Winser Meets - Cecilia Chancellor - Women of the World

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Winser Meets  - Cecilia Chancellor - Women of the World

Winser Meets - Cecilia Chancellor - Women of the World

Cecilia Chancellor first began modelling as a teenager, when her friend, Camilla Nickerson, then an aspiring stylist, asked her to appear in a photo shoot in return for a £75 fee. She was soon signed with top agency Models 1 and went on to work with influential photographers including Steven Meisel, Mario Testino, Patrick Demarchelier, David Bailey, Irving Penn and Corinne Day. Lord Snowdon hailed her as “the face of 1985” and later, i-D magazine labelled her the “face of 90s grunge and easy glamour”. As well as appearing on glossy magazine covers around the world, she has appeared in numerous high profile campaigns for brands including Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Helmut Lang, Banana Republic and Kenzo.

Born in Dorset and raised in Italy and London, where she is now based, Cecilia took time out from modelling to enrol at art school, take an extended trek in the Himalayas and raise her son, Lucas, who is now a successful model himself. He gained early exposure as a babe-in-arms on the January 2002  cover of British  Vogue, when his mother featured alongside a roll-call of union flag-clad British fashion stars including Liberty Ross, Jacquetta Wheeler, Erin O’Connor, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and the late Stella Tennant, a cousin of Cecilia’s.

Now in her mid-fifties, she is enjoying a renaissance in front of the camera and on the catwalk, fronting campaigns for Marc Jacobs Beauty, Miu Miu and – most recently - Winser London.

Cecilia Chancellor wear the Lauren double breasted blazer, ivory silk top and faux eather trousers

How would you describe your approach to style?

Despite having worked in the fashion industry for what feels like forever, what is ‘in fashion’ doesn’t influence what I buy or wear. I used to  work for Helmut Lang in exchange for clothes which I loved and lived in. Other designers also sometimes paid in clothes and I accrued an excess over many years in the business. But I have culled a lot of things that no longer  ‘spark joy’, to quote Marie Kondo. I’ve slowly pulled together the pieces that I cherish and work for who I am now, so I don’t have a massive wardrobe.

These days I prioritise comfort in clothing. Feeling comfortable in yourself is vital, so I look for things I feel good in, rather than just looking in the mirror and deciding something  works from the outside, or would look good in a photograph . I no longer enjoy heavy, or stiff clothing, preferring garments that  have an ease of movement. I am drawn to natural fibres that feel luxurious against the skin and have a lightness about them.

My main uniform comprises everyday staples such as jeans, a selection of fabulous white cotton shirts, scarves, boots, and lovely, cosseting knits. The stretch silk blouses at Winser London are just amazing, because they feel so sublime and the stretch gives that comfort factor. I think women designers do that better: they just get it. I am also a big fan of the recycled cashmere pieces from Winser London and the cashmere throws are a lovely weight and texture - perfect for a comforting layer when you need it.

I go for an understated colour palette of neutrals with a bit of colour added here and there depending on my mood. I am not stuck on one silhouette: I have skinny jeans, but I wear cropped, or slightly flared jeans and they all have their moment. I have a lovely chain necklace I wear every day with different charms that I add or take away.

Talking of recycled cashmere, do you actively take a sustainable approach to shopping?

I feel that those of us in the business have a responsibility to educate ourselves  and address the damage the fashion industry is doing to the environment.  I try  to make informed choices, whether that’s buying something made from recycled materials or looking at brands that tread lightly on the environment in their production process. Good quality, well-made pieces should last longer, but  sustainability is not only possible for people who have the money to buy expensive clothes. It is an attitude. Even if you buy so-called fast fashion, you can still make a considered purchase and treat it with reverence , love it and look after it.

Modern life is fast and busy, but when we found ourselves with an enforced lockdown during the pandemic, I had the time to go through my wardrobe, deciding what works for me and passing on things I no longer wear, even  darning holes and mending things I want to continue to wear. I hadn’t mended my clothes myself in a long time and I found it surprisingly satisfying.   I find that having less clothes and caring for them in this way makes me appreciate and enjoy them more. I highly recommend Orsola de Castro’s brilliant book ‘Loved Clothes Last’

My grandmother had a Gucci handbag, which was her special bag and she had it for life. I think that’s what luxury fashion should be about. There’s something a bit obscene about a new luxury handbag every season. But expensive or not, somebody took time and care to make our garments and should they not be seen as disposable.

Has anyone influenced your style?

