Jenny Packham: ‘When I faced my fears’

Jenny Packham, the bridal and evening wear designer loved by the Duchess of Cambridge, on the challenges set for her by her brother, Springwatch presenter Chris.

Totte Imagery

A holiday is always an adventure when your elder brother is a wildlife expert. This image was taken seven years ago when I joined Chris on one of the tours he hosts every year in The Gambia. He has lots of friends there and it’s a place he knows well. This, combined with the fact that he is the knowledgeable one on matters involving animals, meant I gamely posed for him next to this Nile crocodile.

We were at the Kachikally Crocodile Pool in Bakau, a place that is believed to have healing powers. It’s popular with visitors – and giant crocodiles. They are intelligent creatures with extraordinary eyesight, and they laze around a lot. This particular crocodile happened to be very well-fed – according to Chris we were very safe as he was too full to want to eat us.

In many ways this photo sums up our relationship: I will always do exactly what he asks, even at my own risk. Here I was feeling conflicted; on the one hand trusting him but also listening to my instincts, which were telling me, ‘Don’t do this!’ That happened so much growing up in Hampshire with Chris; he’s always putting me in these sorts of positions, where I come away feeling as though I’ve achieved something, that it’s a good story or it’s a good photo, but it can be psychologically painful to get to that point.

Christopher Pledger

I’ve always loved to travel and being in the great outdoors, absorbed in nature, can be a great antidote to the fashion world. Chris loves fashion himself, and even has his own outdoor clothing range, so though we exist in different worlds we have a lot in common.

Albert Urso/Getty Images

This year I’m celebrating 30 years in fashion and presenting my collections at London Fashion Week for the first time in eight years. Previously we’ve hosted big catwalk shows in New York, but I found social media has made everything into a bit of a circus there so I’m looking forward to a change of scene.

I’m not sure what the next joint trip will be for Chris and me – he’s often somewhere far-flung and dangerous-sounding. Six weeks ago he rang me up on a Friday and said, ‘Do you want to come to Antarctica?’ and I said, ‘Oh yes, that sounds interesting. When?’ And he said, ‘This Monday.’ That time I had to say, ‘No, Chris!’

Jenny Packham marks her label’s 30th anniversary by showing her S/S 19 collection at London Fashion Week today; members of the public can see the collection at the Mayfair Townhouse in London tomorrow, from 10am to 7pm.

As told to Amy E Williams.