looked at it with a business plan. I just wanted to make a difference to people, the way it’s made a difference to me. I have never looked back.”
Jane works with both individuals and businesses. I remark that people in corporate environments often wear a lot of black and white. Jane explains wearing a very dark colour with a very light colour gives people more authority. She suggests navy, olive green or dark brown as alternatives to black and introducing colour through jewellery or a more vibrant top. “In a business environment adding some colour will give the impression that you are more confident, you’re better at your job because you’re willing to be visible. Be a peacock in a land of penguins.”
Our conversation moves onto art. Jane enjoys having artwork around and has several pieces by the late Govinder Nazran. At the moment she’s interested in owning work by artists who she knows and whose exhibitions she’s seen. “For me it’s about stuff that I like, not necessarily about investing in stuff. It’s about being surrounded by beautiful things that give me pleasure when I look at them.”
Like colour, Jane thinks artwork can change the way you feel by evoking memories and associations. She clearly recalls the day she bought a Govinder sculpture from a gallery in Birmingham, right down to the minutiae of buying a teabag tin in Selfridges. I ask Jane what she likes about one of my paintings that she owns. “I’m very tactile. I like that’s it got that look of texture and depth to it, it really appeals to me rather than something that’s flat. And every time you look at it you see you see something different. “
As well collecting artwork, Jane’s acquired several awards, which are displayed in her studio. She’s now number eight in the House of Colour star stylist rankings. She must be very proud of all her achievements. “My girls see me doing something that I clearly love and that you don’t have to do a nine to five job to be successful. The difference it’s made to their confidence and the things that they now believe they can achieve. That’s the thing I’m most proud of. I’ve changed my life, nobody’s come along and done it for me. I’ve done it for myself.”
Our time is up, but I’ve got one last question, “If I turned up unexpectedly at your house on a Wednesday evening are you sure I wouldn’t find you wearing baggy, black clothes?” She laughs. Her gym trousers are the only item of black clothing she owns. “You’ would probably find me in my olive green pyjamas and still wearing my lipstick.”
You can find out more about Jane on her website www.janebrook.co.uk.