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Date with Kate, Fashion

Date with Kate at Australian Fashion Week: Jess Blanch, Editor-in-Chief, RUSSH

17th May, 2018

Growing up on a farm in a small rural town in NSW, Jess Blanch grew up surrounded by fashion magazines and the images of photographerPeter Lindbergh. Having worked as a journalist at The Australian before making the move into magazines, the editor-in-chief of RUSSH magazine says she always dreamed of being a writer, and somehow “fell into” fashion. It seems a job she was destined for however, with over eight years and counting in the role. I caught up with Jess during Fashion Week to chat about the Australian design aesthetic, her favourite trends from the week and the show that really stood out for her…

What trends have really stood out to you?

One trend I really love is the oversized bag. I first saw it at the Camilla and Marc’s show and it was almost a moment of thank goodness now I can finally put all my things in the bag. I think there’s been a really soft, 90s thing going on which feels really quite fresh, and it obviously suits our lifestyle here. I love these 90s slip dresses and the way the coats are going over the top of them and knits are going over them, and unexpected colours like we saw before. There’s been a lot of green.

There has been a lot of green.

I think last year it was yellow; it’s almost like there’s just this kind of Pantone colour that everyone makes movement with. But I think also the trend is, what I’ve seen is a lot of streetwear. Everyone’s kind of doing their own interpretation of a Polo sweater and layering. And I think the nice thing this year is I feel that the brands are really sticking to what they do and maybe the trends are becoming less relevant.

What is Australia’s take on fashion? 

Obviously some trends are often set in Paris and Milan, but I think Australians are not designing that way. I think the designers here are very much global brands in their own right these days. They’re distributing direct to the likes of retailers like Net-A-Porter and Matches, and they travel so much. I think it’s really coming down to designing for a lifestyle, and that’s what I loved about the Romance [Was Born] show last night, because what they do so well, is they really turn their brand into culture. And it’s not about the pieces, it’s about the match of the music, with the performance, how they wear the clothes, the makeup that goes with that. It’s not just a collection that’s just about pieces. And I think that also Double Rainbouu did that really well, it was really nice to go to the Lansdowne, and what I loved about that show was particularly the casting, because the kids wearing the clothes are the ones that we see on the street. You go and get a coffee and you’re like, “who is that amazing boy?” And so it’s so nice to see them in that show, it’s very real. I guess it was a way to show what Sydney culture is about and how we live here.

Is that why Fashion Week is so important?

Fashion Week’s really important and I think for Sydney we’re really lucky, particularly at offsite shows, like Matches yesterday at Wylie Baths. We’ve got such a beautiful city and I think that it’s a great opportunity to show people these little pockets, the things that we know and love, and the collections. Obviously things in the lighter collection it’s a natural environment for it, so it’s good to see the week thriving.

What have been some of the highlight shows this week?

Well, I mentioned Romance last night and I loved that, because it was a real spectacle and it always is, and they have fun and don’t take themselves too seriously. I thought that Camilla and Marc show was super strong. It’s their 15th anniversary and I was really happy for them because the brand really evolved over the years and they’ve done a really great job of designing but also running a successful commercial brand and I think that’s really important. It is probably my highlight along with Romance. I’m looking forward to Chrisopher Esber tonight as well.

What does the RUSSH reader get out of Fashion Week?

I think RUSSH readers are very fashion savvy, when we talk about our audience, we often say that we’re the magazine that the influencers like to read, like Carmen Hamilton last night, she’s like “I’m a fan”. The RUSSH reader is very savvy, they know where things are being made, they really care who’s designing them, so they want Fashion Week to really show them new things, and kind of give them a deeper insight into the brands and the lifestyle behind the brands and who those designers are and where they’re getting their ideas and inspiration from. And that’s what we try and do, we don’t just report on looks, we actually try and report on the culture of the design sentiment and what’s happening at the time.

Have you always been interested in fashion?

No, first I’m interested in publishing, so I guess, looking back, I grew up in the country on a property. There’s a big gap in my family between myself and my siblings and I just had lots of fashion magazines in the house. So I think I just fell in love with the, yes it was the 80s and it was all Peter Lindbergh images, and I think I always just fell in love with that, the escape of fashion and that sense of the woman as well, and how fashion could make you feel. So I never planned to be in fashion, that was never my plan.

Oh really?

No, no, I want to be a writer. Sometimes I’m in my office and I’m like, “leave me alone, I just want to write!” Running a magazine is very different to that. But then I got into publishing and I actually started writing for The Australian newspaper as a journalist and I loved that and that sort of led to magazines and then finally the RUSSH opportunity came about and it just felt like a natural evolution for me. But I remember in the early days everyone was like, “fashion, how did that happen?”, I’m like, “I don’t know.” I just fell into it.

No, you’ve always been super stylish!

It’s nice of you to say that. Yeah, maybe I knew more; I learned by osmosis I guess. When I first began the editorship I really spent a lot of time travelling for the international fashion weeks and those weeks and those trips can sometimes be six weeks at a time, and you just take a lot in when you’re on the circuit. You’re like a sponge in your first few seasons. That was amazing experience.

What is the key to success when you’re an editor?

I think they key to success as an editor, or really anyone, is having great people around you. I’ve got a team that I really admire and respect. They’re just great people; they have great taste in music and food and everything that I love and share and I think that’s what makes me excited to come to the office every morning. It’s have such a nice environment and we all collaborate. It feels like a collaboration between all of us with our contributors. Whether they be models or artists that we’re working with, that’s probably the most exciting, fulfilling part of the job.

Who is the designer to watch?

Well, it’s not over yet. That’s a good question. A lot of people have been talking about Acler which is interesting. The NewGen show is coming up and I think that’s a really important one to watch because the ideas in a NewGen show are very fresh. They haven’t had that commercial rush and that’s always a good show  to see.

How do you approach Fashion Week as an editor?

A lot of people ask me “how many shows are you going to today?”, and I think, sometimes as an editor, it’s great to see the shows, but obviously we spread them out between our team. It’s really important for my Fashion Team to be there and seeing everything. But I really try and connect with the designers over the week and really find out what’s going on with them, spend some time with them. Sometimes it’s nice if there are after-show dinners and those kind of things happening, because it’s really good to see where they’re at. I think we’ve always done a good job of telling the designers’ stories, and that’s what I’m trying to learn about them during the week. Where are they going, what their inspirations are, and where they want to take their businesses.

What’s a day in the life of you?

During Fashion Week? Not a lot of sleep. I’ve got to say. I was woken up by a toddler at 5 this morning and I went to bed after midnight. Every year I’m like, “I’m gonna be super organised…” It’s always a lot of people to see. It’s a great week though. Sometimes you feel a bit superpowered in Fashion Week because you’re like I’ll have three hours of sleep and I’m not tired at all.

Well, you look amazing after having not much sleep. Thank you so much. Enjoy the rest of your week.

Jess Blanch: Thanks so much, I appreciate it.

Photography: Sophia Athas and Ash Larden