With her striking red hair and impeccable style, Ilana Moses doesn’t have to work too hard to make her mark. But as the founder of cult fashion store Grace Melbourne, she’s proven that she likes to do just that – work hard...
Having created one of Australia’s most coveted stores for designer edits and emerging discoveries, at Grace Melbourne, Ilana expertly evokes a world of style and substance, peppered with love and passion for style in all its incarnations.
Her home is certainly no exception. With colour, personality and delightful surprises at every corner, it’s clear that style exudes throughout every aspect of Ilana’s life.
We were thrilled to speak to Ilana about her journey from law to fashion, how she manages the juggle, and her approach to style for both herself and her children.
As Ilana says, “What we wear and how we wear it says a lot about who we are, our mood and who we want to be today.” In that case, we’d quite like to step into Ilana’s wardrobe to spend some time in those incredible shoes of hers.
With GRACE Melbourne, you bring a world of exclusive designers and stunning products to your customers. How do you go about sourcing the great brands and pieces you stock?
Discovering and curating the mix is part of the joy of what I do, but I can’t say that there is a specific formula to this. It’s really about what speaks to me and this goes beyond great design or a great name. Everything that we select has to reflect a certain “je ne sais quoi”, that is, have an inherent value and be something special. It could be anything from the Italian toothpaste we sell (which is effective, looks beautiful and cleverly stands on its cap), to a simple but well-cut T-shirt, the perfect wash of denim or an impeccably cut blazer – you basically know it when you see it!
GRACE also gets approached regularly by brands wanting to be stocked, which is really flattering. But when I do add a new brand, it is very considered and chosen because I feel it will be a great long-term fit, offering our customers something super exciting that makes sense for their lives. This July we have two incredible new brands coming on board that will be sure to surprise and delight our girl!
As well as fashion, you stock a selection of lifestyle and homeware items. How do you feel that lifestyle elements can work with fashion to create true personal style?
I guess that the fun of fashion is in the discovery of items you essentially ‘need’ (we all must get dressed) but that you also love – they get you excited and feeling confident about the way you present yourself to the world. How you put it all together to reflect who you are is where fashion meets style, because true style is about more than the clothes you wear.
Things for your life are no different. These things also reflect who you are and what makes you feel good. The way we curate things (whether that’s an outfit or other objects in our life) is how we communicate our own personal style, which ultimately speaks to who we are. Mostly we’re not even aware we are doing this, as what we are drawn to is usually more of an emotional response. We might know we need a t-shirt but why we choose the one we do is because of how we feel in it. I think that is part of the magic of GRACE; because you can come in and know that the best product range possible has been curated for you and you can let your emotions do the rest!
What is your personal approach to fashion? Do you subscribe to a uniform?
I don’t really think about “fashion” per se and instead get inspired by great, well-designed pieces that I can see will work for me (and our customers) for some time. The idea of effortless style is what inspires me, because I think there’s nothing better than seeing someone who looks completely comfortable in their skin and confident in their choice of clothing. I don’t think most of us really care about trends or what is “in fashion”. I think we are more inspired by the idea of personal style which thankfully today embraces so much and really celebrates the individual.
Personally, I dress to reflect how I’m feeling, what I have on that day, and the weather (my pet peeve is seeing street style photos from NYFW in January when girls are teetering in open-toed heels through the snow!! Each to their own but I’m not convinced they’d be doing that if the cameras weren’t there, it doesn’t feel authentic). Some days I might be feeling more feminine and polished, and others a bit more laid-back and edgy, so my ‘looks’ might be quite different. I love that the clothes we choose to wear give us so much freedom in expressing ourselves.
Overall I really don’t subscribe to a uniform although I do believe there are certain pieces we all benefit from and should ‘invest’ in, including a great white or striped shirt, a well-cut jacket (it needn’t be black!), flattering jeans, an iconic handbag, amazing shoes etc.
What do you think is key to pulling together a great outfit - particularly for mothers who are looking for style, while still offering functionality?
I would say just wear what you love and don’t be afraid to experiment with new combinations or proportions. And be authentic.
For mothers wanting to balance style with ease I would say to keep it simple – if you dress to reflect your mood and what you have on that day then I don’t think there are any rules to pulling together a great outfit. There are some combinations that always work, like striped tees with jeans or a cute dress with trainers. Having some fall-back options you always feel good in is important as it makes getting dressed simple and fast!
What brands are you most excited about at this point in time?
I’m really excited by brands that remain true to their DNA whilst giving us exciting collections seasonally to fall in love with. I love brands led by strong women, and brands with ethics. Stella McCartney is one example; her ability to pioneer ethical fashion whilst sending spectacular clothing down the runway is truly inspiring. Otherwise I feel like it’s an interesting time in fashion. The mega labels have become so ubiquitous, which opens up a discussion about what is luxury today? I’ve also got my eye out for new under-the-radar brands bringing something fresh and exciting to the table.
