Anouk Colantoni is an artist extraordinaire. Whether she’s doodling away on her #doodleaday or putting her stylist’s eye to work on a shoot, she’s one of those people who just always seems to ooze creativity. I first met Anouk in Sydney when we were both building our careers in the fashion industry – I was working in PR for Giorgio Armani, and Anouk for Harper’s Bazaar as a stylist and editor. Every couple of weeks we would meet for a press showing – I would take Anouk through our collection and she would decide what to shoot. I liked her from the get-go. She was smart, articulate, and bubbly – and always flaunting her fabulous style. In this wonderfully raw interview, Anouk speaks about life since moving to New York, her greatest accomplishments, her role models and her most memorable travels.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO MOVE ABROAD?
I grew up most of life in Tasmania and I spent most of my 20s between Sydney and Tasmania, before saying yes to that urge that was nagging me to just let go. To go get lost – and see where I would find myself again. The move came at what seemed like a very inconvenient time in my life plan. I was basically set up in Australia at 27 years old – I was working for GRAZIA magazine, had an amazing apartment with my boyfriend in North Bondi, was well-travelled and fit as hell from being vegan, raw and never really drinking. A hangover never fit into my work life! I mean, not much else fit into my life except work.
I was fulfilling a lot of what I thought people wanted to hear, what looked right and what would make me fit into this perfect version of a life I had constructed in my early 20s.
But I was not fulfilled and knew I needed to go and learn more about myself by learning about other places and other people – other ways to live. I needed to take a route that was completely unknown to me up until that point, a road not necessarily chartered by anyone before me. I guess it was my time to really just start exploring.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR WORK IN NEW YORK?
I am an artist.
I consult as a creative director.
I’m the Lead Personal Stylist at Visual Therapy, a luxury lifestyle consultancy group, here in New York.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE NEW YORK TO SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER BEEN?
Like the most exciting best friend you are yet to meet: challenging, stimulating, awake at all hours, open to every idea you bring, changes it’s mind at every turn and won’t ever let you get comfortable!
IF YOU GAVE SOMEONE A ONE-DAY ITINERARY FOR NEW YORK WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE?
In the warmer months…
Start the day walking up the West Side highway – the view is amazing and the people watching is awesome.
Head to The Butchers Daughter, in Nolita for my favorite breakfast – it is mostly vegetarian, and the food is delicious!
Stay in Nolita and visit my favorite store, Creatures of Comfort on Mulberry Street, then peruse the jewels at Love Adorned on Elizabeth Street. If you don’t have enough room on the lobes for new earrings at Adorned, they have a piercing parlor a few blocks away in East Village – head over there for J Colby Smith to pierce your ears like all good NYC fashion girls do!
Head to Il Buco Alimentari on Great Jones Street – Italian, everything is superb– I would suggest a lunch time wine and charcuterie board to make everything else so much more fun! Whilst you are there, go into Dashwood books on Bond Street – if Patti Smith working there wasn’t enough, the art books are mind blowing.
Maybe jump in a car and head uptown to Central Park – you need to see it to believe it, wander around and get lost – it’s very beautiful.
Then head down to The Carlyle for some fancy Uptown fun – an evening drink – the Hemingway Bar is where Woody Allen plays jazz, and they make killer cocktails. Go take in some tunes.
Head back downtown to East Village, to the French bistro, Lucien. The oysters are to die for.
Late night fun.
Head to Happy Ending in Lower East Side until you collapse from enjoyment!
YOUR FAVOURITE STORY FROM LIVING IN NEW YORK?
You never know where saying yes and keeping an open mind in this city can get you – that is why I love it!
For example, recently my friend took me to see the Bjork concert at the newly re-furbished Kings Theatre in Brooklyn – which looks like a Faberge egg on crack, in a good way – and at the end of the show we got to go backstage, I ended up eating dinner with her, and next thing you know we are doing a dance off to Snoop Dogg’s Sexual Seduction. Just another casual Sunday in NYC.
BEST THING ABOUT LIVING ABROAD?
Getting the chance to re-invent yourself. To shed ideas and ideals that have defined you up until that point.
Beyond this – I think everyone should live in another country and experience another culture, just to see how other people live. Get outside your comfort zone and you will be rewarded greatly!
When I moved my inhibitions where lifted, I gave myself permission to just go ahead and go get lost, to re-find my passions.
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT ‘HOME’?
Family, friends, the ocean, the sun, the smell of the clean air, the way the food tastes like heaven, our health care system, and the most important: the Australian sense of humor, and the way that people are more straight forward about things – especially dating.
