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Creative Network spotlight: bernie gracieuse

Meet Bernie Gracieuse

Bernie Gracieuse is a published fashion stylist, creative director and content creator based in Ottawa, Canada. She began her journey in fashion by sketching clothes at an early age. Since then, fashion has been her medium for storytelling. Her art has been her anchor and escape as she navigated her childhood that was fraught with obstacles and hardship.

“It's always been me, my pencil and a piece of paper - against the world.”

(photography by Sarah Mills)

Since accepting an internship with NesyNou (an Ottawa-based clothing brand) in 2020, Bernie’s career has flourished. She has worked with brands such as Mejuri, SkinCeuticals, Vichy Canada, and more as a content creator and has been featured across a variety of magazines and publications for her fashion styling and creative direction. We spoke with Bernie to learn more about how she defines home, her advice for all the budding stylists and creatives out there, and how she’s working to redefine the fashion industry with the work she does.

Where’s ‘home’ for you?

To put it simply, anywhere I can create. I was born in Haiti and moved to Montreal, Canada when I was around 4 years old. When I first came to Ottawa, I was in 6th grade at the time. My mom was pregnant, and soon after she was facing some postpartum complications that led to her having to stay in the hospital for a while. At that time I had to step in to take care of my baby sister while my dad was working. I missed a lot of school during this period, and since I was already facing a language barrier being a French speaker now immersed in an English environment, my stress was at an all-time high. By the time my mom began to recover, she went straight back into the workforce. All this meant I had to grow up quickly. That experience was both transformational and traumatic for me, coupled with all the other nuances attached to navigating being a first-generation immigrant in Canada. Somehow, I instinctively started scribbling on random pieces of paper that I kept. Sometimes I would look back at them with a clearer mind and would see cool shapes that resembled parts of clothing (sleeves, cool graphics, & more). I started making up designs based on some shapes I saw.

(Photography by Bernie Gracieuse)

How did it all start?

At some point, I started learning how to draw people and would create looks on different bodies. My interest in the fashion and creative industry grew and I started volunteering at different fashion shows in middle school. In high school, I got more involved in the industry, and now the rest is history.

(@kingberniee on Instagram)

You have a beautifully curated feed, especially your Reels featuring a lot of BTS on recent projects you’ve worked on. Tell us more about that!

My mom has been telling me to start a Youtube channel for years. When I started directing and styling shoots, she advised me to film the process and put together videos. Naturally, with vertical videos being the way to go on Instagram, I decided to put together the clips I have into short reels. I always grew up around music, so it felt only natural to pair my videos with feel-good music that matched the set/project that was worked on.

What project you recently worked on that challenged you in ways you didn’t expect?

I recently worked with Jessie Simmons, a female artist from Ottawa. She is a beautiful plus-size woman and has had issues with self-image. As a stylist, I was very conscious of her opening up to me about her body image issues. I had to create a good look that would make her feel comfortable and beautiful for her ‘Wisdom’ music video, a song about grief, so the pressure was on. I quickly realized that the go-to stores I source clothing from were off-limits because they simply don’t have her size. It kinda made me reflect on the industry - specifically in Ottawa - and I realized that I haven’t seen any fashion stylists working with any plus-sized people in Ottawa. I also realized it was very rare to see photographers work with plus-sized people… All this to say, I found the perfect look for my client which she loved. She felt beautiful and many people loved the look as well. It made me happy that she enjoyed the experience of working with me and I am looking forward to working with her again on more projects.

What are your must-haves on set?

Steamer, coffee and my phone - for obvious reasons. Can’t forget my sewing kit, it legit has everything in it (thread, needles, scissors, tape, clips etc). Something I do every time is meditate the night before. I always try to make sure I wake up renewed and that I don’t bring low vibrational energy on set.

(Photography by Bernie Gracieuse)

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Sounds cliché but literally everything; I really believe my passion is understanding the relationship we have as humans with others, ourselves and things (food, art etc.) I just use fashion as a medium to explore the things I observe from the relationships around me. Pinterest, runway shows, etc, are tools I use to be able to visualize my ideas and transition them into a look.

How has the global pandemic affected the work you do?

Before the pandemic I was in school, working and doing other things on the side. I was overworked and unhappy. The pandemic allowed me to take time to reflect on what I really wanted. I decided to drop out and started to focus on my craft and so far it’s been such a fulfilling experience. I think the pandemic also allowed me to expand my spiritual self which greatly affects my work. I want to create with more intentions and tell stories that impact me - big or small.

What advice can you give to all aspiring fashion stylists and creative directors out there?

My advice is to just start - There is so much you can do with so little. Create meaningful relationships with photographers, models, brands, etc. They are the people you will most likely work with, within the long run. Social media and LinkedIn is a great way to build your network. There are amazing people out there with amazing talent that will help enhance your portfolio. I think it is also important to remember that people remember how you make them feel, be genuine! Talk to everyone on set.

Get familiar with fashion -

  • Watch fashion shows (beyond the mainstream brands).

  • Learn the proper terms for clothes

  • Write down all your ideas, and create mood boards.

  • And lastly, create a portfolio!

If you don’t know any models and photographers, start with what you have. Grab a sibling or a friend. My first editorial was in my friend's backyard and was shot on an iPhone 6. It's still my favourite work to this day.

(Photography by Valeriia Zaporozhets)

Who would you want to work with, and why?

This is a hard question, but to put it simply, I want to work with people who inspire me. From artists like Alexander Nate, Chloe x Bailey, James Vickery, Lous and, The Yakuza, and so many more. The best part about styling for me is the conversations I have with people. I want to style people I would want to sit down, have a meal with, and have a conversation with.

What do you feel has been a barrier to the work you do?

I think firstly it’s myself; imposter syndrome, doubts, feeling pressure from my community, etc. It all affects me a lot and it’s something that I have to work through constantly. I think also living in Ottawa can seem like a barrier for my career but I try to create my own opportunities for the time being. I think my biggest strength is that I am committed to my work and to me, that’s enough to go through any barrier.

(Photography by Francois Mittins)

What’s next for you?

I see myself creating bigger and better. A stylist friend of mine, Yasmine Isaya, and I are starting a podcast called 'The Fashion Faux Pas Podcast' - the idea is to have honest conversations with people from all over the industry. We want this podcast to be a place in which people feel like they can learn because we don't believe in gatekeeping. I have been working on my own fashion brand ‘We Are Complex Kids’ projected to launch in the fall. It’s a unisex streetwear fashion brand with a slow fashion business model. Ultimately the goal is to still feel the same about my craft 15 years from now; all the other things are cool but loving what you do and doing it with love is at the core of what I strive for and I want to look back and feel like I never compromise that for anything.

“Art and Love over Fear, Always”


For more all things Bernie, follow her on Instagram

Check out her portfolio and website

Bernie also has a Youtube channel where you can follow along her journey of creating, directing and styling.

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