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Working with Gok Wan - Part one

Written by Jackie O'Fee on June 1st, 2012.      0 comments

As you probably know, Gok Wan has been in New Zealand this week, doing three make-over shows in Westfield malls in Auckland; Albany, St Lukes and Manukau. What you might not know, however is that Signature Style were asked to do all the ‘behind the scenes’ work for these shows. It’s not all ‘behind the scenes’ either – I’ve was the “Stylist/MC” for the shows and the actual makeovers were very public, so the team were on display, busy “doing what we do”. I started writing this blog on the Saturday before Gok arrived, but it’s ended up as a bit of a novel really, so I’ve decided to publish it in three palatable parts.
Gok Wan

Part 1: Before – Saturday 26 May
Gok actually flies into Auckland tomorrow and I get to meet him on Monday. I have to admit that I’m feeling a complete mix of feelings about meeting Gok – on one hand I’m really excited and the other I’m terrified.
When we were approached to do this work (last December when it was top secret) I was hugely flattered. Wow! They wanted me to MC and Signature Style to put everything together. I said yes, of course and then had to keep total silence. Ugh! So hard - I’m not great at secrets.  Especially not wonderful, exciting secrets! The first real planning meeting in January (still top secret) the scope of what was required was discussed. It was huge. As is usual for me I simply said “Great. Yes, we can handle that” and panicked inside – I’d work out ‘how’ later. Still, April seemed so far away and there was loads of time.  But, as you know – time has a way of trickling away and before we knew it, we were staring at immovable deadlines. Then the news came through that Gok had undergone three lots of emergency back surgery, things were on hold but the tour would go ahead at a later date. Right then, hold breath and wait.

We got word that it was all go – except that the new dates would clash with already scheduled “Walk in Wardrobes”. Awesome; that meant putting everything together in a month where my team were working in Westfield Chartwell in Hamilton for a week and Westfield Riccarton in Christchurch for another week. Eeek!  What “we” (the team) would be doing became “me”. Bye-bye decent sleeps, weekends, social events, being a decent friend and sister – it was all about Gok Wan.

The plan; get garments, shoes and accessories together from Westfield retailers. Create outfits – enough for a range of sizes and shapes (about 40 outfits in total).  Photograph and upload outfits to PC, send to Thuy (US based Aussie stylist who has worked with Gok on five previous Australian tours). Await her feedback. She was fairly stringent in her approach (the words ‘control-freak’ come to mind and now that I’ve met her I know she won’t be offended by that). She also appeared to have no sense of humour (she does, but also takes her work very seriously) and on a couple of occasions I managed to send completely the wrong message with my flippant, off the cuff jokey emails. Note to self – use emoticons or just forget trying to joke via email.

Jackie Office Gok Wan
Jackie's office - it got a lot worse than this!
I began to fear opening my emails each day as there would be several from Thuy: “Can you source...?” “I’ve looked online and I think we should get....” “I think this is a good outfit for a size 14”.  So, based on those emails we’d go back to retailers to get more garments, different sizes. Then we’d re-work looks according to Thuy’s instructions. Send more photos, go back to retailers again. It was endless.

My office began to look like a sixteen year old girl’s bedroom after she’d suffered a “What am I going to wear?” Saturday night meltdown.  As the tour drew closer the clothes took over the entire studio and we had to apologise to clients for the mess. To be honest, most were pretty curious and no-one seemed to mind – that we were working with Gok was seen as pretty cool. The task of taping the shoes (so the soles are undamaged) took two and half days. On the final Friday we all worked until 8pm taping – keeping ourselves amused with girly chat and a glass of wine.

Gok Wan
Gok Wan - Taking over the studio, Debby sorts while Christie starts to develop callouses from taping!
All the while, we kept on working with clients. When we moved Signature Style to Newmarket in January we took on some fairly large overheads. We have rent to pay. Speaking to groups (three corporate presentations on Personal Image), working with individuals (several shopping trips, colours, make-up lessons etc.), client events in the studio (Our “Meet the Designer” night) – it all continued. This past week I even went zooming into Smith & Caughey’s each day for a 15 minute style segment as part of Clinique’s seasonal VIP workshops (which proved to be a really lovely break from the madness back at the studio each day).  

On Saturday 26th (prior to show week), we started work at 9am to transport everything from the studio to Westfield Albany (the venue for the first show). The mountains of clothes, taped shoes (oops – poor Christie even taped rejected samples – she went ever so slightly lemon lipped when I told her she’d done that), hats, bags, belts and jewellery were packed into our five cars and taken up the motorway.  Once unloaded there, the outfits were sorted by size, put on racks and every garment was steamed. Hmmm. One of the racks looked a bit ‘light’ on garments (the size 16-18’s). We’d need to sort that. Regardless, all five of us worked solidly until 3:15pm. Yeaay! Given how manic the weeks leading up to this point had been our goal had been that  if we got it done that day we could all (except me but that’s kind of normal)have Sunday off. Yeaay! We managed it!

Gok Wan Personal Stylists
Westfield Albany Boardroom - Garments ready for Gok's Inspection

Gok Wan Personal Stylist
And the shoes - all taped and ready to go
I head back to the studio to upload some photos to our Facebook page and walk into my office. Somehow, we’d forgotten to pack quite a lot of stuff. Dammit! There were the bigger size outfits. And there were the garments and accessories we’d gathered for Gok’s televised interviews. Sigh. I’d have to take those up to Albany on Sunday – before or after I dressed the last model for Gok’s appearance on TVNZs Good Morning show (scheduled for first thing Tuesday). Nevermind, tomorrow's another day. Right now, I'm exhausted and head home to spend some time with my family.



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