When our southern counterparts attend James St Up Late (JSUL) the most frequent observation made is the impeccable dress sense of attendees – admiration for the impeccable style and consideration put into the wardrobe choices of event goers, and we see it too. There is something about a one-night only occasion that calls for a stellar outfit and with this in mind, it felt fitting to capture the street style of people on the street and boutique staff on James St for the 2023 JSUL campaign. To celebrate the colour, class and charming style of those that frequent our neighbourhood.
The woman for the job? None other than renowned Melbourne-based fashion photographer Liz Sunshine. Liz has travelled far and wide to capture stylish sorts at fashion weeks around the world and is considered a style icon in her own right. On a scorching hot +30-degree day, Liz stalked James St snapping stylish locals going about their daily activities. Post-photoshoot, we had a charming chin-wag with Liz to talk James St style in comparison to other Australian cities, how she makes people look so darn cool, about being a trailblazer in her profession, and generally being nosy about what is inspiring her right now – books, music, movies – all of the important stuff! Read on and prepare to be charmed.
You document fashion as art – the art of self-expression through the lens of your camera. The subtlety of expressing individuality via fashion is no doubt influenced by trends and climate, but beyond those, do you notice a difference in approach from location to location? Thank you for your kind words. While climate and trends definitely play a role in what people are wearing, I think the most authentic and successful personal style comes from a place of self-reflection – knowing who you are and feeling comfortable in your skin means that same level of understanding is reflected in how you present yourself to the world. For myself and most people I speak to, choosing clothes that respect the shape of your body is one of the most important aspects of dressing well. I also see that the osmosis of being in a particular place affects how at home you feel in your clothes, based on and in comparison to the people around you. This is true for so many elements of life, but especially your clothes. If you walk down the street in heels and notice everyone wearing thongs, you might feel out of place. Replace those thongs with various shoes, including heels, and your comfort may return.
As a Melburnian, are there any observations of James St street style that you have identified in comparison to other Australian locations? I smile, remembering my first re-visit to James St after many years. In 2022 I was on holiday with my husband, and we had booked into The Calile, kid-free for a week; we had planned to relax and take it easy by the pool.
After a quick lunch at Sunshine (unfortunately not named after me), I realised how many well-dressed people were around us. Women in cream holiday sets, moving between the boutiques and delicious lunch spots. Summer-y dresses, golden tans, the perfect mix of colour and neutrals – I felt like I had arrived at a resort for the fashion elite. Still, these were just regular people going about their day, dressed incredibly well. Of course, being quite obsessed with documenting what people are wearing, I changed my holiday plans ever so slightly to ensure I could duck down to James street many times a day in the hopes of seeing someone fabulous and stopping them to discuss their outfit.
It’s quite unlike other places in Australia – it’s somewhere to dress up, drink cocktails, eat at delicious restaurants and feel good – surrounded by well-dressed people and all within walking distance of the perfect place to stay.
The people you document always look effortlessly beautiful, confident, and cool. The subjects are at once creatively attired, but you also seem to capture not only their style but their dignity and humanity. How do you go about unlocking this depth in perfect strangers on the street? At the moment when I see someone I want to capture, it’s no longer about me and my work, but in the pursuit of celebrating that individual – so after I say hello, I then read their body language and adjust mine to a level of comfort that I think would suit their personality or reaction to me.
Over all other aspects of my career, I love people and respect that every time I ask someone to stand in front of my camera, I’m fortunate they say yes.
You are a trailblazer in your profession – well beyond simply pointing a camera and shooting, you engage with fashion, the people that consume it, its culture and purpose and what the future could look like. Where did your interest in fashion, art and photography stem from and how do you continue to develop creatively? Like many people connected to fashion, my original fascination was formed as a type of childhood escapism. In my 20s, I felt lucky to be a fashion photographer, a dream many people chase but few realise as a career. But in my early 30s, I became restless. I kept slightly altering my already established career, feeling within myself that it wasn’t enough. Until I settled on Exploring Our Relationship with Clothes, a project I’m working on now.
Through this project, I feel a great sense of direction, purpose and curiosity.
Is there any such thing as a sartorial sin? We have all had a major fashion faux pas, so basically we are seeking approval for socks and sandals! Sins… lol…. no! I think judgment towards ourselves and others has no place in a value-based fashion world. Fashion icons of decades gone by have always bent ‘the rules’, standing out instead of fitting in. The Olsen’s are a perfect example of this, from memory being criticised for having a hobo aesthetic in years gone by only to gather one of the most loyal fashion followings, both within the industry claiming ‘icon’ status and for their brand, The Row.
We must remember that while trends can be exciting, personal style should be your own take on dressing. Style evolution should never be seen as a mistake but as personal growth. *Having a giggle thinking about the red Roxy beanie with devil horns I wore for 6 months in year 11 – yes it was in the time before social media, but it’s also part of my personal growth and evolution.* When we have to get it right all the time, there is no room for experimentation or personal growth – everyone starts to look the same, and the world loses some of its magic.
Fashion weeks are notoriously fabulous and your fashion week photography is always a highlight – do you have a most memorable fashion week to date? Location, year and why? To be honest, I don’t. Every style moment I capture has the same value, whether at fashion week in Paris, on the streets of Copenhagen, at the Melbourne Fashion Festival, in Sydney or on James st. Anyone who is being authentic will hold my attention.
Stepping out from behind the lens, you yourself are a style icon – who and/or where to you draw your personal style inspiration from? Since I’ve been exploring my own relationship with clothes, I realise my style will probably always be a WIP – I’m constantly pushing myself to buy less, waste less and take care of the clothes I have – consuming less is a conscious effort when you are continually surrounded by new clothes, and people who inspire you, it’s like having a pantry stocked with chocolate and being told you can’t eat anything.
Knowing I need my clothes to work hard for me, the parameters of being a photographer, and the osmosis of living in Melbourne have all influenced my style. Style is personal, and taking more time to look inward and figure out what you like creates more leaders in the style spectrum and fewer followers.
What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?
- Reading: Cradle to Cradle, by William McDonough – but, I’ve only just started so will report back. I would absolutely recommend Fashionopolis – it was my pick of 2022 and highly relevant to anyone on a personal style journey who also cares for the environment.
- Watching: Pamela a love story. Netflix – because she’s an icon.
- Listening: Food for Life by Tim Spector – I have a secret obsession with understanding modern food, possibly stemming from being celiac.
You have 24hrs on James St and you are not working – how do you spend it? In a three-block radius. Eating at Sunshine, visiting all my new friends in the many boutiques, people-watching everywhere and pool time at The Calile to refresh and start again.
Any tips to looking fresh on a 33-degree Queensland day? *Asking for a friend! Absolutely none – my personal style leans heavily into layering, so I’m only now just learning how to modify it to dress for the heat. I would say look at fabric compositions though – as 100% natural fibres always breath. Think wool, cotton, linen etc. … otherwise I think my Queensland friends should really be teaching me. X
February 23, 2023