“I can only sum it up as ‘utter bonkers madness’,” says Grace Woodward of her time as Fashion Director on 2010’s X Factor.
Grace has since gone on to – among many other things – judge on Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model and is currently working on a one woman show called Grace Woodward is Fashion Weak.
“X Factor is a bit like a swan, you see it gliding, but you don’t see all the mad paddling,” she adds.
But we want to see.
So, although we obviously just couldn’t go for a peek around the fashion cupboard, Grace could give us an insight into what it was like when she was steering the ship…
There’s a ‘styling lorry’
“The corridor of fame – where you see Simon [Cowell] and the judges doing the famous walk [to the stage] – the hair and makeup rooms are on that corridor, but the styling lorry – it is the back of an articulated lorry – is kind of somewhere else. So you do a lot of running.”
The makeovers can be an ‘awkward process’
“They [the contestants] have to trust you very quickly and most of them, in fact all of them, have never been styled before. So it’s an awkward process. It would be for anybody. It’s not like they don’t have a choice, but they don’t have a shorthand how the team works together. I think it’s quite intimidating to be honest. “
Grace didn’t style returning judge Cheryl, but says she’s fabulous to be around
“I can’t comment on what it’s like to work with her. I certainly know she’s fabulous to be around. She’s more than gorgeous in real life. Her smile just brightens up the whole thing.”
It’s not just jeans and white t-shirts for Simon come the live shows
“When it comes to the live shows, Simon wears incredible tailoring, really expensive suits. He always looks absolutely on the money for the live shows.
“Simon’s wardrobe reflects his power. He can wear what the hell he wants because he’s Simon Cowell. He doesn’t really care about changing it for anybody, which you’ve got to admire,” says Grace when I ask about his usual white t-shirt and jeans look.
“If he started to run around being all ‘fashiony’ we’d be like, what the hell’s he doing? Simon is Simon.”
Simon’s brief to Grace was pretty simple
“‘I don’t care as long as people are talking about it’. That was my brief. That kind of sums it up. It doesn’t really matter if people have got a negative opinion because we’ve all got different tastes. You can’t please all the people all the time. So it’s really great fun. He just has a lot of fun. He’s like the Wizard of Oz pulling strings. He knows what he’s doing.”
A stand out fashion moment for Grace was with Rebecca Ferguson
“Rebecca Ferguson was definitely my one. A personal one. She was fantastic. I got couture on the X Factor stage for the first time. British designers. It was great to support British designers. I made sure that I tried to have some consciousness about what I was doing while I was there.”
One Direction were contestants during Grace’s year…
“It was Trudie Le Marie who worked with them, I had to have one stylist who just worked with them. They were like a box of puppies. Hysterical and uncontrollable and a bit smelly and a bit ungroomed… but look at them now. We knew it at the time [that they’d do well].”
What happens to the clothes after the show?
Some are kept for various reasons, but otherwise it’s trolley-loads of stuff being taken to the supermarket charity and recycling bins next door. “At night when it was empty,” Grace reveals.
Well, we know where to be after the final, eh?
So what’s Grace working on at the moment?
Enter The Pram Glam Guide, a post-pregnancy style guide for new mums, commissioned by researchers at Persil Non-Bio and Comfort Pure.
“After having a baby I felt really strongly about how pregnant women were viewed and also post-pregnancy – this sort of celebrity ‘snap back’ stuff. It was brilliant to have the opportunity to do some really great work with women’s confidence around this time, because no one was really doing anything and speaking out about it.
“Persil Non-Bio and Comfort Pure researchers did a survey and something like 87% of women felt like their wardrobe just didn’t suit their lifestyles any more so they just didn’t know where they were at. That can be a spiral for women into post-natal depression or feeling really low. It’s a really hard time because A: You’re completely focused on your baby. B: You feel bad because ‘I shouldn’t be thinking about myself’. But then C: You need to do something about your self-esteem. Just making sure you’re OK and just making sure everyone else is OK. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done together,” Grace concludes.
The style guide can be downloaded on the website.
See The X Factor results show on Sunday at 8:15pm on ITV