Jessie Atkinson is one of my dear friends who now lives in London though she hails from Melbourne. She attended fashion school Germany and has worked as a designer for a slew of British designers including: Victoria Beckham, Alice Temperley and Wool and the Gang. Jessie has now founded an amazing organization in London called Network Gratitude East London.
Jessie and I met for coffee and a snack at Nama Foods – a raw vegan restaurant in Notting Hill.
Me: So how would you describe Melbourne street style?
Jessie: Melbourne street style is relaxed. It’s more serious than Sydney so there’s more black. But beach culture is still a big thing. So people are often in flip-flop sandals, relaxed. Actually, it’s quite fashion-y. It is. It’s become more and more fashion-y.
Me: How do you think it differs from other cities and what makes it original?
Australia is all about lifestyle so you need to be going from your yoga class to your smoothie to your avocado and toast.
Jessie: So Melbourne is more cultural than other cities. So even though beach and lifestyle is a big thing, it’s less beachy than Sydney. We’ve got more young, avant-garde designers and black is something that features a lot in Melbourne wardrobes. That’s quite typical.
**Pack your black!
Me: It’s different because you wouldn’t expect that… because I always think of it as a hot, sunny place so you don’t necessarily equate black with that. But black can look quite chic in the summer. What are some of your key pieces, just in general, that you wear either in London or in Melbourne?
Jessie: Well, Melbourne, in summer anyway, Melbourne big things are like two striped Birkenstocks. Then a good, I’ve got like a nice quilted Isabel Marant jacket that’s perfect, because Melbourne is quite temperamental with the weather. So even on a hot day or even in summer you kind of need a light jacket. So I’ve got this soft bomber which is perfect.
And then good basics. So good yoga pants because Australia is all about lifestyle so you need to be going from your yoga class to your smoothie to your avocado and toast. You need to have a chic workout outfit. I think they’re the essentials.
Me: What is your go-to outfit when you’re in Melbourne?
Jessie: Probably yoga pants and nice sandals.
Interviewer: Okay. So yoga pants, nice sandals…
Jessie: And then like an Isabel Marant-y style top. Like easy to wear that’s feminine, chic throwover top, and a good jacket. Like a leather jacket or a denim jacket or, like I said, a soft bomber is always pretty important in Melbourne as well.
**Um… so far? It sounds like a city I need to spend time in… and packing sounds easy!
Me: Okay. How would you describe your personal style?
Jessie: Relaxed, comfortable, fun. I like to mix classic pieces with fun pieces. So like my shiny blue shoes or denim with patchwork and embroidery. I love prints. I like to clash prints but the shapes will always be pretty classic.
Me: What are some of your favorite pieces or styles that you see women wearing?
Jessie: In Australia?
Me: Yeah. In Australia.
Jessie: Amazing body.
Me: I guess if you have an amazing body everything looks good so it does work.
We’ve got more young, avant-garde designers and black is something that features a lot in Melbourne wardrobes.
Jessie: Right. That’s a big thing because people do dress very simply. And especially in summer, there are a lot of like exposed shoulders and arms and things like that. So being fit is a big part of it.
And people have fun. It’s more like effortless. And because of the weather you can throw things on so it’s not as… not contrived but it’s just more relaxed. More relaxed and fun. I admire people who can kind of just throw together that like effortless, although I know it’s not effortless, but just easy and sporty.
It’s always quite sporty. Like there’s always a mix of that lifestyle fitness element. I’m trying to think of specific pieces, though.
Playful. Like people play with color.
**So basically effortless and fun women with great bodies and a very cool outlook on life. And I always thought my genes were pretty good….. Possibly want to be a Melbourne woman now.
Interviewer: Yeah, I’ve never been to Australia, but it seems very fitting and in line with kind of all the Australians that I know. Like focused on sports, very fun and playful and just don’t take things too seriously but… dedicated.
