Fashion hits the global trail as actress Gabriella Wilde showcases the new season’s eclectic mood
Words by Hollie Moat
Photography by Tom Craig
Styling by Camilla Pole
Gabriella Wilde is something of a unicorn in show business – an actress who never planned, never wanted to act. ‘It’s unusual I know,’ explains Gabriella. ‘I was a very shy child and teenager, so it’s not something I ever gravitated towards.’ How then, did she end up winning hearts left, right and centre with her portrayal of the spirited Caroline Penvenen in the period-drama juggernaut Poldark?
A former Burberry campaign model, who counts Naomi Campbell as an early admirer, Gabriella was in her twenties and studying Fine Art when she was asked to audition for a role. ‘It found me, really,’ she says. ‘A thing of chance.’ The Hampshire native headed for Hollywood and starred in films like Endless Love and Carrie before heading back to Britain and being cast in Poldark, a smash hit for the BBC. Initially, her character Caroline appeared to be your stereotypical spoilt little rich girl, which made it all the more satisfying when she actually turned out to be a daring, acerbic sweetheart.
With Season 3 now back on our television screens, we invited Gabriella to give us a lesson in how to pull off pre-fall’s most striking globetrotting pieces. Oh, and to tell us all about being discovered by Isabella Blow, corsets versus haute couture, and the magic of Poldark…
Sweater by Henrik Vibskov from Henrik Vibskov.
The 3rd season of Poldark is currently airing, you joined in the 2nd – was it daunting joining a show that was already such a huge hit?
‘I’d just had a baby when it [first] came out, so I sort of didn’t feel the full weight of it. The phenomenon that is Poldark had slightly passed me by. But definitely arriving on the first day with everyone else knowing each other already, being the new girl… It was nerve-wracking.’
Viewers have totally fallen in love with Caroline. Why do you think that is?
‘I think she’s a really great female character – she’s strong, she’s bright, she’s funny. For me, it was really [about] making sure she didn’t come across as a bitch, because she is sharp with people and she’s very quick-witted with the men. I wanted that to be something about her that was fun, rather than because she was jaded or angsty. I think she is bright beyond her standing and doesn’t necessarily want to exist in the world she’s been born into.’
‘Cornwall is one of the reasons people fell in love with [Poldark], with the landscape and that nostalgia for the British coast… It’s a beautiful place to shoot: it’s incredibly romantic.’
Poldark is also famous for somewhat flipping the female gaze…
‘Yes, the women are strong and we’re objectifying the men, it’s a nice switch! There are a lot of strong women in Poldark, it’s a great show for that. I think almost all the female characters in it are very strong, and in very different ways – they kind of represent the different strengths within women.’
We think Caroline gets the best costumes!
‘They are amazing, and they’re uncomfortable. Period drama is incredible [in that] you feel your costume changes your physicality before you’ve even stepped on set, but it is hard working in a corset for 7 months.’
Last season, her favourite accessory was Horace the dog. Will we be seeing him again?
‘I do have him a bit, but I guess he wasn’t needed as much [this time]. In Season 2, I was hiding a lot because I was pregnant, which presented a whole other obstacle to get around in shots, beyond the weather and everything else you have to figure out. They would try and hide my pregnancy with the dog, or a cushion and by the end I think I was [always] sitting behind a desk! This season was easier in that respect, although I did have my son with me on set so – in another way that was tricky. He was only a few months old and I’d come to feed him, fully dressed as Caroline, and he probably thought that was completely bizarre, not knowing who I was.’
Part of what makes Poldark stand out is the shots of scenic cliffs and crashing waves. How important do you think the Cornwall region is to the show?
‘Cornwall is everything with Poldark – I think that’s one of the reasons people fell in love with it, with the landscape and that nostalgia for the British coast. [The series] is sort of everywhere there, and it’s really revived tourism, which is wonderful. It’s a beautiful place to shoot: you’re on the cliffs and it’s incredibly romantic.’
Blouse by Erika Cavallini from Nida, jeans by Dolce & Gabbana from Tiziana Fausti, and earrings by Diane Kordas from Diane Kordas. Shoes, from left: pumps by Aquazzura from Tiziana Fausti, mules by Haider Ackermann from Raionul 4, and mules by Manolo Blahnik from Browns.
‘I love clean, classic stuff, but at the moment I really like fun labels like Ellery. If I’m going to dress up and do that fashion thing, I like to kind of play with lots of different things.’
Prior to acting, you were a very successful model – is it true you were discovered by Isabella Blow?
‘Yes, I met her through a friend of my mum’s and I started working with her, doing a few photo shoots, and that kind of started me off. I had no idea how important she was at the time. I was 14, and not even a grown-up 14-year-old. I just thought she was wonderful and mad – and she was. She was very sweet to me, and a real eccentric, so really fun to be around.’
Did huge fashion productions like the Burberry campaign help prepare you for acting?
‘In a way I think it gives you a comfort with a film crew and a camera, but at the same time I wouldn’t say that modelling necessarily informs acting because when modelling you’re trying to be totally self-aware, and with acting, for me it’s kind of the opposite: you want to forget yourself.’
What’s harder to wear: Caroline’s period costumes or haute couture?
‘Corsets, hands down. You can’t eat, breathe or sit down. You literally get bruises.’
Is fashion something you’re very interested in?
‘It’s not something I take part in day to day now – I’m a mum and live out in the countryside – but it’s definitely something I love. Having kids has changed the way I dress, because there’s no point in wearing anything [for style reasons] as it’s just going to get covered in something within 5 minutes. Normally I’m very dressed down and practical, so if I am doing a premiere or an event I like to really have fun with it. I love clean, classic stuff, but at the moment I really like fun labels like Ellery. If I’m going to dress up and do that fashion thing, I like to kind of play with lots of different things.’
And what’s your favourite piece from today’s shoot?
‘The really cool Temperley jumpsuit.’