Out of fashion

An Australian Afterpay Fashion Week show at Carriageworks, Sydney. Photo: City of Sydney.

After many years working in fashion, Sunny Grace is exiting stage left to become a full-time writer.

Fashion seems to follow me.  Not because I’m fashionable, in fact quite the opposite. As a child I lived in hand-me-downs and homemade until Target opened in Coffs Harbour. I begged my mum to buy my clothes from there so I could fit in with all the straight kids at school. She eventually relented and I wore those clothes to death, from my Ken Done rip-off jumpsuit to my knickerbockers. Remember knickerbockers? No, I didn’t think so, they haven’t really made a comeback. Anyway, back to fashion. 

My first job out of school was at Cherry Lane, a fashion retail chain back in the eighties. I was sixteen-years-old. It was one week after I finished my final Year 12 exams. My mum worked at the equivalent version of Centrelink and found the job for me. When I finished my undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Arts, at twenty-two I wanted to work in the film industry but needed a job. A friend of mine offered me a job in a shop in Chapel St. This was the early nineties and Chapel St was the mecca of fashion in Melbourne. I had never thought I was cool enough to walk into any of those shops let alone work in one. Somehow, I got stuck there for too long, lured by the cult of being cool, of half price clothes, of fitting in with the in crowd; something I had never experienced as a child. I worked pretty much every shop in Chapel St from Indigo to Bettina Liano to Morrissey Edmiston, who were the pinnacle of cool back then, dressing everyone from Michael Hutchence to Kylie Minogue. 

It was through Morrissey Edmiston I was given a transfer from Melbourne to Sydney to accompany a boyfriend who was an actor. At the end of his play, I discovered I loved Sydney more than him and decided to stay while he returned to Melbourne. I continued to  work at Morrissey Edmiston in the Strand Arcade until I had nightmares about jumping off the balcony and realised it was time to quit.

Finally, three years after finishing my degree I managed to get that job in a film company. I worked there for two years then as an actor’s agent and wardrobe buyer on a film, dressing the star, Kylie Minogue. Ironically, this was due to my fashion industry contacts. During this time my husband reluctantly found himself in the fashion industry as a model. Partially my fault due to putting him in a show I was producing at the time. He was even offered a meeting with Calvin Klein, but he said no because he didn’t want to wear underpants. Whilst I was a bit upset at the time (we could have been set for life), I understood having suffered during dreaded bikini jobs as a teenage model. 

After we had our first son, I was offered a job producing for my friends PR company in Melbourne. Little did I know their clients were fashion too. Before I knew it, I was producing advertising campaigns for clients like Bonds and Just Jeans. When I found myself pregnant again, we moved back to the Byron Shire where I started my own production company, producing – you guessed it – fashion campaigns. 

For the past eighteen years I have produced advertising campaigns for fashion clients. The fashion industry has some positive traits. It is an industry populated by more women than men, where women can make more money than men. And it is more accepting of differing sexualities. I have worked with some Australia’s most creative talent and our best models.  I like to think in my time in the fashion industry I did some good, from helping teenage models navigate the sleazy photographers (I still think modelling is due its #MeToo moment), to advocating for diversity both in front of and behind the lens long before this recent movement. I produced and cast some iconic Australian fashion week shows for designers at the cutting edge of Australian fashion from Zimmermann to Ellery. I still love going to shows and seeing the theatrics and creativity like the Iordanes Spyridon Gorgos show at the Australian Afterpay Fashion Week a few months ago. Sitting in the front row, I felt the thrill of being part of the in crowd once again.  

Sunny Grace. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams.

Despite technically making it in fashion world, I never really felt it was the right fit for me. I am a nerd at heart.  Therefore, I have finally given fashion the flick. I am closing my advertising production house to concentrate on creating narrative fiction instead. To be a full-time writer. Finally, I am out of fashion and into fiction. Still, fashion will always have a soft spot in my heart, especially my fetish for sunglasses and pink shirts. That will never fade. Maybe I can write a TV fiction about fashion and combine the two.   

In the meantime, you will find me at my computer keyboard in my most comfortable jeans, slippers and a jumper my mum made me. 

Sunny Grace is a Sydney writer, producer and director. Her website is located at sunnygrace.com.au.