Jillian Davison: fashion director, glamour

The Australian superstar stylist shares a slice of her New York life, including her love of bagels and, of course, her killer wardrobe.

To be head-hunted by famed American editor Anna Wintour is the stuff of dreams for a fashion stylist. That’s exactly what happened to Sydney-based Jillian Davison when the Conde Nast Artistic Director came calling to offer her the role of Fashion Director at Glamour USA three years ago. “Her direction was clear,” said Davison. “She wanted the fashion elevated and the focus to be on dressing real women for their everyday lives. She said women want to know three things; what to wear to work, on weekends and on dates.” And just like that Davison relocated to New York, with her husband Luke and her daughters Eden and Violet, to take up the plum role. It’s no wonder Wintour had Davison in her sights, the fashion editor is a respected talent, renowned for creating cerebral, inspired narratives in the images she produces. And then there’s her razor-sharp personal style—all crisp white shirts and killer accessories. The former Fashion Director at Harper’s Bazaar Australia and Creative Director at Vogue Australia is relishing the role and the chance to be back in New York (she’d spent a decade there earlier in her career with roles at Harper’s Bazaar US and contributing to Teen Vogue). “I love the access and the feeling that I am at the centre of things. Being on the street and seeing the diversity of people is a constant source of amazement,” she said. “I’ve also developed a love for bagels, jazz, sneakers—snow, even!” We asked Davison to collaborate with photographer friend Victor Demarchelier and share a slice of her New York life with The MECCA Memo.

TMM: What inspired you to be a fashion stylist?
JD: “I have always loved creative endeavours. My mother instilled in me a love of dance, music, theatre and the arts. I started my career in fashion at the Chanel PR offices in Sydney and having spent a couple of years following the credits in fashion magazines I decided that fashion styling was what I wanted to pursue. Being on set and creating imagery is something I get such a buzz from.”

You’re known for having strong narratives in your shoots—where does that come from?
“I love bringing emotion and context to clothes. I think escapism is a very powerful tool in image-making, and so to collaborate with a photographer on a narrative for the subject is a great way to bring more meaning to the images.”

Have you had any ‘pinch-me moments’ when styling celebrities?
“I was just recently on set with Nicole Kidman and Australian photographer Emma Summerton—two down-to-earth, passionate and open women. That moment gave me such pride in being an Australian creative.”

Who are your top three designers or brands?
“Céline; Phoebe Philo is so clever the way she twists on classics, everything feels elevated yet wearable. Her aesthetic is quite androgynous which I also lean towards. Bassike; I love what Deb and Mary-Lou have created. Their natural fabrics, neutral palette and boxy shapes feel so good to wear. And Balenciaga; I like what Creative Director Demna Gvasalia is doing—I buy pieces that bring a touch of the technically advanced and harder-edged design to my wardrobe. It pushes me out of my comfort zone.”

What is your most memorable designer splurge?
“Numerous Helmut Lang coats in the late ‘90s when I first moved to NYC. One of which I still wear almost every weekend in winter!”

Tell us about your favourite beauty products and your routine.
“Just like my fashion wardrobe, I like a tight edit of products that are effective. I scrub my skin every day with Tatcha Polished Classic Rice Enzyme Powder and to keep my skin soft I love to use Chantecaille Rose de Mai Face Oil under my Darphin 8-Flower Nectar Oil Cream. For a little indulgence, I use the La Mer Lifting and Firming Mask. RMS Beauty is my go-to. I’ve worked with founder Rose-Marie since the ‘90s and I love her minimalist approach. My favourite products are; “Un” Cover-Up, it’s so creamy and gives you coverage while not appearing heavy, and Lip2Cheek in Illusive, this is my lipstick for day and night—it’s a great brownish pink tone. Urban Decay 24/7 Waterline Eye Pencil and Kevyn Aucoin Curling Mascara complete my makeup routine. I wear sunscreen every day, and the Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face SPF 30+ is light like a moisturiser, and I also love the Lip De-Luscious SPF 25+ balms. And I’ve been wearing Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille fragrance for many years.”

Do you miss Australia and if so, what do you miss?
“I miss so many things about Australia, I miss it every day! Mostly, I miss family and friends but also just the spirit of people generally—the irreverence and humour. I also miss it physically; the big sky, ocean swims, luscious gardens, and the way you feel loose in your joints there.”

What are your top three go-to restaurants in NYC?
Via Carota in the West Village; tasty Italian in a relaxed, rustic setting. Otto Pizzeria on 8th Street; because the whole family always agrees on it! And The Waverly Inn and Garden; this epitomises the warm, neighbourly, old-school-vibe of the West Village that I love. It’s truly romantic.”

How would you describe the difference between NYC and Sydney style?
“New York style is reflective of an international style—there is so much exposure and influence from people from all over. There is a general embrace of sportswear, born from their love of sports and I think the comfort and connection to culture that it brings. Australian style is lifestyle driven—it’s more casual and responsive to the hot climate. There is an ease, a love of colour, but I think personal style is less adventurous as it’s not about standing out.”

What is on your Christmas wishlist?
“I’m wishing for a set of Bose headphones for those long-haul flights I often make. I love jeweller Charlotte Chesnais’ elliptical designs. I’ve just started wearing sculptural metal earrings so I would like to add to my small collection. I also have my eye on a Vetements trenchcoat.”

Words by Louisa de Kievit
Photographs by Victor Demarchelier
Makeup by Justine Purdue
December 2017


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