 I think I have been influenced subliminally through all my years of being privileged to work with the most incredibly talented and creative fashion stylists. To generalise, I’d say overall they’ve taught me confidence, that there are no fashion rules and that if it looks and feels good to you, that’s enough. Style is not about replicating a fashion trend, but about playing with clothes and enjoying expressing yourself. And understanding your own body and personality and dressing to enhance that. I have absolutely loved being dressed by stylists over the years. Sometimes they would choose things I would never think of for myself and that can surprise you when you look in the mirror and feel a million dollars.


What is your approach to dressing up for more formal or glamorous occasions?

I tend to take an understated approach to evening wear rather than high octane glamour. I like to be the best version of myself, where the outfit enhances my strengths , rather than making a big  statement with a wow piece that overwhelms me.

I feel a bit the same about makeup. There is incredible artistry in applying cosmetics to create different personas, but the make-up artists I have loved  to work with the most are the ones that make you the dreamiest version of your natural self: people like Stephane Marais, Mary Greenwell and Bobbi Brown all have that touch that is about enhancing beauty rather than imposing a look.

You are often described as a radiant, English rose and have long been hailed as a classical beauty by tastemakers and fans. What is your approach to skincare and maintaining your looks?

 I am scrupulous about cleansing and moisturising, but have sensitive skin so I keep my skincare routine fairly simple. I have regular facials with the brilliant Jackie Denholm Moore, which are rather an indulgence, and she has recommended Dr Shrammek for me, which are mid-priced products rooted in dermatological science. I look for products with the least chemicals in them.

I justify my facials because I don’t currently spend on Botox or fillers which many women my age have as part of their beauty maintenance. I’m trying to brainwash myself that beauty and wrinkles don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I don’t particularly like seeing my face ageing, but I am not sure that I prefer the look when people have had a lot of Botox and fillers done over time, as it becomes difficult to read facial expressions. After all, a lot of beauty is in our expressions.

 My thinking is that by doing what I can to stay healthy and happy, that will help me look the best I can at any age. I like Jones Road, the new make-up range by Bobbi Brown: they are easy to use formulations that enhance natural looks and nourish the skin at the same time.

So, what do you do to stay healthy and happy?

I’m very keen on mindful exercise methods.  I currently do yoga mostly,  but have also really enjoyed Pilates and Gyrotonics.  These systems  help the energy flow around the body, amongst many other benefits, and feel so good. I’m sure I don’t do enough cardio exercise, although I do go through phases of bouncing around on a mini trampoline to loud music, which I highly recommend!

 I like walking in the countryside, too, especially  in Dorset or when I’m at my mother’s house in Northamptonshire. Being outdoors and just breathing in nature is so good for our wellbeing. I spent a lot of my childhood summers in Tuscany and I love that part of the world. We had a family home there, which sadly was sold recently, but I am hoping to make Italy and the Tuscan countryside a part of my future.

I believe emotional healing is also important to health and wellbeing. The longer we are alive, the more difficult experiences we go through, and the ageing process is hugely impacted by tough times. Caring for yourself and getting the help you need when you are in the midst of and in the wake of emotional turmoil or grief makes an enormous difference to your physical and mental health in the short and longer term.

I try to make time for the things I enjoy. I’m learning to play the guitar and dabbling in a bit of writing.  I plan to pick up the life sculpting that I’ve done periodically over the years. I find that very meditative. I am  trying to keep some of that calm stillness and slower pace that I found in lockdown when I was living with my mother and son in the country. I am used to moving around a lot and I missed travelling and working, but I benefitted a lot from the slower rhythm and having time for a deeper connection with nature. I’m going to try and hold onto that.

How does it feel that you are modelling in your fifties, four decades after you made your professional debut in front of the camera?

 I am so much more appreciative of modelling now, probably because I do it less. It’s such a joy to have a team of professionals taking several hours to make you look your best.  I do sometimes have to remind myself that I haven’t been booked to be the 25 year old model I used to be, and am not expected to be flawless or young.

 It is exciting to see that the modelling industry is reflecting a wider shift in society that celebrates and represents diversity, whether that’s about age, race, size or whatever. Beauty comes in so many different forms and it’s great to see that being recognised commercially: it just makes sense.

 I love the fact that there are so many of my contemporaries getting work and that brands are making the effort to use women that resonate with their audience. It can be very demoralising seeing a teenager marketing something that’s targeting an older woman. It’s also very positive  for younger women to see older models representing a different kind of beauty, so they can see that the passing of time is not something to dread. That they will still be valued as they age.

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