Unlike most young people propelled to fame by reality television, Amber Atherton has an impressive CV that predates her appearance on our screens. In her case, it predates it by over a decade: Atherton first caught the entrepreneurial bug at the age of nine, selling CDs and books online. “I got my first cheque, for a No Doubt CD, a few days before my tenth birthday,” she recalls.
Now the entrepreneur and society damsel, who was described by the Daily Mail as “The it-girl who doesn’t rely on Daddy,” is hoping to make connections in the technology industry to help her critically lauded online jewellery retailer, MYFLASHTRASH, which she founded at boarding school. She’s been a model, a student and a regular on the London party circuit, but now she’s settling into life as a fully-fledged entrepreneur.
I caught up with Atherton earlier this month at the opening of the new Pace gallery in London, which has taken over the space left on Burlington Gardens by Haunch of Venison’s departure. She’s enthusiastic about the Rothko on display, “particularly the later work, with its shimmering layers of translucent oil paint”. I’m impressed by her art smarts: despite us getting papped on the way in, it’s clear Atherton is much more than an air-headed socialite careering from lunch to launch and living off her looks.
We have supper at 5 Hertford Street that evening, and she tells me she is spending a month in Los Angeles to follow up business leads and develop her network. “I’m really looking forward to actually getting some business done out there,” she says, perhaps optimistically.
Uniquely within what might be called the celebrity entrepreneur milieu, Atherton is as relaxed and authentic in these surroundings – Jude Law and Bella Freud are across the courtyard when we go out for a smoke – as she is at UKTI drinks parties, or the party at which I first met her, the launch of the Moshi Monsters album.
In fact, she’s uniquely positioned to bridge the two worlds, having inhabited both from early age. Crucially, she has credibility in an art scene that can be witheringly contemptuous of the underprivileged upstarts in the internet industry (while it looks on enviously at how much money is being made, of course). Realising that potential is a challenge Atherton is keenly alive to.
“I’d love to start throwing events to bring the two worlds together,” she tells me. “There are a lot of possibilities.”
And she’s a worthy role model for female entrepreneurs, too. A slogan on Atherton’s website reads: “Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss.” If she can stay true to that maxim, she may yet translate her fame into a powerful marketing vehicle for business. Indeed, the signs are that this already happening, putting Atherton in an elite club of former reality television and internet stars with the brains and determination to leverage their assets sustainably.
If all that was a bit gushing for your tastes, it might be worth meditating on how quickly and effectively this apparent force of nature is penetrating the European technology community, leaving entrepreneurs and investors alike charmed by her acumen and personality. She’s had the fame, and now it’s time for this Hong Kong-born girl with global ambitions to build the fortune of her own. At a time when the technology industry is getting carried away with its own profile, mistaking its champions for bona fide rock stars, a bit of genuine star power may help it stay grounded.
Watch out, London: you’re about to get a taste of MYFLASHTRASH’s remarkably un-flashy, un-trashy leading lady.
Amber Atherton is a member of The Kernel 50.