Croxley Green Apprentice star Natalie Panayi discusses life after Sugar
PUBLISHED: 14:24 16 September 2013 | UPDATED: 14:25 16 September 2013
Natalie Panayi battled it out on this summer's The Apprentice and has launched her own fashion range. Cath Harris asks the Croxley Green head-hunter, designer and entrepreneur about her motivations
Why The Apprentice? I always wanted to create a fashion label. I thought that if I won, I could launch it with Alan Sugar and if not, it would give me a great platform. .
Was the experience tough? About 100,000 people applied. The interview process is rigorous and to begin with I wasn’t that bothered either way. I think being relaxed helped. I knew filming was going to be intense – we were up from 4am until midnight. What you see on TV is only a fraction of what goes on. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done but I’d do it all again. And it really helped my fashion label Panya get off the ground.
How did that begin? I’m passionate about fashion. My family is in the rag trade and my dad owns a big manufacturing company that makes clothing for the stars. My sister, Lexi, is a good designer too. We launched our first line of dresses earlier this year. We’re a high street label online. We’re not going to re-invent fashion, we go with current trends. Gemma Oaten from Emmerdale and the actress Michelle Heaton are big fans.
Are you designing full time? No, I’m a head-hunter specialising in technology sales recruitment for a firm. I am driven by the money but I also help people out of bad situations, which has a feel-good factor. They might have a family but have been made redundant. I can help them find a new job. I also want to be able to buy nice things and when I have children to give them a good life. I think a lot of people struggle and I don’t want to be in that situation.
You also sing. Are you good? I went to school at St Clement Danes in Chorleywood and music was my favourite subject at school and I studied Performing Arts at the Italia Conti Academy in London. I sing jazz and blues and used to sing in bars and clubs in Hertfordshire. I joined a few bands and we got close to being signed by record labels.
Sounds exciting! Why did you decide to stop? A bad experience. We got quite far, only for the record label to turn us down in favour of a boy band. It was very disheartening. It’s a cut-throat business and I wanted to earn more money. I do still sing and want to record a jazz album.
Did The Apprentice make you want to move to London? No, Hertfordshire is home. My fiancé and I fell in love with a gorgeous house in Croxley Green and I wanted to be near my family in Chipperfield. I love the area. It’s great being so close to London but in the country as well. I wouldn’t have it any other way.