Supermum’s flying high with her hands full

IT could well be a rather depressing episode. Anna Freemantle, supermodel and now, it seems, supermum, is waiting in a Stockbridge branch of Starbucks looking every inch as stunning as I’d feared she might.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 2nd September 2011, 4:07 pm

Sure she’s sporting a baby sling as her new must-have fashion accessory and her finely- chiselled cheekbones and long fair eyelashes are make-up free. Yes, she’s juggling four-week-old baby Leo, a tall coffee, a beeping BlackBerry and filling the time between dropping off her other son at nursery and dashing to pick him up again by squeezing in a chat, preparing for a show that night and organising an important fashion event.

Still there’s no doubt that the Dutch-born fashion veteran is every inch top-model material.

Slim, striking – she’s 5ft 11in and a pencil-thin size eight – she slides elegant fingers through platinum hair that’s almost shorn to the scalp at the sides and floppy long on top, while displaying the impressive dexterity required to unsnap Leo from his sling, grab his bottle and then find his tiny hungry lips, all in one fluid motion.

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It transpires we’re both mothers of two boys, we’re both blonde – no prize for guessing which one is courtesy of the hairdresser’s bleach bottle. But there, sadly for me and my non 5ft 11in, never-to-be-size-eight bulk, is where our similarities grind to a depressing, confidence-sapping, ego-busting sudden end.

That deflating feeling as my self confidence slumps to the floor of Starbucks and creeps off down the street is bad enough. But now Anna is explaining how only a month after an exhausting three-day labour finally resulted in the birth of 8lb 9oz, 58cm-long Leo, she’s preparing to do what most women wouldn’t consider even without the post-baby blubber: she’ll shed her outer layers to model not just clothes, but terrifyingly tiny scraps of lingerie.

“La Perla,” she says, “it’s usually fairly skimpy. I always say to my clients that I’ve just had a baby so they’re aware. But I’m sure it’ll be fine.

“I’m lucky, I was born with lucky genes,” she continues. “And my parents who taught me that an apple is a lovely treat and one digestive biscuit a week was enough.

“Throughout my pregnancy I stayed busy, I didn’t pile on weight. Yes, after Leo was born I looked at my belly and it was a little bit there but not much. Week by week, it’s gone.”

Before there’s time to suggest she must have at least hit the gym to work out and counted every calorie – how else would a typical post-pregnancy body cram itself into anything other than XXL knickers and a giant nursing bra? – Anna points out that all she’s done is walked the hilly streets around her New Town home, raced around after her other son, three-year-old Max and kept eye-wateringly busy.

Take today, for example, when she’s about to dash off to prepare for an evening fashion event staged by designer boutique Jane Davidson. Then she’s on countdown to Sunday and her first Edinburgh Mela Festival Fashion Show. It’s the first time the organisers have brought her in as creative director, a role the she’s embraced with gusto and a determination.

So determined, in fact, that she worked on the event throughout her pregnancy, organising professional models, make-up and hair artists, searching out designers, planning the show’s format and theme, even deciding upon suitable music with the aim of transforming what for 16 years has been a “community” event typically involving local families’ daughters as models, into what promises to be a dazzling professional fashion spectacle.

All this at the same time as nurturing her own particular masterplan, one that she hopes will eventually place her adopted home city firmly on the international fashion map.

“I do feel like I never stop,” says Anna, 32, shifting a slumbering Leo – plucked straight from the “beautiful baby” catalogue with downy blond hair that sits in impressive Oor Wullie spikes – into a more comfy position. “It’s non-stop. It’s exhausting but it’s good too because I like being busy. I bring the children with me wherever I go. I take my laptop, my phone and I do some work.

“Maybe it’s not a good character trait to have, but I find it hard to say ‘no’ to things. I always think ‘oh, I’ll be able to handle that’ and then I realise I’ve given myself an awful lot to do. But then again, I really do enjoy my work.”

Indeed, just nine days after a gruelling three-day labour to deliver Leo and still in discomfort from a surgical procedure to repair tears caused when he arrived with one arm firmly positioned to the side of his face, Anna returned to the catwalk for another Jane Davidson fashion show.

Who could blame the other mums at Max’s St Mary’s Primary School nursery class if they grind their teeth and wonder what they’ve done to deserve a supermum in their midst?

A model since she was talent spotted in London aged 19, Anna has shared catwalk space with Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, her modelling CV includes work for Louis Vuitton, Versace, Chanel and Valentino, her ethereal yet edgy looks have gazed out from the pages of Elle and Vogue. Not really who you want to meet as you dash to the nursery with baby sick down your Primark T-shirt, unwashed overgrown hair fighting for attention with the bags under your eyes and the jelly belly wobbling over ancient tracksuit bottoms.

Yet as Anna launches into a passionate explanation of her affection for Edinburgh and her determination to put her fashion expertise to use to raise the city’s profile on the international fashion stage, it’s difficult not to find yourself swept along with her infectious enthusiasm.

She’s already started by establishing Noir!, an art-meets-fashion-meets-style series of events run with her artist husband Jonathan. The ninth Noir! event was held last week, when 1300 people turned out for a tribute to the late Alexander McQueen.

The pair have also teamed up with graphic designer Jaco Justice to launch Zwart Creative Bureau, a production house, another string to the quadrilingual’s impressive bow.

The plan is to use their individual skills to nurture emerging talent without it leaving Scotland.

Take Sunday’s Edinburgh Mela Fashion Show, about to be transformed into what Anna declares will be “a more ‘haute couture’ style, with fantasy, elegance and professionalism”.

“There’s a lot happening in Scotland but there’s also a lot of what I call ‘shopping mall’ shows. We need to move up a level,” she explains. “Truth is, Edinburgh isn’t even on the fashion industry’s map.”

Yet even with an international modelling career she’s encountered the traditional Scottish trait of sceptical apathy. “A lot of people say ‘who are you to come here and telling us how to do things?’,” she says.

“I’m not on some huge ego trip. I have two children who are Scottish born and bred so I have an interest in what happens. And it’s good for everyone if there is a strong fashion industry.”

Supermodel, supermum and heroine of the Scottish fashion industry. Is Anna Freemantle too good to be true?

Don’t fear, mere mortal mothers. For her phone suddenly beeps, she answers and a fretful look crosses her face. It turns out she’s now running late and a mad dash is required to get to Max’s nursery on time. So perhaps she is just like the rest of us after all . . .

n Edinburgh Mela Festival Fashion Show is on Sunday at 1pm at the Big Top venue at Leith Links.