Gok Wan is passionate about buying from local, boutique shops, which is why he is also known as the Shop Small Ambassador! So, we caught up with him to find out why these are his go-to places for finding bespoke pieces for Christmas gifting.
What does every woman need in her wardrobe and accessory collection for the Christmas party season?
I would say, it depends on what sort of lifestyle she’s got. Perhaps you’re a stay at home mum and don’t have a party to go to or you’re working over Christmas- you might not need an outfit- it all depends on what you’re lifestyle is like.
The big thing if you do have an event is just don’t over prep for it. If you’ve got three parties, then you only really need one party dress or one party outfit at least. If you have a more relaxed and casual lifestyle, you probably need to have bits that will also filter through to your wardrobe.
I would say, one outfit per three parties and don’t be afraid of wearing the same outfit again and again. Then I would say, probably two or three semi-dressed up outfits that will work for lunch with friends, or your mum and going out with the girls or workmates. It all depends what’s in your social diary over the period.
This advice isn’t exclusive- I think whether you’re curvy or a perfect size ten, it doesn’t matter. It’s about making sure you have outfits that you feel comfortable and confident in and you can show yourself off.
There is a tendency at Christmastime for people to think they need everything to match their outfits- sparkles, sequins and embellishment. You don’t need to have all of that stuff, so the same rules applies for a size 18 or a size 8, it doesn’t really matter.
It’s about making sure you feel good in your clothes and that your outfit shows off you in the best way you can. What you don’t want to do is over prune it and get out there and feel that you are too dressed up and that you’ve made too much of an effort.
Do you have any top tips for shopping over the Christmas period?
Do more! I think we have the best high street in the world!
It depends on what you are looking for again. I am a huge fan of boutique shopping- I regard boutique shops as high street shops- it depends on what your own definition of the high street is.
I love the smaller boutique shops, I think the buys are stronger because you are getting slightly more unusual and unique gifts so I tend to have a really good look around.
I did all my Christmas shopping last week- I did it all in four and a half hours! If you know where you are going to- you stand a much better chance. I have got a relationship with those people who run the shops as well. I confidently shop in there, they know what I am looking for, what my taste is- they will often find stuff in the back of the shop for me that they haven’t put out yet.
My personal taste is to go to the small boutiques and to get my gifts for my friends for Christmas.
Although it’s easier to shop online- are you a believer in doing this or do you prefer to see items in the flesh before you buy?
I do a bit of both actually. Because I shop for a living- I am used to buying product. A lot of people think that once you’ve clicked and bought you have to commit to it, but you don’t have to. Most brands will allow you to send back if you are not happy with the product.
The one thing to remember if you are shopping online is to make sure you don’t leave it till the last minute. You don’t want to find a few days before Christmas that you have to re-buy because you are not happy with the item that you’ve bought. Shopping online comes with a risk because you haven’t seen the product yet, so make sure you have enough time. I think most people do that anyway. Also, online shops have started doing the faster one-day delivery so you can get the product much quicker.
Last year you said that you should give the gift of time to those you love- do you still stand by this in 2017?
Yeah and this is always the biggest gift you can give to someone you care about and the most precious.
Why is it important to shop in small local business?
I think we do have the best high street in the world. I think we need to remember when we walk down our local high street, these businesses have families, these families have responsibilities. It’s really important to invest back into your community.
I think that boutique shopping will raise your confidence too. The idea that you can walk down the street and have six or twelve different stores than you can go into, where you know everyone who works there or owns that store- you are going to feel far more part of your community. You are going to have a relationship with these people and I think it’s really important to respect that.
You don’t want to be just another statistic going into a shop that you get lost in where no one knows your name or what you’re about. Get to know these people, have a chat with them- all of that lovely stuff that comes from living in a smallish area.
Even if you live in Manchester, London or Birmingham, there are small shopping areas where people go every day. They work there, and they live there, and I think it’s really important to know those people.
You spoke last year about bespoke gifts so can you tell us about the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received?
I am very lucky because my friends often get me very personalised gifts. My best friend every Christmas always get me a piece of art- or something that she’s had commissioned from a local seller- not hugely expensive. Last year I got a cushion from her in the shape of us two. It’s probably one of those gifts- that are very personal and have come from the heart. I love those kind of gifts- I am very lucky.
What is a typical Christmas like at your house?
I do panto most years, so my Christmases are normally quite rushed. I get just one day with my parents- I’ve only missed one year. I’m normally early doors- going over to my parents house to see family and help to prep everything. My evenings are taken up getting ready for the show.
Years ago, Christmas was always a huge event because my parents worked in catering for years- they owned a restaurant. For us, the party seasons started at the end of November and finished at the end of January. For us it was always about having lots of people around, lots of noise, celebration, lots of food and drink. For me, I do miss that, I have to say as I’ve had five years of not doing that.
You’re coming to the end of your Gok Wan Naked and Baring All tour- so how is that going so far?
It’s going really well thank you- I’m very tired as you can probably tell but it’s been really rewarding. It’s been lovely to be out there and meeting thousands of people- I am really pleased with it but I am really looking forward to having a break from it.
I saw this morning you posted a tweet to ask people to sign a petition that recognises animal sentience- so is animal welfare something you are passionate about?
Yeah, really passionate about it, I have a dog and she’s adorable and she definitely feels pain and emotion and I think that for me, it’s a very personal thing and I am sure a lot of people feel the same way. I do care about animals a lot.
What is next for you?
We’ve got three TV projects in the pipeline so that will be kicking off next year. I’ve got another writing project that I’m working on at the moment- lots of stuff going on actually. I’ve also got a company called The Fashion Brunch Club and we support local businesses through that club as well and we’ll be working on a few more of those events next year.
American Express has teamed up with shopping expert Gok Wan, and bloggers from across the UK, to uncover hidden gems and local small businesses. To discover others in your area, visit amexshopsmall.co.uk
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