‘If my life was a book, I would like it to be called As Simple as a Smile; as Loud as a Laugh,’ says Tarryn Oppel as she places in front of her some of her wardrobe favourites: a leather biker jacket by Mango, a pair of Stan Smiths, a V-neck jersey and a slogan jersey by H&M and a Louis Vuitton Speedy bag with T.O on it. ‘This is the one item that I am still pinching myself over! It is that one thing that you’d pass down to your daughter, and her daughter… It’s very special.’ If there were a way to label the young senior fashion editor’s style, it would have to fall somewhere between contrasted simplicity and sophisticated pop. If you had to describe her personality, it would be something between a gentle smile and a spurt of laughter, a layer of coolness covering a composite of delicate expressions of emotions, bursts of talent, wild creativity and an ability to think fast on her feet.
Page through her fashion shoots and you will see the same contrasts: here, the refinement of simplicity and minimalism, there, the exuberance of youth or the precise clash of bright colours and prints. Oppel manages to swing between influences, trends and seasons with the agility of a cat. Her style involves strong, reliable and eective pieces that allow her to go from important launches to long days of shooting (she’s been known to be on her knees, removing the sand o a model’s shoes on a remote beach). ‘I realised that I was someone who wanted to stand out but not let my clothes do all the work.
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It’s important for me to exist in spite of my clothes, to be more than what I wear; if I can do that while looking sophisticated and chic, then so much the better.’ Her daily outfits shift between classic neutrals (she’s just bought a beautiful sleeveless wool coat from Country Road that she cannot wait to wear when the temperatures drop), composed prints and zests of vibrant colours, hair simply tucked up or loose on her shoulders, a light touch of make up, nothing in excess.
But excess is not in Oppel’s vocabulary, nor is it in her wardrobe, except when it comes to footwear. A self-confessed shoe-hoarder, she explains that, ‘When it comes to shoes, I struggle with size (I wear a UK 3), so if I see something with either the digits 36 or 3 on it, I buy it because they’re such rare finds.’ With 70 pairs in her wardrobe ranging from high heels (her favourite is a pair of ankle strap heels from Zara) to sneakers – ‘I have a sneaker obsession’ – there is no doubt that she needs space to store them all. ‘I have a separate, easy-access cupboard for my shoes, but they have kind of made their way pretty much everywhere else in my room (it might be time for a closet clean-out).’
Oppel joinedmagazine as a fashion intern working with Chris Viljoen, Sharon Becker and Poppy Evans in November 2009. ‘I loved watching them style and discuss pages of the magazine; I enjoyed sourcing beautiful pieces that suited their shoot concepts. I wanted to be involved in everything!’ she says. Five-anda-half years later, she oversees the magazine’s fashion direction, and month after month inspires readers through her fashion spreads. Yet, she is careful to note, ‘There is no true formula for a successful wardrobe. You have the power over what you wear; find what actually works for you. My way to make it work? I make sure that I have a good balance of classic pieces combined with my love for sneakers and slogan sweaters.’ Sitting in her favourite leather jacket and blue ripped jeans, a soft smile lighting up her face, she remembers a piece of advice she once gave: ‘Fashion is an ever-changing whirlwind of possibility and a playground for personality. Smile. It completes your outfit.’