Browsing Tag

Date with Kate

Fashion, Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Jodhi Meares

18th December, 2016

Fashion designer Jodhi Meares has just launched the first stand-alone store for her successful activewear brand, THE UPSIDE, in Mosman. Her designs are stocked around the world and have been spotted on fashion and sports icons including Kelly Slater, Kim Kardashian and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Meares, 45, chatted to me about developing an activewear empire, finding love with her 29-year-old husband, Nicholas Tsindos, and her secret to being a better wife.

Tell me a day in the life of you? 

Gosh, it changes so much. I’m still travelling a lot, I don’t have like a really regular day … [THE UPSIDE] needs a huge amount of attention as it’s still a young company … I read a lot of philosophy and I find that that’s inspiring, for my work. …We really look at THE UPSIDE [as] the Heroine and now we’ve launched men’s, he is the Hero. So, we look at so many aspects of the brand and we talk about it, politically, what she or he stands for, what they might be reading at the moment, what films they’re watching.

What has been the biggest milestone for THE UPSIDE?


I think, days like today when you see it on somebody. To me that’s where I get the most joy, watching it come to life and see somebody enjoying wearing it and playing with the kids on the beach in it.
Why did you decide on Mosman for your first bricks-and-mortar store?


I like to shop on streets, so we were just looking for really good areas that we could do good retail. Mosman was on our list and this shop came up and it was perfect … I’m excited and I know the area because I went to school over here and we think it’s right on point for the brand.


As a designer, where do you get your inspiration?


I look at so many things … When I started developing the [Jocks & Nerds] collection, I was in Paris and we were looking at some of the ghettos of Paris and watching kids play basketball … it’s good to look at things from the street level.


What made you first launch THE UPSIDE?


The evolution really was, I’ve sold Tigerlily [Meares’ bikini brand, sold to Billabong in 2007], I’ve taken some time out, I’m spending a huge amount of time in New York and this phenomenon happens … For me, it started with that one Lululemon Black Legging and it’s what I was wearing at the time and then I was kind of looking for other things because it became such an important part of my wardrobe and just seeing it on the street, it was so there … It just felt so obvious, the gap in the space, that it was like, “You just have to do this. This is such an obvious need” and then, the timing was really perfect.


With so many activewear brands, how do you set yours apart?                                     


We try to stay very true to the philosophies of the brand. I mean there is so much scope in this area: we’re going to launch new categories, which I can’t give away, I wish I could, but because it opened this huge spot, it’s really a lifestyle business.


What did you learn from your experience with your label, Tigerlily?


I’m much more involved in the business now. I think I was very nervous of that with Tigerlily because I had no experience in it … I understand what we need to do, but with Tigerlily I was very nervous and I don’t think that’s a good place to be in business … I had to learn the hard way a lot of times with Tigerlily, [I] really made some big mistakes.


Did you always plan to go into fashion and have your own company?


I did. Tigerlily was an absolute dream. I didn’t know that I would have any success in it … but I am absolutely a bikini nerd, it was my first love … I had an education in that business anyway, I knew pretty much every surf retailer in the country and that’s where Tigerlily started.


If you hadn’t gone down that path, what would you have done?


I don’t know … I probably would have been a yoga teacher I think … I still might be one day!


Congratulations on your marriage to [photographer] Nicholas Tsindos.


Thank you, yes. It was very unexpected, but very wonderful.


What drew you to him?


He has got so many wonderful qualities, but he is incredibly kind and for me kindness is probably at the top of my list.


Your husband often shoots campaigns for THE UPSIDE. What is your advice for mixing business and pleasure?


We get along so well. We’re really great mates, so it’s really nice if you go home and talk to somebody credibly, because I really love my work. I’m a chatterbox. It fully drives Nicholas mad sometimes, but it’s really easy because he has got such a great eye … He is already so close to the creative, he is my husband anyway, so by the time we get to shoot he knows what we’re trying to do.


What are you most proud of?


In the end, it’s about relationships, so probably my relationships with my family and my friends.


What do you think really helped you to grow your commercial ventures?


I think the timing was really, really good; and the right team.


What’s the vision for the brand?


Ultimately, I have a huge vision for the brand and outside of apparel, completely; I can’t divulge any of it just yet.


What do you do to stay fit?


I love yoga, I’m a yogi, and I love to walk and I love to paddleboard when I’m in Hawaii. But really, I’m not a gym person; it feels like going to the office … Some weeks I do yoga every day and sometimes, at the end of a long day, the answer is yoga and some days at the end of the day the answer is a bottle of wine!


What do you do to relax?


Yoga. I think I’m a nicer person, a better boss, probably a better wife, a better friend, better sister when I’m practising yoga, that also makes a difference … I think even if you’re not going there for spiritual reasons, [spirituality] … will happen anyway.


Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

I don’t really think in terms of that, I probably should more. I do try to actively stay present in what I’m doing … There is that old saying that if you live in the past you’ll be depressed, if you live in the future [you’ll be] anxious, and if you live in the now you’ll be peaceful and I think that’s true, so I don’t really think about it too much.



We went to Public Dining Room, Balmoral Beach

We ate Hermosa Kingfish Carpaccio with pine nut puree, grapefruit, radish and puffed quinoa

We drank Still mineral water

Jodhi wore Celine pants, JBrand top and Chloe shoes.


Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Guy Sebastian

4th December, 2016
Date with Kate: Kate Waterhouse and Guy Sebastian at The Bathers Pavillion in Balmoral, Sydney. 10th November 2016 Photo: Janie Barrett

Catching up with Guy Sebastian at The Bathers Pavilion at Balmoral Beach


Guy Sebastian has built on his Australian Idol win in 2003 to become an enduringly popular performer. He recently finished as a judge on television’s The X Factor and is now working on a new album. Sebastian, 35, chatted to me about fatherhood, the tragedy behind his latest single, and why he’s no longer trying to please everyone.

What are you working on?

My new album. I finished part one just a few days ago and I’m kind of continuing to work on part two, which will be released after … I’m mainly writing, recording, building a home and working on my next tour – that’s pretty much my life.

What was your inspiration behind your new single Set In Stone?

It’s a bit of a sad one. I was in Bali and there was an accident right in front of me, and it was a fatal crash in the end. I ended up on the side of the road holding this kid’s hands as he took his last breath and it affected me quite a lot … Later on that night I started to process [it] and I started to write and that’s how the melody came about.

Did you see this song as a tribute to this person?

Not really. When I wrote it, it was actually about family, my kids, Jules [his wife] … It was basically saying the things “set in stone” – the people that are there forever.

Did you enjoy this season of The X Factor?

I always enjoy it; I always enjoy being part of something that affects lives. It does definitely give people a big boost … I look at Sammy [Samantha Jade] and she was doing stock take in a warehouse and she has this amazing voice; and Johnny Ruffo, who was a concreter in Perth and he’s become quite a personality now; and Reece Mastin, who’s touring all over the place and recording amazing music. Also the people like Dami [Im] and myself who went on a show like this and hopefully prove to people that we deserve a spot in the industry. It’s been a really, really good journey thus far.

