“Bold”, “edgy”, and “glamourous” may not be the first adjectives that spring to mind when you’re on your way to the wilds of Scarborough. But someone I recently met at the Centennial Ice Galaxy skating rink could definitely be described in those terms. Piper Gilles is a spunky, style savvy skater who, together with her handsome partner Paul Poirier, is intent on wowing the judges at the Canadian figure skating championships in Mississauga this weekend. Piper, who turned 21 this week, now resides in Toronto, but she grew up in Colorado, going to competitions, and enjoying the art of dressing up. “Being able to travel to different countries and see so many different kinds of style really must have sparked something in me,” she told me as she tried to describe her early love affair with fashion. Nowadays, she manages to squeeze her beloved shopping trips into an ultra hectic, very intense training schedule, which includes 30 hours a week on the ice and about 7 hours off the ice, doing cardio and Pilates. Evidently, it’s a great recipe for staying both fit and fashionable.
Piper’s style philosophy revolves around wearing clothes that make you feel good, inside and out, and her eclectic approach to dressing has definitely carried over into her skating costume wardrobe. Besides the cheetah print costume she’ll be competing in this weekend, designed by Mississauga’s Deanna Wright, Piper and Paul will also perform a Mary Poppins number as part of the competition, with Piper wearing a fabulous red petticoat for warm-up, designed by costumer Susie Hubbs out in Colorado Springs. The dynamic Gilles and Poirier, the 2012 Canadian Ice Dance bronze medalists, both understand how the right costumes can give you confidence on the ice. Poirier, 21, who describes his own style sense as “relaxed, preppy chic”, (he was sporting a Ralph Lauren pullover sweater and Roots sweatpants when he arrived at the rink), has obviously gleaned a lot about fashion from his stylish partner, and trusts her fashion sense implicitly. “I usually leave most decisions regarding skating costumes to the women in my life,” he admits. “But do I still give my input!” he laughs. “I think my sense of fashion is still developing and changing and growing and as I start to pinpoint my tastes more accurately I will have a deeper appreciation for fashion,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Gilles spends a lot of time studying various collections on line, and poring over the pages of fashion magazines for inspiration, both for the duo’s costumes, and for her own personal wardrobe. She cites Betsey Johnson as one of her all-round favourite designers, and regularly shops at Zara, BCBG, Nordstrom’s, Free People and TJ Max. She adores accessories from Swarovski, L.A.M.B., and Tory Burch. When it comes to make-up, she swears by M.A.C., regularly gets artful manicures at the Pacific Mall, and gets her luxurious blonde locks coiffed by Gregory Parvatan at Rapunzel in Toronto. Gilles also confides that she fantasizes about one day buying a pair of sparkly Christian Louboutin pumps. After all, for skaters, it is often about the footwear. “For me, it’s heels all the way!” she enthuses. “There’s just something about them that make your calves and legs looks so good.” Skaters also have an innate understanding of form, line, and proportion. “I give anyone credit for trying something new,” says Gilles. “But I think it’s a fashion faux pas to wear anything that doesn’t flatter your body proportions. There really are so many different tricks you can use to play up beautiful curves, instead of hiding them, or over-showing them,” she muses.
The afternoon I met Piper Gilles she was wearing Sam Edelman booties, with a red skirt and camouflage shirt from Zara, and Betsey Johnson heart-shaped earrings. It’ll be a thrill to see her and Poirier in action this weekend. And by the way, if you know someone interested in designing costumes for the pair in the future, Gilles said they’d be very open to it. You never know what international podium they could end up on.
Style or Comfort?
I defiantly believe there should be a good balance between style and comfort but if I had to choice one is would be Style
Betsey Johnson hands down. She is just this free spirit that makes
you want to be like her. She stays true to her style and has been
handling this whole bankruptcy thing with pure grace. Anyone who can
brush themselves off and continue pursuing their fashion line is really
a true fighter and a great role model.
Would you rather be over-dressed or under-dressed?
Overdressed, because I always feel a bit self-conscious if I don’t
feel like I fit into the situation. Plus, being overdressed can
sometime make you the center of attention and secretly who doesn’t love that?
Favourite fashion era?
I would have to say the 50s. The high-waisted skirts, and the petticoats which made them looked girly and lady-like really makes me love this era. And who could forget
about all the old Hollywood glamour dresses with their sequins and nicely
layered silk? Just thinking about it makes me smile.
Best fashion advice?
Just stay true to yourself. And don’t be afraid to try something
new every once in a while.