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Fashion

Why Kanye West, Virgil Abloh work with these Australian fashion creatives at top of global industry

They are the stylists behind some of the top catwalk shows and the creative leaders of a fast-growing online fashion empire – five Australians with a passion for fashion who’ve conquered the fashion capitals of the world

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2018, 6:19am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2018, 6:25pm

A trio of New York-based Australians have played crucial roles in some of the biggest shows at last month’s Paris spring-summer 2019 men’s collections.

They are among the many Australians to have found their way into senior creative roles in the international fashion industry and are helping craft the images of some of the world’s most prominent brands.

On June 20, Australian stylist Stevie Dance was American fashion designer Virgil Abloh’s right hand for his Off-White men’s show.

The next day, Australian stylist Christine Centenera worked closely with Abloh on the week’s most-anticipated event: his catwalk debut as Louis Vuitton’s new men’s artistic director.

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Australian show producer Jarrad Serafine-Clark then helped John Galliano – creative director of Maison Margiela – realise the brand’s vision for its first Artisinal men’s show.

Over in London, meanwhile, two Australians now head up the creative division of e-commerce giant Farfetch: Yasmin Sewell as vice-president of style and creative, and Mark Vassallo as creative director.

How did these five fashion power players make their way from down under to the top of the fashion game? Here’s a mini career guide.

Jarrad Serafine-Clark

Between May and early July, Jarrad Serafine-Clark personally attended, and was the brains behind, 11 events in Europe. They included: Maison Margiela’s men’s and women’s couture shows, Sonia Rykiel’s first couture show, the Modelco x Karl Lagerfeld make-up capsule launch in Paris, Louis Vuitton’s women’s Cruise 2019 show in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, a COS men’s capsule presentation at Pitti Uomo in Florence, and a private Farfetch show for VIP clients staged at the Cannes-Mandelieu Airport, starring Christie Brinkley and her daughter Sailor Brinkley Cook.

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KCD is the world’s biggest catwalk show producer, staging 140 shows annually, and since 2014, Serafine-Clark has been the head of its creative services division. Early last year, he was named as one of eight new partners in the company. He looks after staffing, planning, budgeting, production, show conceptualisation and digital services. He also oversees teams of anywhere from 20 to 100 people, as far afield as Beijing, Kyoto, Rio, and on September 4, Shanghai – the location of Tommy Hilfiger’s next TommyNow extravaganza.

The Queensland native’s fashion journey started straight after high school, when he headed by bus to Melbourne and landed in the epicentre of the southern city’s fashion scene – Chapel Street. Through connections made at boutique Morrissey Edmiston, he wound up in Sydney, where he started working for Simon Lock at the Spin Communications agency. Starting as an office gofer, he worked his way up to event director at both Spin and Australian Fashion Week, which was launched by Lock and associates in 1996. He worked with the event for 18 years.

Christine Centenera

An Adelaide native, born to Filipino-Spanish parents, Christine Centenera’s fashion star has been on the rise since she first started going to international fashion shows in the mid-2000s. Her unique style – bold, high-end pieces paired with statement accessories – captured the attention of street-style photographers.

At the time, she was a Harper’s Bazaar Australia staffer, having first joined the title as marketing assistant, before working her way up to the position of fashion editor.

A meeting with Kanye West in 2011 led to Centenera consulting for West’s Spring 2012 women’s wear catwalk debut in Paris. In 2012, after a decade at Harper’s, she jumped ship to Vogue Australia, where she was appointed fashion director the following year.

Centenera has styled some of Vogue Australia’s most high-profile covers, including Kim Kardashian, Victoria Beckham, Margot Robbie and Paris Jackson. She has been a serial collaborator with the Kardashian-Wests since 2011. She’s worked on all of West’s Yeezy runway collections – which is how she first met Abloh, West’s former creative director – and is credited with Kardashian’s recent style makeover.

Centenera moved to New York in 2016, and now charges a A$20,000 (US$14,700) a day, according to sources. In December, Centenera and long-time partner, Australian fashion designer Josh Goot, launched a direct-to-consumer fashion brand called Wardrobe NYC.

