Christine Centenera: ‘Fashion is all subjective: nothing is right or wrong’
Get a shot of inspiration with the FT Weekend bulletin - the best in life, arts and culture. Delivered every Saturday morning.
My personal style signifier is a well-cut blazer and leggings, which is what I’ve worn in my professional life for as long as I can remember. It frames my shape, which I like, and makes me feel confident no matter what situation I’m in.
I used to wear black all the time. Travelling a lot, I found it was the best way to pack, because it would always look good and working with one tone meant endless outfit options. But in the past 12 months I’ve been actively buying more colour – mainly different shades of blue, from cornflower to sky. I think these days I need a bit of optimism in what I put on my body.
The last thing I bought and loved was a kiln for the house I share with my partner, the actor and filmmaker Joel Edgerton, in Sydney. I’d done classes here and there in LA and Venice, but I found the whole scene around ceramics and pottery a bit much. It can be quite elitist. So this year we got our own kiln – it’s manual and you can’t leave it unattended, so when you fire it you have to commit to being home day and night. It can be on for between 10 and 14 hours. I just do hand-building rather than using a wheel – I like the thumbprints and the slow pace. I often make large-scale pieces, which take a bit of time. I give a lot of the finished pieces away – I gave one to Virgil [Abloh] for his 40th. I’m also not very good – it sounds like I’m some expert, but I’m really not.
And on my wishlist is a thriving Freedom Garden – I know the project’s founder Lily Kwong, who is a landscape designer, and have been following her mission to encourage people to grow their own edible gardens. I don’t have an outdoor space in New York, so it’s a novelty to have soil and grass while I’ve been in Sydney. I went down this rabbit hole of looking at regenerating soil and planting things that were in season, and we’ve changed our whole garden to include more native plants. It’s starting to grow and now we’re able to eat the produce. freedom-gardens.com
My earliest fashion memory is dressing up with my four sisters. We were born within eight years of each other, so we’re close. Even though we had the same upbringing, we were all completely different, and that was reflected in what we chose to wear. I learned from a young age that you could express yourself through clothes. One thing that I love about fashion is that it is all subjective, and nothing is right or wrong.
A recent “find” is a store called Yaoya in Guéthary. I discovered it when I was staying in the south of France with some friends in August. It’s owned by a Japanese woman called Aï Bihr, who is a designer at Paco Rabanne, and her husband Cédric. It’s a sweet little fruit store with homeware, and I went every day when I was there. @yaoya_guethary
The beauty staple I’m never without is The Cream by Augustinus Bader. I have friends who only use organic, chemical-free products, and I used to think they didn’t work. But I really got into understanding how chemicals can negatively affect the way we function and I made the switch. I often travel only with carry-on and this cream is the one I will take – I swear by it. Make-up-wise, I’ve been wearing Isamaya Ffrench’s clean-beauty line with Byredo – the mascara and eyeliner are amazing.
The last music I downloaded was a playlist by Benji B, who has a show on BBC Radio 1. I met him through Virgil. Benji is the musical director for Louis Vuitton [with which Centenera consults and whose menswear shows she styles alongside Abloh], so his tracklists are always on in the background while we’re working. Discovering new music is something I don’t spend a lot of time doing, so I rely on the experts. I will basically follow, download or buy anything he recommends.
The last meal that truly impressed me was at Sean’s Panorama, which is around the corner from our house in Sydney. It’s a farm-to-table restaurant – the owner has a farm 90 minutes out of the city and everything is grown there. seansbondi.com
An item of clothing I added to my wardrobe recently is a vintage boy’s karate robe, from a store in Tokyo called J’Antiques. I have been living in it. It’s short, with a belt attached, and I either wear it as a little dress or over pants. It’s printed with red and white stripes, and has Japanese writing on it. We’re using the style as a reference for an upcoming Wardrobe NYC release. jantiques05.buyshop.jp
In my fridge you’ll always find lots of pickled things – anything vinegary, salty and tart – as well as avocado, lemons, parmesan and chilli oil. If you have all of these things, you can make any bland food taste amazing. I’m also obsessed with kombucha – I usually drink a brand called Remedy, which is from Australia. They make a ginger and lemon one, and when I’m in New York I buy it by the case. Remedy Ginger Lemon Kombucha, £25 for 12 bottles, remedydrinks.com
An object I would never part with is a box of handwritten notes and cards. Whenever anyone asks what I want for a gift, I just say, “Write me a card”. I would prefer that than a present, though people never listen, of course.