Jessie: Yeah. I think like definitely part of the Australian, it’s in the Australian culture just that kind of easiness, and you see that in the clothing. Of course then they’re like really contrived and it can be very fashion-y as well. You do see the other spectrum. But I admire the people that kind of just look easy. They look themselves. They look like they’re having a good time.
Interviewer: And what are some of the things you see women do that really annoy you?
Jessie: I think it’s the over… the putting together and trying… like that contrived look.
Interviewer: Like way too styled.
The best Australian staple is avocado on toast and no one does mashed avocado on toast better than the Australians.
Jessie: Very styled, very fashion magazine, but then of course they’re not the European designers but the Australian versions. So it’s kind of done in a weird… like I’m always shocked at how fashion-y it feels and sometimes, yeah, it’s just that contrived, too put-together look that then looks wrong. You know what I mean?
Me: Yeah. Like their outfit is wearing them or like they put way too much thought in. So there’s no effortlessness, there’s no ease.
Jessie: Very styled.
Me: What do you think are some essential items to pack when you go there?
Jessie: Swimwear and a hat. You need a good hat so get yourself a cool like woven hat. A cool straw hat or an Akubra, something like that. And then runners because you’re going to be bush walking or walking along the beach.
**An Akubra is a classic Australian hat – this is what you need to know
Me: Yeah, that was my next question. Most importantly, what shoes?
Jessie: Yeah. So definitely runners. And then like Birkenstocks are a great option for during the day, open shoes. But then you may want something nicer as well, so I think nice gold strappy sandals or something fun like that. So if you’re going out but you’re in jeans and you still look a little bit more dressed up.
And what other shoes? Oh, I really like, but they’re out of fashion now but I still think they’re really cool, those wooden clogs. Those open-toed wooden clogs.
**By runners, Jessie means sneakers or tennis shoes.
Me: Oh, but clogs are back in!
Jessie: But I love those because you kind of feel you got a little bit of a lift but they’re still easy in some way. And espadrilles are a good one as well for during the day. Or I’ve got those like Shanghai Tang printed loafers. They’re like those printed soft loafers because they’re just really easy and because Melbourne weather is like very temperamental. It’s nice to have kind of an easy, chic closed shoes.
**I’ll be honest, I’m not in the know enough to know what Shanghai Tang loafers are – I don know the brand Shanghai Tang, but can’t find shoes… but loafers? Loafers are a language I can speak. Think Tods or Gucci or really any loafer.
Me: What’s your go-to bag that you carry in Australia?
Jessie: So I always arrive with one of those big Longchamp ones because that’s what I wear, use on the plane to put everything in, so I always have that. Then I always have like a little Celine one, but I feel a bit too dressed up with that actually.
I feel like I spend a lot of time without a bag and more with my wallet, like walking around with my wallet. So I’ve got like a really nice kind of big Prada printed wallet. And then chuck that into like a tote bag, a little kind of calico tote because it is just all a little bit easier there. So you feel a bit weird if you have like a proper leather bag and you go walk around with that.
Or sometimes I take… unbutton this and then I’ve got that little pouch, clutch.
**Jessie is unbuttoning one of the pouches of her Celine Trio Leather cross-body clutch bag.
Yeah, so I arrive with my Longchamp big bag and that’s really good for the beach or if we’re doing a daytrip somewhere. And then a big clutch and then the calico tote bag.
**BTW a calico tote bag is like a canvas tote bag (think Whole Foods bags, but without the WF logo)
Me: And what are your must-haves when you travel?
Jessie: Rosewater, Rosehip oil, lots of water to drink, yummy snacks.
Me: I pack snacks too.
Jessie: Yeah. I never eat the plane food anymore so I always will cook something and then bring that.
And I don’t even bring magazines because I just watch movies. So like the rosewater then I have all my different relaxation essential oils. My eye mask I take everywhere. I sleep with it at night so I definitely use it on the plane. Then some plain comfy clothes so like a cashmere jumper, legging, something really easy. And then bathers because wherever I am I probably want to go swimming.
