And in Paris I’m very lucky because there are so many places where we can find these gems for not that much, and then create, and voila!
How long have you been in Paris?
16 years, maybe. I think this year we’re going into 17. I also grew up as an adult in Paris. Even in Sydney, I was breathing Paris, I studied French, I was listening to French music, going to see the French films at the cinema. Sydney is amazing—I love and I miss it—but for me it was inevitable to come to Paris and do what I wanted to do.
Was it one of those stories where you arrive with $10 in your pocket?
Yes and no. I saved when I was in Sydney already—my part-time job after school. I worked a lot—maybe four different jobs at one point—just to try and make as much money as possible and then come to Paris. But of course my mother helped me, my sisters helped me when I needed. I am in complete debt—indebted to them. I did have support from my family but it wasn’t like everything was set up for me. It wasn’t easy, but it was a challenge. I look back on those days with a lot of warmth.
Was it a struggle when you first arrived in Paris?
I was lucky that I did always land on my feet. I didn’t ever do anything else but fashion in Paris, and then the editorial work just happened. I never intended on being a stylist, I was doing as much in the industry as possible, and not just working in a couture house or prêt à porter. I was getting a lot of requests for editorial work and finally I gave in and said pourquoi pas? And that’s how that happened. Hopefully this year I will be giving birth to my collection.
Why did you yearn to come to Paris when you were so young?
For me, Paris is fashion, couture and all of that. All the other capitals for me are more industry—fashion industries, rather than the creation of fashion. We lived in France when I was really young, like one to two years old. We have pictures of our French days, and I just always fantasised about being in Paris and conquering Paris. But there’s this romanticism, and it’s probably for me the most aesthetically beautiful city in the world. It’s a jewellery box. There was this energy that I needed from Paris.
How did your family end up there?
We travelled a lot when we were really young. My mother is part French, and we ended up in France. There was a possibility of staying in France, but Australia was calling. My father is mixed—East European and European mix.
Their backgrounds must have opened up the world for you, a little.
Yes, and we’ve always sort of thrown French into our vocabulary. We always said “bonjour” and “bonsoir.” And there is a multinationalism I think, that I grew up with which is fabulous, which injects—for me, anyway—more richness and to be open to other things and knowledge etcetera. But it was very eclectic and maybe that ignited an eclecticism in my aesthetic, that’s also very personal. You wouldn’t say the rest of the family shares that kind of eclecticism.
To what extent does being Australian inform your sensibilities?
I think I have a sense of detachment from a lot of the politics that exist. Maybe my nature, my personality is Australian. A lot of people say that I’m quite positive and that’s nice to hear. I think maybe that also comes from coming from the end of the world. It’s also like that underdog motto, really to just go for it, and I think that’s something definitely that is Australian. And I’m very sensitive to the underdogs. I do love to support friends or people who are working in the industry who are independent.
Who have you met in your time in Paris that has inspired you?
So many. I feel lucky that I have met a lot of fabulous and great people. I met Monsieur Saint Laurent before he passed. I think the first time was at the opening of the Pompidou Centre—because it was under construction—over 10 years ago. I was actually in a Saint Laurent piece mixed with something else and something else. I always mix everything. I could feel someone just looking at me, and he was there, and I could see that he knew that I was wearing a piece of his. But the time we actually met was at Loulou de la Falaise’s boutique. She had a small gathering of people for a cocktail for the opening of her boutique and then we would bump into each other in restaurants or situations, but that was a rarity because he hardly…
He was quite reclusive and shy, wasn’t he?
Oh, absolutely, absolutely. But he also had a very wicked sense of humour. Also, when I worked at Chanel right after school with Karl Lagerfeld, that was an amazing experience. He was the complete opposite of Monsieur Saint Laurent, he would just break out visual stories while he was sketching silhouette.
He comes across in the documentary Lagerfeld Confidential as a talker, and quite effusive.
Oh yes. And you just drink every word he says, and it’s always with so much humour and wit. He is an encyclopaedia and he’s fabulous. You can’t really have a conversation—I mean you can but you just want to listen to what he says and not interrupt and maybe at the end there is a little applause. But he’s fabulous. Also Marc Jacobs, I met him when he first started out Vuitton through a friend of mine from New York. We were quite close at the beginning, I mean literally living together. He had just arrived in Paris and we were at Marc’s place a lot and that was fabulous. There was all that New York energy in a Parisian apartment. I probably had one look with different pieces, but every day I would change the silhouette—like my sweater would be my skirt or it would be a turban.