Gaelle Paul

Gaelle Paul

by Rakhee Bhatt

If you know of a little artist by the name of Adele, then chances are you have seen her dazzling crowds around the world in confections selected by Gaelle Paul. The stylist has long been the go-to sartorial selector for the musical luminary, most notably dressing the singer in a midnight blue velvet gown by Burberry for the 2012 Grammys, where she nabbed an astonishing six awards. The following year, the two teamed up again with Burberry, the first major fashion house to dress Adele, to create a custom beaded crystal dress for the songstress to wear as she performed her Oscar-winning single “Skyfall” at the Academy Awards.

Paul, who was raised in London and is based in Los Angeles, has been an influential proponent of dressing celebrities who fall out of the standard sample size range, working with a bevy of designers throughout her decade-plus career to pull styles in plus sizes or to create custom looks. Most recently, Paul worked with Christian Siriano to construct an eco-friendly red gown for actress Danielle Macdonald to wear to the 2019 Oscar ceremony. Aside from her handiwork on red carpets and performance stages, the stylist has also dressed celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Selma Blair and Lea Michele for editorial shoots, all the while using her expertly attuned eyes and ears to guide her fashion sense as she chooses ensembles aimed at bringing out the best in her clients.

Gaelle’s Styling tips

1) Try different things, often we think we can’t do a certain shape or veer too far from a color, and these thoughts we told ourselves years ago sometimes decades ago without ever challenging them. For example, you think you can only wear scoop neck tops, this is a belief system that could have been ingrained in you a long time ago! It came from a comment someone said to you, or something that you told yourself you couldn’t do. I like, to dispel what you think you know about your style and dressing yourself, and try something new. So many times clients have come to me with ‘I had no idea this type of style, this color, this cut would suit me so well’ that’s when I know I have done my job well.

2) Show some skin or show your figure off, or be true to yourself also. Style has to be comfortable.

Here, Paul chats with us about her most beloved style looks on Adele, how she bridges the disparities encountered in plus-size fashion and why her greatest styling tip includes leaving preconceived notions at the front door.

Q & A With Gaelle

How did you get started as a stylist?

17 years ago I had an office job that I was struggling to be in, so I figured I had to go after my dream of working for a fashion magazine. I interned at a magazine and quickly went up the ranks to fashion editor. I left the publishing world to freelance, and have been a celebrity stylist for 10 years now.

What would you say is your POV/signature look in your work?

Elegant, chic, but with a fashion edge. I always listen to my clients, we collaborate. My job is to make them better versions of themselves and to bring the fashion world to them. I introduce them to new styles, colors and designers and sometimes give them a complete makeover.

What has been one of the crowning achievements in your career?

To be Adele’s stylist and work with her on her promo, red carpet and music performances looks. I think the 2011 Grammys were really special to me. The black Armani gown was a special moment, as was the red Valentino in 2012.

What if any challenges have you come across in dressing non-sample sized celebrities?

The first thing that comes to mind is availability. For a size 2-4 celebrity I can swoop around showrooms and have rails of clothes to choose from in 24 hours. For everyone else it’s more difficult. Samples don’t exist in larger than size 4, so as a stylist where do I go? Sometimes I am allowed to borrow from a store. If my client is bigger than a size US 12 then (until recently) it is even more difficult. There are so few brick and mortar stores for plus size clothing. They all have to be shipped from online retailers and this takes more time, so that can be a challenge for any last minute dressing requirements.

Another challenge is there is not enough middle market. Big fashion labels do have limited larger sizes and are expensive, and there is plenty of high street labels but there is very little in the middle for women who don’t want to spend thousands, but also don’t want to compromise on fabrics.

It makes me sad that on the red carpet one sample size actor can be wearing a $5000 sample dress and then my ladies have on a $300 dress because that’s all that was available. It’s sad that there is a lack of high end evening dresses for celebrities to wear on the carpet that are not bespoke.

How have you navigated these challenges?

Ten years ago when I started styling plus size, my choices were very limited. But I found that vintage could be a solution. I had two vintage dealers who would find larger sizes for me, they might be wider styles that we would belt or have a tailor fix them. This was one way of getting beautiful one off pieces embroidered or beaded from the 1920’s to the 1980s. The other solution was to buy a few high end pieces from high end designers Chanel, Armani, Valentino who would go to a size IT50, but styles were limited and you would have to be quick to get the size 46 or 48. I would go to Harrods and they would tell me that the size 46 had already been sold, usually pre-ordered and that they had only had two size 46 available worldwide. I’m glad that the myth of there not being a demand for these sizes is finally being dispelled. I always thought that there should be an online retailer who sold only the size 46 48 50 and many more of them. And I’m thrilled that 11 Honoré has finally done this and more by getting designers to make even larger sizes.

Designers who have been supportive back in the day when there was no talk of plus size fashion on the carpet were Moschino, Valentino, Burberry, Barbara Tfank, Givenchy, Chloe, Stella McCartney, Temperley. These were either custom made or as I mentioned before they had a size run to IT , 46, 48, 50. But not higher.

Nowadays there are plus size labels to choose from, Maree Pour Toi, Eloquii, Premme, Eliza J, Asos Curve. My friend Jen Wilder who is also a pioneer in plus size design is launching new line called ur2much.

Christian Siriano, is a trail blazer and I’m so blessed that we worked together on Danielle Macdonald’s Oscar dress. I would love to work with Brandon Maxwell and Prabal Gurung at some point, as well as other designers that I now know do bigger sizes since 11 Honoré has launched.

Do you think the fashion industry has made strides to be more inclusive?

Oh yes without a doubt but there is still a long way to go. But it’s just so exciting to see images of non-sample women in magazines and on the catwalk, and that finally we are having a conversation of what is beautiful, as these models show off their beautiful limbs, midriffs and faces. I just think it’s revolutionary, it’s a feminist size-inclusive movement, and it has to continue. More still needs to be done, but I never thought it would happen and that I get to see it in my lifetime is so exciting to me.

What more could the fashion industry be doing to move the size-inclusive conversation forward?

More of the same, bringing women out from the darkness and giving them more choices to buy clothes in their size and be fashionable. We all need to see ourselves in images that are covetable whatever size you are. And I think that what you are doing at 11 Honoré is just incredible, to approach designers and ask them to make more larger sizes, to ask them to cut clothes for larger sizes, show them that business wise there is a demand for nice fashion in bigger sizes, that larger women do want to dress in designer clothes. It’s undoubtedly a huge gap in the market.

How would you describe your personal style.

I think I am chic and understated, maybe a little boyish, but a boy who likes ruffles and a puff sleeve.

Do you have a style mantra?

I’m very keen on passing down clothes that I haven’t worn in a while, if I’ve never worn it in the last 2 years I have to give it away. I’m also keen on giving away clothes that don’t fit anymore also. I hate to have to judge myself because I see the jeans in my closet that I used to fit in. If they are not in your closet you don’t think about it. So, my closet is concise, not a storage space. Also, get dressed every day, like you would make your bed every day. Being dressed for the day can be empowering, and makes you feel so much better about yourself. It’s all about self-love, self-care.


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