Winser meets - Rachel Fanconi - Woman of The World

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Winser meets - Rachel Fanconi - Woman of The World

Winser meets - Rachel Fanconi - Woman of The World

Rachel Fanconi, 49, is  a London-based fashion stylist who began her career working in newspapers and magazines and  is now in demand from some of the world’s most high profile figures, brands and publications. Highly sought after, she has dressed the likes of  Keeley Hawes, Vicky McClure, Dame Helen Mirren, Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz and Darcey Bussell as clients and has added her unique style to creative projects for clients including British Airways, Universal Pictures, Dreamworks, the BBC and Working Title Films.  She regularly collaborates on projects with her husband, Neil Cunningham, also a stylist.

How would you describe your everyday style?

When I am working, I can be on my hands and knees fitting and pinning clothes, or up a ladder, or in a muddy field on location. There is a perception that we spend our time rifling through rails of clothes, but it can be a very physical job, so I stick to a very functional, simple wardrobe of trousers and jumpsuits. It has become a practical ‘uniform’ of sorts, which can be military-inspired, sporty or simply rather androgynous, and is always worn with flat shoes. I’m short and fairly curvy and this instinctively feels like a wardrobe that suits my figure and my taste for myself.

Off duty, I love the new generation of loungewear, inspired by yoga clothes and using beautiful stretchy, soft fabrics. If I’m working at home, I have a zip-up jumpsuit that is easy to wear and envelopes me in cosiness. I love dressing up, too, and relish the opportunity to go glam occasionally. I’m a fan of great tailoring. With a well-cut trouser suit, you can change the top  and accessories you are wearing to add glamour. I’ll go from a white t-shirt to one of Kim Winser’s stretch silk blouses  - perhaps the pussy-bow style - for evening, and maybe add a pair of heels (though I’m wearing flats much more these days).

I like reds, oranges and greens, but I normally revert to a navy, black and  khaki palette. I love an interesting bold, dark floral and am rather susceptible to stripes, which are a stylish default. I think for many women, dressing becomes more instinctive as we get older. We become more comfortable going with a gut feeling, if we like something and it makes us feel good, and we are less swayed by trends or what other people might think.

Are you a clothes hoarder?

I did  a huge wardrobe clearout in lockdown: I think I was in denial about how many clothes I had acquired over time. When you buy quality pieces, they stand the test of time and still look great ten years later, but the cheaper, High Street styles just don’t make the cut. In recent years, I’ve been more focused about where I spend my money. I never thought I would be as passionate as I am now about sustainable fashion. I think it’s really important we stop the throwaway thing and keep clothes for longer.

How is dressing other people different to dressing yourself?

It’s not different, really. My approach to putting together my own wardrobe reflects my professional view on how a stylist should work - I don’t believe we should impose a ‘look’ on someone: our job is to help them find their personal style groove. We guide them towards that and source things that tick certain boxes. Does a garment instinctively feel right when you put it on? Does it make you stand taller? If something isn’t right, I feel like a dog dressed as a cat, even it if fits and looks okay in the mirror. I need to feel it is ‘me’, not that I am in a costume, trying to be someone else. I like to see that immediate sense of comfort and confidence in my clients when they put something on, too. We can always adjust the fit, but there needs to be an innate feeling that something feels effortlessly right, even on the red carpet. I have a tendency to a certain Britishness that means I love dresses with pockets, even for evening. 

Kate Garraway wearing the Audrey cashmere jumper for the cover story of Good Housekeeping


How do you approach your work as a stylist?

Much of my work is listening and observing. It’s about having conversations and getting to know someone. When you start talking about clothes, people share so much more – their work and wider lifestyle and how physical that is or what empowers them to feel confident and their relationship with their body. You very quickly build a picture of them; a vision of the cultural capital they steer towards. You gain an understanding of the kind of silhouettes that they are comfortable in. Maybe the magic dress, that lifts them and makes them feel a million dollars – like Winser London’s Miracle dress,  for example. Or the best and most flattering trouser fit.

When I’m working with a client, I have those discussions and have a kind of style shorthand in my head so I can choose a range of pieces for them. I then hang a selection of things on the rail and see if they naturally want to try certain things. I really get a boost seeing women blossom when they put something on that I’ve sourced for them. It can be incredibly hard work to pull together the right garments - it’s not just “shopping” - but it’s a real privilege to be in a position to be able to boost someone’s sense of confidence like that, whether it’s a film star, a footballer or a member of the public who I’m styling for a newspaper interview.

Occasionally, when I read about incredible medics who save lives or scientists who develop vaccines, I can feel like my job is rather frivolous and trivial, then I remember the power of clothes to elevate self-esteem and that is universal. If I am trusted by my clients, and they can rely on me to empower them in their own professional lives, then I’m okay with that.

Kate Garraway wearing the Lauren Wide Leg trousers for The Times cover

Who or what has influenced your style over the years? 

I am a people watcher, and I am obsessed with what people wear. I grew up in rural Devon, and devoured glossy magazines. I like people who go their own way. For example, I love Tilda Swinton, because she makes bold choices, that are independent of the fashion trend machine and the resulting looks she creates can be very interesting. I always want to see what Cate Blanchett is wearing, too.

Are you an accessories person? What are your must-haves?

Yes. Definitely. I think accessories really switch up what you are wearing. At my age, I have accrued a stable of accessories I love, and there is an integrity to that. I’ll add to the collection occasionally with a great piece of jewellery or a fabulous bag. I don’t wear a different necklace each day like I did in my twenties, but I pull things out when I want a change.

I love the way society isn’t prescriptive about dress codes and what is ‘right’ for certain occasions anymore. That means accessories are tools to help transform an outfit for different situations. It does mean clothes become more versatile and we get more value out of the things we love wearing.

Do you believe in age-related style rules?

I don’t think there are rules: style is about the person and their shape and what they like, and age is irrelevant. What does 40 look like? Or 70? I’m really happy to feel I may have played some small part in shifting those longtime attitudes by working with some fantastically stylish women who are really happy to enjoy wearing different clothes at any age. I never think about their age when I work with them.

The digital era has had a huge impact on style. It has democratised the way we dress and taken the power away from designers and fashion editors. If anyone is out there feeling they can’t wear something for any reason, they will find women on Instagram or blogs or whatever who look fabulous and hopefully give them the confidence to go there.

Sara Cox wearing the Winser London Emma blouse for Prima's cover story
Natasha Kaplinsky wearing the Tilda mulberry silk blouse in chambray blue for HELLO! magazine
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