Jet-setting to New York to film Calvin Klein commercials, 20-something Billy White had the world at his feet – but a rock ’n’ roll lifestyle brought him to his knees.
Drinking to oblivion and losing days to drugs, Billy resorted to shop-lifting from TK Maxx and M&S as his life spiralled out of control.
But now, as a 46-year-old recovering alcoholic, he has his own online shop – and his striking handbags are selling for hundreds of pounds.
“I crucified myself,” said Billy, who lives in Hemel Hempstead. “I systematically destroyed everything around me. Enough is never enough and my attitude got worse and worse. My life was utterly unmanageable.”
A talented tailor, Billy was spotted at Glastonbury in 1995 and became the face of Calvin Klein’s new fragrance.
But he blew his earnings on drink, drugs and a £7,000 Harley-Davidson – which he only used to rest his ash tray on.
He went through spells of sleeping rough, his weight plummeted to just eight stone, and he lost his job as a school cleaner because he raided the staff room for a bottle of wine.
Billy became addicted to buying jeans and built up a collection of 500. His drinking pushed family and friends – including his wife – away from him.
But his talent shone through and with some help from homelessness charity Emmaus, Billy began making bags and sold them from a market stall in St Albans.
“We (alcoholics) still have some good ideas – lucid, sensible thoughts. It’s our execution of them which is absolutely nuts.
“I was frightened people wouldn’t like them but there was soon a conga-line of women saying: ‘Where are these bags?
“It’s been absolutely brilliant.”
Visit www.billywhitede signs.com