Frankly Speaking: 'Ab Fab' Inspiration Lynne Franks

With new episodes of the cult comedy on the way, WWD checks in with the real life Edina Monsoon.

Hamnett recalls her first meeting with Franks, in the early Seventies: “We were at a trade show, and she came on our stand — it was like an avalanche hitting you. I wanted to hire her immediately. She’s magic — she has the most extraordinary energy, and she was a p.r. genius.” Hamnett also fondly recalls the fashion show that Franks organized on boats on the Seine in Paris. “It was the most genius party — very aristo-posh English — with transvestites.”

In those years, Franks’ lifestyle was not unlike Eddie’s. In her 1997 memoir “Absolutely Now!” Franks talks about her nutty days racing around London to client meetings, jamming wads of cash into her driver’s hands so he could buy the props and refreshments for impromptu parties at the agency; her drug use, and neglecting her young children, Joshua and Jessica.

But as the work, late nights and partying began to take their toll, she began to chart a path out of her old life, turning to Buddhism. It was her fellow p.r., the late Kezia Keeble, founder and president of what is now KCD, who turned her onto it. After much soul-searching — and Native American spiritual rituals — she and her husband, the designer Paul Howie, sold the business. She eventually got divorced and began shifting her career away from fashion and brands to focus on promoting socially and environmentally responsible businesses, women’s empowerment projects and trend-spotting.

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In addition to the memoir, she’s written “The Seed Handbook: The Feminine Way to Create Business,” and “Grow: The Modern Woman’s Handbook.” She also holds business and life-coaching seminars at her home in Majorca. Her B.Hive business club network across the U.K., in partnership with the workspace provider Regus, is one of her biggest projects, and she has plans to expand in the U.S., Europe and the Far East.

And while she’s no longer directly involved in the fashion world, she is keeping a watchful eye on it.

“It is so much more safe today!” she says. “Look at the British Fashion Awards last month — 90 percent of the people were wearing safe black outfits. There they were at the event of the fashion industry, and that’s what they choose.”

She also believes the fashion runways aren’t nearly as influential as they used to be.

“What informs the high street is no longer the designers,” she says. “The influences are coming from musicians, and there is a different mood happening. I wonder how much the traditional fashion weeks compare with one tour by Rihanna, Beyoncé or Lady Gaga? Who’s wagging the dog?”

With regard to her own future, Franks says she’s mulling the idea of writing some fiction “based on my early years — the AbFab years and then finding myself. It would be a piss take on the world I’ve known — but a lot more colorful outrageous and fun.” She said she also wants to do a “50 Years of Style and Sound” event, and a big women’s conference, possibly in Majorca.

“I’m in the process of redesigning the rest of my life,” she says. “I have four grandchildren now, and change is afoot. I’m thinking about how we, as a society, can create something of value for our children.”

And while she and Eddie may have evolved in different direction — she is no longer a Buddhist, although she does still meditate — they still have a few things in common.

“Oh, I’m tweeting now @Lynne_Franks,” she says, “and I think Eddie’s doing it, too.”


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