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In Conversation With Kirstie Clements

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We caught up with best-selling author and ex-editor of Vogue Australia, Kirstie Clements at Jac + Jack Paddington, to speak about Summer dressing, classic style and the Australian fashion landscape. Photos by Britt Murphy.

J + J: Thanks for joining us today Kirstie, and welcome to our Paddington store. We're starting today with a quick-fire round: what was the last piece you added to your wardrobe?

KC: I was in Paris recently and went to a shop called Crimson which is run by Linda Wright who has very, very good taste. I bought some shirts — the perfect new boyfriend shirt, and some silk pants. Then I went to American Vintage and bought some trackwear for the plane, because I was in economy (laughs).

What are you most looking forward to about Summer dressing?

I love all of the cotton voile pieces that are coming out that are really fine and delicate, like the ROCCO SHIRT. What I also love about Summer is sandals, baskets, and espadrilles. I will definitely be injecting some colour, I endlessly love that boyfriend shirt blue, I am also loving pink and emerald green too.

What is your biggest regret purchase?

When I buy cheap clothes, I really regret it. The buttons come off, they don’t look good after the first wash, and they don’t give you joy when you reach for them. As I’ve gotten older, I’m very focused on fabric feeling, I don’t like synthetics and scratchiness. As a rule — cheap clothes, I regret them. Overall, you’re probably better off saving up and getting the investment pieces.

If you were stuck on a desert island with 5 items (including shoes), what would you bring?

I actually wrote a column about this the other day. I would bring a really long Italian linen scarf. I bought one recently at a fabulous shop up in Bangalow called Island Luxe. It’s really dark navy, overdyed in a beautiful, thick linen. You can wear it as a wrap, wear it as a sarong, or have a nap and wrap yourself up. That would be useful on the island because it would stop you getting sunburnt, so I would definitely take that. Probably a button-through shirt, a big, chunky cotton fisherman’s cardigan or sweater. Espadrilles or a reef sandal so you could walk around the island, and black linen pants. You don’t need a cozzie if you’re the only one on the island!

Weave yourself a hat?

Make a bag out of a coconut (laughs).

Do you remember your first Jac + Jack piece?

It was a big, oversized navy sweater that I loved. I knew the brand through work, we shot a lot of it for the magazine.

Above: Kirstie wears the Paragon Shirt in Black and George Pants in Black.

What was the most rewarding part of working at Vogue for you, is there something that stands out?

What I liked the most was the teamwork. I used to love the Monday morning production meeting, you’d be sitting there with a big blank wall and you’d be all be going ‘what’re we going to put in the September issue?’ and everyone would bring their ideas — I liked the camaraderie of it. I loved the physical putting together of the magazine as well, so when it hit your desk you’d just be like: woah. Sort of steering it and putting it together — that was my favourite bit.

Before the era of international high fashion houses having the influence over the Australian market that they do today, you wrote wonderfully in The Vogue Factor about some of the local Australian designers you had worked with and commissioned for various shoots during your time at Vogue. What makes Australian fashion unique and what do Australian brands bring to the table for the market that differentiates us in this time of globalisation and social media?

In those early days when we didn’t have all of that influence of those international labels, we used to go to the Australian designers and they would make special clothes for the shoots that were real flights of fancy. [The designers] were super creative and really got really into it. Because it was such a small industry it was very collegiate and we were all in it together. Thinking about fashion weeks with all the Australian labels, everyone cared about our verdicts and everybody weighed in too, which was the best thing. And now everything is sponsored and the clothes are an afterthought. Not that all designers are doing collections that are afterthoughts but [the industry] is much more consumer-driven.

Why we differ here in Australia is due to our lifestyle. The pieces in here (gestures) are 24/7, 12 months a year kind of pieces. We get to experiment a lot more with skin here, things have more cutaways, are shorter. Every way you look at it skin is going to be appearing which is sort of interesting. It’s that casual attitude in a way, we’re well groomed, there will be skin showing, there’s something about that Ausiness that’s really beautiful. We’re not as done as people are overseas, there’s an easiness to it.

Thinking about the evolution of your own fashion journey, how has it changed or been shaped overtime?

It hasn’t changed that much. I think in one of my books I was saying, if I look at myself now and if I look at myself when I was 25 it’s not really that different — I was wearing a pair of Robert Clergerie loafers, jeans, an oversized tweed mens jacket and a t-shirt, and I’d wear that now. But what I have learned is what does and doesn’t suit me — I know frilly layers, as much as I admire them, don’t suit me, and I know I don’t like big prints. I’ve learned tricks like what is good for your body shape as you get older. When I was working for Vogue and I was constantly out at dinners and things I never packed down dresses, I just had great black pants and silk Chloe blouses or whatever with a red lip and that was it. I’ve always been into easy silhouettes — it’s always about proportion.

Above: Kirstie wears the Como Top in Dark Slick and George Pants in Black.