Mark Vassallo

From Dion Lee and Ksubi, to Romance Was Born and Ellery, Mark Vassallo has engineered some of Australian Fashion Week’s most memorable catwalk shows. Offshore, he also produced Kanye West’s spring-summer 2012 women’s wear runway debut in Paris and all of Josh Goot’s New York Fashion Week shows.

Vassallo was appointed creative director at the London-based e-retail giant Farfetch in December. The multitalented creative has worked as an advertising creative director and/or stylist for brands including Bassike, RM Williams, Dinosaur Designs, Scanlan Theodore and Sneakerboy. He’s also a publisher, having launched among other publications Mark magazine – which is credited with helping launch the career of model Gemma Ward – and fashion comic zine Petit Mal.

Vassallo has worked for magazines such as Australian Style, Oyster, Follow and the local editions of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Grazia, in varying capacities as contributing fashion editor, fashion editor, fashion director and editor. From 1993 to 2001, he was based in New York, where he styled for Neiman Marcus, Barneys, L’Oreal, Vanity Fair and Interview.

#PheobePhilo made damn good dresses.

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Yasmin Sewell

The unwitting street style star has carved a unique career as a talent spotter, retail consultant and mentor. In 2012, Yasmin Sewell was named Young Australian Achiever of the Year in the UK.

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She was born Yasmin Abdallah in Sydney, in 1976, to Lebanese-Australian parents, and quit school at the age of 15 to work as a personal assistant for Sydney luxury real estate mogul John McGrath. A chance meeting at Sydney’s Grand Pacific Blue Room bar with British actor Rufus Sewell, who was in town filming Dark City, changed her life. The pair fell in love and married. From there she moved to London, then New York and back to London again. She completed an internship at Harper’s Bazaar in the US, followed by stints at Harpers & Queen UK as bookings editor, as Browns’ window dresser, and as a buyer for Sydney boutique Museum.

In 1998, at age 22, she opened a small Soho boutique called Yasmin Cho, which quickly gained traction as one of London’s coolest new fashion spots, specialising in avant-garde labels including Miguel Adrover, Pierre Hardy, Rick Owens and Rick Owens. It attracted celebrity clients such as Kylie Minogue, Madonna and Courtney Love.

After her marriage ended and her business closed, she returned to Sydney in 2001 and, among other initiatives, started a personal luxury shopping service for six VIP clients. In 2005, she was appointed to head Browns’ youth-skewed Browns Focus division, where she helped launch the careers of, among others, Scottish designer Christopher Kane – and helped raise the profile of Sweden’s Acne Studios.

In 2008, Sewell launched her own retail consultancy business, and has been credited with helping revitalise Liberty of London. In 2012, she co-founded luxury basics line Être Cécile, and in 2015 was named fashion director at Condé Nast’s Style.com. The e-commerce platform was sold to Farfetch in 2017.

Stevie Dance

In a 2016 interview with i-D, Abloh described Stevie Dance as his “partner in crime when it comes to the concept of Off-White and the styling”. Dance has worked on both the men’s and women’s Off-White collections and shows since the inception of Abloh’s high-profile, high-end streetwear line in 2013.

Another multitalented creative, who also works as a photographer, Dance has been the fashion director of London-based POP magazine since 2011. Her work has appeared in Arena Homme; the US, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and Australian editions of Vogue; and Australia’s Oyster magazine. She has worked with Browns, Milly, Esteban Cortazar and Nike.

Dance graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, performance studies and cinematography from the University of Sydney. She then landed an internship at fledgling indie Australian title Russh, assisting fashion director Philip Scurrah. Within a year, a mutual friend hooked Dance up with feted Australian stylist Brana Wolf in New York, and before long she packed her bags and headed to the US to assist Wolf and stylist Samira Nasr.

She returned to Australia to become Russh’s fashion editor, where she graduated to fashion director and then editor within three years. After moving back to New York in 2010, Dance eventually went full-time as a freelancer. In June, she launched her own denim line called Feel.