fashion

Emma Balfour is the most down-to-earth 'supermodel' you'll ever meet.

Emma Balfour is likely the most down-to-earth supermodel you will ever meet.

Making a name for herself in the ’90s during the original era of the supermodel, Balfour was arguably one of Australia’s biggest fashion exports.

Emma Balfour (far right) at Australian Fashion Week. And yes, that's Sarah Murdoch. Image: Getty

Oh, and she hung out with Kate Moss who apparently sometimes called her "Mother" due to Balfour's preference to knit rather than engage in the drug-taking that was prominent in the industry at the time.

Life for the 45 year old has taken a much slower pace. Ms Moss has been swapped for chickens (in the city, no less!) and spending time with her husband and children, Bruno and Elliot. After a significant break from the industry, Balfour has been dipping her toe back in, most recently as one of the faces of Westfield's The Front Line campaign.

We spoke to her about the return of '90s trends, living sustainably and what she really thinks of labelling Kendall Jenner a 'supermodel'.

We're seeing a lot of big '90s trends returning. Are you a fan?

"It's just that weird thing where it feels like it's way too soon to be coming back. I think it's kinda cute, it's quite charming, I like seeing my kids look at stuff that I used to be wearing a lot of and thinking it's not as daggy as my parent's flares were, you know stuff like that. Actually, it's still a little bit cool. I like it."

ADVERTISEMENT

Image: Supplied

What are your style tips?

"I don't really follow trends. I'm an incredibly practical dresser now. I'm always busy, always need to be pretty comfortable. I ride a horse everyday so it needs to be something that's natural so I don't sweat too much. I suppose, I really like natural fibres. I'm really sensitive to things being itchy, so practical, comfortable."

Monday morning... Pretty good!

A photo posted by Emma Balfour (@emmabalfour13) on

ADVERTISEMENT

You made your name in the era of the supermodel in the '90s alongside Kate Moss. How do you look back on that time?

"I think what was interesting about that time was there were really searching for something different. They were embracing people with a bit more personality and that's really what Westfield are doing with their The Front Line campaign, trying to inject a bit of personality back into keeping people interested in fashion, because it does all come around again and again, and you have to find different ways of engaging people."

What do you think of women like Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid being referred to as 'supermodels'?

"I think that's the new generation of 'supermodel' - it was always a weird term even then and I never really understood it - but I think girls now have used it to their advantage and they can completely manipulate their own image through social media. I think it's an empowering and great thing, and why not use it?

"It's different to back in the old days, you can't just make it up by yourselves which it seems like those girls kind of have. And that's cool I reckon. You've got to use what there is."

????

A photo posted by Kendall Jenner (@kendalljenner) on

ADVERTISEMENT

Can you tell us about your beauty regimen?

"I've always had a very simple beauty routine, only because my skin is really reactive and it hates makeup and product, so obviously when I was working all the time I had to keep things incredibly simple and I've stayed with that. I do very little to it and leave it alone as much as I can.

"I have a shower, wash my face with a really light gentle cleanser and put on moisturiser and that's it. I use Cosmedix Benefit Clean Gentle Cleanser, $52.80, which sounds quite medical but it's actually incredibly gentle and I use REN Evercalm Day Cream, $59, which is really nice and settles everything down. And then sunblock if it's really sunny.

"I have an oil I use every night which keeps everything happy which is a Beauty Chef Dream Repair Cellular Serum, $69.95. It's by an old friend of mine who does a good range of products and it's beautiful. You just use a couple of drops, warm them up in your hands and then apply to your face. There's not many things I've used consistently for years and that's one of them."

There's a great variety of talent in this Westfield campaign - do you think we need to see more diversity in fashion?

"Yes definitely. The days we were shooting for Westfield were really fun because there was a big range of people on set and the models were really diverse and interesting... and way cleverer than I ever remember models being before! I was really quite surprised. And funny and nice. For an audience, there's Yaya [Deng] who's crazy beautiful and totally different to anyone I knew when I was growing up and you know, Australia is changing, thank god.

"People need people who look like them to aspire to stay strong and keep going because it can be a horrible place when you feel lonely. So I think it's crucial to have different people. It's nice to have 'old birds' in there too, because they're the ones that have a bit of extra money to spend. There's a massive ageing population, so it doesn't need to be all nana stuff." (Post continues after video.)

How has your attitude to being a model changed over time?

"It's improved! I used to find it very, very difficult because it was all encompassing whereas now I can just do less and I enjoy it so much more because my whole world doesn't have to revolve around it. It's just dipping in and out of the interesting bits, which is really great. I think when you're in something all the time and it becomes so constant you lose sight of what's good and interesting about it. Now dipping in and out, I'm much more confident.

ADVERTISEMENT

Consolidating all the different versions of me... Weird

A photo posted by Emma Balfour (@emmabalfour13) on

What gives you that confidence now?

"Being a grown-up. And not it being my entire world. As you get older, you have a much more developed personality, a much more centred sense of self, all of that stuff which is really lacking when you're young and can be really easily manipulated and pushed about when you're young and in the industry. I think I managed to get through that quite unscathed, but still feel now it's so much easier, being a grown-up."

You're very passionate about the environment, how do you live sustainably?

"It's in everything we do. We barely throw anything away. I think composting is massive - it's amazing how much you reduce your  waste. We've got chickens as well so anything we can't compost will go out to them and they give us eggs which is fantastic.

We would love to get solar panels here but we don't get enough sun, we've got water tanks, we've got a house that's completely off-grid. It's solar and rainwater and a composting toilet, which sounds foul but it's not. Just in everyday life we try not to waste anything and we try not to poison things too hard."

Was it gradual lifestyle change?

"I've always been militant on the recycling and I've just tried to build on that over time. My parents were pretty hippy in the '70s, you know it was obligatory, and it did stick with me. It makes me sad to see things wasted and ruined.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I think the composting toilet gets people freaked out but it's really no big deal. And I think people find having chickens in the city kind of weird too."

On the way to Port Eliot. Beautiful and a bit bleak.

A photo posted by Emma Balfour (@emmabalfour13) on

When you say 'off-the-grid', how does that tie into social media?

I am a very limited Instagram user and I don't have Facebook. I just have this real thing about, I'm quite private, and I have the friends that I have and I stay in touch with them in other ways. Facebook is really not my thing.

We all when we go on holidays, it's out in the bush and it doesn't get good reception, and we could have gotten wifi put in but we didn't and it's just fantastic to not have any connection with anything. Everyone kind of circles around for a day or two not knowing what to do, then within a couple of days you really move with the sun and the rhythm. You become like a human again and that's something that's really difficult to find with the way that we live now."

Image: Supplied.