Rachel Fanconi

Everyone needs a Rachel; she understands her clients as if there they are family and works intelligently behind the scenes to make each person feel confident and shine using her rather impressive creative skills.
Rachel shares some interesting insights in our interview.


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.

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.

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.

Congratulations on your MBE, which was awarded by Theresa May in her final list of nominees as Prime Minister. You’ve achieved numerous forms of peer and industry recognition and sporting medals and trophies over the years. What does this Honour mean to you?

When I first received the letter, I assumed it was in recognition of the charity work I’ve done, which would have been wonderful. I’ve always wanted to be actively involved when I take on a role as President of Sparks or Muscular Dystrophy UK, for example, or fundraise for Doddie Weir’s foundation to help research a cure for Motor Neurone disease. I’m not someone who is comfortable just lending my name and having a photo in a brochure.

To discover the MBE was for my broadcasting work and for promoting women in sport was a fabulous surprise, because I’m so passionate about that. Sport must reflect wider society: we are definitely seeing more girls and women participating and becoming involved in sport at all levels, but we have to make sure that there aren’t barriers to that. The more visible women are in different fields, the more uptake there is and the standard improves and it becomes something people take notice of. Men are watching women’s football, cricket or golf on TV, and young girls are seeing that normalised as something they can aspire to. Or hearing women commentating or hosting coverage of men’s sport. That is what is gratifying to me, and perhaps had I received an Honour in my 30s, I might not have been as appreciative of what it symbolises.

I feel very fortunate to be in a situation that even as I approach 50, I am professionally on the ascendant, which wouldn’t have been the case a few years back. It’s great there are more female role models of a certain age in the media, carving a path and keeping it real. I love Jo Whiley, for example: she is full of youthful energy, and she’s comfortable in her skin. I am the age I am and I’m proud of that and want to be authentic, with as much passion and energy as I can so I can continue doing the job I love. I am lucky to work with lots of young exciting people and that gives you stimulus. Working through perimenopause can sometimes feel an effort, but I never underestimate how lucky I am to do this as a job, so I try hard to live in the moment and be grateful.

You have attracted some great guests and had some interesting conversations on your podcast, The Mid.Point. How did that come about and what’s the thinking behind it?

It started out because I wanted to have more open conversations about the potential to do positive things in mid-life, whether that’s changing direction or simply remaining relevant and optimistic. It’s evolved to cover a range of diverse issues, and it’s been a great outlet for me as a personal project to contrast with my sports broadcasting. I’m loving that this is resonating with a wider female audience than perhaps other areas of my work, and it means a lot when people come up to me and say how much they enjoy the podcast and how they can relate to issues that come up.

I have found that sometimes, especially during the pandemic, speech radio can leave me anxiety-ridden, and podcasts provide a different audio experience. I listen to Josh Widdicombe and Rob Beckett’s Parenting Hell, Matthew Syed’s Sideways and the Desert Island Discs archive at home, in the car or on my walks.

Finally, you have an incredibly demanding work schedule, do lots of hands-on charity work, keep to a demanding exercise regime and you have teenage children. How do you relax?

I’m genuinely happier when I’m busy. I do enjoy those calming countryside walks, immersed in nature, and Kenny loves that watershed in the day when it hits 9pm and he puts his feet up with a box set. However, I am so middle-aged, I find sorting a cupboard therapeutic. There is something about organising a kitchen draw that gives me great pleasure. Is it weird that I admit that sorting stock cubes is very satisfying?