I’m eternally inspired by strong women around me and Gemma Bourne – an Image Consultant working with people to help guide them through the increasingly crowded world of fashion, style and colour – is yet another example of how empowering they can be. Image is at the core of her business, and giving confidence is the heart and soul. With many years of experience in fashion and professional training in image consultancy, colour analysis and styling, Gemma is passionate about helping her clients to enjoy wearing clothes and shopping again, whether it’s for work or pleasure, smart, casual or a special occasion or simply doing the everyday school run. I caught up with Gemma to chat about my colours and what it can do for our self-confidence and mood when we get it absolutely right.
I must admit, I was a little sceptical about the process of seeing someone to “do my colours” with the belief that I know exactly what hues and tones suit me – but it really is a fascinating and eye-opening process, and one that so many people are turning to now. Why do you think this is?
We live in an extremely visual society now – continually bombarded by media and social media images – so I think people are looking for a way to capture what works for them and making it fit to their life, their shape, budget, personality and preferences.
People are also living longer, working longer and many of the rules that have existed for ‘how we present ourselves’ are being disregarded by our generation. How we feel we look has an enormous impact on our psychological wellbeing and the constant competition to achieve is exhausting, so people reach out to rediscover and take back control.
The younger generations particularly are aesthetically driven; the selfie is quite a phenomenon, and I believe that as we talk about how this can be damaging to body image and mental health, it also triggers a desire to present ourselves confidently in real terms.
Talk us through your process and what someone can expect when they visit you?
Firstly, I like to get to know the client, their lifestyle, job, personality and how this relates to their current styling.
After a coffee (or champagne!) and a chat, the client removes any makeup and hair is tied back so that we are working with true skin tone.
I then use a white cover up to the client’s clothes to neutralise their skin. I go through the process of applying a series of colour drapes to see what enlivens, brightens and sallows their skin.
The first step is to determine the undertone to their skin – cool or warm.
Next we define the clarity of the colours that work on their skin: vibrant or muted; and then lastly the depth of colours: light or deeper.
At the end of the process the client has a season and palette of hues that is optimised for them.
The right colours will make skin look younger, define features, diminish imperfections and make you look less tired. Once you have the right colour you start to look past it and simply see how much better you look!
Do you guide people on their makeup and accessory choices too?
Absolutely everything – top to toe! Tones of colour and what brings out key features, the detail, colour, style of accessories and where to wear them, such as close to face, short line necklace or long line, detail and chunky or light and simple, silver, gold, etc. It’s all key and affects where the eye falls and how we see ourselves and each other. For example, anyone can wear red on their lips, it’s about finding WHAT red works.
Do you think that most people are actually wearing clothes within the wrong season for them or not quite the right colour palette for their skin tone?
Yes. Many women who reach a certain point in life believe that society expects them to blend in, so they automatically reach for natural colours that don’t attract attention. In fact, very few people can actually wear these colours – they can make you appear older and more drawn in your features. Indeed, the very colours that perhaps would be deemed too young or too bright, if chosen correctly, are exactly the ones that can make you appear more youthful.
How have things changed with your work in recent years with the explosion of online fashion influences? Do you think people are less confused and more informed?
I think that these days it’s easier to find role models for a style and shape that resonates with you at your stage of life as we live in a round the clock society; but it’s easy to get caught up in filtered images and to then have your confidence knocked when you have your own in-home experience after clicking to buy, the excitement of receiving the parcel and then the try on.
I always say the economic benefits of having your colours done can be staggering because, let's be honest, how many of us have bought items we’ve admired on someone else and then tuck them away in the wardrobe with the tags left on because they just don’t work on us. So with key colour and style insights you can avoid making expensive mistakes and have confident, happy fitting room experiences!
How much does our age influence the importance of colour choices and knowing what works?
Our palette or season doesn’t change in terms of what works best for us, but the tones and hues may. Our skin tone changes as we age and also depends on the time of year. For example, if we have a tan, this can be enhanced or not with the palette of colours and the subtle depths that we choose, making us feel more or less comfortable, bold, happy and visible. As we progress through life, we can work with the same palette but adapt the ratios of the colours within it to suit the changes.
Do you think midlife and beyond women have more freedom in their choices now and feel less confined by societal expectations of what a 40/50/60+ year old should wear – or are we still subject to those expectations?
I think that we are still struggling a little with breaking free of the notion of previous generations that we should become invisible, but I do think more women – especially those in their 50s and who perhaps were the first generation to have children later in life and longer careers – are breaking through the glass ceilings with the sense of moving away from stereotypes of image. My job is to help them optimise this with the right style, accessories and colour choices to boost their best assets.
Does personality play a part in helping guide people in their colour and style?
Yes it does. I always consider whether the client is classic, dramatic, natural, feminine, etc, and build this into the personalising of the assessment of colour and style analysis.
I think that you also need to have the right mindset going through the process. It’s extraordinary to see the evolution. However sceptical people are at the start, and however much they look at a coloured scarf and say “well I wouldn’t wear that colour” – once they actually see what works, the benefits to their skin and how much younger and radiant they look – they don’t see the colour, they see themselves, eyes sparkling, colour in their cheeks and a smile.
I don’t say it lightly, but it can be life-changing. I just love being able to give that moment to people.
Why not get in touch with Gemma and see what she can do for you.