On top of the world

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Legend’ is a word much bandied around today, but few people have earned the right to wear that particular badge. In Celia Birtwell’s case it is most appropriate. Not only is her image immortalised in one of the most visited paintings of all time - Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy by David Hockney - but she was the pragmatic half of one of the most exciting fashion partnerships of the twentieth century. The prints she created for her then husband, Ossie Clark, were transformed by his gossamer touch into romantic, womanly, sensual garments that send the e-bay community into a frenzy each time one is listed. No wonder that Top Shop has snapped her up - her first collection launched in Spring 2006 caused near riots when it hit the rails. The west London villa where she lives with her partner, Andy, is overflowing with paintings, books, mementoes and mad touches of kitsch that have caught her eyes over the years. Celia may be a grandmother of six, but there is nothing matronly about her home - deep red felt lines the walls of the drawing room giving a depth of colour paint can only aspire to - while Fornisetti plates look chic against the lavender white of the dining room. As she says: “This is a fun house. The children can come round and slide down the banisters if they want - they create a lot of happiness when we are all together”. Writer helenchislett@btinternet.com

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