What was it like to work with Iggy [Azalea]?

I’ve really, really enjoyed being on the panel with Adam [Lambert] and Mel B [Brown]. We’ve had a lot of fun and I will miss them.

How has reality TV changed since your time on Australian Idol?

It’s changed so much. When I did Idol, it was a first. We didn’t know what we were getting into. I was this weird-looking chubby guy with an afro – and all of a sudden, I had people camped outside my house with signs “I love Guy”. Now it’s an avenue to get into the industry; the “reality” has been taken away a little bit.

Who are your musical mentors and influences?

… Sam Cooke and definitely Otis Redding, who were probably the two reasons I got into music in the first place. In my teens I really got into the Beatles and I listened to a lot of gospel music as well.

How do you define success?

Knowing that what you’re doing at the moment is what you’re supposed to be doing. Not sitting wishing you were doing something else.

What has been the biggest challenge in your career?

I would say just learning that I can’t please everyone. In normal life you don’t have many people that are staunchly against you … Suddenly I became famous … and everyone was kind of at me. I came from a pretty sheltered background who went to church and then suddenly the church people were up at me and I wasn’t churchy enough, and then the industry was at me that I wasn’t wild enough. And so I was just in this mode of desperately trying not to offend anyone. I found after a while I was OK with being who I am and people don’t actually know me, and I think that was the best thing to do.

What else do you want to achieve in life?

I would love to do what I’m doing forever, whether it be in a studio writing or producing or touring.

What is the best part of your job?

You sit for so long and do such long hours in the studio, you stress about the sound and direction of youralbum. Then you finally release it and see your fans enjoying it and singing back to you, that’s the moment when all your hard work just pays off. I still never get used to it when people cry at my show; it just reminds me about music and the impact it can have on people and the memories it can invoke, and that’s really healing for me.

What is the worst part of your job?

Once again, I think everyone having an opinion on you and trying to please everyone – when not everyone is going to like you.

How do you deal with the negativity?

I’ve just realised that not everyone is going to like you. Also, after having kids, that changes your perspective. What they think of you is the only thing that matters.

How has fatherhood changed you?

It changes you in every way. It gives you a greater purpose in life. You not only worry about them but also the world around them – politically, environmentally, everything!

What do you love most about being a dad?

Cuddles! Doesn’t matter if you’ve had the worst day, everything is OK when you see them.

Will your children follow in your footsteps?

I think Hudson might … they both like to sing but Hudson has better pitch at the moment [laughs].

What have your learnt from your marriage with Jules?

So much. She is amazing, she is so understanding of everything I do.

What is the biggest misconception about what you do?

I think some people think musos are dumb [laughs]. I once had a girlfriend who broke up with me because I was a muso and her dad was convinced I was not going anywhere.

What else are you working on?

I’ve been working really hard with the Sebastian Foundation, which is doing some amazing things … much-needed work across women’s shelters in Sydney and looking to expand across Australia. Domestic violence is a huge ongoing problem [so we are working with a] lot of these [shelter] homes to give them what they need, make it a place that these women can go to feeling safe, loved.


We went to Bathers Pavilion, Balmoral Beach

We ate Caesar salad with garlic croutons and pancetta add grilled peppered chicken; Beetroot cured kingfish with coastal greens cucumber, almonds and caper berries

We drank Acqua Panna natural still mineral water; Apple and beetroot juice

Photo: Janie Barrett

Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Michael Clarke

27th November, 2016

Michael Clarke and I at Hublot’s 10th anniversary celebration for their All Black collection

Cricketer Michael Clarke captained the Australian cricket team from 2008 to 2015. He became the 12th Australian to score a century in his Test debut, was awarded the prestigious Allan Border Medal and in 2013 was named the International Cricket Council’s Cricketer of the Year. Clarke, 34, chatted to me about the challenges of being an Australian cricket captain, what he has next in the pipeline and the best advice he ever received from West Indies great Brian Lara.

Now that you are retired, what is a day in the life of you?

As we speak I am commentating full time so my day-to-day schedule is pretty full on. I get up at 5.30am and go do a session in the gym for an hour, I then Facetime my daughter, have breakfast, then off to the ground to commentate. I wrap up commentating around 6pm, then head out to dinner with the boys.

Did you grow up wanting to be the Australian cricket captain? 

Not at all. My dream as a six-year-old boy was to play cricket for Australia, but I never dreamt of captaining our country. In saying that, it was an absolute honour and privilege to be the 43rd Australian Test captain.

What did you find most challenging about being captain?

I think spending time away from your family is always hard, with the way tours are set up now you travel for 10 months of the year. And I think as any leader does in sport or business, when your team doesn’t perform, you take it extremely personal.

Do you have any regrets? 

None whatsoever. I have learnt a lot of life lessons along my journey so far but I’m very happy with what I have been lucky enough to achieve.

What has been the most important life lesson you have learnt so far?

Try to enjoy every day, because life can be so short. Stop and smell the roses along the way.

What is the best advice you have ever been given, and who was it from? 

Brian Lara gave me this saying on a piece of paper that I carried around in my baggy green satchel until the day I retired: before you begin a thing, remind yourself that difficulties and delays quite impossible to foresee are ahead …You can only see one thing clearly, and that is your goal! Form a mental vision of that and cling to it through thick and thin.

What inspired you to write your autobiography, Michael Clarke: My Story?

I wrote my book for my daughter Kelsey Lee. If anything ever happened to me, I wanted her to know who her father was, what I stood for and what my values were. I wanted her to hear about my life from me and not what she might have heard or read in a paper/magazine.

How long did it take to write?

Six months. It was a lot of fun and nice to finally be able to be completely open and honest.

What has been the public reaction to the book?

I think that most people that have read it have been very positive about how honest, self-reflective and self-critical I have been.

The book is very honest about some very public events. Was that easy to do? 

Yes it was, it was nice to be able to sit down and reflect on my life. The past 35 years have been an amazing ride. Plenty of highs and a few lows.

If you didn’t go down the career of a sportsman, what would you be doing?

I would hate to know. That’s why I will always be so grateful to the game of cricket. It has given me everything.

Tell me about your involvement with Hublot. 

I have been an ambassador for Hublot for two years now and it’s an association that I am very proud of. Their words that they live by resonate a lot with me and how I have tried to live my life. Be different, unique and willing to do things first.

What do you enjoy most about fashion?

Fashion allows you to show your own individual style. I believe people should be very proud of who they are and fashion allows them to show that.

What charities are you involved with and why?

I have a great range of charities that I am an ambassador for, all of which are very close to my heart: Life Education, McGrath Foundation, Cancer Council and The Loyal Foundation.

