Australian-born, New York-based stylist Christine Centenera cut her teeth in the industry at Harper’s Bazaar magazine in Sydney in the early 2000s; today, the fashion director of Vogue Australia divides her time between the US and working alongside Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton in Paris. With a polished, understated and oft-monochrome look, she’s as much in front of the cameras as a street-style sensation as she is behind the scenes. In 2017, she co-founded Wardrobe.NYC with fellow Aussie fashion designer Josh Goot as an elevated take on wardrobe staples to remove the guesswork from getting dressed. As Wardrobe.NYC launches on NET-A-PORTER, we caught up with Centenera to discuss her fashion journey to date and her fail-safe tips for enduring style.
On the importance of clothes
“I was never a die-hard fashion fan when I was younger. I was interested in clothes, though, and I always loved beautiful things and appreciated quality. My understanding of the importance of clothes was shaped from when I was quite young. I have four sisters and we’re all very close in age, so I learned that similar people with the same upbringing can express themselves differently through fashion. Even if the garment was the same, it would be worn in different ways. Between my mother and my four sisters, it became apparent to me how fashion plays into our lives in a positive way.”
On breaking into the fashion industry
“I finished high school not really knowing what I wanted to do. I had thought about being a nutritionist, but I didn’t take that path at university and studied art history instead. While I was at university, a friend was working at Cosmopolitan magazine. I ended up getting a job at Harper’s Bazaar as a marketing assistant, where I stayed for a few years. Honestly, I would look at the fashion girls as they swanned in and out and I didn’t think it was a serious job; I used to roll my eyes a bit. Even though I was working at a fashion magazine!”
On becoming a stylist
“When I was around 23, the editor at the time asked if I wanted to move into the fashion department, as she thought I dressed well. So I moved across and worked as part of the market team. It was then I understood that there was more to fashion, fashion photography and styling than I had previously thought. I eventually worked up to senior fashion editor there.”
On developing her aesthetic
“Back then, styling at a magazine was never really about your own personal style, so it was never reflected in your work. It was always about the story, or who you were shooting. There was an anonymity that came with being a stylist in those days. But every stylist has their own tricks. Sometimes things on set just don’t work on the day. And if I was ever going around in circles, and things weren’t looking great, I would revert to these pieces I carry with me that I know I can put on anyone, that will make them look good and will shoot well. That’s how I approach my own sense of dressing.”
On travel determining her wardrobe
“Ten years ago, I moved over to Vogue Australia, where I’m currently fashion director. But for the past five years, I have lived in New York and work out of the Condé Nast office in Manhattan. And because I also work alongside Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton in Paris, styling the menswear, I was usually traveling all the time [before lockdown]. Every two to three weeks I would be on a plane. I’m one of those people who can go 10 days with carry-on luggage – I always packed pieces that I knew would go well together and could be put together in different ways, which I was confident I would look and feel good in.”
On the birth of Wardrobe.NYC
“It was a simple idea between Josh Goot and myself, that we could help simplify the way people dressed every day. [It’s the] key items that we deem our luxury essentials and think everyone should have in their wardrobe, which is a more efficient and less wasteful fashion model. It’s designed really with myself in mind. I buy into fashion seasonally. And there are pieces each season that I want to isolate that I know won’t date and will last for years, that are unbranded and made in the best factories in Europe. That was the starting point. It’s grown from there.
“I think being a stylist means I understand silhouette and fit. I can tell when a blazer will look really good. And we made sure to do rigorous testing on a range of body sizes, to ensure these pieces can work on a variety of women of different shapes and sizes. It was important to make it democratic, to help every woman get dressed. That’s why we decided to launch a permanent collection of our most popular styles, reimagined in fresh colors and classic patterns, as our capsules kept selling out. I think the Australian way of life feeds into the clothing and the concept, too. It’s less encumbered and more free and younger than the northern hemisphere in terms of its fashion. Less is more.”
“People think that if you work in fashion, you have all the confidence and always know what to wear. But sometimes, I have days when I just cannot get it together; I can find it difficult to decide on an outfit that is appropriate for all the things I have to do in the day. And the wardrobe helps even me take the guesswork out of it. A T-shirt, blazer and leggings are my default. My style is quite understated, but this always feels appropriate. I know I can rely on them to always make me feel good.”