Vanessa Grainger has my dream fashion job: womenswear buyer. When our paths first crossed, the Toronto native was buying for The White Space at The Bay and I, in turn, was buying a whole lot of what she was buying – Sandro, Opening Ceremony, McQ Alexander McQueen and the like. Now, she’s a freshly-minted Montrealer starting a new women’s buying manager gig with SSENSE, one of my go-to online retailers. Will she never give my pocketbook a rest? I didn’t ask her this during our recent chat, but I did manage to find out her own favourite shopping destinations, what she loves most about her job, and even what she sings in the shower.
The Backseat Stylers: What’s your first fashion-related memory?
Vanessa Grainger: It definitely wasn’t the earliest, but maybe the most important: Tom Ford for Gucci Fall 2003. It was just so lush and sumptuous. Something about it just hit me and stayed with me. Having that reaction and not remembering having had that reaction so strongly to anything else before that, not even knowing at that time what a big deal he was at Gucci and what he was doing for Gucci, and just having that gutteral, instinctual reaction to what I was seeing – I just remember that so clearly.
How did you get into fashion buying?
From watching Fashion Television, actually, I realized what a buyer was. When I was 15 I decided I wanted to be a fashion buyer. So thank you, Jeanne Beker, for giving that exposure.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is sourcing out and working with the brands and designers, following through on their creative process, seeing things from inspiration to finish, and being able to then interpret that for the store and the customer that you’re buying for. The ultimate best part of my job is to see people wearing clothes that I bought. I take what I do very personally.
What’s been the highlight of your buying career so far?
Starting The White Space [at The Bay]. It’s such a new, interesting concept for a department store that’s so established in terms of what it means to people. The fact that I was part of the team that’s been able to reinvent and reinvigorate how customers see The Bay, that to me has been the highlight of my career so far.
Where do you see yourself in five, ten years?
The next Jenna Lyons. I’d love to be in that Creative Director position, and really take on a brand and embrace it, live and breathe it, like a Jenna Lyons. I’ll go on Style.com and look at J.Crew and I’m just as interested in the styling [as] some of the contemporary designer brands. I have a lot of respect for what she’s been able to do there. Having that business side and creative side, that’s something I would be really interested in.
Where are your favourite places to shop, other than SSENSE?
The Bay – I have so much respect for what’s been done and continues to be done there. TNT – they’re great at what they do. Aritzia – I like their aesthetic, classic with a bit of an edge.
What’s one item in your closet you just can’t live without?
I’m a t-shirt and jeans girl. I love that whole Parisian, easy sensibility. I’m really kind of obsessed with my Enza Costa t-shirts, just because the fabric on them are so amazing. You feel like you’re wearing pajamas, but you look nice.
If you were throwing a fashionable dance party, who would your three guests-of-honour be?
[Givenchy's Creative Director] Riccardo Tisci, because I feel like he’s so dark and weird [that] he would do something crazy. And then Tom Ford would come and be super snobby. Gwyneth Paltrow, I’d want to hang out with her. [She might even bring her friends, like] Beyonce. Kim Kardashian is definitely not allowed; she’s on the ‘do not invite’ list.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ll watch 3 to 4 episodes back to back. It’s very campy.
What’s one item on your bucket list?
I really want to learn how to surf. There’s some kind of romanticism around it. I also want to drive racing cars. I want to get on a track in a super fast car.
Do you sing in the shower?
Yes! I usually try to be a superstar, like Adele or Rihanna. I’m a great singer…in the shower. ’I want to drive racing cars and I sing Adele in the shower’ – I’m going to be so embarrassed [when this interview is published]!