TV fashion’s man of the moment Gok Wan explains to Lauretta Roberts why he supports a master class for youngsters without a degree.
You’re backing the Alliance & Leicester’s Premier 21 Master Class programme to support young people who want to pursue a career in fashion but have no degree. What inspired you to do that?
It tells the story of how I got working; I left school at 15 and then went on and did a BTEC First and National Diploma in Performing Arts – I was set on being an actor. I won a place at university [at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London] but I left. I hated everything it stood for, because I’m not academic nor of the right disposition. I worked for a couple of years as a hair and make-up artist and found out about styling. What I loved about acting was that you could create different characters and personalities and fashion does the same thing.
What do you have planned for those taking the Master Class?
We’re going to do a whole styling project in one day, everything from the initial consultation and research, shopping and sourcing, styling up and presentation with a Q&A session. It will be a good day but their heads will spin.
What does it take to be a good stylist?
There are so many different aspects, it’s not just the creative part. You need good communication skills with your client and it’s about dealing with the press and dealing with advertising and looking at branding. There’s so much to it. You can’t go on a course to learn how to ring a PR and blag all their best brands to go in a Nescaf頡d.
What other projects do you have on the go?
I’m about to start filming a new series called Miss Naked Beauty for Channel 4 and How to Look Good Naked is still running – it’s in its fourth series. And then there’s Gok’s Fashion Fix, so I’m very busy. I am also a consultant for Dorothy Perkins and Specsavers.
Before your TV career took off you styled celebrities. Do you still take on any styling for private clients?
I do all the styling for my shows – some shows have stylists but I do everything myself, so I still get to style. I don’t have time for private clients any more.
You’re a big high street fan. Who’s doing a good job at the moment?
It depends on what genre you’re talking about. Zara does great tailoring and I love Topshop. Dorothy Perkins is a good buy, it’s very good for staples, and I’m a big Gap fan. I just love how unpretentious it is and it uses really good quality fabrics. I’m also a fan of Muji – I love its packaging.
Where do you buy your clothes?
I’m very lucky because I get most of my clothes for free. I’m thinking about the look I want for autumn – I change my look for the TV shows. I’m thinking chimney sweep, that really old Victorian style of dress, kind of peasant dandy.
Which trends are you backing for autumn?
This season is one of the strongest for a while. I love the goth look – that beautiful old Edwardian style of fashion. And heritage is one of the trends I think is brilliant, all those tweeds, plaids and cashmeres. I love tartan – it’s such a great fabric, and it’s good to see it done in a non-contemporary way. But I just hope all this tweed doesn’t make people want to go hunting.
Who is your fashion icon and why?
Daphne Guinness. She encapsulates all of the big couturiers and she’s so fashion forward. I just love Daphne.
The Honourable Daphne Suzannah Diana Joan Guinness is a socialite, style icon and an heiress of the Guinness family. She was born in 1967 to Jonathan Guinness, 3rd Baron of Moyne, and his second wife, Suzanne Lisney. With her slender frame, white-streaked hair and penchant for couture, Guinness cuts a striking figure on the international fashion scene. As well as styling and writing, Guinness can count film directing among her many skills and most recently made her directorial debut with a short film called Phenomenology of Body, which was premiered at the recent Paris Couture Week. Fittingly, the four-minute film examines the style choices of independent-minded women such as Marie Antoinette and Joan of Arc. In April this year Guinness auctioned off many pieces from her couture collection, including items by Versace, Chanel, Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent for charity Womankind.