ADVICE FOR ANY CREATIVES LOOKING TO MAKE A MOVE TO THE UNITED STATES?
Save as much cash as possible – you burn through it in the move faster than you could have ever imagine.
Get a working VISA, get on a plane and get ready to meet all the people you wished you could meet back at home. For me, I was in awe when I landed my first role as stylist Camilla Nickerson’s assistant at Vogue – I got to work with Francisco Costa at Calvin Klein, research and develop seasons of collections for the house of Celine and Alexander McQueen – and since then nothing has been “easy”, but it has been so rewarding.
NYC is the most supportive place in the world for creatives. It is a big ass pool of opportunity, people are not trying to keep success to themselves – they want to share in the glory of helping others succeed.
WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENT IN YOUR LIFE ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
- Embracing being an artist. Having spent my life working as both a creative and a business woman (I was a co-managing director and am still part owner of a digital start up in funding stages right now), I believed for a long time that I had to be one or the other.
- Embracing Vulnerability – yep, I am strong, driven and have a free-will to not rely on anyone. But hell yes I get scared. I, like anyone else, need support and I also know when to say I don’t know something. I practice accepting all facets of who I am – the comfortable and uncomfortable – because it is in the vulnerability we all have that the little gems are found to connect to other humans. The real stuff.
- Dealing openly with depression – it’s a fact, some people have it. I have had moments in my life that have been very taken over by depression, but healing my mind and body with care and honesty has meant I no longer feel constant shame and fear for being alone with it.
WHO HAS BEEN A ROLE MODEL TO YOU IN YOUR LIFE AND WHY?
My parents – two of the most inspiring humans on the planet. Forever my carer’s, they have chosen to live fearlessly and without limits, logic and passion have somehow gone hand in hand in their lives – and their honesty is both raw and comforting. I was brought up by a father whose work ethic was: Do it once, do it well, and do it now. That was both a challenge and a hindrance as I got older – but at the same time, my mother’s innate sensitivity to who I am, allowed me to explore and expand with great flexibility in my education, socially and sexually – and I think that is what makes me who I am today. My parents told me to never follow anyone, that taking the right road for you isn’t always the easiest – but living vulnerably is the most fruitful. My mother is an artist, my father a retired dentist but also a divine writer and photographer – aesthetics have always been strong in my life.
Mr John Williamson – the best teacher I have ever had. He taught me history and took my on school camps – and when I lost my way around 15 years of age at school – he taught me the most valuable of lessons – that life won’t be like planned out school days, that life will happen to you in all sorts of unexpected ways – and it is how you handle it as a person that counts in the end – not what grades you get, or how many people tell you that you are wonderful. He showed me compassion when I needed it the most, and for that I am ever grateful.
Alison Veness-McGourty – my first ever editor, and my mentor – when I started as a young and definitely not wise, fashion assistant at Harper’s Bazaar – I found her mind, her eye and work ethic mind boggling and inspiring – she saw something in me that I didn’t yet – and it gave me confidence to thrive. When GRAZIA Australia launched she took me over as Accessories editor – and I was given pages to create as my own in the magazine – it felt so huge and exciting to have that confidence put in my by someone who had been in the business so long. Needless to say I thrived and survived one hundred and twenty something issues before I decided to take a chance on NYC.
Camilla Nickerson – one of the most creatively inspiring people I have ever met, Camilla was my first boss in NYC. I interned for her at VOGUE, Calvin Klein, McQueen and Celine – to fill my spare time whilst job hunting – and instead she became my sponsor and my boss. She lives and breathes creativity – she surrounds herself with people who discuss life, culture, creativity and collaboration throughout her life – she showed me that to succeed at something you must lose yourself in it. You must become the idea you are trying to portray. I love to research, and her researching skills were nothing short of brilliant. As a collector of antique and vintage fashion – working with her archived clothing was like getting a key to a candy store. She supported my in my move to NYC, introduced me to the people who make trends and create cultural movements – and taught me to be excited about life. It changes with or without you.
MOST UNFORGETTABLE TRAVEL MEMORY?
The first time I saw the sun rise across the caldera as I arrived into Santorini at 7am when I was 22.
Deciding to jump on the Eurostar from London to Paris, alone at 23 with no phone, travel companion or real plan – then having the best 3 nights of my life there, making friends for life. We rode around all summers night on the River Seine, ran to the boulangerie at 5am as they baked fresh croissants.
WHAT CAN’T YOU TRAVEL WITHOUT?
My art kit – pens, paints and paper – because when travelling my mind opens and out pours some of my most candid and free thoughts and images. International roaming, a killer book, Valium, Rosewater face spray and Palo Santo wood to burn for balance!