Seven Days of Positive – Day 120

In Fashion designers, Friends, Parties on March 4, 2015 at 9:32 pm


Nineteen years ago I interviewed a very winning and talented emerging fashion designer for one of my first pieces for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Her name was Collette Dinnigan.

Over the years that followed she became the only Australian fashion designer ever to gain a place on the highest of all fashion stages – the official schedule of Chambre Syndicale in Paris.

She also became an adored friend.

In my role as fashion reporter for the Herald I would go to her Paris show every season and one time I spent a very memorable week ‘backstage’ before, as they put the show together, watching everything from model go sees, to fittings, styling and music choices.


Watching Laetitia Casta, then about 19, walk across the studio wearing a very sheer dress – and nothing else – was a sight I will never forget. The room went silent.

Because of Collette’s legendary hospitality, generosity and loyalty, I have also been treated to some amazing dinners and parties. One I particularly remember was at the legendary Prunier restaurant.

As we made our way over to the stairs up to the glorious first floor space where Collette’s dinner was being held, we walked past Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Berge and Catherine Deneuve having dinner together.

That was a moment.

Fashion Week - Collette Dinnigan.

But it hasn’t all been glamour. Collette and I also share a love of grounding experiences. One of the most fun times we’ve had was when she and her then partner came up to stay with me and my husband, when we were housesitting for friends on a large country property in northern New South Wales.

They arrived with a crate of wine and half of Simon Johnson’s cheese counter and we stayed up all night sitting at a table in the garden, playing crazy drawing games by the light of the full moon.

The next day, I watched with some trepidation as Collette and Pop galloped off across the bush, on horses they’d only just met, but back they came an hour or so later, sweaty and beaming.

With all this shared history, when I heard the news in late 2013 that Collette had decided to radically downsize her business and stop showing in Paris, I was quite shocked. I felt like I’d shared that magic carpet ride with her and it seemed very poignant that I would never again get to sit in the audience in one of those magical shows.

But that feeling was very soon taken over by a surge of deep respect. Putting those shows on twice a year – on the other side of the world – along with all the work Collette puts into developing fabrics and designing the ranges, added up to a crazy life and I knew how it tore her apart to have to spend time away from her family to keep it up.


The decision to stop was as bold and fearless as everything she does and I salute her for it.

My wistfulness was also allayed by shortly after receiving a copy of her wonderful book Obsessive Creative.

It’s simply magnificent. And I’m not just saying that because there are a couple of photos of me in it ha ha.
It’s sumptuous to behold – as are all books from Lantern Press – full of glorious illustrations and photographs, but it’s also really good to read. The morning it arrived, I leafed through it looking at all the pictures, then went back to the beginning and read every word.


Last month Collette was in London with her lovely husband Brad Cocks, to launch the UK edition and invited us to yet another of her wonderful parties at the Ham Yard hotel in Soho. So that was two of my favourite people in one of my favourite places …

It was half term so all three of us went up. What a super duper time we had. As well as Collette and Brad, and my very good friend Craig Markham, another brilliant Aussie who is Marketing Director of Firmdale, which owns Ham Yard (along with several other of London’s best hotels), the downstairs bar was full of people I love.

Jane de Teliga, with her fiancé Sebastian. Caroline Burstein of Browns. Stylist Karl Pluker. Marion Hume and her husband Peter Hunt. Trend forecaster Tony Bannister. Andy Harris, who is now editor of Jamie Oliver’s magazine.

It was one of those rare nights where everywhere your eye falls there is someone you really want to talk to. Heaven.

Obsessive Creative will be published by Harper Collins in the UK in April. In Australia it’s already out.

(Apologies if you have received this post for the second time. In some weird blip, it disappeared off the site earlier today, so I had to re-post it.)


Seven Days of Positive – Day 121

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2015 at 9:21 pm


I have a complex relationship with exercise. Put Uptown Funk on loud and I will jump about like a crazed fool, as I often do, in my kitchen. Play good sounds at a party and I will dance like a mad thing for hours in high heels.

But the idea of Doing Exercise in a formal sporty context makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry. Or sulk like a fourteen year old, as I did when setting out on a glorious five mile country walk with my husband the other weekend.

‘Oh look,’ I kept saying, ‘another leaf. How fascinating…Oh! And an actual twig, thrilling…’

Several times he lost patience with me and started walking back to the car, then I’d persuade him to continue only to start doing it again (I don’t know how he puts up with me) until finally, when I thought he really was going to bail out, I realised I really did want to do the beautiful walk and shut the fuck up.

By the end, of course, it was me who wanted to go further.


I don’t know when I got so confused about it. As a child, when the weather was nice I was always outside doing something physical. Charging about on my bike, or my scooter, skipping, banging a tennis ball against the garage door, doing that thing with a tennis ball on a rope with a plastic loop round one leg, hula hooping. In between all that, I went to ballet classes.

But I already hated sport at school. When you are the smallest girl in the class in Primary 3 and no one has ever explained the rules to you, netball is a very hell. From then on, I was the one not chosen.

By secondary school sport was almost a phobia. No one ever told me the rules of anything, which didn’t help. Everyone else seemed to know. I’ve never understood that.

