Retail guru Mary Portas has written to four female Cabinet ministers to apologise for calling them “ugly”.

Portas, who advises prime minister David Cameron on the retail industry, said she didn’t want to be “abusive” and “destructive” and admitted she did not know who the four female members of the Cabinet are.

She told the Daily Telegraph: “I’m sure they’re used to it. But I don’t want to hurt people. It would really pain me. I care about people and I certainly care about women… Abusive is not me, and I don’t want to be one of those women – who put [women] into those boxes. It’s just destructive, and I don’t do destructive.”

She added: “I know I’m working with the government, but I wouldn’t even know who the women in the Cabinet are.”

Speaking to Heat magazine last week, Portas said: “If I were PM I’d bloody restyle all those women. I mean, the female cabinet, what an ugly bunch. I would restyle them. Do you know, I could not look at them.

“I go in for meetings now and they do dress up for my meetings, but I just want to go, ‘Pleeease. No. Not that necklace. Not that skirt’.”

Baroness Warsi, writing in The Sun, said it was “ridiculous” to judge female politicians on their clothes and added: “You would never get the same kind of sniping about men in politics.”

Home secretary Theresa May, environment secretary Caroline Spelman and Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan have not commented, although Portas’ spokeswoman told the BBC she had sent letters to all four to “explain and apologise”.

The retail guru and presenter, who is in a civil partnership, has been voted one of Britain’s most influential LGBT people.