Alison Clarke: “It is more about the person inside the clothes”

Businesswoman Alison Clarke
Businesswoman Alison Clarke

Owner and director of ACA, Alison Clarke, talks to Kathryn McKenna about her approach to fashion and beauty

Savvy businesswoman Alison Clarke has directed her own model agency, ACA, for over 25 years and has been running the Miss Northern Ireland competition since 1986, after winning it in 1982.

Princess Diana

Princess Diana

Wife to Dungannon-born Darren Clarke, a champion golfer, since 2012, Alison, who grew up in rural Co Tyrone where her family were well-known dairy farmers, now lives in Portrush.

How would you describe your personal style?

Middle of the road, classic and pretty ordinary really. Over the years I have come to know what suits me in terms of certain styles and colours. I do not follow trends I follow what suits me. In summer I am always wearing white, pale pink and nude colours and in the winter black makes up about 95 per cent of my wardrobe.

How often do you tend to go shopping?

Alison Clarke is pictured in a stunning black dress from Couples in Coleraine

Alison Clarke is pictured in a stunning black dress from Couples in Coleraine

I don’t really tend to go out shopping, there are certain shops that I like and I would go there every season or once in a while just to update my wardrobe. I work with a lot of shops in the fashion industry so I come across things during work as well I will buy it certainly when I have an occasion for it as then I will have it ready.

Where do you shop?

We have been working a lot recently with Rosie’s Closet outside Newry as they sponsored our Miss Northern Ireland. I went there recently to meet with them and ended up buying four gorgeous dresses because I knew I would have an occasion for them all.

I also shop a lot in Couples in Coleraine. They have been open for well over 30 years because when I won Miss NI heat back in 1982 I remember they gave me a prize! I have known Therese, who owns the shop, since then and now living in Portstewart it is great as it is so handy to me.

How long would you typically spend getting ready?

I get ready very quickly no matter what time of the day it is. I think it is all part of my job in the fashion industry, as getting people prepared for fashion shows, getting them ready for photo shoots, everything has to be fast. So I could be ready and turned around in 15 minutes. If I really wanted to take my time, it would be an hour at the very most - and that includes hair washed, dried, makeup and everything.

The longest thing is drying my hair but I do go to Michele International in Belfast who have been doing my hair for the past 30 years so if I have the time I go there for a curly blow-dry which saves me time.

What is your makeup routine?

I use an Embryolisse BB Cream and follow that up with eyebrow tint, eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick. I often visit the Make Up Pro Store by Paddy McGurgan.

How often do you buy new makeup?

I probably have enough to do me for the next 500 years! But you know what it’s like, you always like to buy a new lipstick when you see a nice colour. I always wear the 4D Make Up Pro mascara.

Do you ever leave the house completely makeup free?

Oh yes! I use a basic cleanser, Boots Cucumber Cleansing Milk and toner two nights a week when removing my makeup. I don’t really use moisturiser as my skin is oily but skincare is important. When I am in the sun I would apply sun factor 25 to my face.

How would you describe your approach to fashion and beauty?

I have a relaxed approach to fashion, I don’t follow trends. If a new style comes out I most likely remember the first time it came around and if it didn’t work for me then it certainly isn’t going to work now.

What makeup item can you ‘not live without?’

My Paddy McGurgan 4D Mascara.

Do you have a style icon?

I was the era of Princess Diana and I was around the same age in the 80s. I thought she was always very appropriately dressed for every occasion. Then the likes of Grace Kelly, I like really classic, simple lines.

What is one piece of advice you swear by?

Wear what suits you and what looks good on you, not what you think you should wear. If you go classic, simple, it is better than trying to be too loud or too gaudi. It is more about the person inside the clothes than what you are wearing.