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style

Fashion, Shop

The must-try print this season

24th March, 2017

Image: @karliekloss

Make like Karlie Kloss this season and adopt a little plaid into your wardrobe. Whilst the print has in the past come across as quite traditional be prepared to see it in a more distinctly fashion forward light with it appearing on everything from vibrant cut-out skirts to origami style deconstructed shirts. Also, whilst monochrome checks are a guaranteed fashion yes don’t be shy in trying its vibrant counterparts – when in red, blue and soft baby pink make this print certainly speaks volumes.

Shop my fave checked pieces below (take note of the Gucci jacket that’s guaranteed to become a wardrobe classic!):

Lifestyle, Lifestyle & Social

Interior design tips from Alex Zabotto-Bentley

1st March, 2017

As a former fashion designer, Alex Zabotto-Bentley is used to channelling his energy into many a stylish endeavour. He’s now channelling this artistic flair into interior design as the founder of AZBcreative. AZBcreative has masterminded some of Australia’s biggest media and social events, including the March into Merivale, CLEO Bachelor of Year and Harper’s Bazaar Luxury Awards. Among the company’s high-end clientele is Palazzo Versace, Waterford Crystal and The Sydney Theatre Company and singer Lady Gaga. Alex chats to me about how he made his mark in interior design and even lets me in on a few of his best styling secrets below.

AZB Styling pieces at home

What is a day in the life of you?

Apart from grappling with the eternal crisis of what to throw into my green juice, I am a very early riser. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been working late on a project or have just arrived on a redeye flight from Europe, I always wake up around 5am. Seize the day!

My philosophy is that to maximise your energy and productivity, you need to greet the sun every day. Get up before sunrise, head to your favourite vantage point – near the sea is always amazing – and watch it rise. And then (this is a bit spiritual), make your affirmations. It works, believe me. You start each day full of positive energy and resolve, ready to do your best work.

Alex makes a point of welcoming the day by watching the sun rise daily

How did you get started in interior design?

To be honest, I spent so much of my childhood transfixed by houses – I used to mentally ‘rate’ them for architectural balance on the walk to school. And while everyone else at school was buying [surfing publication] Tracks mag, I was saving my pocket money for World of Interiors!

My big breakthrough came when the wonderful, late [hotelier] Ian Robertson gave me carte blanche to design a massive, 4,000 square metre bar on the top of Melbourne’s GPO.

Even while working as a fashion director for magazines and designing my own label Fashion Assassin, I was leading a “double life”, doing interior projects for friends on the side.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

With respect to interiors I have been able to really create magical spaces, which are like no other. It’s important to me to create a site-specific space, so we always try to custom make over 70 per cent of every interior. From designing our own range of tiles to creating our own pigment colours to working with local craftspeople to use their brilliant and sometimes under-appreciated skills.

Kittyhawk [restaurant in Sydney] is a good example of this approach. We created original fittings with a sense of place and history, that perfectly fit that space and tell a story. From the hand-dyed leather for the banquettes to the antique French oak doors, the 12-metre long, hand crafted American Oak bar to the custom-made brass-trimmed shelving and tesserae tile design which I drew freehand, there will never be anything else quite like it.

AZB Custom Tiles which Alex drew freehand

What is your favourite room in your own house?

Definitely my sitting room. It has a wonderful sense of space and light, with high 1920s ceilings and beautiful architectural details. The space is filled with hand selected furniture and decorative pieces that I have collected over time. Every piece tells a story and recalls a memory of a great trip or a weekend combing through flea markets or the thrill of discovering a new artist. It’s so much more than just a space. I love collecting art, so it’s like a private gallery with all the works I’ve collected, from original Keith Haring prints to beautiful, wild landscapes by Aaron Kinnane to modernist sculptures and abstract 1940s Italian art. But it’s not fixed; it’s an ever-evolving space, reflecting my travels and discoveries.

Keith Haring artwork which Alex adores

What made you move into events?

