Even if you don’t recognise Grece Ghanem’s name, you likely know her face – and her outfits.
The 56-year-old former microbiologist has captivated brands, street-style photographers, and roughly half a million Instagram followers with her sassy silver bob, angular poses and penchant for Old Céline.
On social media, Ghanem has become a byword for ageless style, and her growing profile serves as a riposte to the lazy (but lingering) assumption that women resign themselves to a wardrobe of waterfall cardigans the moment they reach 50.
The difference between the way she dresses now and the clothes she wore in her 30s is “not so drastic”, she shrugs.
“I always liked elevated basics, bold colours and power prints,” says Ghanem, whose recent looks include a voluminous vinyl Stand Studio puffer, leopard-print Dolce & Gabbana body-con separates, and a pair of knitted micro-shorts.
If anything, she says, she is more confident than ever in her fifties.
“I am still curious and adventurous when it comes to new trends, but I am building on a solid foundation.”
For Ghanem, who lists a leather trench, her Bottega Veneta Cassette bag, and the Levi’s she’s had since her 20s among the items she’d rescue from a fire, that foundation comprises “quality and timeless pieces” – and some of fashion’s most coveted cult accessories.
Originally a hospital lab technician in her native Lebanon, Ghanem qualified as a personal trainer after moving to Montreal in the wake of the civil war.
Another new chapter began some five years ago, when her daughter Cheyenne – used to her fashion-obsessed mum borrowing her Instagram account to browse street-style shots – encouraged Ghanem to set up her own.
“It began as a hobby – we would always take ‘fashion’ photos while we were travelling.
We decided that if we were going to share the photos she took of me, we would do it in a curated way and with purpose.”
Becoming an influencer was never the goal according to Ghanem, who still considers herself a trainer first and foremost.
Nonetheless, their passion project “caught a lot of attention”.
She recalls a turning point when she was photographed in a pink dress by Advanced Style founder Ari Seth Cohen at New York Fashion Week.
“I feel that is when people started to realise that your age is not a factor in how you choose to dress.”
Still, the fashion industry has not entirely moved past fetishising youth, says Ghanem, who points out that there has been relatively little progress made in age representation compared with other forms of diversity.
“There has been an improvement, and change does not happen overnight,” she concedes.
“When a brand embraces the beauty of women of all ages in its identity and philosophy, then including older women in campaigns doesn’t feel like a trend or a ‘moment’. But there is still some ageism in modelling.
“Often I will be styled in a more conservative and classic look compared with the younger models, just because I am older. But being more mature doesn’t mean I have a classic style.”
A quick scroll of her Instagram could have told her employers that. From fashion wellies(Bottega’s moulded Puddle boots, to be precise), to leather Bermuda shorts to luxe leggings, rare is the tricky trend that Ghanem has not picked up and run with.
But she insists she’s concerned less with slavishly following new season diktats than she is seeking out “timeless modernity”, to build on her existing wardrobe.
Her all-time designer crush – or coup de coeur, as she puts it – is Phoebe Philo in her Céline era.
“I feel like her designs accompany a woman in her different life stages. Today, I also feel this energy from Daniel Lee’s Bottega. I love the attention to detail and craftsmanship that is passed on from one season to the next.”
Above all she’s inspired by her mother and grandmother, both of whom had “impeccable” style.
“I would play dress up in my grandmother’s closet and try on her accessories.”
Asked what advice she’d give to women struggling to maintain their confidence in middle age, Ghanem says it’s important to keep having fun with clothes.
“I would recommend they focus on themselves, and not let society’s opinion change the way they dress.
My style rule applies to women at every stage of life: buy the piece not because someone tells you it’s the trend of the season, but because it makes you feel empowered. Clothes should make you feel more beautiful. They should give you strength and joy.”