Tamara Mellon, the socialite who founded upmarket shoe designer Jimmy Choo, has been recruited by David Cameron to bang the drum for British companies around the world.
As he arrived in China on a mission to double Britain's trade with the world's fastest-growing major economy, the Prime Minister announced that Ms Mellon had been appointed a government "business ambassador". She will be joined by Anya Hindmarch, the handbag designer whose creations are a sought-after fashion accessory among celebrities. The new Chinese middle classes are considered a prime target for high-end British designers.
Ms Mellon, a former staple of the gossip columns, who left school without any qualifications, has enjoyed stunning success with her luxury shoes, which cost between £300 and £2,000 a pair. Mr Cameron remarked that such creations are in increasing demand in nations such as China, whose economy is growing by 10 per cent a year.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he said: "As China rebalances its economy and its growing middle class demand new and ever more high value goods, brands and services, so UK companies have much to offer."
The Prime Minister set a target of doubling the value of trade with China to more than $100bn (£62bn) a year by 2015 – and raising British exports to China to $30bn. He insists he will not sidestep the human rights controversies that threaten to overshadow the Sino-British summits.
"Our relationship should be strong enough to address not only those issues on which we agree, but those on which we take a different view. We should do so with respect and mutual understanding; acknowledging our different histories," he wrote.
He confirmed that the situation in Iran, where Chinese companies have been accused of dodging nuclear sanctions, as well as Beijing's support for controversial regimes in Africa, will be on the agenda. He is also preparing to raise the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo, the human rights activist and Nobel peace laureate regarded by the Chinese authorities as a criminal.
Ms Mellon and Ms Hindmarch are among 32 names recruited from various arenas to lead an export drive on behalf of Britain. They include Nick Fry, the head of the Mercedes Formula One team; Alan Parker, the chairman of the public relations company Brunswick; and David Reid, the chairman of Tesco.
Confident, rich and overtly glamorous, Tamara Mellon is the consummate alpha female. She worked at Vogue in the early Nineties before co-founding the Jimmy Choo label with the shoemaker of the same name. The brand now has 113 stores and recent estimates put its value at £500m. In 2008 she sued her mother to recover £5m in Jimmy Choo assets.
The handbag designer's Tory credentials are impeccable. The mother of five children and founder of the Anya Hindmarch business once said: 'I started my business when I was 18, and I realised the difference it made having Thatcher in power... there was a feeling of, Get out there, get going, be an entrepreneur.' Her former press officer, Isabel Spearman, helps to style Samantha Cameron.Reuse content