Interview with GQ’s fashion editor
5 Jun by Joe Miller
So last week I caught up with Grace Gilfeather, Fashion Editor of British GQ, and quizzed her on her rise to success as an editorial stylist. After working with Grace at GQ I knew that I was in for an open, honest and witty interview with great advice for all us emerging editorial stylists.
So Grace have you always wanted to work in fashion? *voice recorder thrust into the direction of her mouth with enthusiasm*
Umm…you can just put it there (laughs and points at her desk). Yes I suppose I have in some capacity. I always wanted to work in magazines actually, but in a fashion capacity. I just loved all of the teen magazines like Big and Sugar and Bliss and I used to always wonder how they were compiled and where people got there ideas and inspiration from. So I was intrigued, I suppose by the whole thought process and how things were photographed and how things were laid out on the page. So yeah, I always wanted to work for a magazine and then fashion just came innately because, well, I suppose I’m a girl.
How did you get into the fashion industry?
I applied for work experience for magazines, post working at a model agency. I left school and I didn’t know what I wanted to study, I didn’t want to waste any money on doing a mediocre course in anything. So having worked in a model agency it exposed me to life on magazines and shoot production and the more commercial side, how models and photographers were booked etc. So whilst I was at the model agency, as a junior booker, I applied for work experience really and GQ got back to me first and I was very, very lucky and started there for a month.
It was back in the day where you could do internships for a longer period of time because there were less tax issues with paying people etc. So I basically worked for free for a long long time, a very long time. I loved it, I just kept my head down and rolled my sleeves up and just got on with it. I was quite quiet as it’s really intimidating coming into an office especially with some powerful, loud women like my creative fashion director who has been there for years and indeed an office full of men. I worked really hard, I did what I was told, I used my initiative, I tried to make myself as invaluable as possible and as reliable as possible because as an intern that’s what you want. You want to be able to have people offer you responsibility because they know you aren’t going to ask them any questions back or silly questions anyway and just get on with it.
So I basically took a hands on approach and just did absolutely everything that they told me and more, as I said you know just, cleaning the office, making tea, everything that was expected of an intern, all the basics and all the things that seem terribly mundane and boring are actually incredibly important in the bigger picture, definitely.
How long have you been working in the industry and at GQ specifically?
I got my first job straight after I left school, as I said, I worked at a model agency when I was 19. Then I worked there for 3 years and then I worked at a PR agency for a year which again was good because it exposed me to life on the other side. But I still really wanted to work at magazines, post the model agency and the PR agency and that’s why I applied for work experience at GQ. I started quite late I suppose, I was an intern here on my 24th birthday. Then I worked free for a year, I was a fashion assistant when I was 26, junior fashion editor when I was 27 and then I got promoted to fashion production editor two and a half years ago. So I’ve been in the industry for ten years and I’ve been at GQ six years.
What do you love about working here?
I love the opportunity to work with world renowned photographers, to work with amazing models, celebrities, hair and make-up artists. You get to see some amazing places in the world that you would never normally have the privilege to go to. I love working with new photographers from the production side of things and then of course doing as much styling as possible. Those two components are hand in hand in so many respects, fashion and production, hence my title, I just do a bit of both. Then obviously look after the creative fashion director and then other shoots in the magazine. But yeah, that’s what is cool about it.
How important is the right stylist to GQ and why?
Paramount. Because you have to understand the brief and the art direction, you have to know your photographer and how he shoots. There are lots of box’s to tick as far as knowing your celebrity, knowing your location, knowing your photographer and the way the he works, how he lights, what’s important, what is the message you are trying to get across? Time has a lot to do with it as well, how much time do you have to prepare? If it’s tailoring you need a lot of time to prepare, especially if it’s not a model, especially if it’s an outside guy, you know the clothes have to fit. You have to work with the right spot, the right set, so you need somebody that is incredibly in tune to that and knows their photographers and knows essentially what looks good. It sounds like it’s quite an easy task but actually when you are doing it and you are doing it alone, you need to come back with good pictures. You need to tick off the right brands, you need to team the looks well together, essentially how a guy would normally wear it or perhaps introduce a new way of wearing a certain item. You have to be very on the ball and you have to be a great communicator as a stylist. People have to like you and you have to be in charge, take hold of the reigns and come up with new ideas, be innovative, be extremely focused and organised.
What is the best piece of advice you could give to stylist starting out in industry?
Know who you are working with, make yourself really, really reliable, be incredibly organised, don’t be sloppy. For me personally when we have interns here, it’s very important to have someone who is organised, punctual, you aren’t going to start styling your own shoots anytime soon but what you can do if you are good enough, is come on the shoots as you have made yourself invaluable in the preparation. You have to be willing and able and you have to know your stuff as well. You need to know who looks after who and if you don’t know just look it up and find out because often the stylist is working on ten different projects at the same time. If you are asked to assist on one particular project, just work it out yourself and do it as accurately and as quickly and concisely as possible. Then you will get opportunities. You know one stylist might not be able to do something one day and if you are that good as an assistant you will be asked to do it and then that’s your golden ticket, that’s your opportunity to then take that client and run with it.
And what are the qualities you think you need to succeed as a stylist? Name three…
A great vision, know your photographer and preparation. Preparation is key to anything.
Who are your favourite established designers for menswear?
I currently love the guy behind Hardy Amies. I think he has turned around a magnificent heritage tailor and made really beautiful, concise, straight forward ready to wear and outerwear. Jumpers, he’s made off the peg suits and his ready to wear collection is brilliant. Dare I say I love Tom Ford, I know everybody does, he’s a master of menswear in so many means. I love Salvatore Ferragamo, they do consistently beautiful tailoring, they are masters as far as thats concerned, Italian tailoring.
And who is impressing you who is up and coming?
Lou Dalton I love. I love her collections, they are always very considered and quite simple and quite straight forward. I know there are lots of young designers who do things so objectively and fabulously but for me personally I like straight forward beautiful menswear that men will buy. Not just me personally but as far as GQ is concerned we support her hugely, she’s consistently brilliant and we always look forward to her shows.
Top five wardrobe essentials?
A good suit, a versatile suit, I think everyone needs a good suit. If you are quite creative and you are quite trendy then you still need a navy or a checked suit to wear to important occasions, to smarten yourself up. A good pair of leather shoes to wear with said suit. A good over coat, a beautiful crew neck jumper and a good selection of t-shirts, dare I say. Just really classic white, powder blue, grey, those classic basics that you can use as layering devises that you wear in the summer essentially.
Favourite place to chill out after a long hard day at the office?
Home. Like actually, yes (laughs)
And wear is your favourite place to dine out, especially for all those work meetings?
Scotts, I love because it’s such a treat to go there. Bit of a clisque but it’s such a wonderful, old school atmosphere and straight forward lovely food, always, it’s faultless. It’s always a treat to be taken there.
You have a many work events to go to do you prefer bubbles or cocktails?
Cocktails, bubbles make me have horrendous hangovers!
So there you have it! Many thanks to Grace & GQ for taking the time for interview. I hope you found it helpful and it inspired you to push for the top spot in industry! I will be back soon with my tales from Hunger Magazine and assisting Way Perry for the cover of Wonderland.
Keep you eyes peeled you lovely lot.