FASHION

SHE BUILT HER BRAND WITH BIKINIS, AND NOW AUS­TRALIAN SWIMWEAR MODEL AND EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR NATASHA OAK­LEY IS STRIPPING DOWN AGAIN FOR A NEW PROJECT

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy NICK LEARY Styling KELLY HUME Words ALICE WASLEY

Swimwear model Natasha Oak­ley strips down for a new project.

They say choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. And for most of us, wear­ing a bikini is a job. Not so for Natasha Oak­ley, who seems to be the living em­bod­i­ment of that old adage. Oak­ley, who grew up in the beach­side Syd­ney sub­urb of Bronte, tells Stel­lar she and busi­ness part­ner Devin Brug­man “had a re­al­i­sa­tion one day that our ob­ses­sion was not bags, or shoes… it was swimwear. Ev­ery dol­lar we made grow­ing up was spent on swimwear!”

Like Oak­ley, Brug­man grew up near the beach – she hails from Hawaii. In 2012, the pair was pro­duc­ing shoots, most of them fea­tur­ing swimwear, for Oak­ley’s pro­duc­tion com­pany based in Los An­ge­les. Oak­ley served as the pho­tog­ra­pher and videog­ra­pher, while Brug­man played as­sis­tant.

“We would be on the other side of the cam­era shoot­ing swimwear mod­els, but we would also be in our swimwear,” Oak­ley re­calls. In their down­time, they would fool around, tak­ing shots of each other. Driven by an en­tre­pre­neur­ial streak – and, prob­a­bly, a bit of the pride that comes from know­ing you look gor­geous in a bikini – they launched an In­sta­gram ac­count called A Bikini A Day. It has drawn more than 650,000 fol­low­ers, and a life­style blog of the same name fol­lowed. Oak­ley and Brug­man now spend their lives trav­el­ling to far-flung lo­cales, shoot­ing photos of mod­els wear­ing the swimwear brands they love.

“Any­one who loves swimwear is the type who likes to travel, be out in the world and surf or ex­er­cise. She’s usu­ally quite free-spir­ited,” Oak­ley, 27, says. “The rea­son we cre­ated the blog is there is an en­tire life­style around swimwear, one we wanted to share with our au­di­ence.”

At last count, the best friends had ac­cu­mu­lated an es­ti­mated 3000-plus bikinis, which are stored in their of­fice (colour-coded, of course).

One of the rea­sons they have struck a chord with their au­di­ence is that they avoid show­cas­ing rail-thin mod­els in their work; Oak­ley and Brug­man them­selves are en­vi­ably tanned, but also boast bod­ies that look gen­uinely healthy. “I am a cur­va­ceous woman,” Oak­ley says. “And I think a lot of peo­ple have had new-found con­fi­dence within them­selves from see­ing what we do.”

But Oak­ley is quick to point out that she does not spend all her time lolling around the Cinque Terre or the beaches of Thai­land in a bikini, do­ing lit­tle more than nail­ing the per­fect shot. “The other side of it is I run my own swimwear and ac­tivewear la­bel [Mon­day Swimwear and Mon­day Ac­tive],” she says. “I man­age all of our com­pa­nies – even if I am wear­ing a bikini while I sit there on the lap­top do­ing work.”

Oak­ley serves as the face of other cloth­ing brands when it fits her aes­thetic – she was re­cently tapped to ap­pear in Bonds’s up­com­ing Mashi un­der­wear cam­paign, which is about mix­ing and match­ing styles. Did mod­el­ling un­der­wear feel like just an­other day at the of­fice for her, or did it ac­tu­ally leave her feel­ing more ex­posed than her trusty bikinis? “No, it’s the same thing for me,” she says with a laugh. “Hon­estly? If I was walk­ing in the street [in my un­der­wear] it might feel a bit dif­fer­ent… but I felt fine. My mum wears Bonds, my lit­tle sis­ter

``I man­age com­pa­nies, even if I wear a bikini while I work´´

wears Bonds, I wear Bonds. It’s part of your life as an Aus­tralian. And it is re­ally cool to work with them be­cause their brand­ing and mes­sag­ing align with mine. I love the fact that it’s for ev­ery­one.” Emily Small, head of mar­ket­ing for Bonds, adds: “We love Tash’s en­er­getic at­ti­tude. She sheds a pos­i­tive light on body con­fi­dence and self-ac­cep­tance.”

Oak­ley’s boyfriend, Lon­don-based per­sonal trainer and model Gilles Souteyrand, joins her as much as he can as she crosses the globe and chases the sun. In fact, he is of­ten the one on the other side of the lens. Tech­ni­cally, this makes him her In­sta­gram hus­band, a term coined to de­scribe those weary part­ners who pa­tiently snap away un­til their girl­friends are happy enough with a pic­ture to up­load it.

“I wouldn’t say he’s [ that],” Oak­ley says. “But he’s def­i­nitely be­come a very good pho­tog­ra­pher, just bal­anc­ing on some wall to get the shot.” She lets out a gig­gle. “We’re al­ways get­ting in com­pro­mis­ing po­si­tions.” H&M anorak, $80, and shirt, $80, hm.com/au; Bonds briefs, $15, bonds.com.au; (above) Bec & Bridge shirt, POA, be­can­d­bridge. com.au; Bonds crop top, $20, bonds.com.au; Kow­tow pants, $219, kow­tow­cloth­ing.com

``tash sheds a pos­i­tive light on body con­fi­dence´´

Acler shirt, $270, acler. com.au; Bonds body­suit, $25, bonds.com.au; Ryan Storer ear­rings (worn through­out), $380, ryanstorer.big­car­tel.com; Reliquia neck­lace (worn through­out), $160, reliquia­jew­ellery.com; H&M shoes (worn through­out), $25, hm.com/au; (op­po­site) Bonds crop top, $35, bonds.com.au; Bianca Spen­der pants, $435, bian­caspender.com

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