It’s all connected. Working on styling projects every day, I was invited to a lot of events and launches; you know how Sydney loves a party! But I felt that from the guest’s point of view, the event design industry was lacking inspiring, immersive experiences, a high taste level and beautiful, memorable moments. Too many events were basically a bar, some wait staff, a media wall and a DJ. Boring! They were forgettable and added nothing to the brands being promoted. So I decided to tackle this very closed, competitive industry head-on, developing a reputation for custom-designed elements and experiences specific to each client. People really connected with these branded environments. I think we ruffled a few feathers at first, but the clients loved it.

What is your number one styling tip for a special event?

If you do one thing, always use incredible flowers. In fact, always double the flower budget, and do something totally unique. I’m not talking about staid arrangements; go big and amaze people. Make an impact with colour and sheer mass. We have dipped phalaenopsis orchids in jet black paint, to emphasize their amazing sculptural properties, and people went crazy.

I also think it’s essential to make sure every single staff member looks impeccable and dressed to suit the brand, whether it’s crisp denim shirts for a whiskey tasting or impeccable black and white for a formal dinner. Make sure that the cocktails are totally desirable and unique and the catering is completely other-worldly…details, details make the event.

Alex suggests doing “use incredible flowers” if you are styling an event

What are the biggest mistakes people tend to make when it comes to styling an event?

When creating events, people often think that is just about getting the celebrities and current “cool” people to attend…but a lot of celebrities only stay for a brief time before sweeping off to the next thing, leaving a void. Without those glittering people, the room feels cold. To create an exciting and engaging event, you have to mix and layer the guest list with interesting people, from unique fashionistas to vibrant, animated people with something to say. Mix young and old, established names and up-and-comers: chance encounters create energy. The magic is in the mix.

What have been your top three favourite projects so far?

Only three? Ok, one would be working with the wonderful [PR company] Max Media Lab to conjure a magical Swarovski dinner at the Sydney Opera House with Miranda Kerr. We created modern, shimmering spaces inside Bennelong, mixing white perspex, mirrors, metal and glass with acres of flowers and shimmering ornaments to embody Swarovski’s latest collection. From the entrance, flanked by giant beaten silver vases of cascading roses and orchids to the shimmering, crystal-strewn white carpet, to the show-stopping. monumental stainless steel, geometric sculpture by Gregor Kregar, we owned that space! Attention to detail is a signature of our work, so we cut custom tabletops from white Perspex and applied delicate mirrored gold designs, then topped the tables with cubist vases to hold lavish, eccentric floral arrangements. Miniature French busts, half dipped in gold, added to the decadence.

The Swarvorski ‘White Carpet’ event

As far as interior projects, one of the most unusual was creating Seadeck for Scott Robertson [Seadeck’s managing partner] and his team. It’s an amazing floating venue on a gorgeous vintage ship: a 44 metre blank slate and a wonderful challenge. Inspired by the peak of luxury cruising, from the 1920s through 1940s we put a sophisticated twist on nautical design over three vast decks. Overall, it is a minimalist space in navy and white, with custom white lounges, Carrara marble table-tops, a bespoke brass-trimmed bar, curated nautical decorations and iconic four metre high palm trees.

Of course, working on a boat is a challenge in itself. Everything needs to be fixed to the deck, protected from the elements and the furniture needs to double as clever storage. We were essentially designing an interior which would be exposed to wind, rain and sun 365 days a year, yet had to remain luxurious and unforgettable.

Finally, we’ve had a long working relationship with Justin Hemmes and the Merivale Group. Producing and creative directing their March into Merivale event in 2015 was amazing. We welcomed about 100,000 people over five weeks, with 19 events across their venues, from The Ivy to Coogee Pavilion and everywhere between! Every venue and every event required a different approach and spoke to a different audience. We worked with chefs and sponsors to create custom experiences and environments, conceptualised and engaged entertainment, designed and crafted specific installations, stalls and furniture to express each venue and turned the whole Ivy laneway into a new dimension. Who needs sleep, anyway? The hard work paid off, though: we won a national design award for event activation.

Alex’s work at Merivale’s Ivy Pool Club

How closely do you work with the brands when designing their spaces?

We work incredible closely with our clients. As specialists in branded environments, we need to understand their message and values thoroughly, to create spaces communicate the brand to their customers. The clients we have are very diverse, and each requires a specific solution, whether it be an international beauty brand like Avon to a boutique winery like [the one created for wine brand] Cloudy Bay, to creating branded environments for Westfield to super sized festivals at Coogee Pavilion. We spend a lot of time at the briefing stage to understand the client’s real needs

A table setting designed by AZB for March into Merivale

What has been the best piece of advice you have ever received?

