There’s a memento stuck on Georgia Ashdown’s fridge – a postcard depicting Friedrich Nietzsche, accompanied by the words Il faut danser la vie.
Life must be a dance.
Although the German philosopher is not generally known for his sunny outlook on life, the epithet suits Ashdown perfectly. When I meet the 35-year-old stylist in her Marrickville home, she greets me with homemade muffins and introduces her Staffy, Roo. The house is airy and filled with trinkets sourced from her overseas travels, and the living room boasts a custom-made bookshelf, holding titles like Mario Testino Portraits, The Pirelli Calendar Album and 1988: The New Wave Punk Rock Explosion. On the coffee table lies a selection of magazines – Acne Paper, Self Service, Vogue Italia – all of which Ashdown has contributed work to. But in spite of her impressive resume, there is no trace of ego or entitlement. Ashdown is refreshingly down to earth.
Her styling career began with an Advanced Diploma of Fashion in Brisbane, which helped her secure an internship with stylist Megan Morton at (the now defunct) Elle Australia. The internship lead to a editorial coordinator role, which then landed her a fashion assistant role under stylist Valeryi Yong. After two years at Elle, Ashdown made the move to London, a decision she chalks up to being “young and ambitious.”
“I was a bit naïve. I did one week at Glamour as an intern, but I realised I couldn’t really work for free for six months.”
“I was a bit naïve,” she admits. “When I got to London, I started looking at magazines I could work for, without realising how tough it was [to break into the industry]. I did one week at Glamour as an intern, but I realised I couldn’t really work for free for six months, so I applied for a promotions coordinator role on British Vogue. Somehow I got the job.”
Working in the Vogue advertising wing proved to be a valuable experience. “I was nurtured really well in that department,” says Ashdown. “But of course, I always wanted to go into fashion.” After a year and a half in London, Ashdown did stints in Canada and the US, landing an internship with legendary stylist Brana Wolf. With international experience under her belt, she returned to Australia where roles at Sunday Magazine and Pages Digital kept her busy for four years.
“Then I went back to London, thinking this time, I’ll do this properly – I want to assist someone really good,” explains Ashdown. “So I assisted Marie Chaix for a year, who’s a really talented stylist – but very difficult to work with. We worked across Self Service, Italian Vogue, German Vogue, Acne Paper, as well as advertising for Chanel, Swarovski crystals, and Aveda. We also did Dazed and Confused, ID, all those young, English titles.”
After coming back to Australia, Ashdown expanded her skill set with a role at MTV, styling celebrities like Ruby Rose and Natalie Bassingthwaighte. “I came back because I needed a break. It was really full on in London,” says Ashdown. “I wanted to learn more about digital and the moving image, so I got a job at MTV, and was there for two years. But now I’m ready to go back to magazines, so I’ve
done a bit of InStyle this year, and some work for Sunday Magazine too.” There’s also a food blog in the works, which Ashdown will collaborate on with her chef boyfriend and a graphic designer.
Outside her work as a stylist, Ashdown has an active role in charity work, which she approaches with the same down-to-earth enthusiasm as her career. “I did charity work in London, working with Women for Women International,” she explains. “When I got back to Australia, I wanted to find something that was more tangible, that I could actually see the people that I was helping, rather than just sending money over to another country.”
“I go in to The Girls and Boys Brigade once a fortnight, to do homework with the kids. I read to them, check their work and hang out.”
Through a friend, Ashdown was introduced to The Girls and Boys Brigade. The Surry Hills-based charity aims to provide education, community and a support network for children, youth and their families who experience significant socio-economic challenges and other difficult circumstances. “I go in to The Girls and Boys Brigade once a fortnight, to do homework with the kids. I read to them, check their work and hang out,” says Ashdown.
In addition to this regular commitment, Ashdown also helps to organise special projects and events with likeminded creatives to benefit the charity – there’s a book project in the works, and an annual fete called Wonder100, which launched in October this year. “It was a great way for the creative community to engage with each other on a positive level,” says Ashdown of the inaugural event. “It really brought everyone together to have a good time for a good cause.”
Of her charity work, Ashdown is pragmatic. “I’ve always felt that Australia needs help in certain areas, especially with our Indigenous community. It’s strange to me that we have so many problems here and yet people continue to send money abroad. I think it’s important for any socially minded Australian to help in some way.”