And on top of the nightmare of having to do anything resembling jumping, there were the showers. In the first year of secondary school, they would make us get nude and run through freezing cold, completely open-plan showers.

Half the girls had pubes, half didn’t and it would be hard to say which group was more mortified.

An obedient 11 year old, in a permanent state of bewilderment at suddenly finding myself thrown in with 1200 kids on what was virtually a campus, after a small convent junior school, I had no choice but to endure it.

But by fourteen, double sport over the last two periods on a Thursday afternoon, was an early pass for me.

So easy to turn right instead of left on the way over to the sports hall and I’d read my book as I walked home (memorably walking into a lamp post on one occasion). Oh, the sense of freedom.

Would I feel differently about exercise now if I’d been taught sport better? I think so. I had one term at an all girls school where they really explained hockey to me and even went into some possible tactics – as opposed to thrash or die at the other school.

I remember one game of hockey there when, charging up the middle of the field, with the ball fully under my control before passing it to a goal scorer, I felt the exhilaration of playing a team game for the first – and only – time.

But not long after that the PE teacher caught me reading the Little Red School Book in the changing rooms, when I had pleaded period pains (fictional), gave me a detention and confiscated it. That was the end of my brief engagement with school sport.

I’ve spent my whole life ever since not exercising enough. I love yoga and have done that pretty consistently for thirty years, but the aerobic stuff has been sadly, dangerously lacking.

But I’m trying to engage with it again. I’ve now been to four aerobics classes in ten days, which is a miraculous statistic for me.

I can’t say I love it yet, but I’m trying out different classes at different venues, looking for the one where I won’t feel like a hopeless joke and where I will experience the sense of fun and camaraderie that I know some of my friends enjoy with their exercise groups. I want to feel the fun as well as the burn.


Today’s class – the appropriately named ‘Body Attack’ – was a bit more challenging than I’d been expecting, with a marine style male teacher and not very friendly participants, but I did my best, getting a short attack of hysterics every time we had to run round the studio in a circle and somehow I was still always at the back.

But I’m not going to give up. What’s hardened my resolve? I’m getting older and I don’t want to get dementia or diabetes. I don’t want to die of heart disease as my darling dad (and both his parents…) did in their early 60s. I want to firm up my jiggly middle.


Most of all, I want to prove to myself that I can overcome the exercise phobia that has blighted my adult life.

And the other thing which is inspiring me, is this brilliant ad which I saw for the first time in the cinema the other day. This girl can.

Seven Days of Positive – Day 119

In Diets, Food, Weight loss on February 12, 2015 at 9:45 pm


I’ve gone coco loco. As in mad for coconuts, coconut oil, in particular.

It came into my life a few months ago when I read about oil pulling. This is the Ayurvedic dental technique, where you put a spoonful of coconut oil – it’s solid at room temperature, so it feels weird until it melts – in your gob and swill it around for 20 minutes, sucking it through your teeth.

At the end you spit the now thin foamy liquid out into your bin, not your sink, because it will harden again, blocking your drains.

It’s meant to whiten teeth, soften plaque and remove bacteria from the mouth, which is good for all round health.

I started doing it because after taking so many heavy duty antibiotics my tongue had a really nasty coating and my mouth tasted funny.

I also feared I had death breath.

It has definitely helped and while I don’t do it every day religiously, I do it quite often. It’s surprising how quickly you get used to it. I admit I rather enjoy it now.

Even more so because my tongue is pink again and I do think I have less plaque on my back teeth.

So I’m a fan of oil pulling, although I don’t subscribe to the usual American hysterical reaction where there are now crazed blog posts all over the internet claiming that it can cure cancer and every other disease known to man.

That’s clearly bollocks.

I am normally very wary of superfood fads, because of that kind of carry on. It amuses me every time I go to New York to see what the latest food obsession is. There’s always something and immediately it’s everywhere.

I can only imagine how much extra virgin organic coconut oil there on Manhattan right now. It might sink under the weight.

But despite all that, coconut oil seems to be playing a bigger part in my life every day.

It’s a big part of Amelia Freer’s weight loss and health boosting regime. Amelia is a great believer in the health benefits of coconut oil, for its nutritional benefits – and she also subscribes to the increasingly accepted belief that it helps you lose weight.

I can’t be bothered to go into the science of this, so please read these excellent post by Sarah Wilson, which explains it all.

I cook with it whenever possible and if I decide to use olive oil because I don’t want the slight tropical flavour in my Italian style dinner, like Sarah, I’ll munch on a spoonful of coconut oil at the end of my meal. It’s very satiating, so you feel full for ages.

And when you only eat sugar once a week, as I have for the last four months, it tastes great.

So between oil pulling, frying and munching, coconut oil has become part of my daily life. Now it’s making inroads into my beauty routine.

I’m typing this with a load of it on my hair (zapped in the microwave to melt it), to see whether it’s as good an overnight moisturising hair mask as is widely claimed. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

I will also be trying it out as eye make up remover.

For more on all that read this by Lauren Conrad.

Celebrities are mad about it too. Gwynnie is oil pulling like mad (of course she is…), Angelina has it for breakfast, Jennifer fries her nachos in it and Miranda Kerr doesn’t go a day without it – and she’s looking good on it…


Are any of you going coco loco too?


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