You’ve been covering fashion in Queensland as a journalist, stylist and editor for some time. Tell us about your first fashion job, and what do you feel have been the biggest changes in the Queensland fashion scene since you started out?
My first proper fashion job was filing in on the fashion pages for the then ‘women’s editor’ of The Courier-Mail, Lynda Long, when she got too busy to do the fashion shoots herself. I was a cadet journalist who had done two years on a country newspaper where I had initiated a fashion section in that paper when I was straight out of high school! I’m sure my bosses saw me as a bit of an upstart, always hassling them to do more fashion! The scene in Queensland back then was all about the RAQ Fashion Awards, which were shown live on TV. It was the heyday of people like Keri Craig and Daniel Lightfoot. Fashion was about winning awards and owning your own shop and people didn’t really care too much about what people in Sydney or Melbourne were doing. So much has changed since then, the industry is almost unrecognisable from those days. The industry has gone global, along with the rest of our culture. We have a wonderful forum with the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival. People in general are so much more globally aware of fashion and trends, and the industry is much broader and outward looking.
After years of working in print media you’ve recently branched out on your own. What made you decide to do this, and how has the landscape changed with the rise of online media? What implications does this have for the way that fashion is reported on?
I, along with 1000 other journalists in Australia, took a redundancy in 2012. The media landscape has changed so much in the past decade, especially in the past 12 months.
The way all of us gather our information and the speed at which we want it is vastly different from even three years ago. Everyone can be an expert on fashion and style and as it is such a subjective thing, it’s little wonder that it has been fashion bloggers that have had such an impact on how fashion is reported now. I think there is room for everyone to give their opinion on fashion, be it on a blog or in a newspaper or magazine. I think when bloggers first started they were a great, fresh, independent voice, but I think that has changed a lot now, with many bloggers only posting on things they are being paid to blog about. I think the public have to find the ‘experts’ whose voices they trust and respect to deliver information and opinion to them and now there are so many ways and so many people you can follow or like or subscribe to that it gives the consumer so much choice – which has to be a good thing. I think for most people fashion is a kind of entertainment, which is how newspapers treat it, but for those who are more serious about fashion and other aspects of the industry, there are now hundreds of blogs you can turn to for whatever part of fashion takes your fancy.
Tell us how you came to be interested in fashion…
I grew up as an only child in a small country town, it was a lovely way to grow up but there really was not a lot on offer in terms of culture and fashion. I was a very curious child with a natural rebellious streak and I hated the small town mentality that existed back then. I loved to escape into music, art, books and fashion. It was the mid 1980s and there was an explosion of ideas about fashion and music and ways of doing things, mostly coming from the UK at that time, that was so exciting to a small town girl! I wanted to dress like the music stars I’d see on TV or like the models in magazines such as Follow Me and Mode – there was just nowhere to buy clothes like that in my town so (with some help from my poor Mum) I would make my own clothes. I’d make an outfit to wear to the parties that seemed to happen every weekend. I guess even before that I was always making clothes for my Barbie collection too. I had always loved writing as well and so being able to move into a career later on that combined those two loves was really such a blessing.
Where do you look for inspiration on matters of style?
Everywhere. I love to travel, it has such an invigorating effect on my state of mind and my wardrobe. Other women, I love talking to women of all ages who have an interest in fashion and style, I’ve learned so much from other women about personal style. My daughters, my eldest is a teenager so she keeps me plugged into what young women are wearing and wanting and my youngest has a whacky sense of style that is just innate and she makes me laugh and reminds me that fashion should be fun. TV, movies, music videos, blogs, magazines, art – current and from decades ago – all the usual suspects!
What is your most treasured dress-related object or memory?
The object would be a beautiful aquamarine cocktail ring that belonged to my Grandmother, who was quite the bower bird from all accounts – never seen without matching bag, shoes, hat and gloves.
My most treasured memory would be my ballet teacher when I was a child. Her name was Maryanne and she would come to ballet every week in the most baggy, pushed-out-of-shape tracksuit tops, shorts that had the elastic out of them, leotards that had seen much better days, not a stitch of make-up and hair scraped back into a bun. Then on concert night once a year she would emerge in a stunning dress with her toned ballet body, wearing make-up and with her hair done and would literally draw gasps of admiration for how beautiful she looked from all her dancers. The parents would all talk about it in the car on the way home. I remember being blown away by the transformative powers of fashion and the impact a great frock and some make-up could have! It has fascinated me ever since.
Give us three words, people or places you associate with Queensland fashion…
Is there such a thing as a distinct Queensland style?
Yes and no. I think increasingly we are all part of a global fashion push and what influences women in New York is the same as what is influencing women here. I do think our climate and lifestyle do give us a style that is more organic, but it could be quite similar to places like Perth or Los Angeles or the ex-pat community in Dubai or Hong Kong. I think women in Brisbane like to dress for an occasion – they have a sense of occasion when they go out, compared to women in Sydney who are quite laid-back and casual. We have a lot of people who love vintage clothing in Brisbane and that adds something special to the mix. There is also a good combination of relaxed beach and sophisticated city-wear going on in most Queensland women’s wardrobes, plus we love colour and we are not afraid to take a fashion risk! I think if you fuse all of that together you might get something that could be called Queensland style.
Published in Issue 3, on September 24, 2013.