How are you enjoying being on the Channel 9 commentary team?

I have loved it. It is nice to be back in a team environment and talking about the game we love. The guys are fantastic and always good for a laugh.

Is it hard sitting on the other side of the fence?

Not at all. I played for a long time and feel that I retired at the right time as I am very happy with the career that I had fulfilled. I thought I achieved everything I could and now I am able to talk about the game, and help the viewers get a closer perspective of what it’s like out there in the middle.

As a commentator you will be asked to voice your opinion  – good or bad. Does this come easy?

Being honest and calling it how you see it is not hard at all. I always try to be as constructive as I can be, as I remember how hard the game was at the highest level.

What are your plans for Christmas? I assume you will be in Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test?

Yes I will be. I will have Christmas day at home with Kyly, Kelsey Lee and my family but will fly to Melbourne that night in preparation for the Boxing Day Test match.

What’s your favourite thing about being a dad to Kelsey Lee? 

Seeing her every morning when she wakes up with a smile on her face and giving her a kiss good night before she goes to sleep, and I love watching her grow and learn new things. She is just such a happy, vibrant little girl. She has me wrapped around her finger already.

What is next in the pipeline for you?

I have my cricket academy in Sydney, which is doing really well, and now with more time on my hands I am able to be more involved, which is great. I am also investing a lot of time into the digital side of my business. I will also keep commentating with the Nine team, and being an ambassador for the amazing companies that I am lucky enough to be associated with keeps me nice and busy.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I would really like some more kids. Family means the world to me and for all of them to be happy and healthy and I would like my business to keep doing well. Ten years is a long time away. I will be cherishing every day.


WE WENT TO Hublot All Black 10th Anniversary dinner at Bay 21 Gallery, Carriageworks

WE ATE Charcoal Rangers Valley Beef Fillet

WE DRANK NV Duval-Leroy Brut, Vertus France and Hennessy VS Cognac

MICHAEL CLARKE Hugo Boss suit and a Hublot watch

Photography: Tim Kindler

Fashion, Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Cheyenne Tozzi

20th November, 2016

Cheyenne and I enjoying lunch at Exchange Restaurant & Bar in Darlinghurst


Sydney-born Cheyenne Tozzi began modelling aged 13, moved into TV in 2014 as a mentor alongside Naomi Campbell for The Face Australia and is now a mentor on Australia’s Next Top Model. Tozzi, 27, has also branched into music and this month released Swept Up, the second single from her self-titled debut album. She chats to me about music becoming her main focus, who she thinks will win the Next Top Model finale, and how she “donated” her birthday to the United Nations.

Congratulations on your new single.

Thank you … Swept Up is a soulful summer song that’s all about that feeling of being swept up in love. The response has been really positive. I think most people have experienced that feeling at one stage or another, so they can connect with it.

You are self-trained in singing. How did your love of music come about?

Music is something that I’ve always held close to my heart and it’s been around me for as long as I can remember. I think about some of the best family nights and quite often they’ve involved a piano or a guitar – they’re special memories to hold on to. As for singing, there was always music playing in the house and I’d be humming along. I never went to singing lessons, I wasn’t even really “self taught”, I just sang.

Do you write all your own music? 

All my songs are original, I love writing. It’s pretty cool to be in the studio with the boys [production team Jackie Nice]. With Swept Up, we were in the studio and they had this really cool little riff on the guitar, I started singing and it grew from there and we created this really beautiful song.

Tell me about your album. 

It’s my first solo record. My music is honest and authentic. I think the feel of my genre demands that. It’s soulful. If nothing else, I hope my music makes people feel – whether it’s calm or happiness or the fondness of a memory – I just want people to feel something when they listen to it.

You split your time between modelling, TV presenting and singing. What is your main focus? 

I enjoy everything that I do … I’m lucky to have had a great career in modelling and to have travelled the world meeting inspirational people. I’ve loved being a mentor on ANTM and helping other young girls in my industry, but it’s my music that I’m really passionate about and focused on.

Do you enjoy being a mentor on Australia’s Next Top Model? 

Yes, it’s a great show. We’ve had a really great bunch of girls this year; there are always the temper tantrums and all that nonsense that comes along with having a houseful of 16-year-old girls. And I think we have had some incredible women come on this season, including Miranda Kerr, Elle Macpherson. and just to show girls again what a wonderful career you can create if you’re focused. If you just go 110 per cent and you are worth it, you can go all the way.

What do you love most about being a mentor?

I love that I can be a part of the girls’ dreams in any which way that I can.

Who do you think will win this year’s ANTM and why? 

It’s a tough call, Sabine is incredibly beautiful and unassuming, which people like, but then Aleyna is gorgeous, has the height and all of the tools to succeed.

What’s your advice to the young girls coming up in modelling?

Be nice, and be respectful.

You have donated your birthday to the UN. Tell me a bit about that. 

So you donate your birthday and people donate money to the UN [instead of giving gifts] … My goal was to raise $50,000 but we exceeded that target in two weeks! When you look outside and you read [the news] you think: “If I don’t do anything – not that I can change the world – but you need to make that initial step and maybe I can try and help.”

What was it like to start your career at 13? 

My mum was a model and my aunt was a model, so it’s the environment I was growing up in and knew. I’ve had a great career and I’m still going, I’m still not finished yet in what I want to do.

Is it an advantage or a disadvantage starting so young?

I don’t know … I learnt so much obviously, I’m very street smart, I’m very savvy. I’ve travelled all over the world, but do I think it’s an advantage? I don’t think it’s a disadvantage at all. I’ve had a really wonderful career. I’m not going to now say, “Well, I wish I didn’t do that.” Everyone has their journey and their path.

What would you tell your 13-year-old self now?


What was it like being on The Face? 

The Face was great. I think, the dynamic of the mentors against each other was real and was quite fun. Naomi [Campbell] is fun; Nicole [Trunfio] is a sweetheart.

Are you still in contact with Naomi Campbell? 

Yes, I’ve spoken to Naomi a bit … She is one of those [models] who paved the way for everyone and she is a fantastic woman. I think, people take her wrong sometimes, when they say, “Oh, she is too aggressive” or whatever, but she really is a sweetheart and I think she has every right to be that savvy, awesome woman that she is.

What is your inspiration behind your coming fashion label The Code? 

The Code is coming out early next year. We’re doing a small collection based on all the pieces that I think every girl needs. I want the collection to empower and celebrate women.

Who is a Code woman?

The Code woman would be Michelle Obama, Elle Macpherson, Bella Hadid, my mum, business women, doctors. I think she is like all these women who have just nailed it in life. She’s confident and dressed for success.

Tell me a bit about the collection. 

It’s all key pieces … blazers, pants, suits, beautiful shirts, just basic but beautiful pieces that are affordable.

Where is home for you now? 

