'We've never had an argument'

Jasmine Guinness (left) and Honey Bowdrey (right) own a toyshop in London

Jasmine Guinness (left) and Honey Bowdrey (right) own a toyshop in London

Sat, Feb 9, 2013, 00:00

Jasmine Guinness and Honey Bowdrey, In conversation with Frances O'Rourke

Jasmine Guinness, 36, is a model, designer and co-owner of Honeyjam toyshop in London’s Notting Hill. She grew up in Leixlip, in a house on the grounds of the castle owned by her grandfather, Desmond Guinness. She lives in London with her husband, Gawain O’Dare Rainey, and three children. Jasmine Guinness recently launched the Guinness Storehouse Ambassador programme for the Gathering

Honey and I have known each other all our lives. Her mum and my step-grandmother, Penny, have been great friends for years. We didn’t see much of each other as children, only on holidays. She was six years older than me, and when you’re six, a 12-year-old is millions of miles away. She was very beautiful, tall and skinny. She didn’t have much to do with me, but she was always very sweet, very kind.

We only really became close when I had my first child . . . We found we were two mums in London, and so we hung out quite a lot.

I grew up in a cottage in the grounds of Leixlip Castle. I was 18 when I went to London. I’d been doing some modelling, but I did a year at art college and my agency was furious I would even consider giving up modelling. Then two things happened: I fell in love with someone who lived in London and my agency said, come on, you’re 19, you have to start now. So there I was with my first proper boyfriend and my first proper job.

To start with I lived in Richmond, which is quite far out, and didn’t see anybody that I grew up with for years. Then I had my son. Honey was 21 when she had her first child; I was 24. She gave me really good advice.

We realised there was a gap in the market for a really interesting toyshop – so we opened Honeyjam, in 2006. Honey was a very successful graphic artist – did amazing, really detailed pictures of shells. But she’d stopped drawing and painting so much when she had her first child and worked in a shop. So we knew how a shop should run.

The admin and the paperwork of running the shop is hell; Honey does a lot of that, ’cos I have no brain for figures. We’ve been working together for six years now and touch wood, we’ve never had an argument. We have such a nice time travelling, going to toy fairs – it’s an adventure, I really enjoy it.

Honey’s daughter Amber is 18. My husband Gawain is her godfather. She’s a really beautiful, accomplished make-up artist. It’s been lovely seeing her grow up.

Her son, Phoenix, is 13, so he gets on with my son Elwood, who’s 11. Her son Ludo is 10 and Otis is eight – they all look up to each other. And her daughter Domino is a couple of years older than Ruby, and Ruby worships her, it’s very sweet.

I live 10 minutes’ walk from the shop and Honey lives nearby as well . . . now we hang out together, dog walk at weekends.

See guinness-storehouse/ thegathering

Honey Bowdrey, 41, co-owns London toy shop Honeyjam with Jasmine Guinness. Formerly a botanical artist, she lives with her husband, Milo Ross, and four children, Amber, 18, Phoenix, 13, Ludo, 10, and Domino, six, in London

I’ve known Jasmine longer than she’s known me: as a baby she was like a doll, with enormous eyes. My family visited Ireland every summer for three weeks, because my mother is friends with Jasmine’s step-grandmother. In my memory, it was completely bliss: we’d have picnics in hayfields and they had a swimming pool. When we were older, we’d go to my grandfather’s house in Italy, and she’d be there with her family too. She was very sweet as a child.

There was a big age gap. But I had my first child quite young, at 21, and she had Elwood quite young too. I knew the shock when you’re a new mum and all your friends are still going out. I tried to be supportive. It was really nice having someone I knew who had a child, who I could have coffee with, and our children could play – none of my friends had children until they were much older.

Before I had children, I studied art, went travelling, painted botanical watercolours. I carried on doing commissions but the more children I had, I didn’t have the time to give it. Then I worked in shops. My very first job was in Tiffany’s, which gave me very good skills with customers.

When Jasmine first moved to London, I would see her occasionally. My boyfriend, now husband, Milo Ross was in a band; they’d do a gig and Jasmine might be there, very glamorous, so I’d bump into her. I wasn’t surprised that she grew up into being a model.

I wasn’t a party girl because I already had children. And then she had her baby. I’ve known her husband Gawain all my life too – he’s one of my true friends who kept in contact with me after I had children. He’s my eldest daughter’s godfather. His aunt lived near Leixlip and her children, Poppy and Zita, were friends with Jasmine. It’s really nice. Our parents were friends and I’m friends with their children.

Jasmine and I talked about opening the toyshop for a long time before we took the plunge. When we were children there was a brilliant shop on King’s Road called Tiger Tiger. Jasmine and I both used to go there with our pocket money and spend hours sitting on the floor. I missed that for my children. A lot of it was about reliving our own childhood: it was so thrilling when you’d find a toy you remembered, like fortune-telling fish or silly strings.

It’s true that we’ve never had an argument – touch wood. We compensate for each others’ weaknesses. I’m very shy, not very confident; she is confident, can go into a meeting and I can rely on her not to clam up. I can do the boring paperwork and we’re very good at ordering together. We do compromise on things. We’re a good team.

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