The retail landscape - particularly bricks and mortar - is shifting so dramatically. How have you maintained relevance and such a strong customer base despite the changing environment?
It’s very true that online has introduced a game-changing way to shop. However, at the end of the day online is just another form of retail competition. And I don’t think that competition is necessarily a bad thing. I really believe that if you’re authentic and passionate and just focus on what you’re offering, you are likely to succeed. What we believe in is providing the best selection in a warm, upscale environment with genuine service that aims to surpass expectations. We strive for this every day and I think that helps set us apart. I also think that nothing can eclipse personal relationships. We have regular customers who just pop in for a chat, and we’re able to offer our clients information on what’s coming soon and what will suit them in a way that the internet can’t do on such a personal level.
Ultimately, shopping is fun because you have so many options. You can browse from your device by the pool on holiday or on the sofa at night, or you can pop into your favourite shop where often the staff are like friends, to see what’s new, and to experience the simple joy of finding the perfect something and walking out with it.
How do you approach dressing your children? Do you have any favourite brands or stores?
Luckily my kids wear a school uniform so they don’t need much! Good quality tempered with knowing they grow quickly is the balance I go for, so mixing Uniqlo and Zara with higher end brands is what ends up happening, particularly as when I’m away for the business and it’s sale time, I pick up some things for them at Galeries Lafayette or Le Bon Marche. I recently discovered a brand called The Animals Observatory at Le Bon Marche which my daughter loves!
Tell us about decorating your home and how your love of fashion has made its way into interiors...
I’ve always loved all aspects of design so working on our home was a process I really cherished, and I’m grateful it’s not over yet as I have quite a bit of furniture to still source. Working with colour, form and texture in a new three-dimensional format was both exciting and challenging so I guess in this way it is analogous to working in fashion/clothing design. I’m also fortunate that I travel often for the business, so I am constantly exposed to beautiful, soulful spaces in cities like Milan, Paris and New York, all of which definitely inspired me. Currently, I’m quite obsessed with shades of lavender, as you can see in our kitchen and also in store! I figure as a cousin to grey it won’t date – time will tell if that logic works or not!
What did your career entail prior to GRACE Melbourne?
Before entering the fashion world and co-founding GRACE I was a commercial lawyer both here and in New York. My husband and I moved to New York when I was a second-year lawyer and I worked in-house for BHP Billiton and Viacom (Paramount Pictures, MTV and VH1) before starting my own label in the US. I did all my manufacturing in Brooklyn, was featured in some amazing magazines, and sold to stores such as Nordstrom. It was a blast!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I see my kids off in the morning just before 8am and generally head straight to work. I like to use the quiet time before anyone else gets there to get organised and focus on what’s most important that day. I also always read my mini horoscope at this time, I just can’t help it! I then walk down to the Italians to pick up coffees. Once the store opens anything can happen! I’ll often pop up to help VIPs or chat to stylists about product loans, help unpack new deliveries or dash out to a buying appointment if I can’t schedule them first thing. Down in the office, there is a lot that needs my attention. If it’s buying season this takes up the lion’s share as we have almost 50 orders to write seasonally and the deadlines are always tight. Around this, I also try to split my time between working alongside my amazing team, servicing customers, designing our brands’ GRACE and VAILLE, and strategy planning for our online store and Farfetch (with whom we’ve been working with for a few years now). I tend to eat lunch at my desk and head home between 5 and 5:30pm to be with my kids and do the dinner/homework/shower/bed routine. Often there are lovely events to attend in the evening but I have to say I am very happy being at home or making it to the odd yoga class. If lucky I manage to squeeze in a book or episode of something in bed.
How do you approach the juggle - children, family, work and life?
I’d say I try my best not to drop too many balls! I’ve always been a very organised person and I rely heavily on my diary… If something’s not in there it’s pretty certain I will not remember it! Prioritising is also important because the truth is things are always competing for your attention and you just can’t do it all (which makes avoiding guilt quite difficult!). Lately I’ve also finally accepted how important carving out some time for yourself is. There’s a new book out called “Pick Three” by Randi Zuckerberg and the basic premise is that you can have it all, just not every day. I think this is a very helpful way to ‘chunk’ your goals and responsibilities, and factor in some time for self care, without letting it all get too much. I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing I could clone myself to get more done, better! Last but not least, I’m incredibly fortunate to have an amazingly supportive husband. I honestly would not be able to manage it all without us being a team.
What’s on your current list of loves?
Gucci Westman’s new Westman Atelier Lit Up Highlight Stick
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (my best friend recently gave me a copy)
Chocolate covered Sesame Snaps
Fendi sunglasses from GRACE
Fresh hydrangeas from our garden
A walk around the ‘hood with my kids and husband
Christian Dior’s La Colle Noire perfume
@Donte.Colley on Instagram (a dose of inspiration and laughter with great tunes, what more could you ask for?!)
My Smythson Soho monogrammed 2019 diary
My Apple earpods
Anything Sandra Oh