Home is where the heart is. Wherever the spaghetti is, I’m there! I live in Sydney and we have five dogs, so I can’t live anywhere else – but we travel all the time.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

Dance-offs. And I’m trying to finesse my baking. I’ve been doing that for fun. That’s my fun thing at the moment and a walk with the dogs. I relax, I just hang out.

What has been your biggest pinch-me moment in your career? 

I think it’s always hilarious when people go, “You’re still alive?” As if I’m like 80 years old! When you’re 27 years old and you start that young it feels like forever. I think my career highlight, I’ve done so many awesome things and travelled the world and just met amazing people.


WE WENT TO Exchange Restaurant & Bar, Darlinghurst.

WE ATE Pan-fried snapper fillet with cherry tomatoes, basil, and zucchini flower; Pea, mint and goats cheese arancini; White & brown anchovy bruschetta; Heriloom tomato & goats cheese panzanella.

WE DRANK Saint Andre “Magali” 2014 Rose.

CHEYENNE WORE Tom Ford shirt and skirt.


Lifestyle, Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Neale Whitaker

13th November, 2016

The Block Judge, Neale Whitaker and I catch up at the Lexus Design Pavilion


Neale Whitaker is a judge on television’s The Block – which airs its season finale on November 13 – and editor of Vogue Living. Whitaker, 54, talks to me about the most frustrating part of being a Block judge, what makes him cringe, and his top tip to quickly rejuvenate any home.

Who do you think will win tonight’s finale? 

Ah, that’s a tough one. The judges don’t have the best form in picking the winner! Auction day is unpredictable and there are so many variables  – the auction order, the reserve prices and basically the depth of the potential buyers’ pockets. All of the apartments offer the luxury of space and an opportunity to live in a heritage building that’s been restored with integrity.

What has been your favourite room from this season and why?

Kim and Chris [Elliot] delivered the ultimate master bedroom with the proportions of a luxury hotel suite. I loved Julia [Treuel] and Sasha [Wright-Neville’s] kitchen, and Will and Karlie’s master bedroom with the wooden panelling was pretty special.

What have you learnt from being a judge?

From the contestants I’ve learned the importance of budget, careful planning and understanding your potential market. From my fellow judges, I’ve learned to see things through an interior designer’s eye – it’s far more detailed than a magazine editor’s eye.

What is the most frustrating element of being a judge on The Block?

When the contestants don’t take our advice and believe they’re being victimised. They’re not! We always try to be constructive and our advice is based on experience and knowledge. We want them to win, not lose.

Why do you think renovating shows have become so popular? 

We’re a nation obsessed with real estate, so the renovation frenzy feels like a logical progression. Renovating is achievable – it’s something we can do to improve our lives and increase the value of our property. There’s definitely a competitive edge there, too, regardless of whether you’re on The Block!

After so many seasons, do room reveals still excite you?

Yes they do! I guess the day they don’t will be the day to hang up my judge’s hat. There is always that sense of the unexpected and of anticipation based on what was delivered the previous week and the advice we offered.

When there is backlash on social media against you, how do you deal with this? 

You have to take it on the chin. That’s all you can do. Or maybe not look. What did Taylor Swift say? “Haters gonna hate.”

How would you describe your own interior style preferences?

It’s a terribly overused word, but eclectic. [My partner] David [Novak-Piper] and I like such a mix of styles and periods but we get a lot of pleasure out of making them all work together to create a home.

What trends make you cringe?

Trends generally make me cringe. That might sound like a strange thing for a magazine editor to say but I believe a home is a really personal thing. I would never buy – or encourage someone to buy – anything simply because it’s on trend.

What is your best advice for first-time renovators?

Plan, budget, plan, budget and then plan again. Just be really sure about what you want to achieve from the renovations. Is it for you or for resale? Be prepared for the renovations to take longer than anticipated and budget for 25 to 30 per cent more than you think you will need.

What are the most popular interior trends at the moment?

Don’t talk to me about trends [laughs]! But, realistically, we’re seeing a lot more colour at the moment and a real emphasis on anything hand-made and hand-crafted. I think we’re also seeing more confidence to mix things up. We’re starting to realise that it’s OK to be individual.

What is a quick fix to rejuvenate your home? 

A new rug is always the best fix for me. When you walk into a room, what’s on the floor is the first thing you register. And think about changing your art and adding a wall mirror. It can double the size of a room. New bed linen is [also] an amazing pick-me-up.

What is a day in the life of you?

Juggling! My main priority is editing Vogue Living, so most days will find me in the office with the editorial team, but I somehow manage to squeeze in quite a few other activities like emceeing and public speaking. Most evenings will find me at industry events, and when we’re filming The Block, I’m in Melbourne every Sunday. Life’s busy.

What led you down this career path? 

Life! I started in the fashion industry, moved into publishing, moved from the UK to Australia [in 1999] and then moved from food magazines to interior design magazines. That’s when I knew I’d found the place where I wanted to be. And then I stumbled into TV! I’ve been very lucky and I’m very grateful for the opportunities that have come my way.

You were an editor of Belle Magazine and now editor at Vogue Living. How has your role evolved? 

A magazine editor’s role is always evolving. Learning to harness the power of digital and social media is challenging and exciting. That’s not something I really had to worry about in my previous role.

What has been your greatest career achievement so far? 

I’m proud of many of the things I’ve achieved in my career. Perhaps I’m proudest of my longevity and managing to stay relevant. I hope I can keep doing that.

D’Marge named you as one of the most stylish men in Australia. What is your style secret?

I’m sorry to say I don’t really have one! I think my personal style is very understated, quite classic, and intuitive. At 54, I feel I know what suits me and I tend to stick with it.

What is your favourite room in your Surry Hills home?

The kitchen – it’s totally where we live our life! And it will be again in the new apartment we’re just about to move to in Alexandria.

Where is your favourite travel destination when you want to escape from Sydney? 

That’s easy. The south coast of NSW. It’s where I recharge and where I feel the most relaxed. I call it my “happy place”.

What are your plans for the holiday season? 

Our favourite thing is a road trip. We love to put our dogs in the car [weimaraners Otis and Ollie] and head off. This year we’re heading to country Victoria for Christmas, then back home via Melbourne and the NSW South Coast.

What is next for you? 

Whatever comes next! I’m enjoying the opportunities that are coming my way but I would love to do more TV. It’s such a powerful way of communicating. Watch this space – that’s all I’m saying!

The Block season finale airs on Sunday, November 13, at 7pm on Channel 9.  


WE WENT TO The Lexus Design Pavilion, Flemington.
WE ATE Raw striped trumpeter with salted turnip, mustard & horseradish
WE DRANK Matua Valley Lands & Legends Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ
NEALE WORE  MJ Bale jacket, shirt and white jeans; P. Johnson Tailors tie and RM Williams boots. 
Fashion, Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Sophie Monk

6th November, 2016



Sophie Monk rose to fame as a singer in the girl band Bardot, has appeared in movies and this year was a judge on Australia’s Got Talent. She now co-hosts The Summer Fling breakfast show on radio station KIIS 1065. Monk, 37, talks to me about her career, the challenges of being in media and her plans to move behind the camera.

