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.”



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