Jessica wears Adrienne Winkelmann ‘Jessica’ jacket.

Giving a masterclass in style, Creative Director Jess Grubiša delivers the foolproof fashion tips we need

Days spent in back-to-back fittings and consultations are par for the course for Adrienne Winkelmann’s Creative Director Jessica Grubiša, whose loyal clients are drawn to the brand’s made-to-measure pieces for their impeccable fit and unimpeachable quality. 

Grubiša herself has been an important influence in the local fashion landscape since 2014, when she co-founded label Harman Grubiša with Madeleine Harman. After the brand’s closure in early 2020, she came on board with Winkelmann, and has been working alongside its eponymous founder ever since.

It’s a charmingly serendipitous moment for Grubiša, who worked and trained with Winkelmann back when she was at fashion school — and it was a phenomenal training indeed, she says. “Adrienne is the best tailor I’ve ever met,” Grubiša enthuses. “It’s always structured, tailored and impeccably finished.” 

Sophia wears vintage 1989 Adrienne Winkelmann dress.

The two designers have been working together on a new direction for the company, refining the bespoke process and how that is undergone by the client. “It’s a pretty phenomenal experience,” she says. “You come in, look through the ranges with both of us or with Adrienne, and we’re designing your wardrobe from start to finish.” They craft everything from calico and fit that on the client three or four times before it’s rendered in the final cloth. 

The overall aesthetic has a strong focus on sharp tailoring, with special attention paid to working women throughout the extensive ranges. While Grubiša is well known for her often-flamboyant and statement-making personal style, she and Winkelmann organically share a vision for the brand. “What I think is quite amazing (and rare) is that Adrienne and I speak the same fashion language,” says Grubiša. “The pieces we make are to be loved for a long time.”

Grubiša is a firm believer that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to fashion, and this is certainly in keeping with Adrienne Winkelmann’s bespoke philosophy. Here, Grubiša shares her rules for embracing your individuality through fashion.

Sophia wears Adrienne Winkelmann ‘Samantha’ jacket.

1. Don’t overlook the power of accessories
“Personally, I love a lot of jewellery, or great shoes. I like adding different elements to my clothes like… feathers! But for every day, accessories can reinvent an outfit, and make you look at your clothes in a different way. If you’re wearing a classic white shirt and jeans, putting on the right jewellery and the right bag can elevate and transform it. I’ll have outfits that sit in my wardrobe for years, and then I’ll buy a different coloured shoe or a new handbag, and it’ll feel brand new. 

The rules around mixing and matching silver and gold or things like that are totally outdated. I get that all the time, people saying ‘I’ve just had my colours done and I can’t wear blue.’ You can wear blue, honey, you can wear whatever you like.” 

2. The right underwear goes a long way
“When I dress myself, I feel like the right undergarments are my best hope of a silk dress sitting right, or a shirt not busting open because the bra is too padded. Underwear is like a canvas, or like skincare under makeup. The right base, and your clothing will sit how it’s meant to, and you’ll be more comfortable. I always wear a slip with my dresses, and you can’t go past a good pair of opaque stockings — that’s all I live in during the winter, with boots. If you’re going to try on an outfit for an important occasion, or something you want to invest in, bring the underwear you’re going to wear. A bride would do that for a fitting… basically, I’m saying treat every day like your wedding.” 

Sophia wears Adrienne Winkelmann ‘Freda’ dress.

3. Don’t be afraid of colour
“In my journey in New Zealand fashion, I’ve seen a lot of my clients (and a lot of people in general) be afraid of colour. Black is a safe colour, we’re told, a safe bet. But colour is amazing. When you play with it, and mix prints, it can be safer than black in some regards — not as heavy. If it’s naturally out of your comfort zone to mix prints, start with complementary colours or aligning textures and meet somewhere in the middle to give it a go. Try a spot and a stripe, or a floral and a check.

As a designer, the colour story for each season usually settles into place organically. This season, because of everything we’ve gone through the past year, we’re feeling very excited, flamboyant and hopeful for the future. So, our colour palette is centred on rich maroons and bright pops of colour. 

It’s always reflective of what I’m feeling when I’m designing, what I’m going through in my life. If I’m happy designing a range, there’s going to be more pink, whereas in winter I’m always going to be a little more subdued. I do think that letting seasons dictate what colour you wear is a myth — wear what you want! Colour can also brighten your day. You feel bad? Wear pink.” 

4. Confidence is key. If you love it, wear it
“I love fashion because it can help you be whoever you want to be. It gives you so much feeling, and I say this for people who don’t work in the fashion industry too. I think people look at fashion and say ‘I can only do this’ and ‘I can’t be that’ but you can do whatever you want. That’s what I love about fashion — it can take you to so many different places, and it can also really change people’s first impressions. You can wear one outrageous outfit, one time, and everyone remembers. You can really have a lot of fun with fashion.

I’ve had a lot of crazy moments with my own personal fashion history, but I always thought I would never wear a crop top in public, because I don’t look a certain way or I’m not a certain size. But, I really wanted to do it, so I did — and it looked great. 

When it comes to trends, if you’re in the changing room and you’re thinking ‘I should like this’ but you’re not really sure, you’re never going to wear it. Each season, at Adrienne Winkelmann, we’re definitely aware of what’s happening with trends and colours, and where the industry’s going, but we’re not a trend-based label. It’s imperative to us that we be a staple in your wardrobe for your whole life, so while we might nod to trends in a small way, it’s really not a focus for us.”

Sophia wears Adrienne Winkelmann suit from the upcoming Autumn/Winter 21/22 collection.

5. Everyone needs one good suit
“I am a great lover of tailoring, and in particular I love suiting. My suits in my wardrobe have been so important, even if I’m feeling slightly more relaxed with my slouchy suit. One good suit in your wardrobe can take you to a lot of places. 

If you’re going to invest in one, fall in love with the fabric and the colour. I don’t think everyone necessarily needs their suit to be black, it should reflect who you are. My favourite suit is a deep navy pinstripe, and I have both trousers and a skirt to match the jacket. For me, the way it meshes with my wardrobe regardless of season — it’s just always perfect. You’ve got to find something that works for you.

Fit is imperative, and there are so many things to look out for. You want the shoulders to be right, to check your back seam is perfect. Make sure you’ve also got enough room in the sleeves so in winter and summer you can wear a merino knit or a shirt underneath. Often people want the sleeves a lot tighter but it needs to live with you for a whole year. 

I’m a big fan of a skirt-suit, but then I’m a skirt kind of gal. I do feel powerful when I’m in a pantsuit, though, it just gives me so much energy.”

6. Vintage is an important part of building a wardrobe
“I have a vintage dealer on Instagram who goes by the handle @pechuga_vintage. The Internet is a beautiful place for finding vintage — I have pieces that he took years to source, and that’s where I get all my vintage Dior from. If you’re after high quality, iconic vintage pieces, there are people out there who will source things for you, and can facilitate finding it for you.

What I love about vintage shopping in brick-and-mortar stores is rummaging and finding new things, because I think when you shop with a designer, they’ve curated what they think you should wear this season. But, when you go vintage shopping, you’re buying what you want, and you’re thinking differently. I’m like ‘I never knew I wanted this sequin top,’ but you can find ways of mixing things into your wardrobe that can be really fun, and add unexpected moments to it.

So, I think vintage pieces are crucial to building a wardrobe. You can’t go wrong with wool and merino — you can find amazing woollen pieces at an op shop, as well as cashmere and natural fabrics like silk and linen.”

Hair and makeup: Alexandra Stanworth. Model: Sophia Frankish @62 Models.

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