Pagan Grigg
(1935 - ) ‘Well, Pagan had about six different lives!’ If great models reflect their moments in time, then Tye Pagan Grigg was one of midcentury London’s most expert mirrors. From a well-to-do family blessed with memorable names (her brothers were called Tully and Hippolyte), she was educated at the progressive Darlington Hall in Devon, and started out by working in the salons of Mayfair’s ready-to-wear houses. But she got her big break at the age of 22, when she was chosen to travel to Moscow as part of a pioneering trip to promote British couture behind the Iron Curtain. There, she charmed Russian audiences, who nicknamed her ‘The Aristocrat’, and pictures of her tour caught the attention of readers around the world.

For the rest of the Fifties, she juggled a booming career as top-rank photographic model with marriage (to architect John Taylor) and motherhood. But as the Sixties began to swing, she detoured into retail, investing in an adventurous new shop with furniture designer Terence Conran. Famously, she helped Conran coin its name, Habitat, and became the first managing director of the Fulham Road store, adding a crucial dash of well-connected glamour. “We aim to reach the young moderns with lively tastes.” she told journalists at the launch — and soon was able to boast of a clientele that included Tony Snowdon, Anouk Aimée, Albert Finney, Pattie Boyd & George Harrison.
But running an innovative store proved unexpectedly complicated; ’It was like a hard fall from a galloping horse’ Grigg would reflect decades later. “It all may have looked well front-of-shop, but behind the scenes it was chaos.” By the Seventies, she’d remarried, and stepped behind the scenes to become a well-regarded chef, running Didier’s in Little Venice with her friend Sue Miles. And by the Eighties, she’d left it all behind for a new life, and another marriage, in California — though not before handing Conran’s wife, Shirley, the perfect name for one of the lead characters in one of the most Eighties of novels; ‘Lace’.
. johnmichael@1972projects.com
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