To create change. What I mean is, don’t just talk about it, do it. And do it differently. Never stop learning and innovating. Design isn’t a static business. Technology changes, society changes…you can’t afford to stand still or rest on your laurels.

What’s coming up in 2017?

We were honoured to be awarded several international Design Awards last year which really raised our profile, and we’re working on hotel projects, villa interiors and immersive experiences in Europe, Bali, Flores and Sydney…and we have some restaurant and bar projects that will change the way Sydney-siders approach dining and going out. I can’t say too much, but watch this space – there are some amazing things coming!

You can check out more of Alex’s work on Instagram at @azbcreative

Fashion

5 fashion habits to adopt

21st February, 2017

When it comes to style there are some fashion sins I make sure to avoid but I also have some key habits that I’ve adopted to help making pulling together a great outfit much easier. Here are five things I always do…

Only buying things I genuinely love

This sounds simple but I’ve made my fair share of purchases that were only somewhat right and ended up not wearing it later on because I was only so-so about it. Whereas the things I’ve bought that I couldn’t stop thinking about are the pieces that have remained in high rotation. Ensure that it’s always a case of true love before buying anything and you’ll wear a garment to death.

Ensure everything fits perfectly

And this means everything from avoiding buying things that aren’t the ideal size “in case it fits one day” to ensuring that I take anything too big to be tailored so the fit is just right. This is the one thing that will ensure a garment looks great.

Knowing the colour palette that works for me

I make sure that most of my wardrobe falls within a particular colour palette to make it easier to mix and match. I always gravitate towards neutrals for this very reason. They always look classic and are easy to work back with a variety of different pieces plus I can easily build on them with a few key accessories.

Working with my shape

I know sack dresses don’t work with my shape so I make sure to avoid them whereas I know shift dresses are flattering on my frame so I have a few of them in my wardrobe. I love experimenting with different silhouettes from time to time but I also know that there are just certain things that will work on a petite frame and I will tend to gravitate towards those styles. If something works then there’s no need to stray from the formula.

Think quality not quantity

I have a few items in my wardrobe that I would qualify as investment pieces. I’ve spent a bit more on them but I’ve also been able to get plenty of wear out of them over the years. This includes pieces like my leather jacket, designer bags like my Chanel crossbody bag and my winter coats. When it comes to things that I know will be on high rotation I’m not afraid to spend a bit more to get something that is truly of a great quality so I won’t end up having to replace them time and time again.

What are some of your key fashion habits?

Fashion, Shop

Activewear revamp

14th February, 2017

As part of my plan to kickstart 2017, I’m back into pilates and about to start personal training. One of the perks of working out these days is that there are some seriously fashion forward pieces available. The activewear revolution has meant that a busy training session or day running around no longer requires a shabby tshirt and plain leggings. I tend to opt for quality pieces and durable fabric as there is a lot of running around with Grace and Sophia too.

I’ll always try to mix in navy and grey marle to avoid feeling too washed out in all-black. Don’t be afraid to add in some navy and grey to your look this season. Sweat is no longer a problem with this amazing towel from Dolce and Gabbana. I’ll be using one for a quick post-training dip at Balmoral.

How about some of these standout pieces to add to your activewear wardrobe? The platform Kenzo trainers may not be the best running shoes, but they will lift up any casual outfit.

Fashion, Shop

My fave places for a cheap fashion fix

13th February, 2017

When it comes to fashion I’m all about a high-low mix. I love being able to mix designer pieces with more inexpensive finds to achieve my own signature look. I’m a big believer that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get some stylish additions to your wardrobe. Case in point: these are some of my fave places for a cheap fashion fix.

ASOS

This is one of my favourite online destinations. I turned to ASOS during both my pregnancies to stock up on all my maternity wear as they were on trend but didn’t cost a fortune. The range is also so extensive that it’s impossible not to find what you’re looking for, personally I’ve bought everything from leather pants to jeans from the site. Plus if I’m after a trend driven piece but don’t want to spend too much I know I’m bound to find something that fits the bill at ASOS.

