“The rise of digital media has changed the way we consume. Fashion is no longer as exclusive as it used to be – it’s become more accessible,” Nicole Warne, the “Gary Pepper Girl”, tells Liviani Putri in an exclusive interview.
This is my first time in Indonesia and I only wish I had come here sooner,” smiles the “Gary Pepper Girl”, Nicole Warne, as she sits down with Prestige for an exclusive interview just before the grand opening of the new Masari store at Senayan City.
“The vibe here is exceptional and I have met a lot of amazing people. Actually, Masari and I started planning a collaboration a few months ago, but we still kept it all secret.”
Hailing from Australia, Nicole is one of the fashion world’s most important digital influencers. A true disruptor, she has a global audience of no fewer than 1.7 million followers on Instagram for her unique take on what’s going on in the fast-changing worlds of fashion, lifestyle, beauty, food and travel.
How significant is Nicole’s impact on the fashion business? She has made it into a Forbes 30 Under 30 list and earned a spot in Business of Fashion’s “#BoF500: The People Shaping the Global Industry”. Pierpaolo Piccioli, the Creative Director of Valentino no less, designed Nicole’s wedding dress last year.
She’s a creative director, social media consultant, brand consultant and digital strategist for an impressive gaggle of mega brands. These include, in no particular order, Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Chopard, Cartier and Net-a-Porter. These are all impressive achievements, to say the least – and it all started with the creation of on online store for vintage women’s clothing.
“I named it Gary Pepper Vintage at first, in 2009,” Nicole recalls of her meteoric rise over the last 10 years. “I was 20 years old at that time, still practically a teenager. The inspiration for the business came from the Harajuku girls in Japan. They’re so quirky – and I wanted to be odd and memorable, too. My husband (photographer Luke Shadbolt) came up with the name, because he’s a genius. Gary Pepper… as soon as he said it, it just stuck in my head.
“At the same moment, I was looking at the blog around the same time. No one had an idea of what they were doing, so I created a very free creative outlet. There weren’t a lot of us around at that time. But I was inspired by people like Susie Lau (Susie Bubble), a fashion journalist who has an in-depth knowledge and writes very informative articles, and also Rumi Neely from Fashion Toast, who really started with outfits, blogging and looks of the day.
“This gave me the idea to begin modelling clothes at beautiful locations for my clients. I wanted my customers to go online, spend time in Gary Pepper land and enjoy the beauty around them. As time passed by, it naturally grew into a business.”
In making it to the top in 10 years, alongside Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad and Aimee Song of Song of Style, Nicole has become one example of a new breed of entrepreneurial bloggers who have become power players and game changers in the fashion industry.
“Ten years is a long time, but I think being open-minded enough to change, evolve and adapt is the reason I’ve survived,” she says of her own success story. “I haven’t followed trends or other people. I just stay true to myself and what makes me be me: creating beautiful content. I’ve also been lucky enough to work with amazing brands that have believed in me and helped me build a strong portfolio.
“The rise of digital media has changed the way we think and consume. Fashion is no longer as very exclusive as it used to be – it’s become more accessible, which I think is inspiring for future generations. Before Instagram came along, you could not understand the fashion industry unless you interned in it or knew someone who was in it.
“But right now, I really need to push myself creatively and professionally in New York. I think it’s such an amazing city, with so much art and culture. It’s a melting pot, the epicentre of digital and fashion”
“A lot of things have changed in my opinion. People move as fast as they can and it will affect how you keep up with everything. I have to adapt by shifting from creating content on my Instagram account and becoming more creative at a faster pace. Everything is shared and easily connected, so there’s almost no privacy. Of course, that’s challenging. In order to survive, you have to invest in the quality of your production – like the equipment and photography as well. On the other hand, today’s situation is fresh air for the brands because it makes it easier for them to connect with everyone in a deeper way.”
A decade’s passing has changed Nicole’s own style. “Today, I would describe myself as classic and chic. I used to be loud and quirky when I was younger. Your twenties are the most transformative years of your life because you go to college, travel without your family for the first time, meet new people, get inspired and involved in so many new things. Naturally, as a person I have evolved in terms of my tastes and I think getting older is more about investing in high-quality pieces that are going to last for decades. I spending more on tailoring. I didn’t know what that meant back then. I just want everything to be more practical.
“It has also shaped how I appreciate the work of designers, both local and international. Among Australian designers, I love Christopher Esber. He’s a good friend, a creative force, very talented, and every collection is always surprising. As well there’s Dion Lee, who is incredible on sizing and everything fits perfectly. On the other side, Valentino has a special place in my heart because I wore it on my wedding day.”
Nicole and Luke tied the knot in March last year at The Rippon Hall in Lake Wanaka, New Zealand. The big event went viral as a “dream wedding” on social media because Nicole wore a custom couture gown designed by Pierpaolo Piccioli.
“I just burst into tears when I saw the sketches,” Nicole says. The gown was made of silk organza, with full sleeves in cady crepe canvas and a cut-out at the centre. The flowers and leaves were made from tulle stitched with silver thread. The hand-pleated organza petals were finished with a mix of transparent and iridescent sequins, crystals and glass stones. It took 20 people and four weeks to create it together with the cathedral-length veil.
“The dress’s journey from Paris to Sydney was insane, yet funny,” Nicole says. “As soon as it arrived in the hotel, it never left my sight. I slept with it, showered and ate next to the dress. At the airport, we both got upgraded to first class – me and the dress! It’s really a nice feeling I have to say, when you have to carry your wedding dress to the airport. Everyone there will willingly help you, especially women, because they get so excited. They share the same feelings and understand how special it is.
“Now I know why your wedding is the best day of your life, because you really appreciate everyone around you, family and friends. The feeling of being loved and cherished is so serene, so you give back to them in return. I think when the day comes, it really suits your perception on life and makes you feel more grateful.”
Nicole has challenged herself by moving from laidback Australia to energetic New York City. “I love Australia with all my heart and I will eventually will end up back there when we have kids or retire,” she says. “But right now, I really need to push myself creatively and professionally in New York. I think it’s such an amazing city, with so much art and culture. It’s a melting pot, the epicentre of digital and fashion.
“The amount of creativity that my husband and I experience on a daily basis in New York is incredible. In Australia, the quality of life is amazing, but it’s very quiet, peaceful and slow in comparison. But for now I’m focusing my energy on the city, while settling into a new apartment, finding new offices and team members. Also, I have to focus on working on my book and developing some products later in the year.
“I hope everything will be easy, especially the challenge of living between New York and Australia successfully. Of course, exploring more places in the world like South America and Indonesia is important, too. And also maintaining the balance I have found between work and life.”