Me: What are bathers? Swimsuits?
Jessie: Swimming, swimwear.
Me: What are your favorite places to shop in Melbourne?
Jessie: Clothes shopping?
Me: Yeah, or accessories or home wear?
Jessie: So there’s a place near where I live which is like near the beach south of the river. There’s a big divide north of the river and south of the river. And north of the river is like all the hipsters, but I grew up south of the river near the beach. There’s a little vintage shop like near, in my suburb where I grew up and they’ve got the most amazing… it’s actually where I got this bag.
Jessie: So I think it’s quite well-to-do ladies that get something for Christmas and don’t want it then they throw it out. So for accessories, every time I’m there I get something there.
Me: What’s it called or do you want to email me later about what’s it called?
Jessie: I don’t even know the name of it. Yeah, I can have a look and email you later.
**It’s called Eurotrash. Here’s the site.
Then I really like Zimmerman. So I can get new bathers from Zimmerman and I really like… my favorite place I’ve forgotten the name. Scanlan Theodore. So they’ve got a really good outlet store in High Street, Armadale so I always go and get some nice things there.
Australian fashion is really, really expensive, by the way. It’s really expensive.
Me: Yeah, Zimmerman is quite pricey.
Jessie: Yeah, so I’ll always buy on sale. But when I’m near summer it’s normally summer sales and Scanlan Theodore have a really good outlet store on High Street, Armadale so I will always buy a few really nice things that I can never wear in London because it’s too cold.
Me: What are your favorite places for coffee or like a snack when you’re out doing things?
Jessie: Well, the best Australian staple is avocado on toast and no one does mashed avocado on toast better than the Australians. So there are a few really good places. Near me there’s… well, I always go to the Little Ox.
The Little Ox which they do literally Melbourne’s best smashed avocado on toast because they put in capers and different herbs. Then there’s a place, my other favorite place that I always go is Combi and they’re in Elwood near the beach and they do amazing juices, amazing super fruit smoothies. So Australia is perfect for like juices and smoothies and things like that.
Then yes, so they’re my two favorite places. So avocado, meeting friends for brunch for smashed avocado on toast and a poached egg is like the thing to do.
Me: The thing to do in Melbourne.
Jessie: Yeah. And then to grab like a super fruit smoothie.
Me: What are some Australian designers to shop?
Jessie: Scanlan Theodore, Zimmerman, Camilla and Marc. They’re my favorite ones.
Me: Okay. Great. What is your perfect day in Melbourne?
Jessie: Well, I’m very lucky because I live near the beaches at the end of my street. So get up and hopefully my boyfriend will be visiting with me. So get up and we can go for a walk on the beach and then go to yoga. There’s an amazing… my favorite studio where me and my sister always go is called Humming Puppy and it’s such an experience. When you’re in Melbourne you have to go because it’s all black and they have amazing sound frequency.
Me: Ohhhhh, like a studio.
Jessie: Yeah. So you feel like you’re in this warm cocooned place.
Me: That’s crazy.
Jessie: Yeah. So we’ll go there and then go to the Little Ox for breakfast or go to Combi. Then I go visit my nana, hang out with her. Then maybe just hang out and read, maybe catch up with a friend, go for a walk on the beach and watch the sunset.
Then go for dinner in the evening. Actually, best is at home so just sit outside and have something to eat. Simple but the thing I love about going home is you can see the horizon and I miss that when I’m not there. And just be still and you feel the air is so fresh and it feels like such a… coming from London to be connected to that kind of nature.
Or my other favorite thing to do is to drive out into the bush like just an hour-and-a-half, an hour from us, kind of towards the peninsula. There are beautiful wineries around that hill. One of my best friends, her mom lives out there so we had some really fun afternoons. And friends hanging out under gum trees in the sun is really beautiful.
Me: That sounds really lovely. Oh, I really want to go now.
Jessie: Yeah. Is that it?
Me: That’s it.