What are you up to at the moment?

I’m filing in for Kyle and Jacki O over summer and I’m working on a pilot for my own show. We haven’t worked out exactly the angle yet but it’s pretty exciting.

What’s a day in the life of you? 

Every day is like random and interesting. Some days I would be getting up at 3am or 4am for breakfast radio, and then other ones where it’s like late-night functions or, if you’re doing a movie, that’s just like you have no life for about three months.

You have had a long and successful career as a singer, actor and now radio presenter. What have you enjoyed the most? 

I get bored really easy, so I love to just be able to do a bit of everything … I guess I’m just an entertainer.

What do you love most about live radio?

I love being challenged, I think, and you get instant gratification on radio, whereas you do a movie and it’s like a year later you might see it, and you’re kind of over it by then. You know radio: people are like, “Oh my God, that’s so like me,” and then the more people say that, the more open I am.

Does it come naturally to be an open person on radio or is it something you have to work on?

[The media] just pick on you for little things and people on the street didn’t really know me and I just thought, “Well I’m going to be honest and me because what have I got to lose? … I just thought, “Well, I’m just going to be honest. If I’m a goober, I’m going to be it,” and all of a sudden, I was like, “wow” – actually people reacted well rather than badly … Kyle Sandilands helped a lot.

What was Kyle’s advice to you? 

He would just say, “Who cares what people think – tomorrow is another story, pretty much.” And, yeah, just saying, “There is nothing bad in what you’re doing”… As long as people don’t think I’m a bad person, it doesn’t really matter.

Tell me about your childhood?

I’d say I wasn’t naughty, like drugs or anything – I’ve never been into that – but more cheeky, always making people laugh in the class, and the teachers couldn’t really get control of the class. Then I did dance and singing and acting after school … I was always going to be on the stage, so I used school as the time that was chill-out time, to be honest, and I didn’t learn anything.

What was it like to be part of Australia’s Got Talent? 

I love watching people go out and try their hardest, even just the confidence in people [who are] actually not talented. Sorry but, it’s like, “Where do you get it from?”

Will you do another season?

Yes, depending on what happens with everything. It all comes down to scheduling, timing and whatever. But, yes, I’d definitely consider it.

Tell me about your film Blood Feast, released earlier this year?

It’s a horror film. I shot it right after Celebrity Apprentice. I mean the day after, that night. It was like announced and the next morning I flew to Germany. I’m the lead, Penny. It’s a remake of Blood Feast, which is one of the bloodiest films ever.

What attracts you to horror films? 

I tend to get cast in them a lot. I think once you’re in that horror circle, it’s such a different genre and the audience loyalty.

What was it like working on Click and Date Movie?

Oh, they were super fun because when you’re doing comedy everyone is happy. But if you are working on something dark and serious, you can get a bit negative.

What did you learn from your experience from winning season four of Celebrity Apprentice? 

You realise you do have to hustle and you do have to delegate to people and you need to know how to find more people …You’ve got to be out of your comfort zone; it might be something you don’t want to do, but if you want to be successful in business you’ve got to push yourself out of that comfort.

When you started with Bardot, did you think your career in entertainment would go for as long as it has?

I think it all happened so quickly, to be honest, to me – and young – that I never really had time to think about it … I don’t know if I ever went “I want to be famous”; I’ve never ever actually wanted that … I always knew I wanted to perform.

What do you think has been the secret to your success? 

I think the ups and downs. I think a lot of people in this industry that maybe are a little bit conceited, have never had a fall. But you’ve got to have those falls so then when you get back up, appreciate it to go, “It won’t last that long,” and then you have another fall and then you are popular again. It keeps you in check … I’ve definitely had ups and downs, massive ones. And so you can just deal with them all, your tolerance is higher. Yes, not as sensitive, and you’re more sensitive to the audience as well, and what they’re like.

What has been the most challenging moment in your career?

Well, just like dating … you are in a relationship and it becomes a job, because everyone wants to interview you about it. It’s a weird world that you kind of go, “Well, that’s what the audience want,” you’ve got to give it to them. But it’s like, “Are you keeping something for yourself that is special?” That’s tricky.

[You are currently dating former rugby league player Eric Grothe.] How did you meet?

I’ve known him a while through family on the GC [Gold Coast].

What do you look for in a guy? 

[Someone who will] make me laugh and make me feel secure and safe, because it’s quite an insecure industry … I think you want someone that just makes you feel good about yourself and is always there for you, no matter what.

Is there anything on your bucket list career-wise still to cross off?

I think I’d like to do a fashion line that’s affordable for the audience …Yeah, well I’m kind of working on it now … It doesn’t bother me whether I stay in front of the camera or behind, I love producing as well.

Is there someone you look up to and admire in the industry? 

I like Kerri-Anne Kennerley. I think she is pretty cool, the stuff she has gone through and how she has just kept [a successful] career.

What do you do for fun? 

Work is my hobby at the moment, but in my spare time I spend it with family. I’m obsessed with my family, it’s ridiculous.

What is next for you?

I think a bit of travel if I can fit it in while building a house for my parents on my property. Mum can cook dinner for me, which is awesome because my cooking skills are the worst.

Where do you see yourself in five years? 

I’ve no idea. People say, “You should do that.” It’s like look ahead and then you achieve that goal, but I think I just, I hate to say it, but I think the older you get, you just want to be happy … So it’s just if you are happy and enjoying your life. You know, I would like to be comfortable, meaning not struggling with money because I’ve worked so hard.



WE WENT TO Missy French

WE ATE Lemon Meringue and Crème Brûlée



Fashion, Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Samantha Wills

30th October, 2016

Samantha Wills and I catch up at The Apollo Restaurant, Potts Point

As a 21-year-old, Samantha Wills founded her own, self-titled jewellery company. Her pieces have since been worn by the likes of Taylor Swift and Eva Mendes and appeared in the 2010 movie Sex and the City 2. Wills has been chosen to be a face of marketing campaigns for Optus, Yellowglen, Mount Franklin and Nespresso. This year, she was nominated at the Australian of the Year Awards. Wills, 33, chatted to me about the best advice she has been given, what she misses most about Australia, and how she turned her hobby into a business with $10 million turnover annually.

What is a day in the life of you?

When I’m in New York, it’s very creative focused [and I’m] in design mode. When I’m in Sydney, it’s very much team- and media-focused.

How did it all start for you?

I started the company when I was 21 – 12 years ago. Now we have offices in New York, Los Angeles, Sydney, Paris, Korea and Japan, and it started just as a hobby on my dining room table. I started selling down at Bondi Beach market and launched at Australian Fashion Week, very opportunistically, in 2004 with $17,000 of orders. As a 23-year-old, I threw everything I had, got myself into $80,000 of debt and refused to give up.

