Meet my friend Nicole Bonython-Hines. We’ve worked together for over twenty years – everyday for almost fifteen of them – and she’s absolutely one of my favourite Fashion Editors of all time. An inspiration in fashion as in life.
Nicole is one of those women who’s just got IT. In spades. Perennially chic, Nicole never, ever has a bad outfit. Her style is completely innate and timeless. Nothing is forced. She’s had the same look as long as I’ve known her but somehow she always makes it current. That’s Nicole’s magic – making simple sizzle.
Mum of five, Fashion Editor-at-Large at Madison magazine, celebrity stylist (everyone from Kylie to Jen Hawkins) she’s the Real Deal. Here she shares her best kept style secrets including her list of mandatory wardrobe updaters…I learnt things from this interview. Enjoy!
Where did your passion for fashion begin?
When I was very young. I was obsessed with Barbie’s and had a rather extensive wardrobe for her – I also loved the detail (they had press studs and buttons back then – none of this tacky Velcro stuff) and putting all the bits together (my fave was a long gold lurex column dress and her accessories were a pointy gold pump, pearl stud earrings, a fur stole and her own microphone!).
Is there anyone that inspired you to join the fashion industry?
I was always obsessed with magazines. I think I had my own subscription to Seventeen Magazine (which was quite great back then – perhaps like Teen Vogue) when I was ten – after I nagged my mother sufficiently to get it for me. My friends had no such interest in fashion. I would read my mother’s US Vogue’s when they arrived by Air Mail and would tear pages that I loved to stick on my school books. I was equally interested in the actual photographs as I was in the fashion in each shot. By about 12, I knew my favourite photographer was Helmut Newton. My mother was pretty stylish and in her day had been a model. She was also very interested in fashion and had an extensive wardrobe of both local and overseas designers. She had a fabulous Courreges patent leather coat and loads of the US designers like Halston, Geoffrey Beene etc – that great simple American sportswear that had its hayday in the late 60’s, early to mid 70’s.
I’m not really answering your question…I always had an interest in fashion and therefore an interest in stylish people. Nancy Pilcher was Fashion Editor of Australian Vogue when I was in my later years of school and I always wished I could work with someone like her. I ended up working for her a couple of years out of school and aspired to be just like her. I learnt a lot and was very lucky that she was my first mentor – I mimicked her habits of organisation and her approach to her work. Sadly her very sharpened sense of diplomacy never rubbed off.
The Fashion Editor.
Describe your personality in three words.
Organised, tactless/honest, reliable and impatient.
How would you describe your own style?
Simple, easy, often androgynous but not always (Paula calls me Ellen – as in De Generes) and usually a bit fashion-y but not very. I’d hate to be considered a victim. I hate clothes that restrict me in any way. Heels put me in a very bad mood – not only are they horribly uncomfortable, but you can’t do anything quickly in them – and speed is very necessary in my life.
Describe a typical week for you.
God – I don’t have enough time! Each day I get up at about 5 – 5.30 am. I used to get up earlier but my husband has now taken over walking the dogs which is SUCH a relief – I get a sleep in! Shower, make the kids lunches, organize the washing, vacuum, answer a few emails, pay bills etc – wake the kids at about 7am, get them organised. Take one to school (my husband does the other) and then I go to appointments to prep for whatever shoot I happen to be working on. If I’m shooting, it’s usually earlier than school starts so my husband does both and I head out to wherever the shoot is. I tend to get home anytime between 5pm and 7pm. Then it’s the usual – homework, dinner, tidying, get uniforms sorted, vacuum (again) etc– fall into bed anytime between 9pm and 12am. Often if I’m shooting or on appointments all day, I have about 80-100 emails that I need to go through before bed otherwise they build up and clog up my inbox! I can’t remember the last time I went out at night.
What inspires you?
I like to be surrounded by beauty – it makes me happy! Be it a freshly mown lawn, or white sheets hanging on a line, or a gorgeous shoe. I do strive for perfection but realise it’s an impossible goal. It’s that relentless quest…once this is done, that goal achieved, etc…then I’ll be satisfied…yeah right!
What inspires me professionally? It will usually start with one collection that might trigger something and then I’ll start to see it in other places. I often refer back to things I don’t even remember I know – I’ll see something on the street, hear something, see a colour that might remind me of a movie I saw when I was ten, for example, and that might lead to a story idea. I like creating moments in a shoot that take you somewhere or remind you of something that makes you feel happy or simply brings out a feeling from elsewhere in one’s memories. I do love a fashion story with a narrative and a little humour – it’s nice to be taken somewhere and smile. That said, I like ‘edgier’ fashion too but it’s often rather harsh and a bit unhappy.