Witchery

As far as Aussie brands go, Witchery has to be up there for doing clothing that is quite contemporary but with an elegant simplicity. They do pieces that are ideal for the office so they’re great if I’m after workwear and I particularly love their range of shoes.

Seed 

Seed is one of my favourite spots for finding classic pieces that look expensive but don’t cost a fortune. Their designs are always up to the minute without looking overly trendy so I can get away with wearing something from Seed that looks a little more non descript and can work back quite easily with the rest of my wardrobe. Their kids’ clothes are also particularly cute!

Topshop

I love shopping at Topshop whenever I’m in London so it’s great that they’ve now opened stores in Australia and deliver locally from their website so I can get a hit anytime I want. The range is ideal if you’re looking for on trend pieces that are inspired by looks straight from the runway.

What are some of your fave places for a cheap fashion fix?

Fashion, Shop, What I Wore

What I Wore: A Touch of Gold

9th February, 2017

Black dresses have always been one of my go-to wardrobe staples . This Ginger and Smart dress is one of my favourite recent off-the-shoulder wardrobe additions. I’ve teamed the dress with my strappy Mimco heels. The muted tones of my shoes keep my look paired back. I haven’t added in any extra colour so that the gold strap of my dress really pops. I decided to stick to the one hue and wear an oversized Mimco clutch with the outfit.  Scroll below to shop or steal the look

Shop my look

Steal my look

Credits: DressShoesClutch

Photographer: Mike Belkin

Fashion

The one thing I do to avoid a wardrobe crisis

6th February, 2017

Having a morning wardrobe meltdown isn’t always ideal when I’ve got a busy day ahead of me, not to mention having to get the girls organised at the same time so I’ve had to devise a way to avoid them. It’s always daunting to look into a wardrobe not having any idea on what to wear so I always make sure that I have a backup plan for precisely those moments. Generally, I’ll know what I am going to wear each day but for those times when inspiration doesn’t strike I’ve pre-prepared a few different outfits that I can easily and quickly pull together. Having a series of outfits that I have already styled in my head so I don’t even have to think about makes it easier to get out the door fast.

If you want to try this for yourself you don’t necessarily have to have the entire head to toe look planned (unless you really want to be that specific) but it helps to have the bones of the outfit ready to go such as the dress or the top and pants combination that you’re going to wear. I generally accessorise as I go along when it comes to jewellery and my handbag but I’ll know which of my shoes will go with the outfit so I don’t have to waste time trying on a million pairs. I’ve memorised my go-to looks but you could always photograph them and store them in a folder on your phone for an easy visual reminder. If you want to try this out for yourself I’d recommend identifying the occasions where you’re likely to feel stuck for outfit inspiration such as weekday mornings when you’re about to go to work or leisure wear for the weekend. This is all about making things easier on yourself so you’ll never have to freak out about a wardrobe crisis again.

What are some ways you avoid a morning wardrobe crisis?

 

Fashion

10 stylish Aussie women to inspire your look on Australia Day

26th January, 2017

What better day than Australia Day to shine a spotlight on some of our own homegrown fashion talent. If there’s one thing we do well Down Under it’s style that’s relaxed and understated yet still distinctly fashion forward. These women have managed to cultivate an aesthetic that works perfectly to complement our laidback lifestyle but still inject it with their own trendsetting spin. The next time you’re stuck for a little fashion inspiration look no further than home soil…

Nicole Warne

Gary Pepper Girl’s founder Nicole Warne is the very definition of stylish. Appearing in campaigns for some of the world’s biggest fashion brands, she’s always immaculately put together and is the epitome of feminine styling with a modern spin.

Sara Donaldson

I’ve known Sara for awhile and her style mantra of wearing a colour palette of only black, white and grey has always been her signature look and why not when it works this well? She’s a great example of knowing what works for you and really owning it.

Amanda Shadforth

A talented photographer and one of our biggest fashion bloggers, Oracle Fox’s Amanda Shadforth manages to work man-style tailoring with just the right injection of feminine touches. Her looks always have a distinct contemporary vibe which she manages to mix beautifully with the simple aesthetic of Australian style.