Did you always dream of becoming a jewellery designer?

I think when I was younger, I definitely always thought I’d have my own business in some capacity and it was always going to be creative. For me, jewellery wasn’t the be all and end all. It was more something that I could hand make myself without formal training, and so it kind of naturally evolved that way.

You’ve had many celebrities wear your designs. Who are some of your favourites that really stand out in your mind?

Definitely Taylor Swift is a huge favourite in American Vogue. Eva Mendes has to be a favourite. She made our signature Bohemian Bardot Ring [into] a global signature. Ever since she wore it [in 2008], it has been our bestselling item. And to have it appear on Sex and the City was pretty surreal as well.

How did the Sex and the City collaboration come about?

We were presenting to media in Los Angeles and … you hope that the right people come past. Patricia Field, the style assistant for the film, came past. They made some notes and then called some pieces in … You can assume those samples will be gone for a year or you won’t get them back because they go into the wardrobe department. About a year later, I had certainly forgotten about it, and we received a card with an illustration of the four girls on the front and it said, “One hand in the air for the big city, thanks for making us look so pretty. Love, Patricia” … I literally had to wait to go to the premiere of the film to see our products up on the big screen.

How did appearing in Sex and the City impact on your brand?

It kind of like evolves the story I think and adds credibility at an international level.

You are the face of Optus’ Small Business Campaign. How did that come about?

It was quite surreal. I think when you get a phone call like, “We’ve signed Mark Wahlberg on to do a campaign and would like you to sign on to the same campaign?”, I was kind of like, “Do you guys have the right number?”

Did you really think that?

Yes, it clicked to me that you really don’t know who is watching your journey and the team at Optus had done a lot of research on the last 12 years of my career and really felt that my story of an underdog from small town Port Macquarie to New York City would really resonate with small- to medium-sized business owners.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Working in fashion, people expect you to have attitude … [so] I think if you can be a nice person and treat everyone like they’re someone, it really goes a long way.

What would you tell your 19-year-old self? 

I think about myself when I was starting the business and the anxiety and the fear and the 20-hour work days … I would try and tell myself that if you look up every once in a while, everything is going to be OK, but I don’t think she will listen.

What would you say has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face? 

There are always challenges as your business grows or you become “procedure successful” – the challenges just differ. In the early days, being $80,000 in debt, as a 24-year-old is incredibly daunting. As the business grows, it’s people issues. You’re only as good as the people around you, so you’re continually managing people as well as the business.

What would your advice to someone starting out in the jewellery industry?

My overarching advice is you don’t want to be that person at the party, three years from now, being like, “Oh yeah, I was always going to do that”. Just start, even as insignificant as the action might seem, do something towards what you’re wanting to do.

Is New York home now?

It feels like home at the moment. I’ve got a great network over here and home is where you build your network. I say New York is my city, Sydney is my town.

What do you miss most about Australia?

Definitely the beaches. I think I was so spoilt growing up in Port Macquarie with these beautiful coastlines and then, in my 20s, in Sydney. When I come back to Australia now I know I look like a tourist because I’m taking a thousand photos of the ocean. I’m in it everyday. It just gives you a whole new level of appreciation for how beautiful our country is.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a lot of external projects outside of the brand, which is really exciting for a personal career perspective… [It has been] stimulating and inspiring to kind of step outside the business, but still have it as the backbone and, I guess, the foundation of everything that I touch.


WE WENT TO The Apollo Restaurant, Potts Point

WE ATE Walnuts filo pastry coffee cream dessert

WE DRANK Champagne and mineral water

SAMANTHA WORE Misha Collection jumpsuit

Date with Kate


23rd October, 2016
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 14: Emma Watkins from The Wiggles, Kate Waterhouse and Lachy Gillespie at Sotto on West, North Sydney on June 14, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media)

Enjoying a healthy brunch with Emma Watkins and Lachlan Gillespie from The Wiggles


Emma Watkins and Lachlan (Lachy) Gillespie are best known as the yellow and purple Wiggles. The two began dating in 2013, after Emma became the first female Wiggle, and revealed their romance in March last year and later married. The children’s group are marking their 25th year in show business and embarking on an Australian tour, titled the Dance, Dance! The Wiggles Big Show!, starting next month. Watkins, 27, and Gillespie, 30, tell me about what they’ve learnt from being part of the Wiggles empire, why they initially hid their romance, and their plans for a mini-Wiggle.

How did you both get into entertainment? 

Lachlan: I went to WAAPA [the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts] over in Perth. I did music theatre for three years, then moved to Melbourne and started auditioning … I got an audition for the Dorothy [the Dinosaur] show, in 2009, and I’ve worked with the Wiggles ever since.

Emma: I studied as a dancer. And then, during school, I had an injury, and then I learnt how to make films … I came back and did full-time dance and then I went to uni to do film again, and then I got the audition for the Dorothy show. That’s when I met Lachy, [who] was already Captain Feathersword on that show, and I was a Fairy, and we started touring together. And then, I was taken to Wiggles to do filming and dancing.

Did you watch the Wiggles growing up?

Emma: Yes, on one of the old regional videos on VHS. They cut [to the audience of the live show] and it’s my sister and I dancing.

How did you find out that you had landed the coveted role as a Wiggle?

Emma: Simon [the Red Wiggle] was like, “Murray and Jeff and I, we’re going to retire at the end of the year. We’re starting a new line-up … He was like, “We want to have you.” I was like, “very funny” because they’ve always played practical jokes … He said, “No, we want you.” We went and told Lachy that I was going to do it. From then, it has just been the weirdest, most amazing experience.

What has been the most amazing part?

Emma: It has just become our lives. It’s kind of weird: it doesn’t feel like a job where you clock in at nine and you go at five. It’s seven days a week, we meet children everywhere we go, in the shopping centre, on the plane. It’s so lovely to meet so many families around the world … The mothers used to watch it when they were little and now they’re bringing their children. So that generational thing, I think that’s why the Wiggles are so special.

Did your romance blossom during the Wiggles?

Emma: I really fell in love with Lachy in the first moment … But it took him a long time [laughs]!

Lachlan: No, I knew we had a connection right from the start … In 2012, we basically spent the entire year together, every single day.

Why did you originally hide your romance from the rest of the cast?

Lachlan: We thought it was a respectful thing to do. There is nothing worse … if you’ve only just only started in a world-class organisation such as The Wiggles and then all of a sudden we come out that we are together … We didn’t want people to think we were just doing it for [publicity].

Emma: We didn’t officially say to anyone, but they knew. Anthony knew, definitely!

When did you decide to announce to the public you were a couple?

Emma: It was getting to the point where we were like, “we probably want to share it”, though at the time I didn’t know that Lachy had planned to propose, so … our relationship was announced, and then, about a month and a half later, our engagement. So everyone was like: whoa, whoa. For us, it felt like quite a while.

