Australia is not lacking in supermodels, with Miranda Kerr, Gemma Ward, Abbey Lee Kershaw, and Elle MacPherson among the many megastars who hail from down under. But on the second day of Australia Fashion Week’s Resort 2020 shows in Sydney this year, a new rising runway star joined their ranks: actress Phoebe Tonkin, walking in her first ever runway show. It was not just any runway show, though—the 29-year-old hit the catwalk for her friends Peta Heinsen and Ilona Hamer, in their brand Matteau’s first ever ready-to-wear show. Tonkin joined a diverse cast of models, including fellow Aussie native Robyn Lawley, seamlessly fitting in with the crew, nary a sign of nerves in sight. Here, Tonkin breaks down how her runway debut came to be, and shares her latest fashion opinions.
How were you feeling before you hit the runway?
I was just excited for Ilona and Peta. The energy backstage was just pure joy. All the girls felt confident and beautiful, everyone was commenting on how relaxed the show was. I’m not a model, maybe I should have been more nervous, but I was wearing flats so I figured as long as I didn’t walk the wrong way or slip over, I was going to do okay.
What was most surprising to you about the runway experience?
That it was so quick! The whole [thing] lasted only six or so minutes! And also how chilled out backstage was.
What were you thinking about when you were walking the runway?
Probably something completely unrelated to the show. I’m directing a short film right now so I was probably thinking about camera lenses and catering budgets.
Would you do it again?
Only in flats. [laughs]
Describe your style in three words:
Comfortable, relaxed, simple.
What defines Australian style?
Probably similar to that. We are practical dressers, which is what Matteau perfectly encapsulates. We favor outfits that can take us from work to the beach to the bar. I would say generally Australians are laid back, and due to the climate, we wear lots of cottons and linens.
What is your go-to outfit for a day off?
Blue jeans, a big white t-shirt, and Chanel ballet flats.
Who is your ultimate style icon?
Caroline Bessette Kennedy, always.
Best fashion advice you ever received?
Dress for yourself, always.
Most prized possession in your closet?
Probably the jewelry I have collected over the years. I have a pair of blue Levi’s that Ilona gave me that I always carry in my hand luggage because I’m petrified of losing them; they’re the perfect fit.
First major fashion purchase?
This is so obnoxious, but when I was 12, I found a winning lottery ticket on the floor. It was in a very busy area near a pub, so my mum let keep it since it would have been hard to find it’s rightful owner. It was for about $100. We flew to New York the following week for a holiday, and I spent it on a DKNY grsy cashmere cardigan. I wasn’t even into fashion, I just really loved the cardigan. I still have it for my future kids to wear.
What was the last thing you purchased?
A Lee Mathews hoodie! I haven’t really taken it off. It’s so oversized and comfortable.
Currently on your shopping wish-list:
Biggest fashion regret?
Most red carpet looks before 2014.
Favorite red carpet outfit you’ve ever worn?
I loved the Chanel sweater and Levi’s jeans (the hand luggage jeans!) that I wore to the Chanel cruise show a few years ago. I also loved the red lace Christopher Kane dress I wore to the Vanity Fair Oscar party last year.
Favorite fashion moment from pop culture?
Gwyneth Paltrow serves up some excellent looks in Sliding Doors: the leather jackets, the pigtails. Pretty much every Gwyneth Paltrow movie of that era. The green oversized cardigan and skirt she wears in Great Expectations is probably one of my favorites. I love that movie! Also, the gown Jennifer Connelly wears in Labyrinth!
What is always in your bag?Reusable water bottle, my wallet, candied ginger, and Kosas lipstick.
Song to listen to when getting ready? Haelos or alt-J. Or recently Carnage. Depends on where I’m going—or who I’m going with.