When we meet menswear stylist, Grace Gilfeather, at Marylebone members’ club, Home House, she is dressed in chic black and navy. This seasoned style curator couldn’t look more at home on a shoot (even if she is usually behind the lens and not in front of it). But she hasn’t always been this refined. “When I was a child, I was a real country tomboy,” she says. “I liked nothing better than dressing up as a cowboy (I was obsessed) before spending the day styling my brother’s action men”. After developing an interest in photography in her teens, Grace secured internships at Esquire and Vogue before landing a position on the GQ fashion team. She honed her skills at the men’s magazine for 11 years before leaving to take on the role of Fashion Editor at The Rake, which she now juggles with her own freelance work.
“If you can travel to and from Malaysia, the Caribbean, South Africa, Kenya, and the US on your own with twelve suitcases and not moan about it, you’ll be a good fashion assistant,” she explains of the realities of working your way up.
Tell us about your most memorable shoots?
“Styling Prince Harry for a shoot with David Bailey was amazing, although nerve-wracking – it was my first cover shoot. We photographed the Prince in his barracks in Kent, so getting everything through security was difficult. But Harry was lovely and polite; we’re about the same age, so there was plenty to chat about.
“I’ve been privileged to meet many of the great and the good. From my experience of working with the more ‘heavyweight’ talent, the older, more established, gentlemen are far more polite than the younger celebrities. Tony Bennett made us coffee in his New York apartment; Idris Elba made us lunch in LA; I rode on the back of Keanu Reeves’ motorbike during a shoot once; I sat on Robert De Niro’s glasses, but thankfully he laughed; even Tony Blair managed a laugh when we styled him. I’ve had many a ‘pinch me’ moment over the last decade, that’s for sure.”
What’s it like being a woman in a man’s (style) world?
“I won’t lie, it’s not always easy. I’ve been the second choice for a long time behind male stylists; some editors and clients naturally choose a man over a woman. My advantage is that I can be more objective than the men. I don’t wear suits or shirts or brogues, so I’m not inflicting my own style on to anyone. I adapt the way I select clothes for each man and each project.”
Who are your style idols?
“Jeremy Irons, Johnny Depp and Kirk Hammett. I love the bohemian look on men: necklaces, chunky loud boots, granddad shirts with the sleeves rolled up, an old fedora. And, of course, anything that has a story behind it, too.”
What’s the best piece of style advice you have been given?
“My old Fashion Director, Jo Levin, always told me to put comfort before anything. If you’re comfortable and your clothes fit you well, you will exude a natural confidence and style. Anyone can look good in a pair of jeans and a grey t-shirt if they fit perfectly.”
What are the most important things in any wardrobe?
“Clean white t-shirts; good quality jeans; clean white leather trainers; English leather Oxfords; a good suit; clean white shirts; and a wool overcoat for winter. I say clean a lot because I go through a lot of men’s wardrobes and I’m flabbergasted. Even major Hollywood actors and musicians still have murky white shirts that need to be bleached or thrown out.”
How would you describe your own style?
“Comfortable – I like dungarees, boots, massive cashmere jumpers, classic colours and good fabrics.”
How is styling changing – are ‘menswear’ and ‘womenswear’ labels becoming Redundant?
“I think a lot of major brands and designers are combining their collections, yes. Where you used to get separate international men’s and women’s fashion weeks, you now get a mixture of both throughout the year. I think we are in a transitional phase at the moment, where big houses and brands are figuring out what works and what doesn’t.”
What will Britain’s most stylish men and women be wearing this Christmas party Season?
“It’s always the time to show off a little colour – both men and women should also add in some texture, a bit of sparkle or velvet maybe. Steer clear of flammable items, though!”
What are your go-to Ettinger pieces?
“The attaché cases are so elegant: real timeless designs that a man will have forever.””
Give us some tips on styling one or two Ettinger pieces.
Make a collection of the travel wallets and document cases in fun colours and divide your belongings accordingly. Being stylish and organized is pretty cool.”