How I Shop: Tess Ward

"I'm not the kind of girl who will put on an outfit, take a picture and then get back in sweatpants."
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Tess Ward at New York Fashion Week. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images for Karen Millen

Tess Ward at New York Fashion Week. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images for Karen Millen

We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."

If food consultant, travel writer and chef Tess Ward suggests a restaurant for us to meet, I will obviously follow her recommendation. After all, the Le Cordon Bleu-trained author of "The Naked Diet" and her website, The Yes Chef, knows her stuff — and she has impeccable taste when it comes to style. Represented by Storm Management, Ward sits front row at London Fashion Week and regularly collaborates with fashion brands, including Dolce & Gabbana — she walked their secret millennial runway show for Spring 2018 — as well as Michael Kors and Karen Millen. Merging the food and fashion worlds, the former model also hosts dinners for the likes of Chloé, Mulberry and Temperley London

An avid fashion fan herself, Ward regularly pops up on best-dressed and street-style lists — not to mention her own dreamy food flatlay and OOTD-filled Instagram — with her cool, French-influenced (as she'll tell you) London-girl aesthetic. She's a big fan of pantsuits, as we know from that time she wore a very familiar printed Gucci shirt with a Saint Laurent tuxedo jacket and The Kooples trousers, sending celebrity gossip conspiracy theorists (and some, okay, all Fashionista editors) into a frenzy.

"Oh, yeah, that was just a polo event last year," shrugs Ward, as we sat at a table in back at the Soho destination of her choice. She wanted to "do a rekkie" (i.e., recon mission, said in her mesmerizing British accent that I could listen to all day) before committing to a full dinner there later. The London-based multi-hyphenate was in New York for meetings with brands and gearing up for the summer, when she and a friend will launch a series of healthy and wellness events cheekily named "Filthy, Healthy, Cravings Retreats."

Over a pot of tea, as Brits do, Ward took in the buzzy restaurant scene while discussing how she combines food and style into one successful career, why she dresses differently in New York than back home in London and what her favorite kitchen 'fits are.

Tess Ward and a green juice. Photo: Courtesy

Tess Ward and a green juice. Photo: Courtesy

"I don't wear a ballgown to cook, if that's what you mean. I wear comfortable clothes. I'm a big fan of sportswear. I love P.E. Nation and LNDR. Adidas [editor's note: said the proper way, 'ah-dee-dahs'] by Stella McCartney — they've done some amazing pieces. I like wearing clothes that are structurally really sound and fit really well. I love exercise, as well. So in every aspect of my life, I like to feel like I'm wearing something that is, first of all, comfortable and supporting me in what I do and also is playful and an expression of how I feel. 

I'm not the kind of girl who will put on an outfit, take a picture and then get back in sweatpants. Lots of people have fashion aspects to their jobs. It's just their job. For me, the fashion thing has come much more organically. Before I was a chef, I was a model as a teenager, but I love food too much. I was like, 'This isn't going to be a job for me.' Then the fashion stuff has come back around in a different way. It's only happened because I truthfully love it.

Food and fashion are both massive aspects of my life and they're both constantly prominent and equally so. But at different stages, one will take precedence over the other. I see the way I cook as an expression of creativity, much in the same way that what you put on your back is an expression of how you feel on that day. Our mood and our emotions and aspects of our personality are changeable depending on where we are, what we want, how we're feeling, the time of year. Food is seasonal, [like fashion], so what I want to eat in summer is very different to what I want to eat in winter. 

For food, I would always shop in store. I like to feel produce. I like to know what I'm buying. I want to make sure that I have the best-quality-possible pear I can get in that store or in a farmer's market. But for fashion or clothes, I'm a much more precision-based shopper. I'm not the kind of person who will go on a day shopping trip and then hope to find pieces. Usually, I have ideas in my mind specifically of things I want or something I want for an occasion or something that's lacking in my wardrobe or a key piece for the season that I want to invest in, so I'm not really. I'm more of an online shopper when it comes to fashion — 100 percent.

