You got your start in fashion as a model, an aspect of the industry that can be quite secretive. Can you tell us a little about those early days and what the Queensland modelling world was like at the time? How has it changed?
I started modelling in late 1986 and it was very different to the culture today. I don’t know whether it is secretive, at least not in my world anyway. We had a tight bunch of busy models who seemed to do all the jobs. Dally’s and Sabcar Agencies (later called Ursula Hufnagl Models) ruled the models in Brisbane, with a fair few from smaller agencies. There were many fashion parades, showings and shoots in those days and we juggled numerous jobs in a day. I have looked in my diary from around that time and a typical day would be a 7am breakfast fashion parade at the Parkroyal for “Women in Business”, then fittings at 10am for Myer, then a quick two hour shoot for The Sunday Mail. 3pm rehearsals for Myer and then a dress rehearsal and show, hair and makeup call, and then finishing at 9pm – if you were lucky! We did our own hair and makeup usually, and carried around enormous accessories bags of shoes, jewellery, pantyhose, undergarments, wigs..all sorts of gear.
After winding down your modelling career you moved to the other side of the lens and began styling. These days with celebrity fashion culture everyone is familiar with the role of the stylist, but perhaps when you started out this wasn’t the case, particularly in Queensland. How did you transition in to this career, and how has your role and clientele changed over time?
Actually, it wasn’t a matter of winding down my modelling career to start styling, I always did both at the same time; I really like doing numerous jobs at the same time. I was just helping out with catalogues, magazine shoots and designer shots because they needed a hand and they asked me if I would come along (I always was helpful and interested and had a huge kit of accessories). Eventually when I was working all the time as a model and not available, the clients realised the only way to get me there to help everything run smoothly was to book me and pay for the service. I created my own job.
After some time the national magazines started giving credit to the creative teams on their pages and the title “Stylist” evolved. I vividly recall a Vivien’s Agency meeting, where I asked for another portfolio book for Styling to promote what I had been doing. I was the first one in Brisbane. My first jobs in 1987 I think were The Myer Centre Catalogue and the Wintergarden Catalogue, I styled some model test shots and then just worked solidly on magazine and catalogue shoots for many years. Some years after that I started doing hair and makeup as well, and perhaps 18 years ago I put my first huge fashion parade together. I have always listened to the market and filled the gaps in service and skills, if I could.
My type of clientele hasn’t changed all that much over the years, however my role has expanded profusely. A good fashion stylist is the ultimate multi-tasker in the industry, and depending entirely on natural skills the role can go from coordinator of huge fashion events, to Fashion Editor, to consultant on fashion retail leasing projects, to a producer of shoots or even a media spokesperson. The list is ever growing and challenging, which keeps me interested at this point of my career.
Tell us how you came to be interested in fashion…
I have always been interested; my Mum and her girlfriends would workshop an outfit for a special event in the kitchen when I was a kid, and they would call for me and get my opinion. I thought it was a normal thing to do. I was a teenager.
I hadn’t been exposed to fashion in the media whilst I grew up, apart from Countdown and music clips. I was not allowed to watch anything but the ABC and listen to the BBC. It took me years to learn who ABBA was; I asked my Mum eventually. The first time I saw glamorous fashion shots, my world stood still, I was smitten. It was American Vogue in the Mt. Gravatt Council Library, I was waiting for Mum to finish the grocery run and scoop me up on the way home. I had finished my homework and went looking for a book. Stumbling across that magazine and borrowing it was a turning point in my creative life. Up until then I was a sewer doing hand sewing and machine sewing. The “visual” and not the “practical” took over. I was fixated for years with high-end jewellery shots, and I still am. Following model’s and photographer’s careers was not the norm in those days and I had no one to talk to about my new interest. It is only these days people really get it. I have largely moved on to be intensely interested only in local photographer,s and so have recently started the first Photographers Management Agency in QLD. There are some international photographers we represent – I can’t help it.
Where do you look for inspiration on matters of style?
I hate to admit it but I rarely look at magazines now, I buy them but they don’t influence me. Only work from my favourite Fashion Directors/Editors gives me cause to be inspired. The likes of Lucinda Chambers, Grace Coddington, Anna Dello Russo etc. Images from the web inspire me: magazines/blogs/Pinterest/Instagram…… it is endless and immediate for an insatiable audience. I love many homewares blogs and sites like mylusciouslife.com and thesartorialist.com, the images are food for my soul.
What is your most treasured dress-related object or memory?
There are so many, I can’t really single one out. There is an original 1920’s dress I traded two excellent beaded bags for at Adornments in Paddington, years ago. I wore it to the 80th birthday of the Brisbane Arcade. That was pretty special, a great event. I have some 1960’s sequined dresses that are amazing and I have worn them to weddings and very special events, they elicited comments from some famous fashion folk of the time. I think my favorite outfits from years ago would have to be some of the outrageous Lyn Hadley’s I wore. I still miss them and although there are great designers now, Lyn was really something. I hanker for the WOW factor now, everyone seems to wear the same thing or play it safe. Thank Goodness for the fashion students. The catch cry of the early 90’s was “make a statement.” Well we did!
Give us three words, people or places you associate with Queensland fashion…
QUT Creative Industries, Kelvin Grove
James St precinct, Fortitude Valley
Given Terrace and Latrobe Terrace, Paddington
Is there such a thing as a distinct Queensland style?
Not really, although we dress more colourfully than those in the southern states, and we obviously dress for a warmer and more humid climate. There are many variations of dress in every city and state. It is hard to generalise.
Published in Issue 2, on September 10, 2013.