At 56, she isn't a grandmotherly sideshow in kooky hats. She's current, sexy, and has reframed the idea that true style has an expiration date.
Glamour’s Women to Watch series spotlights women who are redefining what it means to be an influencer. Yes, they have “personal brands” and rapidly growing social followings—but in some way, each of these women is pushing the boundaries of what an influencer should look like, act like, or stand for. Their very presence is broadening the scope, which gives them the space to have actual influence: These women are changing conversations, dictating trends, and creating style. And they’re just getting started.
Grece Ghanem has style. Legitimate, intelligent, born-with-it style. It’s the type of style you can’t fake and the type women 30 years younger often try to achieve but somehow tends to have a particular authenticity on Ghanem, who will be 57 in December. It feels odd to call her an influencer, since the word has become a bit of a punchline, one reserved for 20-somethings who manically post their outfits and their beach waves and their breakfasts and their vacations and their new-parenting tips and their home decor to rack up followers that can help monetize their photos into an actual brand. But with 685,000 followers on Instagram—where Ghanem posts her outfits—that’s what she is.
Ghanem posts her daily looks, works with brands, and occasionally gives us glimpses into her fitness and beauty routines, but somehow it just feels different. I don’t roll my eyes when I see the blazer she’s wearing is in partnership with, say, Mango—meaning she’s getting paid to promote it to her followers. Instead, I commend Mango for working with a woman whose style makes sense for them. And yes, a woman who was 45 years old when Instagram launched in 2010.
Becoming a social media influencer wasn’t something Ghanem set out to do, though she does have a deep appreciation for fashion that started young. “I always took good care styling myself and discovering my personal style,” she tells me. “I’d invest in building my wardrobe with quality pieces, and I also loved reading and collecting fashion magazines.”
Yet Ghanem spent time working in a hospital in Lebanon, where she’d received a master’s degree in microbiology before moving to Montreal 16 years ago and becoming a personal trainer. Not professional fields that call for a tremendous amount of investment pieces or frequent outfit documentation. But one look at her Instagram page, and you’d think fashion was a space she’d been working in her entire life.
What’s most interesting about Ghanem—at least to me—is that her clothes are current, intuitive, sexy, and they form outfits that women of any age would want to wear to grab coffee, to go to work or dinner, to wear on a date. Real-life clothes with distinct street-style energy—a rare concept given how so many fashion personalities over 50 or 60 on Instagram present themselves. The ones relegated to the kooky-grandma category, overflowing with mounds of vintage jewelry and glitzy turbans and circus-style tent dresses seemingly designed to be gawked at. They look unique and interesting in their own right, and plenty of women will aspire to dress this way, but Ghanem embraces an understated practicality that inherently makes you take her seriously, as opposed to chuckling, perhaps patronizingly, at the gray-haired lady in the hat.
As someone constantly struggling with the push-and-pull feelings that come with getting older , I’ve always found so-called fashion rules as they pertain to age especially ruthless—how many times have I heard that a woman over the age of 35 shouldn’t be wearing short skirts? I love short skirts! So I’m grateful when I see women like Ghanem who, in no uncertain terms, convince me that as time goes by, I don’t have to slip into indifference, invisibility, or a giant hat with a bird on top just to telegraph that I’m still stylish.
I talked to Grece Ghanem about how she got her start as an unlikely fashion influencer, her favorite brand of all time, and her general philosophy on aging as a woman.
Glamour: Why did you decide to set up an Instagram account to showcase your style?
Grece Ghanem: It started six years ago. I’d borrow my daughter’s account to follow my favorite street-style photographers. One day she insisted on opening me my own account, and she encouraged me to start posting. We already took fashion photos way before I joined Instagram. Together we started sharing those photos and taking more daily.
So how did you get your followers? Was it fast?
It was slow at the beginning, and my intention was not to get followers when I signed up for the platform. Instagram was a hobby between my daughter and I where we got to explore our creativity. However, one day I did an interview with Vice about style and age which garnered a lot of attention. Just a few weeks later I met with [fashion blog] Advanced Style in NYFW, and I feel we started to grow our little Instagram community. The fact that I was in my 50s and had a unique style was a natural concept to us, but it caught a lot of attention, and that is how my Instagram page grew organically.
How would you describe your personal style?
I always had a penchant for elevated basics, bold colors, power prints, and ultimately I’m committed to wearing what fits my mood. I like to mix high and low, contemporary and vintage, masculine and feminine silhouettes and make it all look effortless. I love quality and timeless pieces.
Why do you think there aren’t more style accounts run by women over 40 or 50?
I think the fashion industry is still a little shy to put forward women my age. The market feels oversaturated with young fashion accounts, girls in their 20s. However, there are great accounts of women in their 40s, 50s, and older sharing their sense of style.
Do you intentionally try to dispel myths around how women can dress as they get older?
Yes, it’s no secret that I strongly believe that women should remain visible no matter their age and have the freedom to dress as they please.
Do you consider yourself an influencer?
Yes and no. I see myself more as a content creator. I create content to inspire women of all ages and give them ideas on how to dress and style items already in their wardrobe.
What’s a fashion “rule” about age that drives you crazy?
That when women reach a certain age, they should have a more conservative and classic aesthetic. That they can no longer experiment and wear bold colors, experiment with different silhouettes and cuts. I think that’s so passé. As long as you dress with confidence, you can pull off any look.
What’s your general philosophy on how women should shop as they age?
My rules are ageless; they apply to women in every stage of her life. Buy the piece that you like not because anyone else tells you it’s the trend of the season but because it makes you feel empowered. Do not let your clothes overwhelm you. They should make you feel more beautiful and give you strength and joy.
What’s the best thing a fan or follower has said to you?
I get plenty of kind and supportive messages every day. It really touches my heart and humbles me. I love when a follower reaches out and says that I inspired their mum to dress a certain way or when they tell me they would like to be like me when they [get older].
What’s sexy to you?
Confidence and personality is the sexiest thing.
What inspires you, generally?
Nature, architecture, art, and fashion magazines. I draw a lot of inspiration from my surroundings on the daily. I might be inspired to mix certain colors in an outfit after seeing an art piece at a gallery. Fashion inspiration can really come from anywhere; we just need to slow down and appreciate what’s happening around us.
Favorite designer of all time?
My coup de coeur designer was Phoebe Philo for Céline. She rarely revealed her inspirations or commented about her designs. There’s room for personal discovery of [each] collection. I believe that Philo’s designs have this creative energy and timeless modernity. I feel like they accompany a woman in her different life stages. Today I also feel this energy from Daniel Lee’s Bottega Veneta. I love the attention to detail and craftsmanship that’s passed on from one season to the next, allowing you to build on the pieces you already have in your wardrobe.
What’s the last piece you splurged on?
A special handbag I was looking forward to adding to my collection. The craftsmanship is exquisite.
Whose style do you love right now?
I believe it really depends on my mood at that time, as I believe style is very related to my mood. There are a lot of stylish inspirational women. I admire Tamu McPherson when I am looking for color to brighten my day and uplift my mood. She’s a queen of mixing—colors, prints, and different silhouettes; her style is very joyful. If I want to feel super-feminine and sexy, I look to Evangelie Smyrniotaki. Ultimately, I stay faithful to my own style while incorporating elements from a lot of women.
This story originally appeared on: Glamour - Author:Condé Nast