From shop assistant to Beauty Editor at one of the UK’s best-selling glossies, Tatler’s Francesca White has carved out a career for herself that is both exciting and awe-inspiring.
Francesca was kind enough to open her little black book of facialists, beauticians, hairdressers and more to tell us her best beauty discoveries, the skincare products she swears by (yes there are some drugstore ones in there too) and the health rules she tries to stick to.
Prepare to be engrossed...
Let’s start with what you’ve carved your career around, beauty. What skincare products do you swear by and do you have a skincare regime?
At the moment it’s ridiculously simple. I cleanse morning and night with La Roche Posay Physiologcal Cleanser, use a tiny bit of Sisley gradual tan for my face (it’s pricey but it’s my best beauty discovery), and only moisturise with Dr Hauschka Rose Day Cream if things feel particularly dry. I also adore Giorgio Armani Crema Nera in the winter, Diptyque Radiance Boosting Powder and Fresh Rose Eye Gel.
Do you ever get problem skin like the rest of us?
Definitely, when my skin was up the spout not long ago, Dr Sam Bunting got me using prescription Differin cream and Duac gel, which really cleared things up. That woman can work miracles.
Can beauty be done on the cheap – are there any Boots favourites you swear by?
Yes, dry shampoo. There are some fancy ones out there, but Batiste is cheap as chips, and works every time.
And how about makeup?
Burberry Fresh Glow is my lifeline – it gives a gorgeous, silvery sheen and basically makes you look like you’ve just had a two-hour facial. That on bare skin, plus some Tom Ford eyebrow pencil and either a Chanel lipstick or Bobbi Brown Art Stick (I'm currently using a hot pink one) and I’m done.
Who’s on your speed dial when you need a facial or a blow-dry?
Nataliya Robinson does the best pore-squeezing facial; Katherine Jackson is the most brilliant healer-come-facialist, who mixes all of her own products on-site and Alexandra Soveral does a mind-blowing facial massage. For waxing it has to be Arezoo Kavini in Knightsbridge and pre-holiday, James Harknett at the W hotel does the best spray tan in town hands down. Hair-wise, the staff at Daniel Hersheson on Conduit Street – Scott for haircuts, Grace for blow-dries, and Maria for the most flawless manis/pedis – are the best.
Living and working in London you must get to eat and drink in some of the best bars and restaurants. What’s been your best London discovery?
There are too many to list but Petersham Nurseries is completely transporting – I’d go just for the cake and a mooch around the shop. I’m also loving the Greek restaurant, Opso, in Marylebone for brunch right now and every single floor at Dover Street Market (with a longer stop-off in the Céline section). And I could happily get lost in Planet Organic. Seriously. I could spend HOURS in there.
What restaurant do you want to visit this year?
Until last week, it was Spring at Somerset House. I’d go back in a flash – the décor is insane - I am obsessed with the pink tiles in the loos. Next on my list is the Ivy Market Grill, which looks very French, and very cosy, plus they do zucchini fritti which I love.
Where do you go for a cocktail?
Somewhere tucked away. The bar beneath Polpo, on Beak Street, is wonderfully snug; Little House does the most enormous green olives and 5 Hertford Street always feels like you're in someone’s sitting room. Oh, and I’ve never had a bad night at Bart’s, the hidden speakeasy bar in the Chelsea Cloisters.
Yes, I work out most mornings if I can. It sounds like a cliché, but it really does start my day on the right foot. I try to eat cleanly and healthily during the week, so that I can (in moderation!) go to town on the weekends. And it’s not always possible but I try to make sure what I am eating is organic. I get weekly organic vegetable boxes delivered from Abel and Cole – it keeps things interesting, as I’m never sure what I’m going to find in them!
What foods do you try to avoid and which can’t you get enough of?
I don't eat pork or lamb and instead stick to fish, steak or chicken, but that’s really because I prefer the taste of them. I also steer clear of bread and pasta – they just leave me feeling sluggish. I hate milk and always have, but I am a sucker for an alternative nut milk like almond or oat. And anything that comes in a microwavable packet generally leaves me feeling cold.
I’m marginally obsessed with nut butter and have to stop myself from eating an entire pot with a spoon. Every day I pretty much put an avocado away and I make sure I have my Supergreens powder and Pukka aloe vera water (followed by a coffee – not so healthy – from Everbean or Kaffeine in Mayfair). Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt is my vice.
When you’re not in London where do you escape to?
I fell in love with the Mandarin Oriental in Bodrum last summer, but I’m heading to the Sujan Rajmahal Palace in March. By the look of the décor I think there may be stiff competition. Closer to home I love the Raffles Royal Monceau in Paris – they do the BEST breakfast buffet!
Working for one of the UK’s most iconic fashion magazines, you must have built up quite a wardrobe. What’s your favourite thing in your closet?
A blue, white and burnt orange printed silk dress by Peter Pilotto, which I bought for a wedding years ago, and has now become a staple summer dress for everyday. It’s elegant but ridiculously comfortable. But it’s not all designer, there’s also a silver lace pencil skirt and matching top from Topshop Boutique, which always gets a lot of compliments when I bring it out.
Any rules when it comes to dressing?
Always be comfortable – poor-fitting, restrictive clothing is never a good look. And skyscraper heels are always great fun; just make sure you can walk in them.
What is a typical work outfit for you?
In the summer you’ll find me in a printed dress or pencil skirt, a simple, tucked in t-shirt (Cos do great ones) and heels. (I’m a big fan of a kitten heel and wear my Valentino Rockstuds to death). In winter, it’s more likely to be a pair of tailored trousers and a shirt, with lots of fur for warmth! And I’m currently getting a lot of wear out of my cape.
And at the weekend?
Honestly? My gym kit. There’s nothing more relaxing after a week in heels of staying in a pair of leggings, a cosy jumper and trainers. Anything by Track & Field, Lucas Hugh or LuluLemon fits the bill. And I’m currently obsessed with my sparkly black Nike Frees.
Why do you think you’ve made it in your career?
Sheer luck! But also being kind, working hard, and not trying to force anything, but recognising the potential in each situation, and seeing where it takes you. Manners really do matter – sending that thank you card, making an effort to introduce yourself at events, and helping to make others feel included is always noted, and will mark you out as a somebody that people will want to work with again.
Finally, 2014 was the ‘year of feminism’, would you call yourself a feminist?
Of course I believe in gender equality so far as salaries, voting rights, child care etc. go , but I also think that there is a certain British charm in a gentlemen’s club, men holding open doors for women, etc. There’s a sense of heritage and deference in those traditions, which would be a pity to lose. But I am hugely inspired by other women – I admire my mother, who has made me realise that through sheer hard work, determination and genuine kindness, you can achieve great things. She is also the most generous person I know, as well as being the most beautiful. And other women like Phoebe Philo, Sofia Coppola and Emilia Wickstead inspire me on a daily basis thanks to their sense of the aesthetic – which is forward thinking, yet perennially elegant.