When Esther N McCarthy subjected herself to a sartorial analysis from Gok Wan ahead of his fashion roadshow, the celebrity stylist didn’t hold back...
What does one wear to interview a fashion stylist? I ponder this as I stand in front of my wardrobe about ten minutes before I have to leave for the train to Dublin to meet, not just any old fashion stylist, but also one of my very favourite TV personalities. The inimitable Gok Wan.
I adored his How To Look Good Naked show and I’m very much looking forward to hearing what he thinks I should do with my bangers.
I have three photographs of myself wearing different outfits for him to critique. Because I am a masochist and because I genuinely could do with a bit of help. I need a Fairy Gok Mother to show me the way.
I was always a bit puzzled by the premise of the Channel 4 show, though. I think I look magnificent in the nip, it’s the dressing up part that’s the problem. Your outfit conveys so much about you, it signals to the world who you are and how you feel, it’s the very essence of your personality via fabric and colour and accessories.
As I peer into my wardrobe, there’s so many different styles of crap, I panic there’s a very real chance I have an undiagnosed personality disorder.
In the end I wear a black pair of jeans with a bleach effect on them (the husband and kids fall around the place everytime I wear them. She PAID to have them look like that, they tell each other, slapping their knees and wiping their eyes. Note to self: Punish cruel family later).
But Gok will think they’re cool, right? Oh God, am I too old to be wearing bleachy jeans? I put a v-neck black top on, because rule number one of having ample bangers is wear a v-neck, this I’ve learned from Gok.
But he said that in 2006, does it still apply? I add a waterfall style faux leather jacket that I think makes me look skinny but I’m probably only fooling myself.
I pair this magnificent ensemble with a giant bright yellow scarf, because it’s cold today and yellow makes me happy. (Gok will probably burst into spontaneous applause when he cops it. I’m rock solid with the scarf choice.) I finish it off a pair of silver boots I love because I can walk comfortably in them and hello, they’re SILVER. Although... anytime I wear them to work I get Rocky Horror Picture Show references and one colleague literally pointed at my feet and laughed for a full minute. Maybe I should change into the polka dot dress and heels. Spots are trendy, right? Gah! No time, the taxi is here.
I meet Gok in Dublin’s Westbury Hotel. He’s here to promote the series of Irish fashion brunches he’s hosting with makeup queen Danielle Mahon. He’s been up since 4am doing radio, print and TV interviews all day long. Dressed in black pants and shoes and slouchy vertically striped sweater, with a cheeky patterned sock, he is bursting with energy. He’s warm, funny, he makes everyone feel at ease and it’s like meeting an old friend as we air kiss. I hand him flowers; yes, I’m a lickarse, what about it?
“Ooh, thank you so much darling,” he says before asking one of this team to bring him his handbag. “I’m just going to get my nasal spray.” He’s allergic to the flowers. Good start.
So Gok! I’m 40, I’m clearing out my wardrobe, here’s three pictures of me in clothes I wear. Help.
He perks up at the challenge, grabs my notepad and pen from me and says: “Right! Let’s do a consultation, I need a little background.” He fires off questions about my family, favourite song as a child, favourite holiday, subjects in school. He then appraises the pictures and analyses how I’m holding myself.
“First, the way you stand, you like your legs, it’s the part of your body you don’t mind showing off. Because of all the sport you played you don’t like your shoulders, you felt defeminised because of it, there’s a width up there.
“You tell all your stories through your legs, you’ve got the ripped jeans and the jacket hanging to mid length, there’s lots of covering up the upper body.
“Your personality is nomadic, you’ve travelled a lot, you’re gathering all this information, that’s where the prints come from, the heavy necklaces. You’ve got a bohemian look but also you feel like you have to grow up. You’ve had three children, you feel like you have to start looking your age but actually you’re not that person, if you could be anywhere in the world right now you’d be in the back of a safari jeep not in a twin set and pearls or in a v neck floral printed top, that you know, that’s massively generic. There’s nothing wrong with those tops, it’s just not you as a person so what you’ve done is you’re holding onto youth, your own personality, you’re trying to exist in the world you live in right now and I think it’s about reinvention for you. I would say your look is dated.”
He’s not holding back. I did ask him to be honest. But he’s not finished yet. Oh no.
“The yellow scarf is a big key message,” he says, pointing at my neck. Not the scarf, Gok, don’t diss the scarf!
But he’s on a roll now.
“It’s that pop, it’s that blinding somebody with that colour.”
At this point, I die a little inside.
“It’s like telling people ‘I’ve arrived, I’m here’. It’s the bleach wash on the jeans, it’s the silk sheen on your top. It’s screaming ‘I’ve still got this, I can do this, believe in me, trust in me’.
“You need to take the foot off the steam a little bit and actually don’t give yourself such a tough time about it trying to either be the person you were before or trying to be this creative, out-there, wacky, person who has to stand out. I would predict you’ll find something that makes you feel slightly more relaxed, more centred and allow the stationary part of your personality just to settle a little bit.
“You’re searching for the ultimate answer, how do I dress so I feel good about myself and show off all my personalities? The last one is the most important. Nomad, creative, on-trend, mother-of-three, you’ve got all these people to have to dress and when you try to dress them all at the same time to get this.”
He holds up one of the pictures of me. He’s so right.
“You need to work out a wardrobe that’s going to be all of those people separately. Bring it back, take the foot of the gas, you can have as many gears as you want on your fashion motorway, maybe just don’t try to do all the gears at the same time.”
He’s smiling at me kindly. “You’re falling in love with me, aren’t you? You want to marry me now, don’t you?”
“What’s your ring size,” I say, smiling too. “That’s a very personal question!”
Funny, insightful, knows his way around a metaphor, a little bit dirty and he’d sort out my wardrobe. Dammit, maybe I do want to marry him. I think I just got Goked.
“Irish women are very beauty conscious and are taking great care with their skin care and beauty routines. I think the biggest challenge we are all constantly facing though is time. Whether it’s career, family or a hectic mix of everything, our lives are spent juggling so so much and trying to find time to fit it all in. So, make up has got to be kept simple — impactful and always beautiful — but as simple as possible. I will be doing a demo at our Gok Wan & Danielle Mahon Fashion and Beauty Collective Events that will provide everyone with totally usable tips to improve their own skin care.”
Danielle Mahon’s beauty tips for over 40s:
“The key to beautiful skin and makeup is hydration. The only skincare brand that has never failed me is Shiseido. My ‘Top Tip’ product is their Beauty Sleeping Mask. In terms of makeup, less is more, enhance your skin rather than masking it.
“I love Shiseido’s Future Solution LX Total Radiance Foundation and their Sheer Eyezone Corrector is the perfect hydrating concealer.”
- Gok Wan and Danielle Mahon Fashion & Beauty Collective Shows take place on: March 4, Clayton Hotel, Sligo; April 21, Clontarf Castle, Dublin; Sunday April 22, Rochestown Park Hotel, Cork.
- See www.gokfashion.com