Ready to ware
After walking away from the helm of fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar, Kellie Hush speaks to Stellar about branching out into a new project
After walking away as editor-in-chief of fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar, Kellie Hush opens up about the less glamorous aspects of her old life and her new venture.
For someone who has shimmied onstage with Jennifer Hudson in Brooklyn and sipped champagne alongside Charlize Theron at a sunset Christian Dior show in California, Kellie Hush, 45, is remarkably willing to talk about the less pleasant aspects of working in the fashion industry.
“It made me feel sick and anxious,” the former editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar recalls, as she talks to Stellar about the day one of the most powerful agents in Hollywood threatened her over the phone, just as she was picking up her daughter from day care. “He said to me, ‘You will never work with any of my clients ever again.’” Her crime, according to the agent: dropping an arranged cover with his client, a prominent Australian actress.
It was far from an empty threat; the Hollywood heavyweight’s client roster reads like the front row of an Academy Awards
ceremony. “The list goes on and on,” says Hush, smoothing her vintage Balenciaga dress as she sits down with Stellar at home and recalls the confrontation from her previous life.
It was far from the only time Hush was left fuming in her 20-plus years as a fashion journalist. She’s been stood up for interviews by the likes of Bella Hadid and Kristen Stewart, and been urged by the namesake designers of Dolce & Gabbana to remove a story from her magazine’s website about offensive comments they’d made about same-sex marriage.
“I don’t miss that side of it,” she says, leaning back in her dining room chair and considering the egos she had to juggle and appease. “It’s like looking after children. There are many times you just get off the phone and go, ‘What the f*ck? The sh*t I’ve got to deal with.’ These are precious people that are surrounded by ‘yes’ people, so…”
It may be a surprise to hear such honesty from someone who – until last August, when she left Harper’s Bazaar after six years – dwelled at the upper echelons of an industry within which she commands great respect. “She is a very particular combo of great taste and the innate ability to get things done,” says fellow Australian Laura Brown, now based in New York where she is the editor-in-chief of US InStyle magazine.
But Hush’s irritation with all that entitlement dovetails with a career change – and a decision to start her own decidedly
democratic brand, fast-fashion accessories line The Way, which has just launched online, with ﬁve bricks-andmortar stores to come. It offers on-trend accessories – some 200 bags and 600 pieces of jewellery, including styles seemingly inspired by the designers Hush has hobnobbed with – but at Sportsgirl prices.
“I really want to talk to mass Australia,” says Hush. “I want to make really great style accessible to all women, not just a really small [segment].”
She is also marking a return to her roots. Long before Hush interviewed Gisele Bündchen in Cuba (after a Chanel show in 2016), she was just a girl from Canberra who attended government schools, and for whom a trip to Target for a desired jumper – one she had to put on lay-by – was a splurge. “I can remember Target being the biggest thing in my life when I was young… it was ‘Tar-jay’. You know, I didn’t grow up with a lot of money.”
Still, one wonders how she feels about giving up a job that gave her access to personal design heroes, such as Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele. “I will miss the glamour,”
admits Hush, adding she had “a little bit of FOMO” during this year’s Chanel show at Paris Fashion Week. Still, she says, “I’m very good at moving on.” Retail is a risky move, and fast fashion is not immune from its dangers, as evidenced by UK giant Topshop’s troubled stint in Australia. Asked why she decided to take on the challenge of bricks and mortar, Hush replies in an unﬂappable tone: “We know from our competitors that there are still people shopping in shopping centres. You just need to create a good experience, which is what we’ll be doing.” To wit, the walls surrounding her goods – among them elegant faux-croc totes and circular bags with gold wristlets – will be painted with her personal fashion tips.
Hush developed The Way over three years and has a business partner – as well as a history of turning contentious moves into success. Years ago, while a reporter at Who magazine, her editor told her, “You know, your career will be over if
you go and work at InStyle.”
“In fact, my career took off after that job,” says Hush. “So… yeah.” As for that threatening agent, she stuck to her guns – “I wouldn’t be bullied” – and subsequently landed some of his clients for her covers by working around him.
Industry insiders regard her latest move as similarly gutsy. “I thought it was bad-ass,” Brown tells Stellar. “Publishing is challenging, but it’s also easy to rest on your laurels, ﬂoating around to fashion shows and going on trips. It says a lot about Kellie that she had other priorities.”
Among them, namely, are the chance to call her own shots and build a business from scratch for her family – husband David Bugg and their daughters, Amelia, 13, and Lola, 10, who she hopes will eventually work with her. “I love publishing, but ultimately you work for a big corporate and it’s out of your control. I wanted to really build something for myself, and I think why I ended up in retail is that, at the end of the day, I love fashion.”
The Way is now available at theway.com.au.
“I want to make really great style accessible to all women, not just a really small [segment]”
KELLIE WEARS Tory Burch top, (02) 9136 3900; Paris Georgia skirt, shop. parisgeorgia store.com; her own jewellery and watch (worn throughout)
(from top) Kellie Hush in her Sydney warehouse in March preparing for the launch of her accessories line The Way; with Gisele Bündchen in 2016; with her
husband David Bugg and their daughters Amelia (left) and Lola at Disneyland last year.
KELLIE WEARS Louis Vuitton top and pants, au.louisvuitton.com