FALLING FOR FASHION: GRACE WOODWARD

Stylist to the stars, creative consultant and model maker. Grace Woodward is one of Britain’s biggest fashion insiders and if you don’t already know about her, you should!  From styling the glitterati for the Sunday Times Style magazine to perfecting the looks for PPQ before they hit the runaway, Grace really has got her very fashionable fingers in most pies. She won Stylist of the Year at the 2009 Clothes Show and British Fashion Council and even turned her hand to the X Factor when she became Fashion Director in 2010. That’s right, Grace is about as busy as any fashion champion can be.

We asked the creative director about her favourite people to dress, working in TV and what makes her happy.

When did you first fall in love with fashion and realise it was for you?

It was an image I saw in the Sunday Times when I was a teenager – a Brintons carpet campaign that Vivienne Westwood had brilliantly collaborated on. It stoked my integral love of fantasy, art, images, history all into the thing I really was fascinated with. It didn’t define that I wanted to work in the fashion industry but it felt like the thing that had come closest to the inside of my head. It definitely influenced my choice to work at Agent Provocateur as my first job.

Who has been your favourite person to dress?

Oh wow, there are so many… and for so many different reasons. Like I enjoyed shooting Karen Elson –  amazing models of that level come in looking so freaky then transform into these mega women/machine who never shoot a bad frame. I really admire women who use their mind to dress rather than just their body or sexuality. Some of my images I love the most are of Fever Ray – Karin  Dreijer Andersson –  I work a lot with the idea that clothing is a mask and through the mask you reveal your true self. She is the antithesis of the usual woman in music which is ‘do I look sexy and cool’, there’s real art, cultural and historical references here. Oh, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers for obvious reasons!

Most people will know you for your role on Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model – what’s it like being part of such a popular show? And is it as fun as it looks?

All good TV/entertainment shows look super fun and bubbly, and easy breezy and, belie the huge amount of hard work behind the scenes, that actually goes into them! It was an amazing thing to do, especially as I’d wanted to be a presenter right back at college but wasn’t as confident back then. It’s hard though when you are criticizing young girls not to have a conscience about it, brushing it under the carpet as it’s just meant to be fun TV. That level of constant critique about perfection slips in to your own psyche too, I felt really self-critical and analytical, however, on the flip side of it, I wouldn’t change having done it as I learned so much from it.
Florence from Florence and the Machine as styled by Grace Woodward.

How would you describe your own style?

Shambolic chic. I’m rebellious and so I find being told what to wear and when to wear it difficult.  I don’t dress on trend or to fit in, I want to look like me which is a risky business when people have such high expectations and judgments on what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ these days. I wear my heart (or how I’m feeling) on my sleeve and so it doesn’t always look like ‘fashion‘ and  I find my antennae is a little bit too far ahead sometimes, I’ll wear stuff too early to look mass market. I think dressing is a really creative thing like painting, layering texture and colour instinctively.

What item of clothing couldn’t you live without?

Right now as I’m 6 months pregnant my maternity jeans and my zipped black very stretchy Alaia dress.  If I was stranded on a desert island the thing I’d grab from the sinking ship would be my Lara Bohinc cashmere scarf  – it’s more like the size of a flag – it’s good for winter as a scarf and summer as a beach wrap.

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

I had quite a traumatic teenage time with lots of drama and unsettling things around me.  I think I’d just say have faith that one day you will be in charge and things can be different.

For any budding stylists out there what advice would you give?

Get a team around you. A photographer and hair and make-up team. Build your aesthetic that way at first, then work with people with different vibes to build your skills and widen your experience. Be prepared to be creative in everything including paying bills.

What makes you happiest?

Cocktails and a good read but not necessarily together. Anything to do with my car with my husband and cat involved somehow.  I find a hard days work really fulfilling  – my self esteem is very linked to what I output.

What’s next for Grace?

A BABY! And buying a 300 year old house in the country (fingers crossed) where I also have sights on a crazy venue to do a food and drink project which has always been another passion in my life.  I’m also writing a fictional fashion book. Not quite sure in what order this will happen though. I’m spinning plates!