Who’s your celebrity style crush?
I don’t really have one. I know most of these celebrities are created. When you see pics of them when they’re ‘off camera’ – like when they’re at the local store and not expecting a photographer to be there, they look pretty crappy. Truly stylish people look good even off-duty, it’s innate for them, and in just a trackie and tee they look cool.
What’s your favourite trend right now?
Minimalism and classicism. Always has been.
What trend do you hate?
The ones that fashion hasn’t specifically created. For example, what’s with that wavy full hair that those LA kind of people wear – usually with big glasses, jeans, a jacket, maybe a scarf and silly heel – it’s such a mould and to me, looks so trashy.
Which celeb would you love to style?
I rather like the job that whoever is styling Rooney Mara is doing. She always looks quite fabulous (but the cynic in me says it’s not her, it’s her stylist – have you seen pics of her before she became famous!!).
What are the three pieces you find yourself wearing constantly this winter?
Black crew neck knit, crop fine wool pant and trench.
What is the most treasured piece of clothing in your closet?
Any of my pants that have elastic waists – SO comfortable – I can’t bear being restricted or uncomfortable and my Jack Purcell trainers – I wear them with just about everything. And my chinos – I have so many colours I can’t count them. People joke about my obsession with chinos…it’s just that they’re so good for shooting in!
What’s in your closet that you’ve never worn before?
A gorgeous grey and black sundress from Collette. I was sure I could do it with a flat sandal in summer – a kind of sundress in Italy thing – timeless. But it’s girly on me and I feel silly in it. Such a shame as it’s so lovely.
What was your most recent purchase?
I have a horrible birthday coming up so I bought my last hurrah dress. (It’s gold and sparkly and could in theory be ‘un-me’ but it’s a super classic simple shape but still has a lovely fashion edge to it – it’s the perfect dress for a horrible birthday).
Any fashion rules that you live by?
To wear clothes simply, stylishly and above all, be comfortable.
The Fashion Tips.
What are your top five style tips?
1. Consider exactly what it is you do in any situation and buy based on the practicalities of those situations. For example, if you work in an office every day and life is very corporate, then dress for that and break down what pieces that situation requires – two suits, three blouses, two knits, one coat, one cocktail etc. Once you’ve established what pieces are required, then consider colour and work within that framework so it can all work back with each other. Same for a non-work wardrobe. Let ‘Fashion’ be the last thing you consider.
2. Never be a victim. Head to toe fashion trends look silly in real life. Let the trend inspire you and include a ‘bit’ of it.
3. Have fresh versions of the following at least every couple of years…
- White shirt
- White tee
- Black pants
- Flats and a pump
- Tailored jacket
- Simple black dress
These pieces are the backbone of your wardrobe.
4. Dress to highlight your good bits (therefore taking focus away from your bad bits).
5. Always dress your age and ask if you can’t figure it out yourself (I often ask my children if I look muttonous in things).
What is one piece of clothing every woman should splurge on?
A good tailored jacket.
What’s your best fashion advice for someone on a tight budget?
Buy good shoes. You can get away with wearing cheaper clothes but cheap shoes always look cheap. 90 % of my wardrobe is chain store but I think I get away with it! I try to buy expensive shoes on sale.
What key piece should everyone own this winter?
For me, it’s a crew neck knit. My Sambag knits never pill – I cannot bear sweaters that pill – one of my many fashion gripes – but that’s another category.
Sneak Peak Inside Her Home.
The LifeStyled List.
Tea or Coffee? Tea mostly, I allow myself one coffee in the morning only but I could do without it…not tea however.
Favourite Flower? Hydrangea – always!
Heels or Flats? Flats!!!
Favourite Cocktail? What’s the name of that drink… champagne with peach juice…can’t remember…I had many at a wedding in Venice! Oh, it’s called a Bellini.
Style Icon? My mum circa 1975.
Signature Scent? Diptyque L’Ombre Sur L’Eau.
Favourite City? Paris.
Reading… just finish The Hunger Games Trilogy (after my 10-year-old daughter finished them. Yet to start another).
Guilty pleasure… Trashy mags on aeroplanes.
Every woman should own… elastic waisted pants.
I will never wear… clothes with big labels on them or diamantes.
I need… sanity and a calm life.
I want… anything Celine (and sanity and a calm life) (and a housekeeper every day).
Photographer: Erin O’Sullivan.