With their inherent grace and style, sisters Hoda Waterhouse and ReyHanna Vakili are race-ready in timeless black and white. By Zara Wong.
With their inherent grace and style, sisters Hoda Waterhouse and Rey-Hanna Vakili are race-ready in timeless black and white.
Contrary to what you might assume – especially from these images – Hoda Waterhouse and Rey-Hanna Vakili are relative newcomers to the world of racing. Over tea at Bathers Pavilion, Waterhouse’s local, Vakili tells me about her first time at the races. “I was working at Randwick racecourse!” she says with an easy charm. The two sisters had worked as bookmakers on computers alongside Waterhouse’s then university boyfriend Tom Waterhouse, of the Waterhouse racing dynasty, making it a more unique and immersive introduction to the racing world than most would be privy to.
“I thought it was only champagne, hats and horses,” says Waterhouse of how she viewed that world beforehand. Adds Vakili: “I didn’t even think it was a thing, to be honest, and I hadn’t realised what a big part of Australian culture it is.” Now, as regular race attendees, the two have been exposed to the full gamut of the event. “When I see how Gai [Waterhouse – her mother-in-law] gets up at 2am in the morning and to see what the jockeys and strappers go through, there’s so much going on behind the scenes,” says Waterhouse. “The glamorous side of racing and the race day is only one per cent of what the industry about.”
“Your first Derby Day is always a special day; you always remember it because everyone looks amazing in black and white”
Officially then, the first race event Vakili ever attended was the Royal Ascot in England. She wore a Michael Kors jumpsuit with splits up the legs. “When she sent me a photo of it, I thought it looked appropriate,” recalls Waterhouse, who comments that her younger sister is more interested in taking risks in fashion than she is – and, pulls it off. But once the wind picked up, the splits flew open very, very high on her legs. “So it was quite scandalous for Ascot,” notes Waterhouse. Vakili was unperturbed. “It was long so it followed all the dress codes, but it was so inappropriate. I thought it was a bit cheeky and fun. I’m all about the colour and the crazy.” For Vakili, a love of fashion came later in life when she was working at American
Vogue as Anna Wintour’s assistant, where she came to have an appreciation for the bold colours and shapes that inform her wardrobe too (plenty of Johanna Ortiz, Pucci and Dolce & Gabbana). “Maybe I liked it before, but I didn’t have any sense of what it was,” she says of the experience.
Waterhouse’s entrée to the more dressed-up side of the races had her in black lace Dolce & Gabbana for Derby Day. “Your first Derby Day is always a special day; you always remember it because everyone looks amazing in black and white,” she says, attesting that she is the more classically dressed. Since then, she also regularly attends Ascot, revelling in the more formal dress codes and wearing larger hats with broader brims. “England is more conservative, but beautiful, and Australia is more fun and experimental, with Viktoria Novak’s beautiful crowns and Nerida Winter’s pretty leather headpieces. It’s more fashion-forward when it comes to racewear.” Always enjoying fashion and design, Waterhouse chose to work as an architect for
its combination of creativity and rigour, which she does part-time as a working mother. “I love that at you can appreciate architecture anywhere in the world, at any age. But also, you can really appreciate timeless architecture as well when you go to Rome and Paris,” she says, with a natural warmth. “It’s so exciting and it’s always evolving and its part of your life. People don’t necessarily realise that until you study it.” And as Vakili reiterates, Waterhouse makes creativity and excelling academically appear effortless. “I’m very envious of her eye. I think she has a very good eye for design and interiors, which I’m hopeless at, and I always consult her with outfits I’m wearing.”
There is always a sense of polish to how Waterhouse and Vakili inherently dress,
thanks to their mother. “She keeps us in line!” says Waterhouse, who tells me that their mother had once secretly thrown out her ripped jeans. “She’s all about the investment pieces, more so than me. I’m a sucker for trends,” says Vakili.
The old adage of there being more to it than the surface level applies to the two. Rattling off a list of descriptions – intelligent, beautiful, charming and accomplished – seems too lazy, if true. The labels socialite or It girl seems to do a disservice (and they will even hate it that I’ve mentioned it within here – sorry!) even if it would be how Capote would cast them, because they have not courted the attention. Which makes them even the more beguiling. “Our mum, who is very elegant, never said: ‘Oh, you girls are so pretty and beautiful’, she just said: ‘There are a thousand pretty girls in your year. You need to be smarter, you need to be funnier, you need to be more clever. You need to work on yourself in every way,’” says Waterhouse intently. “I think fashion is fun, but you need so much more behind it especially today. Even at Vogue, it’s more than the clothes.”
As the older of the two, Waterhouse lives in Sydney with her daughter Rose – who rides regularly with a horse called Brian, as named by Rose – and son William, with a third child on the way. Having studied political science at Yale, Vakili is soon off to California to start her MBA at Stanford. “Rey-Hanna has always been super-diligent and a hard worker.”
“It’s back to the student life of jeans and jumpers for me!” Vakili says with a laugh. “I’ll miss Hoda when I’m not here in Sydney.”
There is a four-year age difference between the two, and they credit their parents, Iranian in heritage, and their two older brothers for ensuring there was never any competition or comparison. “We are both so different and excel in different areas,” says Waterhouse. “But at the same time similar enough that we always get along. We’ve always gotten along – more so now than ever.”
WATERHOUSE (LEFT) WEARS A GIORGIO ARMANI JACKET, $2,700, AND SKIRT, $1,900. MICHAEL KORS TOP, $749. NERIDA WINTER HAT, $1,195, AND VEIL, $295. CHRISTIE NICOLAIDES EARRINGS, $269. VAKILI WEARS A DOLCE & GABBANA DRESS, $4,800. NERIDA WINTER HAT, $1,195,...
HAIR: PETE LENNON MAKE-UP: COLETTE MILLER SHOT ON LOCATION AT RANDWICK RACECOURSE