When you mention Grace Woodward to fashion people, the response I often hear is “OOH, I love her.” Grace is the kind of strong, stylish mum whose name is synonymous with guts, style, grit and honest determination – all traits I could do well to draw from at least once or twice a week.
Grace is renowned for being a stylist by trade, but she is also a survivor and a natural writer, and she has written well about the darkest parts of her life in a great post called All About My Mother on Selfish Mother.
Grace did that thing so many Londoners long to do – she quit the big smoke and bought a place in the country – a 16th century home in her hometown of Hitchin, Hertfordshire. And like many Londoners who make that move, she’s come running back for a short while (well, the day time at least) to launch a new pop-up vintage store right in time for party season. The store is loaded with great options for all sizes and budgets and is loaded with the kind of vintage pieces you’ll keep forever, like ’70s Vegas-style light pink furs, bejewelled cocktail dresses and loads of McQueen.
Last week I visited Grace’s pop-up vintage store in Portobello Road to see the incredible pieces she has brought to London with Wilma-Mae Basta, pictured above right. It’s a treat that’s only around until November 29, so get along to West London asap.
Now here’s Grace in her own words.
Tell me in your own words about being a creative mum?
It’s funny, is there a difference between a creative mum and a non-creative mum? I think my husband would say so. The first thing that springs to mind when you ask me about is the difference in maternity leave and getting back to work. I’ve found it really tough trying to basically claw back my career after a year and half out.
In my early pregnancy I was super sick, then I was showing and then at 7 months pregnant I felt a distinct drop in interest. In TV you have to be very very established to be able to break thorough the prejudice about being pregnant. For producers it dates the show so not so easy to repeat, and your insurance becomes expensive for them. Also someone told me that a very established news reader who had has three pregnancies whilst working always got complaints. Pregnant women can’t read the news – as if their speech /sanity/ability to read had suddenly dissipated.
Ok so that’s the downside, the upside is that I used the time out to kind of reboot my career, there were some changes I wanted to make, I didn’t feel comfortable the corner I was being pushed into by the limited way that TV sees fashion, I wasn’t entirely happy about what I was representing in the fashion industry either, so after thinking about doing something else entirely, I found my fight and decided I would come back and do things in a way that I can live with myself. Hence all the work I’m trying to do about rebranding the notion of ethical and sustainable fashion which has a bit of an image problem.
Who makes up your family?
Larkin – 2, Ujiii our British Blue cat – 6, my husband Shmoo – 42, me, and more often than not my Nana – 88, will be with us. She’s outlived pretty much everyone she’s ever known and still is fighting fit and brilliant with Larkin (and our only childcare).
What is your creative outlet? How and when did you come to start your fashion career?
I started in fashion because I’m a kind of blanket creative, so not one thing became apparent as a career, in fashion I use many different skills writing, creative direction in both image making and branding. My brain needs a lot of distraction to keep it from turning on itself!!!
When my son was six months old I decided to open a shop, my mum had died when he was 8 weeks old, she was 60 and for various reasons hadn’t fulfilled her potential, so that became a subliminal driving force, plus she left me some money and that always helps eh. A year on I’ve brought the Graceland shop to London as part of a collaboration called The Gathering Goddess with Wilma Mae Basta – a very established and respected vintage dealer. We decided that it felt like a great time to not only do something together but to pool our knowledge, contacts and profiles to create a platform for other women in business and The Graceful Goddess was born. Starting with a press launch and pop up on Portobello Road, we invited an online brand Buy My Wardrobe, a premium re-sale site which in itself is making sustainability sexy.
What does it mean to you and how does it make you feel?
It’s made me realise life actually starts at 40, everything before is just research.
What the hardest part about it is?
The hardest part of anything is managing the finance and people. My husband has had to weather the seas with me, sometimes it’s stormy sometimes it’s calm, luckily he’s from Newcastle where they build them strong.
What or who is your inspo?
I’m super inspired by Wilma Mae Basta my partner in The Graceful Goddess. We are both Aries, however are skill sets are very different, she’s very calm whereas I can get really anxious, she always has an eye on business which allows me to be creative and obsesses over typefaces and 10 shades of the same colour.
Graceful Goddess Pop-Up Shop
Monday November 16th, 2015 – Sunday November 29th, 2015
199 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London W11