Back to basics with Gok Wan
6:40am Tuesday 2nd June 2009 in What's On
If you’re worrying about how to stay stylish despite living in these impecunious times, fear not, help is at hand. The knight in shining armour (but only if shining armour is ‘in’ this season) is Gok Wan, whose new series, Gok’s Fashion Fix, is returning to Channel 4 tonight to dispense advice on looking fabulous on a budget. So hand over your purse strings to Gok this season - it’s better than entrusting your money to bankers.
Here Benjie Goodhart talks to Gok.
We live in harsh times at the moment. Is there more of an emphasis on shopping on a budget in the new series?
It’s not so much shopping on a budget, it’s all about the ‘capsule wardrobe’ which, in layman’s terms, means the basics that anyone needs in their wardrobe. We’ve developed a new concept whereby every woman needs to have a minimum of 24 pieces in her wardrobe. Those 24 pieces must be interchangeable for different outfits. So instead of spending hundreds of pounds on sale items you’re never going to wear, or thousands of pounds on designer items you only wear once, or going and buying disposable clothing for a Saturday night and then throwing it out on a Sunday, we’re asking ‘how does the average woman have a successful dressing day every day with just her key pieces?’ That’s what we’re doing on the show.
What advice would you give to people who are shopping from clothes and want to save a bit of money?
I would say always make sure that any piece you’re buying can be interchanged a minimum of three times with any outfit - if it’s a top, it needs to go at least with a skirt, a pair of trousers and a pair of jeans. It’s just about being slightly more careful with what you buy.
It means it’s going to take slightly longer to shop, and I know for some women that’s a nightmare, but you are going to be saving money. The disposable clothing days are over. The last couple of years we’ve gone mad, it’s got a bit ridiculous, and now we need to be a bit more careful. Our choices need to be far more informed, and that’s what we’re going to do on Fashion Fix. We’ll not only fix you from a fashion point of view, but also give you those insider stylist secrets that allow you to be your own stylist.
What kind of secrets are you talking about?
The idea of successfully mixing textures, fabrics, colours, different genres of fashion, different kinds of look. The idea that you can get a day look and dress it up or dress it down with accessories. It’s pick-and-mix fashion.
Staying with the budget fashion theme, do you ever buy clothes from charity shops?
I do. In fact, the leather jacket I’m wearing today cost me £3.50. I got it in Edinburgh - thank you very much, Edinburgh - and it’s one of my favourite items of clothing. It’s one of the jackets I wear that people say “Oh my God, I love it, where’s it from?” “£3.50, baby!”
The show’s centrepiece will still be you helping out a different woman each week with her wardrobe, right?
Yes, every week we do a makeover on a woman, and we do everything from a wardrobe edit - taking out all the crap - and then teach them about their body shape and talk to them about cuts and styles that will suit them. From there I’ll give them little tasks and learning things, and then it culminates in providing her with a brand new 24-piece wardrobe and then showing her how to interchange it all. It’s a real journey of discovery.
So do you insist that they throw away most of their old stuff?
You’ll have to wait and see. Put it this way, it all goes to a good cause.
Why do you always feature women? What about a makeover for the men?
On the next series of How to Look Good Naked, we’re going to try and get some guys on there. Gok’s Fashion Fix is still in its very early stages, and fashion programmes are particularly aimed at a female audience because women watch the show. What we don’t want to do is run before we can walk. We’re still finding our feet with Fashion Fix. In two or three series’ time we might get guys on there. And, in fact, I styled Alan Carr for this series’ celebrity section, so there’s a little bit of men’s fashion in there, even if there’s no male makeover yet.
Does really good fashion ever go out of style?
No. That’s one of the things we’re trying to teach on the show. All the fashion that I do is classic fashion. Nautical is always going to be in, floral will always be in. It’s about buying clothes that are going to last for ever, if you know how to update them and change them around.
So you don’t need a new wardrobe every season?
Absolutely not. Get your capsule wardrobe and then just add to it every now and again. It’ll save you money in the long run.
Brix Smith-Start - who is she, and what is her role in the show?
Brix is a designer clothing buyer. She runs a boutique in London, and is very well respected internationally as a buyer, people from all around the world go to see the clothes that she buys. She was on the series last year - she was one of the buyers - and she did such an amazing job and is such a great character we decided to get her in to film a whole slot. So I go head-to-head with her every week. She will style up four outfits every week with a limitless budget using designer clothes, and I’ll style up four high street outfits, and our live audience will then vote to see which collection they like the best. Then we’ll reveal which collection is high street and which is high end. So she’s got an integral part in the show and she knows her fashion very well. She’s lots of fun, but there’s loads of rivalry!
As ever, you’ll be going through a celebrity’s wardrobe every week as well. Who have you got lined up to take part?
We’ve already done Janet Street Porter, who was loads of fun and really outrageous. Alan Carr, who is officially gayer than me, Lynda Bellingham, and then four big surprises at the end of the series.
Of all the celebrities you’ve featured in this series and the last, who’s had the worst outfit that you’ve had to get rid of?
The worst? Probably Lorraine Kelly. The tartan jacket from her first day on GMTV was hideous. It was a self-confessed hideous mistake, though, so she won’t be upset to read this.
Do you ever fall out with the celebs? Gok
You’re joking? I’m far too bossy, I don’t give them the opportunity to fall out with me. In fact, if anything, we all try and sleep with each other at the very end, it’s fabulous.
Who’s been the most stylish celeb you’ve had on the programme?
My favourite wardrobe so far was probably Kelly Osbourne, who I thought had the most amazing wardrobe. I like her style anyway. I really liked Dannii Minogue’s style as well - she had a cute little wardrobe. And Alan Carr was great to have on, because I love him. His clothes were hideous, but I love him.
Who, in the public eye, do you think dresses particularly well?
I think a lot of people get it right. It would be unfair to single somebody out. Most people get it right these days, increasingly few get it badly wrong.
Okay, then, who gets it badly wrong?
I couldn’t say. That’s not my style!
Is it quite a lot of work staying on top of the fashion trends? Do you have to scour the magazines every week?
Absolutely. Every month I get all the magazines. I still do mood boards, even after a decade of working in fashion. It’s like a muscle, you have to exercise it. I need to know what the designers are doing, I need to know the current trends, I need to know what celebs are doing, all that kind of stuff. I’ve got to be abreast of all of it. A stylist only works with what’s out there already, I don’t redesign stuff, so I have to be on top of it. And it’s knackering.
Yeah, but you love what you do, don’t you?
I love it, I absolutely love my job - it’s brilliant. I get to play dress-up every single day - the world is one big dressing up box.
What are your fashion tips for this summer?
This summer, keep it neat and keep it simple. Clean lines, I think it’s about freshness this season. Last season it all got a bit messy. I’m loving the global stuff this year, we’ve got loads of injections from all over the world, and it’s not just the obvious ones from Africa and Asia, we’ve got great patterns and textures coming in from Eastern Europe as well. I think it’s gorgeous.
Who are your own favourite designers?
On the high street, I love what Topshop’s producing at the moment. They’re in their element. And also I think Mango are giving them a bit of a run for their money. Their stuff’s great, it’s really, really clean and beautiful. And from the high end, I’ll always be a big Chanel lover, because they just go against the grain of fashion, and also I’m loving Azzedine Alaia this season, it’s beautiful.
By Benjie Goodhart