Executive Fashion & Beauty Editor, Harper's Bazaar US.
Executive Producer & Host, Platinum Eye.
This Conversation is with a sensational style guru, and it is said, one of the nicest women in fashion editorial. Avril Graham is the Executive Fashion & Beauty Editor of Harper’s Bazaar, as such, her sartorial choices are bold and iconic. A Scotswoman in New York, Avril is engaging and typically provides fashion commentary to the major US networks.
She has taken TV commentary to a more international level with her own series, Platinum Eye. Since its debut last year, the show has provided a brilliant escape to those of us staying at home. The show is fresh and clever, introducing us to faraway lands and the finest experiences. We speak to Avril about memorable fashion moments and eye-catching style through her lens.
Avril is style personified, on her wrist: Elsa Peretti silver bone cuff and Hermès Boucle Sellier bracelet.
What led you into the field of fashion?
I always had a love of fashion growing up as a child and into my teens. I’ve been lucky to follow that passion and make it a career. It is still a pinch-me moment even now. My first job was at Country Life magazine in the UK… then I moved on to more prominent fashion-focused titles.
What is a memorable fashion moment for you?
Gosh, I have so many …
Without question, it was one of my first trips to Milan Fashion Week. I recall sitting way back in the rows at a Versace show, when Gianni was still designing. It was the era of the major supermodels and the time when George Michael had featured them all in his music video. Lights were down, runway black and shiny, just a couple of high back chairs in silhouette.
One by one, all the top models of the time came out in silhouette. Lights came up, and they walked the runway to George Michael’s Freedom - Linda, Christy, Naomi, Kate, Cindy, Claudia and Helena, all wearing leather biker jackets and Versace silks. Wow, it was a powerful fashion moment for a young Editor. I was working for British Marie Claire at the time, sitting next to me was colleague, Kate Phelan (who went on to be a powerful force on British Vogue). We were just so thrilled and glad to be there; it was a magical fashion moment and memory.
Also, John Galliano for Dior produced some incredible designs for Haute Couture. The Spring | Summer 2004 was one such memorable collection, inspired by Galliano’s travels to Egypt. Intensely magical and memorable, the designs and headgear were so artful and extraordinary – an incredible feat for the girls to walk that runway – everything in gold.
And of course, any Alexander McQueen show when Lee was alive. He staged spectacles like no other. I was fortunate to view such incredible work. Fashion history.
You are a noted polo enthusiast and always so elegantly turned out. What are your go-to’s for spectator style?
I like to follow a European Polo style… for that, no fancy hats! That is typically reserved for horse racing spectators and Ascot. Polo tends to be played during hot weather in the US; so, I generally favor a sundress, long or mid length, basic sun hat and flats, or a wedge, for stomping the divots. I always love wearing good accessories – however that goes without saying. But basic, no-frills clothing. It is all about the match for me… I go to watch the sport!
As a top fashion editor yourself, are there any editors from the past you admire?
Good styling is so important to any fashion story, runway show or cover. The best stylists in the world can add punch to a look, while make everything look effortless. I have been lucky to work with some of the best names in the world - Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, who certainly taught me a lot about the power of accessories.
Where do you find the most fashion inspiration?
I see fashion inspiration everywhere. Once such memorable moment, while filming Platinum Eye, was rummaging through a cedar closet with the Countess of Carnarvon at Highclere Castle (where Downton Abbey was filmed). We found the most incredible vintage items: elaborate footmen’s uniforms, flapper dresses, tricorn hats and riding boots. They had not seen the light of day for decades!
What is your best style advice?
Don’t work too hard on a look, and never stress about matching colors (I personally loathe matching shoes and bags in terms of color). Don't try to emulate someone else’s style, it rarely works. Find your own niche, stick to it, and make it work for you.
How has your role as an editor evolved with the changes in the media industry?
I am surprised that we are now required to do way more than edit. You have to be multi-dimensional in this industry. My role at Bazaar has evolved so much over the years; I’ve developed more of a public voice. This has involved a great deal of TV commentary, on topics such as trends, current affairs and social lifestyle. I’ve been called on to appear and give an opinion for major TV shows, such as The Today Show, Oprah, GMA, Access Hollywood, Barbara Walters, 20/20, The View, CNN… the list goes on. This includes live reporting for television events like the Red Carpet at the Oscars, Olympic Opening Ceremonies in London and Brazil, Royal Weddings and Jubilee celebrations. (The US networks always had the best vantage points!)
I also give trend talks to women’s groups, open stores and host events for designers across the country. I love meeting our readers and hearing feedback on things they have especially enjoyed.
You recently launched the television series, Platinum Eye. How did you come up with this idea?
I felt there was a gap in luxury programming. The idea was to create a series that embodies stories of fashion, travel, culture and the arts - light television that offered a sense of escape and a sneak peek behind the velvet rope.
When curating each episode, what are the top criteria you consider?
I like each segment to flow into the next, so one can easily watch the episodes back-to-back. I think the people (the interviews) are what makes any place interesting. It’s also finding a fun narrative to share. We always feature food and mixology in each show.
What is the ultimate luxury for you?
Spending time with lovely people, true and trusted friends.
What is your favorite quote or saying?
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken - Oscar Wilde.