With 11 years under her belt at GQ Magazine, working her way up from unpaid intern to Fashion Editor, Grace Gilfeather is striking out. It’s only been three months since she became an independent stylist, but you can tell she’s enjoying herself, picking razor sharp wardrobes for music videos and ad campaigns alongside the more traditional magazine spreads. She’s also returned as curator of St James’s recent hit London Fashion Week Men’s catwalk event, which showcases the best of an area for which she clearly has a lot of love.
“There used to be this huge gap between men’s high street fashion and the prices and services of Savile Row, but nothing much in between,” she tells us. “Now, what Jermyn Street is doing really well is including a few of the more accessible brands – like Jigsaw, Sunspel and Aquascutum – alongside the longstanding pioneers, so you get a bigger variety while still preserving that traditional aesthetic the area is renowned for. It’s all well-made British style, but it doesn’t have to costs thousands to buy a decent mac.”
Having a catwalk running along the centre of St James’s most famous shopping street for a day sums up the spirit of this exciting new era, and Grace is careful to make the most of her role picking which items to feature on this unique, high profile platform.
“I adore the traditions of shopkeepers like New & Lingwood or Turnbull & Asser, who have had a home here for hundreds of years, but I always try and show the more contemporary items from them,” she says of her runway selections. “I’m keen to keep a modern, fresh spin on things, to remind people that Jermyn Street is very much the place to go at the moment, as well as obviously having this incredible long history.”
So, for the gentleman looking to pick up a few style tips to inform his next sartorial investment, what does Grace advise?
“Looks are certainly a lot more relaxed right now,” she says. “Less braces and ties, and you don’t need a pocket watch and a hanky to look the business. It’s possible to strip it down and make everything that much more comfortable and contemporary. You can still look incredibly smart in a pair of tailored trousers and a simple t-shirt. It’s just where you source the items and how you put it all together.”
As formality gives way to this casual-but-elegant aesthetic, it’s also tempting wider experimentation too, a
trend that is unchaining men from the rigid (and bland) classic colour code of navies, beiges and greys. The shopkeepers of Jermyn Street confirm that customers are buying far more adventurous shades today, from block colour chinos or blazers to more bold use of patterning, all of which were reflected on Grace’s catwalk. “Before, your everyday chap would brace themselves for a brightly coloured pocket square, sock or tie, most likely just for a wedding,” she smiles, “but now it’s totally accepted to wear, say, a powder blue unlined blazer with jeans and white leather trainers – you don’t have to be a loud and flamboyant personality to pull it off.”
For someone who has forged her career in menswear, readily acknowledging that it has been a long and often tedious challenge to be taken seriously as a female in the industry, she’s delighted to be able to shake things up. “Listen,” she says, leaning over almost conspiratorially “navy suits are still brilliant for certain occasions, but more and more men are realising they can invest in some key pieces and still look really smart wearing a simple cashmere jumper or cotton crewneck. They are having a bit of fun trying it out. I’m not the kind of stylist who wants to change anyone though,” she states. “I’m here to make them feel comfortable, whether they are a Hollywood actor, in a band, or an everyday guy.”
With Grace’s smart looks in the heart of St James’s again, we’d say her advice is spot on, especially when it comes to having a bit of fun playing with your style.
Elegance in the Open Air
A bright and sunny Saturday in June proved the ideal background for what has become one of the most exciting – and accessible – events in the fashion calendar. For one day a year, St James’s iconic home of menswear, Jermyn Street, is transformed into a catwalk. And, far from the usual ultra-exclusive guestlist, the public are very much invited along to rub shoulders with the VIPs.
A shared appreciation of style is all that was required, and the egalitarian spirit was very much extended onto the runway itself, as the street’s heritage labels like the quintessentially British tailors New & Lingwood stood alongside contemporary newcomers, including bespoke eyewear brand Cubitts in a dynamic show, curated by stylist Grace Gilfeather.
As the only official event in London Fashion Week Men’s that is open to the public, and a see-now- buy-now format in over 25 of the area’s finest outfitters, the show is a perfect showcase for St James’s, and highlights why, even after hundreds of years, Jermyn Street remains at the forefront of men’s style.
Whether you just happened to be passing by, or had front row access to the catwalk, it was easy to get a good vantage to see a selection of the area’s modern, refined and exciting clothing under the bright lights.
We spotted all manner of fashion royalty, each sporting their own striking summer looks for the many photographers, of course, from popular model David Gandy to GQ’s Jim Chapman and Chinese superstar Hu Bing.
And with St James’s many other businesses out on the street too, such as perfumers Floris, grooming experts Truefitt & Hill (see image top right) and Fortnum & Mason alongside assorted food trucks, there was a real buzz in St James’s throughout the day. Put it in your diary for June 2019.