Up Close with William Gilchrist
Renowned international stylist William Gilchrist was recently a guest of the Up Close series hosted by The Upper House. Known to most as the man who dresses The Rolling Stones and Jude Law, William is the quintessential essence of British craftsmenship mixed with rockstar flare. His illustrious portfolio includes works with GQ, Moschino, Giorgio Armani and Oliver Spencer.
Prior to his acclaimed career as a stylist, Willian studied fashion design and created two fashion collections in London. He later moved to Milan to pursue his passion in styling.
Q&A with William
You are known as a celebrity stylist and editor but you actually used to be a fashion designer. Tell us your story.
I studied Art History in London. I had a great time but I did not know where I was heading. In London in the 80s, there was a lot of designing going on and me and my friends had a lot of fun making cloths just for going out on the weekend.
So when did styling come into the picture?
I started styling first in magazines. London had a real moment for the generation before me, where there were a lot of young fashion labels such as the BodyMap and Galliano. People were trying to do things. They weren’t chasing after shops but were making cloths just for going out on Thursday nights.
Styling today is quite different from when you started out. How has the experience changed for you?
Styling back then is not really for a photograph. It was more about a tailored experience. There weren’t these commercial requirements there are today. Nowadays you’ve got more limitations.
Nowadays you are also working with photographers, with models, with the hair and makeup. It is really good when a team works well. It is important when everybody is involved and paying an effort. There is a hierarchy in the sense that the photographer is the front convert of the image. But to get to that, it is everybody working together and it is a very communal and careful share of things.
You’ve worked closely with The Rolling Stone and Jude Law, what’s it like to work with a celebrity and how is it different from working for a magazine?
When Jude and I first did a shooting together, we got along really well. The problem is that he is always under the pressure of the media and the public. Because he made movies and was famous, he had to shoot a certain kind of look.
Is craftsmanship in danger of going extinct in today’s culture of fast fashion?
I think it’s makng a comeback. Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, these are brands that are doing very well in this. There are a lot of tailors and craftsmen who are very knowledgeable and are amazing at what they do: crafts, suits, suitcases.
Are you a fan of suiting up?
The first time I had my tailor made suit I was really thrilled. I kept thinking about it. Of course this is the case because of the amount of money you spent on it and the high quality of the suit. It’s not only about the price of the suit but more of the respect and effort that was put into it. Whenever I go to a theater in London I like to go in suits. A lot of people go in casual cloths but to me, growing up in London I had music and theater around me. And wearing suits is like showing respect to people who paid so much effort into putting together the show.
What is the most exciting thing for you now working in fashion?
The most exciting thing is the human contact which I think is coming back. It is interesting talking to English tailors about the gentlemen section or communicating with people who work in brand stores and so on.