Conran biographer hits back at critic - News - The Independent

Conran biographer hits back at critic

Marianne Macdonald reports on the latest round in the feud between two design gurus fuelled by 'monster' claim

The author of a controversial new biography of Sir Terence Conran yesterday defended his book against claims that he had portrayed the founder of the Habitat group and high-profile restaurateur as "a monster".

The allegations were made by Sir Roy Strong, former director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, in a review of Terence Conran: The Authorised Biography by Nicholas Ind, a 36-year-old design consultant.

In the latest salvo in a feud between the design gurus which dates back two decades, Sir Roy's review for the Sunday Times claimed that the book described Sir Terence, 63, as tactless, abrasive, bullying, misogynistic, ambitious and egotistical.

Sir Terence's treatment of his three wives and relationships with his children had rendered his family life "one long tragedy", Sir Roy wrote, saying he clearly had little interest in life beyond doing business. "Everything seems to have been deliberately sacrificed to that end, including those human values which set man apart from the beasts."

Yesterday, however, Mr Ind said Sir Roy had picked out all the negative points in his book and ignored all the positive. "The first paragraph in my biography pointed out that Terence Conran was a complex mixture of opposites. It said he was tactless and abrasive but charming and passionate, that he loved women but could also be misogynistic, and that he was ambitious but little interested in money.

"Roy Strong took that balance out and emphasised the negatives at the expense of the positive things. He could equally well have done the opposite and made the whole review sound totally sugary."

His view was supported by Tom Conran, Sir Terence's 31-year-old son who recently opened a pub-restaurant, The Cow, in Notting Hill Gate, west London. "Roy Strong's review was a bit vindictive. I thought it was taking every negative part in the book and putting it all together with a little bit of spice," he said.

Sir Terence's other children, Sophie, Sebastian and Jasper, have also defended their father.

The feud between Strong and Conran - the former representing the classical values of design and the latter the appeal of the new - dates from 1976, when Sir Roy analysed the Habitat catalogue for that year.

In his article for Design Magazine, he observed that the model on the catalogue's cover looked like a "1940s tart" and that the range of furniture pictured inside was fit only for a "Hendon semi".

Sir Terence wrote back that while he was flattered Strong thought his catalogue worthy of a sociological dissertation, "we are simply trying to satisfy the desire of many of our customers for comfortable furniture".

The two clashed again when Sir Terence decided to found a design museum called The Boilerhouse, which was set up in 1981 at the V&A (now reinvented as the Design Museum in Sir Terence's development at Butlers Wharf, south of Tower Bridge).

Sir Roy appears to have disliked Sir Terence's views on design, while Sir Terence in his turn thought him old fashioned - and suggested at one point that Strong should be stuffed and exhibited in a case at the V&A museum.

Mr Ind himself came close to alienating Sir Terence with the biography, although it was written with the subject's approval throughout. It charts not only Conran's career but his three failed marriages - his second wife was Shirley Conran, author of Superwoman and Lace - and his patchy relationships with his children.

Conran was particularly hurt by the comments in the work by his sister Priscilla, who said that Sir Terence and Shirley's treatment of their children was "appalling", and a rueful disclaimer by him in the front of the book admits: "I now realise that to allow your biography to be written while you are still alive is very foolish and egotistical."

SIR TERENCE CONRAN

Aged 63, he became Britain's modern design guru after launching Habitat in 1964, which sold stylish and unfussy furniture at affordable prices. He bought the Mothercare chain in 1981 but was forced out of what became his Storehouse conglomerate five years ago, when he refused to become an impotent figurehead after bringing in Michael Julian as chief executive. Since then he has opened the upmarket London restaurants Pont de la Tour and Quaglino's and remains chairman of The Conran Stores. Yesterday he was on holiday in France and unavailable for comment.

SIR ROY STRONG

Aged 59, he has worked as a writer, historian and organiser of exhibitions in addition to his museum career. He was applauded for his work at the V&A during his 13-year directorship, which ended in 1987, and he was always a distinctive figure because of his stylish dress and opinionated views. He has recently devoted more time to journalism, and three years ago wrote and presented a television series on royal gardens. Sir Roy could not be contacted for comment yesterday, but is reported as saying in yesterday's Sunday Times that he did not wish to explain his review.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week