Reprint of an article published on 9 August 2017 in Snowy River Mail Orbost Australia

Heads turn as Gracie Opulanza cruises by the goose crossing in Orbost’s main drag.

It’s something the fashion blogger has had to get accustomed to over the past week, as she rolls into town in the Jaguar F-Pace, a luxury performance SUV spoiling a chic European design.

With an estimated 656 Jaguar F-Paces currently in Australia, the vehicle is rarely seen on the nation’s roads, let alone winding through the secluded farmland and pristine national parks of Snowy River country.


But that’s exactly why Gracie is in town: to promote the spoils vehicle to Australians by driving it home to the small East Gippsland village where she grew up – Orbost.

Founder and head editor of online magazine MenStyleFashion, Gracie is known in the fashion world as one of the pioneers of fashion blogging and creating a consciousness around men’s style. Known as the ‘women’s voice in men’s fashion’, she has inter­viewed top models and professional athletes, and has been a part of Lon­don Men’s Fashion Week since its in­ception in 2012.

“I know I would not have been as successful and as ballsy as I am if it wasn’t for Orbost.”

Now living all over the globe, where she also runs her own self-titled blog, Gracie jetsets around the world attending fashion events, reviewing trends, places, people and cars – but she says she couldn’t have survived in the high Hung world of fashion and luxury if it wasn’t for growing up in Orbost. “I know I would not have been as successful and as ballsy as I am if it wasn’t for Orbost,” Gracie told the Snowy River Mail the day after arriving home.

Where Was Gracie Born

Gracie’s parents emigrated from Italy in the mid 1900s, setting up in Orbost when the town’s Italian population was at its peak. At school however, Gracie and her family were still in the minority, and standing out in the playground was a sure way to be on the receiving end of bullying.

But rather than shy away, Gracie continued to march to the sound of her own drum, in the process developing the thick skin required for working in the often cut throat fashion industry. “It’s my father that’s given me the confidence,” Gracie said of her dad, Erasmo Giove. “My father was a dominant force. If there was anyone that was against pro­tocol, it was Dad. Not in an offensive way, it was just like these are the boxes and this is where you need to fit in – and we were never in those boxes. “I was doing things that were against protocol, but because I didn’t know what protocol was, I just went for it”.

That’s the key. “People will say ‘You can’t wear that, you can’t put that together’, and I’d think, yes, I can, because I did it here in Orbost.” While in town, Gracie has been visit­ing her old school, catching up with friends and checking out old haunts, including the Commonwealth Hotel, where she was the resident DJ as a teenager. “Friday and Saturday night, 9pm, it was disco with Gracie,” she laughs.

From these early days in the lime­light, the former Nagle College student went to study teaching at univer­sity, before working for two years at Buchan Primary School.

In the 1990s, she made the pilgrimage back to her parents’ homeland, travelling and working extensively throughout Europe.

Italian Heritage

“With European parents, there’s al­ways that pull,” she recalls. “I’ll never forget the moment I land­ed in Rome. I thought, God, this makes sense, I’m home.” After marrying, having children and establishing a successful digital company with her husband, the blogger admits her sudden change in career path stemmed from boredom. “We were semi-retired in our 30s, then I had children, and I got bored. As simple as that. Someone said, ‘You need to start a blog’. And in 2010, 2011, blogging was just starting – I knew nothing about it!” Quickly realising that women’s fashion was already an oversaturated market, Gracie soon turned her mind toward men. “For two years, I was looking at the way men were dressing, and I was like, what is going on? This is in Europe, not even in Australia. It was shocking – why are the men not mak­ing an effort?

“I knew nothing about men’s fash­ion, was no expert in Twitter, Face book, Instagram, blogging, journal­ism, let alone interview. But I’m mature, I’m confident, and I’m ballsy.” Gracie recalls it was the best US$ 100 she ever spent in securing the site domain ‘MenStyleFashion’. “In six weeks we just exploded,” she said. “Apart from GQ and another big blog, there was nothing there. That’s the key to success, we got into some­thing that wasn’t saturated.” Three months later, London held its first Men’s Fashion Week, further catapulting men’s style into the spotlight.

MenStyleFashion  Rated Number three in the Feedspot’s Top 100 Men’s Fashion and Style Blogs

Gracie became the first woman to in­terview top male model, David Gandy, at Fashion Week, and was the first to put an athlete on the cat walk at the event. In 2017, MenStyleFashion has nearly one million followers across its social media platforms and is rated number three in the Feedspot’s Top 100 Men’s Fashion and Style Blogs, based on search and social metrics.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Gracie has recently established her own self­titled blog, where she shares her col­laborations with the likes of Ford, Audi, Serengetti Eyewear, and of course, Jaguar. Immersing herself in traditionally male-dominated fields, Gracie continues to be a women’s voice in men’s fashion and lifestyle, with her current focus on bringing lux­ury sports vehicles to a female audience. “Gracie’s starting to stand on her own, and that’s really nice.

Be­cause it’s not only we want MenStyle­Fashion, it’s we want Gracie.” Her arrival in Orbost comes off the back of a tour of South East Asia and sponsored attendance at the Le Mans 24 Hour rally. Thanks to Jaguar, she is back in Australia after five years, tak­ing the F-Pace along the Great Ocean Road and through to Mario, all the while documenting her journey on var­ious social media. “I’ve never driven so luxuriously as I have this week here in Orbost,” Gracie said.

 

Jaguar FPACE – Australia

Complete with heated steering wheel, heated seats, cruise control, 22- inch wheels and a killer stereo, the ve­hicle is a far cry from the Ford Laser Gracie and her husband travelled around Australia in as newlyweds. “It’s a European car, it’s a flashy car, it’s a show off car, it’s a car that turns heads. And that’s why you should buy it,” she laughs. “I’m not a petrol head, so for me it’s all about lifestyle, all about how the car makes me feel. So with the Jaguar it was Jaguar F-Pace: take me home to Orbost, Australia.”

For young people living in the area, Gracie says the best advice she can give for those contemplating a career in blogging is to be yourself, and never give up. “Be the hero, the celebrity, of where you live, in your world,” she said.

“Find your niche, because it’s a satu­rated market. And when I mean ‘find your niche’, what is it that you think about all the time, what’s the very thing that you love?

“So I was frustrated at the way men would dress. Bang: that’s why the blog began. When men make an effort, when they look their best, they’re role models, people aspire to them. Whether it’s a dad, whether it’s a sin­gle guy, whether it’s an athlete. And when a man is confident, he can take on Donald Trump. He can take on the world”