How is married life treating you?

Emma: It’s fast. I feel that because we tour all the time, we’re together all the time – and we didn’t go on honeymoon – so it feels like it hasn’t really changed much.

Do you have plans to start a family?

Emma: It would be really nice … It really is almost like we have to put it in the tour schedule [laughs].

It is incredible that the Wiggles have been at the forefront in the children’s entertainment industry for such a long time.

Lachlan: Yes, because it’s not normal to be even a band for that long.

Emma: I think that’s why Anthony [Field] is such a genius, because he does try and keep up with the times, whereas a lot of people get stuck and bogged down.

The Wiggles have celebrated their 25 years in children’s entertainment this year. What have you learnt from being part of the Wiggles phenomenon?

Emma: The No. 1 thing is that the children, even if they’re there as a group, it’s important to address the children as though they’re the only person there. They are egocentric; they don’t know they’re there with that many people. So that’s why so many of the songs are really direct … By speaking as if speaking to one, then that’s why they all connect. I think that’s a real skill.

How have the Wiggles changed over the 25 years?

Emma: Even going from just doing a CD to going on VHS, which sounds so ridiculous now, but it was such a big thing then. Then they were the first to do a DVD in children’s entertainment … Now it’s iTunes, and only recently we signed with Netflix to 190 countries.

Wiggles is aired all around the world. Where is the strangest place you guys have been recognised?

Emma: I get a lot of recognition in the ladies’ bathroom, and it sounds weird but it keeps happening to me … I think when you’re waiting, a lot of people recognise because it’s that moment that they stop and actually look at you.

 What do you do in your downtime?

Emma: We don’t have a lot of time not Wiggling – we are touring six days a week, every week – but when we do have time off, we try to go and see our family.

What’s next for you guys?

Lachlan: Well, [we have the] Lachy! show out. There’s a new Emma DVD [Darling for Emma], which a whole feature length of Emma things. We’ve got a new TV series, which started in July, and we’re writing another TV series now. And we also have our Big Show Tour.

Are the original Wiggles members still involved?

Emma: Yes, they are behind the scenes. For the 25th year, we did a fundraising concert for 18-and-overs … You could just imagine, like, an entire pub, full of 18-and-overs having a beer and then singing their favourite Wiggly songs!

Where do you guys see yourself in 10 years?

Emma: I’m still Wiggling because I made a bet with Jeff [Fatt, the purple Wiggle] that I will Wiggle till I’m 60 because he Wiggled till he was 60.

Lachlan: Yes, I hope it goes as long as the original guys did.

The Wiggles’ national tour includes Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney, on December 17. Also Perth Arena, November 19; Adelaide Entertainment Centre, November 27; Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, December 3; the Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, December 5; Brisbane Entertainment Centre, December 10; Newcastle Entertainment Centre, December 13; WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong, December 20. See


WE WENT TO Sotto on West, North Sydney

WE ATE Seasonal fruit salad, poached burgundy and elderflower pears, organic honey and yoghurt, dried coconut fruits and nuts;

WE DRANK Green juice, herbal tea and cappuccino

EMMA WORE Leona Edmiston dress

LACHY WORE a vintage leather jacket and jeans

KATE WORE Tome dress.


Photo by Ben Rushton
Date with Kate


16th October, 2016

Michael Klim and I talking about life outside the pool and his skincare range, Milk & Co

Michael Klim has won six gold medals across  the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics. The Polish-born Australian swimmer retired from swimming due to injury in 2007 and has since focused on building his skincare range, Milk & Co. Klim, 38, chatted to me about his life outside the pool; continuing to work on his business with his estranged wife, Lindy Klim; and his new girlfriend, fashion designer Desiree Deravi.

What are you up to at the moment? 

It’s a pretty exciting time for me…Milk has been going for about eight years and it has been a really successful year from an export point of view. We’ve got about 13 different markets altogether now from US, Scandinavia, Korea, China, Singapore and Hong Kong. We changed the name of the men’s range; it’s now Klim by Milk & Co, with new packaging and a new campaign … We launched a fragrance as well, in September. [I’m also] obviously putting my mind and my efforts with being with the kids as much as possible.

You’re based in Bali but where is home for you? 

Home is where the kids are … Dad has got an investment property in Melbourne that I rent off him at the moment. So [I’m] between Melbourne and Bali, half and half.

Do you run the business from Bali or how does it work?

I’ve built a pretty good team … of people that have been in the industry and who [are] a lot smarter than I am. I keep doing what I’m doing in sales, but the team is capable of running itself.  I [do] love getting back into the office [to] get the morale up.

Did you ever think when you were younger that you would be creating skincare? 

Not at all. I mean the funny thing is I was approached by a couple of other skincare brands to be their ambassador around 2006 … I thought, “There must be something in there if other brands [are doing it]” so I said “I’ll just try my own”.

How did you originally get into skincare?

Oh, sort of by accident, initially … When you’re swimming outdoors in chlorinated pools, your skin is always dry and flaky, and also the Aussie climate [doesn’t help]. There was a bit of an opportunity eight years ago as the men’s skincare market was growing quite a lot and there wasn’t anything out there in the market that was designed by blokes for blokes.

With so many brands on the market, what do you think sets your range apart from others?

High in quality, all natural, made in Australia, so the affinity with Australian products overseas is huge, especially in Scandinavia and South Korea.

How has your life in the pool helped you with what you do today?

I had no idea about skincare, so I asked a lot of people a lot of questions and found mentors and saw where they had made mistakes and I could learn from them … Ultimately, like in swimming, I had a crack [and] decided, “Well, I’ll put my money into it and stand behind it” … I just wanted to see it through and make sure it’s a success.

You had so much success in the pool. What do you feel was your biggest achievement?

Oh, it’s hard to go past the men’s 4×100-metre freestyle relay in Sydney [Olympics 2000]. We were the underdogs and the Americans had never been beaten … To have Ian Thorpe going over the top of Gary Hall and winning by less than point one of a second on home soil, it was just phenomenal.

Was there ever a difficult transition to life after sport?  

Yes, definitely. It’s your identity, always, even to this day, like you walk down the street and people yell out, “Oh there is that swimming guy” … So you want to move on with life and progress, but your identity is always going to be that … There is a big void, the five or six hours a day, and it’s taken out … When I was swimming I never got stressed. I only saw a sport psychologist once I retired, not when I was swimming!

What did it teach you when you retired?

My comeback [to London in 2012] was probably more rewarding because I had no expectation with the crowd … it was all about the journey and showing the kids that you actually have to enjoy [things] to get something out in life.

Will your children follow in your footsteps? 

At the moment, after Stella’s [Klim’s 10-year-old daughter] red carpet performance at the Logies [[n May], I would say she wants to be famous. And Rocco is very much into tennis and swims a bit as well, but loves his tennis. Frankie [is] a self-taught swimmer, she doesn’t want any lessons.