Tess Ward at the 2017 British "GQ" Men of the Year Awards in London. Photo: Mike Marsland/WireImage

Tess Ward at the 2017 British "GQ" Men of the Year Awards in London. Photo: Mike Marsland/WireImage

Recently, I really wanted the current season Chloé boots. They're kind of high-top with a buckle, slightly pointed, like classic Chloé style. I bought them and they didn't fit properly, and I was on Net-a-Porter and I was like, 'I really want to buy any. I want a treat.' It was my birthday and every now and then I want to invest in a statement piece that's not a brand I'm working with. Then I found myself perusing online, as you do, and I came across these incredible Prada wedges with a gold buckle. They're amazing. They lace up and they're chunky and they've got a thick heel all the way through and I was like, 'Yeah, they're great,' and I impulse bought them.

I have a real range of shoes. I like quite a lot of small shoe brands, rather than the big ones. Malone Souliers: brilliant designers. I have a cute and very playful pairs of shoes from a designer named Camilla Elphik. My best chunky black platform heels with a strap are by Michael Kors. It depends, really. I like to mix elements, but footwear I have a lot of. Sometimes, I'll wear a very classic kind of suit with a funky shirt and then some cool heels. 

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My style does have a slight French influence to it. I really like well-fitted cashmere wool coats and good tailoring. I like Breton stripes. I like good wool knits. I like well-fitted trousers. I definitely wear patterns; I'm very much into that. I love leather. I love berets. I don't know [where the influence comes from]. Dating Frenchmen? Who knows. I mean, my food's definitely inspired by France because I was classically trained at Le Cordon Bleu.

I don't really follow that many fashion people [on Instagram], but I really like some of the pieces that Danielle Bernstein [of We Wore What] wears. I think that her personal style is good. It's a bit too put-together for me, but… Also, my friend Danielle Snyder, founder of jewelry brand Dannijo. She's got great personal style. 

Tess Ward at the 2018 Virgin TV British Academy Television Awards in London. Photo: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Tess Ward at the 2018 Virgin TV British Academy Television Awards in London. Photo: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

This is a really random one: I've just been re-watching 'Sex and the City' and I like the way pieces are put together by Patricia Field. There's a kind of ease with it. I don't like style to look too put-together. I don't have a stylist. I don't think I'd work with a stylist because it looks to, 'This goes together, that goes together,' and I feel that with Patricia Field, the way she puts together outfits, sometimes it's things that seem to not work that just do in a way that feels organic. It looks self-styled, in a good way. 

I really like a mixture of vintage, high street and designer pieces all thrown together. Like a really cute tea dress with a cheap vintage denim jacket over the top and maybe some cool costume jewelry, like some massive hoops or whatever. Maybe modern, cool sunglasses that are very of-the-moment and then some kind of funky shoes. A real mixture of things together, but then a lot of personal style put together in a way that just works for that a person.

As I was walking here, I saw people wearing crop tops — stomach out — and there was a guy wearing a thong under a see-through skirt. There's a liberated, kind of exuberant, impulsive kind of energy that New Yorkers have — that New York in general has — that London doesn't. In some sense, London is a lot more conservative. I will wear things in New York that I would never wear in London. I'm much more daring with color choices and I feel like my style here is probably a little bit more playful, if that makes sense. Like in London, my day-to-day wardrobe consists of a lot of athleisure for comfort purposes and unless I'm going out to an event in the evening, or whatever, I won't really take the effort for the day to really express my personality. But also, it's not like New York is my home. I'm here for work. I feel in some respects I have that much more 'anything goes' mentality, which I love.

I'm definitely a little bit more likely to drop some dollar [shopping] when I'm traveling, that's for sure. Because obviously, it's like Monopoly money. I'm like, 'This isn't even real!' For example, I bought some of my favorite jeans in a vintage store in the East Village. They just fit me on the waist so perfectly and were like $50 or something. I bought some really cool stuff last time; it's definitely worth hunting around vintage stores. You've got some really good places. I think buying a few key pieces and vintage is much better than buying bags and bags of [fast fashion.] It's not very conducive to sustainability."

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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