Skall letter No. 21

The timeless, classic and elegant wardrobe – a talk with fashion editor Barbara Gullstein

Dear friends,

A sunny morning in May, we visit fashion editor of the fashion magazine ELLE, Barbara Gullstein, in her charming city house, located in the old Carlsberg neighborhood of Humleby. She lives here with her husband, the musician Rasmus Walter, their daughter Luka and their son Milo.

Barbara manage to elegantly and charmingly joggle with a question from 4 year old Luka, asking for a glass of milk, preparing snacks for our talk and at the same time, discussing the content of today’s shoot – and we immediately understand that we are together with a powerwoman, who are used to have a lot on her plate. The theme for this Skall Letter, is of course and inevitably fashion, and especially the classic and elegant women’s fashion, which she is engaged in every day, and of which she is an expert. But how does Barbara actually define “good design”, and what does she expect from it?

“To me, good design is timeless and of good quality. That doesn’t mean it is boring. I value the small details in the design that makes a style stand out. For example, like the “Poppy” dress from Skall Studio, with the knot at the front” she explains.

As with fashion, good quality is also important in the furnishing of her home, where we notice both Danish and international design classics. The style is minimalistic with tonal colours of black and white, together with warm colours of different types of wood and other natural materials. It is easy to find a lot of shared references, whether in her style of fashion and interior design, durable design, good quality or elegant tones.

Back to the talk about the timeless wardrobe, we ask her what classics we would find in her closet, and what characterize those in particular.

“Suits and blazers are mine forever go-to. I claim to have blazers in all forms, and it is definitely the item that I wear most often. To me, the suit is a true power-outfit, and styled with a pair of heels, nothing can stop me. I feel like the 1970’s model Vibeke Knudsen, dressed in the extraordinary beautiful Yves Saint Laurent suit in the Helmut Lang photo “Le Smoking”", she explains and continues “I focus on durable styles when shopping. My rule of thumb is 1)to check whether the material is of high quality 2) make sure that the silhouette suits my body 3) ask myself if this is a style that I would like to wear again and again. I am through with buying items that will just stay in the closet, fading”.

Talking about quality, she mentions the importance of the material having a nice surface, sustainable production and the style having a comfortable fit, to be the most important factors guiding her purchase. When talking about classic and timeless fashion, some may believe that it all sounds a bit boring and ordinary. But to this, Barbara has a clear answer:

“Through styling, by using contrasts when dressing, we can avoid the boring and ordinary look. Combining the feminine with the masculine, styling a pair of worn out jeans with a delicate top, or a chunky necklace with a delicate dress” she explains.

But how do you yourself feel, when dressed in good quality and strong design, styled like this?

“I feel empowerment. As a fashion editor, the way I dress is indeed also my business card and must communicate both a flair for design – whether trendy, timeless or both at the same time – and the good quality. So, when design and quality all come together, it gives me a feeling of control and consequently I gain the confidence I need to do my job well.”

With a couple of playful kids like Luka and Milo, we need to ask Barbara how good design and quality match her life as a busy mother? 

“After having my children, I’m even more aware of buying wisely, which to me means buying high quality. At the same time, I avoid very delicate styles. My everyday uniform is a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, both in organic cotton and of high quality” Barbara tells. “It is also my wish to pass on the idea of buying less and better to my kids, with reference to sustainable fashion and quality. And besides that, my husband is quite good at sewing, so we make sure to mend whatever is possible”.

And from where does a professional fashion stylist find inspiration for her own private wardrobe?

“I am always influenced by my work with styling. I think that is inevitable. After soaking oneself in a moodboard and an atmosphere, it is difficult not bringing something with you. I also have a few style icons that I can always turn towards for inspiration. They have changed throughout the years as I grow older. When I was younger, it was Kate Moss and Emmanuele Alt. These days, my style goes from bohemian to minimalistic. So now,  the 1990’s style of Athena Calderone and Christy Turlington are my biggest source of inspiration for the grown up, elegant and yet relaxed style I’m trying to achieve” she finishes.