Earlier this year you announced that you and Lindy have separated … How are you both coping?

It’s still fairly fresh, but we did it because we wanted to be happy … [We have] moved on, and I think we’re mature enough that we consider to make sure that the business is in the right hands and kids are looked after.

Do you still work together?  

Lindy is still part of the business, she is a shareholder and so has an involvement. Obviously, my focus has been with the men’s range lately, and Lindy’s obviously focused more on the women’s and babies, but we still cross paths, and we obviously raise the kids … So, at the moment, business as usual. I mean, obviously we put a lot of time and effort into the business, so it would be silly to undo all that.

How did you and Desiree meet?

We met in Bali through mutual friends.

What’s your idea of an ideal date?  

I’m not sure if I really have an ideal date; sometimes the best dates are the least expected. With my “raging” days done and dusted, I really enjoy exploring and trying out some of Australia’s best eateries over a nice glass of red. With three kids who are all early risers, it’s a good night when I can be tucked away before midnight.

What do you do for fun? 

Health and fitness is a big part … With kids, trying to fit in a session in the gym is kind of a luxury. So I try and exercise and look after myself physically. It’s always going to be part of my routine. Since I moved to Bali, surfing has become definitely a big part of it.

You don’t keep up the swimming training you used to do?

No. It’s just impossible. I was swimming twice a day and in the gym every second day as well. I was doing maybe 25 hours of exercise a week and now, if I get four or five a week, I’m lucky … If I don’t exercise regularly, I get really grumpy. People can send me out the door or I send myself out the door. [Exercise] is such a big part of our lives, sort of gives you that structure as well.

Where do you see yourself in five years? 

Sitting on the beach in Bali, but that’s already happening now … Stella will be 15, so I’ll probably be shooting away some boys from the front door!


WE WENT TO Hunter Gatherer, North Sydney

WE ATE Poached New Zealand Hake, Rodriguez chorizo, potato, mussel broth with saffron; Rangers Valley inside skirt steak, café de Paris utter, cress; Green beans, romesco sauce, Charred Camden corn, paprika and lime butter.

WE DRANK Sparkling Mineral Water

Date with Kate


9th October, 2016

Sara Donaldson and I having lunch at Four in Hand, Paddington

Sara Donaldson is the blogger behind fashion and beauty blog Harper & Harley and has a combined reach of more than 800,000 followers across her social media channels. She was among the main cast on the reality TV show Fashion Bloggers and recently launched an online fashion store, The Undone, with business partner Georgia Martina. Donaldson, 27, chats to me about blogging fame, why finding balance can be a struggle, and her biggest surprise at having an online shop.

How did you first get into blogging? 

I was at university and I was reading really old school blogs. Growing up in Brisbane, there was nothing really going on there, so I just started blogging while I was at university and working part-time as a sales assistant … Then I moved to Sydney and I had a full-time [marketing] role but I was still blogging … And then I finally gave it all up and just did my blog.

What was the defining moment when you decided to take on blogging as a full-time career? 

Five years into Harper and Harley, it was at a point where the industry had changed [so] I could monetise my blog in such a way that I was earning more from my blog than I was with my full-time job … I was quite reserved in stepping away from having another job because I felt like it was a safety net. I didn’t want to launch into it because I wasn’t quite sure where it was going to go.

What are the main ways you monetised your blog? 

Affiliate networks like RewardStyle or ShopStyle, and then also doing sponsored posts for the brands.

What opportunities and doors has blogging opened for you? 

Well, being part of Fashion Bloggers was incredible… [and] it’s just wonderful that I can call amazing brands and designers my friends.

What is the secret to your blogging success?

I’m was an early adopter. It’s also about having consistent content and making sure that content is really premium. You can’t just throw up a bunch of stuff in the air and hope that does well. You have to make sure it’s all done professionally … You have to give your readers advice or give them something that’s a bit special.

With so many blogs out there, what sets you and your blog apart?

I think it’s the black, white and grey [colour scheme].

What is the best thing about what you do? 

Being able to travel, just being independent, not having to work for anyone else but yourself. It’s wonderful. Everyone should have a chance to do that, if it works for them.

What’s the worst part about what you do?

I think it’s just not being able to stop. Even if you want to, you can’t stop.

What is it like to have a career that many young girls dreams about? 

I receive emails all the time from girls in high school that want to be a blogger and they want advice on how to do that.

What is your advice to an upcoming blogger?

Create great content … [But] don’t think you’re going to get instant readers or instant followers. It’s not about getting the highest number of followers on social media … The industry is very fast and, just like a model, your lifespan is quite short. So make sure you have the education. I feel like I’m really successful because I had my marketing background and my experience in the workplace.

What’s your plan for life after blogging? 

I feel like there will be a time in the next few years [when] the industry will change or maybe I [will] have moved on to something else. Running The Undone is so important, and making sure the business doesn’t have my face all over it, so that I can step away, because I do struggle with the fact that I can’t step away from blogging. I can’t take a holiday… It is a 24/7, 365-day job.

You launched The Undone in July. How did you transition from fashion blogger to online store owner? 

I built [Harper and Harley] with an online shopping angle and it was about building a wardrobe that was really diverse and everything paired up with each other. I was able to divert sales on Harper and Harley for other online stores, up to a point where I’m like, “Well, why am I sending it to someone else when I could have it myself?”

Was it always your career goal to open a fashion store?

No. I’ve been [a blogger] for 7½ years and I needed the “phase two” to happen … It’s a big deal for anyone in their 20s – or anyone really, these days – sticking to something that long. So I just needed something else to re-energise me.

How is The Undone performing as a business so far? 

We’re really happy with our first few months of trade. The Undone has such an advantage compared with other new retail outlets, with a ready-made audience due to the Harper and Harley platforms, and we’ve definitely seen that come through via our sales for the store.

What have you found most surprising in terms of having your own online store?

I thought I knew how fast the fashion industry operated, but now that I’m part of the retail-buying process, it’s becoming much more apparent to me. It’s a never-ending cycle, you’re constantly working on two or three seasons at a time: the one you physically have on hand for your customers, the one that’s about to arrive and the one you’re buying for.

Will you still concentrate on your blog now you’ve got The Undone?

It definitely is a struggle because The Undone is so exciting and I want to be doing that full-time and give that all of my attention, but I can’t forget about Harper and Harley. It’s still such a big part of what I do. I have to definitely balance between the two for a while.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

Hanging out with my dogs and my boyfriend … We go to the dog park in Manly with a coffee and just chill there for a little bit until we’re exhausted … We’re not big party people.


WE WENT TO Four in Hand Hotel, Paddington

WE ATE Spanish Mackarel, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Anchovy Butter; Pumpkin, Chessnuts, Endive, Kombu Butter; Iceberg Lettuce, Egg, Radish, Chives

WE DRANK Sparkling Water

SARA WORE Natan and an Iro leather jacket