Meet the most powerful Aussie in global fashion
As editor-in-chief of the US monthly magazine InStyle, Laura Brown has been dubbed "the most powerful Aussie in global fashion". On the eve of a trip home, the 45-year-old talks to Stellar's editor-in-chief, Sarrah Le Marquand, about her love of Australian wildlife, superstar selfies - and her upcoming "hot date" with Celeste Barber.
You'll be attending the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF) later this month as a keynote speaker at the Australian Fashion Summit - your second trip home in three months. Do you usually get to slip away from your job in New York that often?
No, but my mum is there and if I can take the opportunity I will. I'm flattered to be asked. And Celeste Barber is going to be there [at VAMFF], and ironically we talk all the time and we work together all the time, but we've not yet physically met. So we're having a hot date; that will be fun.
You were here over Christmas and New Year during the bushfires and vision of you visiting The Kangaroo Sanctuary went viral, with some mistaking you for a volunteer being hugged in gratitude by a kangaroo you supposedly saved...
That was 12-year-old Abi, who has been at The Kangaroo Sanctuary since she was a joey. And look, I have no issue about people wanting to share an image of a lady hugging a kangaroo.
When times are tough this is not a terrible instinct, but what really made me angry was people trying to sell stuff off it; getting the context wrong and then using it to sell earplugs or something. This is a country that has really been suffering and we're all trying to do our bit - so don't minimise it.
As an Australian living overseas, what have you made of the massive outpouring of support for your homeland in the wake of the fires?
We're known as nice people and we're liked internationally. We have a beautiful, big country and have an incredible, gorgeous, distinctive animal population.
Often people globally think of Australia as a refuge - and what has been so upsetting for Australians living abroad, and for people who love the idea of Australia, is to see that idea being threatened, and to see that romantic mythology of Australia burning down.
How much do you find yourself being an unofficial Australian ambassador in your daily life?
I am so proud to be so... All we want to do when we're young is to go somewhere else, to go where it's happening. But then you get homesick and you start to miss that "shoulder-lowering" that Australians have, you know what I mean? That sort of exhalation is the way I explain it. And it's like you've exhaled for the first time in a year. So it is sort of funny, the chick who's been in New York for 18 years is suddenly Mrs Kangaroo!
Speaking of adorable native Australian animals, you stepped out on the red carpet in January with a toy koala at the American Australian Association Arts Awards Dinner and I've heard that you're fond of wearing koala slippers.
Regrettably, they're probably made in China or something. But when I got my job, my best girlfriends got me koala slippers and I've had them ever since. They're so comfy; like a foot hug. Hopefully we can make some in Australia at some point, actually. Let's make a call out for an Australian koala slippers manufacturer...
Once inside the dinner, you got a pretty fabulous group photo of Kylie Minogue, Naomi Watts, Deborra-lee Furness and Katie Holmes sitting on your lap.
Yeah, I was wondering how many people I could get on [laughs]. Katie couldn't quite get on, but I was like "just pretend" so she had to lean over. It's so dumb, it's the dumbest, but it does make me laugh. I love throwing people on there, it's just so stupid!
Only a few days before that, you got a snap with Michelle Pfeiffer and Olivia Newton-John. It was really funny because I've never met Olivia, but a mutual friend had pointed out it's Grease and Grease 2, and I was like "Aargh!" It was major. I try to equalise as much as I can because I don't think it's super healthy to go crazy over people, especially for young girls. I'm respectful.
Last year you were named the Australian Fashion Laureate and now you're about to speak at VAMFF. What are your thoughts on Australian fashion?
Zimmermann is very patently floral and gorgeous and sexy, and I think people would go, "Oh yeah, that's an Aussie brand." But there's also Maticevski or Christopher Esber, and they're not trying to be necessarily "Australian", they just have their own brand - like what Josh Goot and Camilla and Marc do. And Romance Was Born, I adore them. So all those people are completely different from each other. But that's what makes it interesting.
Let's talk about your day job as editor-in-chief of a magazine in an era when some say magazines are dying.
I think the most fun thing about being an editor, and I know you will agree with me, is when you have an idea and somebody shows up to do it. After all these years, I walk on set and there's the talent, the hair and make-up, the stylist, the lighting, the video guys, the assistant, and the caterers... and because of something I was thinking about in bed two months earlier. It's really wild.
And to the younger people, I say, you've got to make a thing. You can't take pictures and put it on Instagram - You. Have. To. Make. A. Thing. You can't just float around and not produce anything. I don't care if it's Paddle Pop sticks or if it's gold macaroni: make a thing!
You got engaged last year. How are the wedding plans coming along?
We're getting married in the fall, as they say here, this year. Put it this way, our wedding planner has said to us, "No more friends." But it's going to be great.
Your fiancé, Brandon Borror-Chappell, wrote an article in 2017 titled My Girlfriend Is Way More Successful Than I Am - & 16 Years Older. As an editor, what did you think of the piece?
He's such a great writer; he's very upfront and very sincere - and he's making a point of the cliché of the older man/younger woman, but he was never going to out anything super private.
Given you're planning a wedding, some might expect a follow-up question asking when you're going to start a family, but at Stellar we have a policy that we no longer ask women we are interviewing whether they intend to have children.
That's very smart - especially when you're talking to a professional woman. We've got plenty of things to talk about. Women can share if they want, and not if they don't want - I'm down with all of it, honestly.
Laura Brown will speak at the Australian Fashion Summit on March 13; vamff.com.au.