Lara Worthington

The quintessential beach girl, Lara Worthington’s style has certainly evolved from her bikini model days to a wardrobe that’s highlighted by designers such as Dior, Gucci and Celine. Her looks are always fashion forward and have a distinctly edgy vibe in a nod to the aesthetic of New York, where Worthington now resides.

Jesinta Franklin

The newly married Jesinta Franklin is the perfect canvas for showing off some seriously envy-inducing looks (being a David Jones ambassador certainly helps!). Her looks are always quite demure, often wearing dresses or skirts that go to the knee or are midi length however she always flashes just a glimmer of skin to inject a touch of sexiness. She’s definitely one to watch.

Jessica Stein

The jetsetting blogger behind the website Tuula Vintage is the perfect go-to muse when it comes to women who love looks that are relaxed and echo the kind of covetable global lifestyle that Stein has. She favours floaty fabrics, denim and feminine prints with all her outfits having a laidback elegance.

Nadia Fairfax

I’ve been friends with Nadia for ages and she has always had a great sense of style. Her looks are always sleek but have a sense of playfulness to it whether it’s a great pair of statement earrings or a bold, unexpected print or colour.

Christine Centenera

She’s Vogue Australia’s fashion director and no wonder – she has a look that’s distinctly her own and is always one to set the trends. Her looks are always peppered with designer pieces and the one constant is her ability to pull off a myriad of tricky trends – everything from stirrup leggings as she wore at Fashion Week this year to a fluffy coat – and make it look oh-so stylish.

A photo posted by Laura Brown (@laurabrown99) on

Laura Brown

The newly appointed editor-in-chief of US InStyle has a quirky sense of style that is often punctuated by the latest designer pieces. She favours bright colours, bold prints and logo t-shirts but manages to work it together for a distinctly unique aesthetic.

Brooke Testoni

The stylist and founder of her eponymous blog, Testoni manages to cover the full spectrum of fashion whether it be a simple pair of blue jeans with a uniquely structured top to a dress in a luxe, jewel-toned fabric. It’s a look that’s distinctly on-trend and of-the-moment.

Fashion

What my fashion mistakes have taught me about my style

25th January, 2017

I am the first to confess that I have made a million wardrobe mishaps where I’ve thought ‘What was I wearing?!’ However that’s all part of the fun. I think you need to be able to experiment with fashion because that’s how you will inevitably discover your style. I know from a few mistakes I’ve made that I’ve definitely learned what suits me and what doesn’t.

The biggest thing I’ve learned would have to be that looking great doesn’t come down to how much you’ve spent or if you’re wearing new season clothing it’s about knowing your body shape intimately so you’re confident in what will work on your frame and what won’t. For me, I’m not really tall and quite petite so I can’t wear anything that may swamp me. I steer clear of things like sack dresses for example because I’m not tall enough to pull it off. It sounds really simple but that only came from a lot of experimentation and trial and error. I can now flick through clothing racks or scroll through websites and know immediately whether something works. And I think that’s all from making a fashion mistake or two.

I think the key to knowing your style is paying attention to the times when you’ve had a mishap and knowing why it didn’t quite work. Often those are the little moments that can really help you define what your look is all about.

Tell me, what’s been your biggest fashion mistake?

Fashion

The one thing I always do when I plan an outfit

4th January, 2017

Oh dress codes. I find that some people are either a stickler for sticking to a dress code or they will just try and remain in the vicinity of it. I’m the former. In fact, it’s the one thing I will always consider when I plan an outfit. My job often requires me to go from a casual launch one minute to a black tie event the next so to me dress codes are a way of guiding my outfit planning for the week. Even without a stated dress code my brain tends to go into that mode and I will allocate one to whatever event it is I’m going to as it helps provide me with some styling structure.

When it comes to deciding what I’ll be wearing the one thing I never do is start with a single accessory such as a hat or shoes. I know lots of women who will tend to work around a particular piece but it’s just one of those things that has never really worked for me. I tend to get in a better styling frame of mind when I can work with a solid base such as the dress I want to wear (in keeping with the dress code of course!) and then visualise the pieces that will work with it. Usually I find this gives me a more cohesive look and I’m able to pull together something a little easier.

Which camp do you fall into? And how important are dress codes to you when it comes to styling your outfits?