The best style advice I’ve ever been given is that it’s all about proportion. No matter what you’re putting together, for any shape or size, it’s about what proportion looks best for that person. I also think people should just wear what makes them feel good and powerful and strong; don’t look to other people or trends if it doesn’t feel authentic.
My favourite room in my house in Sydney is my office, which gets beautiful morning sun. It’s where I take all my calls, often super-early to catch New York and super-late to speak to Europe. It has a sofa where I read and also doubles as my ceramics studio. It’s the perfect clash. In my New York apartment, though, it’s the kitchen. We have a loft in NoHo, and the kitchen spills out onto the dining and living area. It’s the heart of the home.
I have a collection of Prada. I wouldn’t really call it an archive, but I have a lot of it. I treasure the pieces because they’re like artworks, especially those with heavy embroidery and beading. I really loved the super-short shorts and turbans from spring 2007, and the embellishments from the spring 2011 collection featuring monkeys and bananas. I also have a fair bit of Phoebe Philo-era Céline – it’s practical and relevant, and I still wear a lot of it daily.
The best gift I’ve given recently is my time to a charity called Girls For A Change. I’ve been friends with the founder, Angela Patton, for many years. It’s a non-profit organisation that helps girls of colour prepare for their passage into womanhood. She starts working with them quite young and they grow up with the programme; Angela is just a solid figure in their life. girlsforachange.org
And the best gift I’ve received recently is a trip to the Amanyara hotel in Turks and Caicos. I turned 40 in March, and this was my present from Joel. He had just come off a 10-month shoot for a television series called The Underground Railroad, and I was coming off a crazy shoot schedule where I hadn’t had a day off since early January – I’d done the Louis Vuitton show and the Yeezy show before that. So we both needed a break. It was heaven – a really exceptional spot. aman.com
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Bill Henson, the Australian photographer. Last year we bought a picture of his, which is also on the cover of his book Lux et Nox, for our New York apartment. He did a whole series, which is actually a bit controversial, of levitating kids above a city. I love his work – there’s a beautiful darkness to it, and to have the opportunity to buy one was really special.
My beauty gurus are Sophie Roberts, who has always cut my hair, and facialist Melanie Grant, who has changed my skin by putting me onto different regimes. And for wellbeing, I go to Kirsty Godso, who is a New York-based Nike master trainer. I just love spending an hour with someone who is nice – you really feel like you get something out of it that’s more than just a physical thing. @sophieroberts_hair. melaniegrant.com. @kirstygodso
My favourite app is Synchronize, which is a time-shifting app. I have to schedule calls with people in different cities, and it means you just put in your local time, select the cities you want and you don’t have to work out the different time zones.
When I need to feel inspired, I go ocean swimming. I started in Scopello in Sicily in July and could barely swim 50m without stopping. But every day I would go that little bit further and now I can swim non-stop. I find it meditative to be under water with no noise but your breath and the water. It’s a whole other world under there – just magical.
The best souvenirs I’ve brought home are ceramics from Puglia. There’s a whole little ceramics town there called Grottaglie, so I have a few small things from there, including a deep-green glazed pitcher and spoon rest.
The place I can’t wait to return to is Morocco. I travelled to Tangier to shoot the men’s Louis Vuitton spring 2020 campaign at the end of last year, and I’ve been to Marrakech before. But I would like to go back and explore beyond these two cities – maybe Casablanca next. I love the culture there, the markets, people, food and architecture.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. It’s about a young couple who are forced to leave their families while escaping a war torn country. There’s an element of magic realism that makes it a special story about love, commitment, imagination and courage. It’s one of those books that I didn’t want to end.
My style icon is Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. She seemed so effortless, and I like that there was a practicality to her style – she lived in New York, so she walked a lot. There was always this minimalism that felt authentic and true to her.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be either a ceramicist or a nutritionist. That’s something that has always been an interest of mine, how you fuel your body and how what you put inside it affects you. When I was choosing what to study at university, it was either the arts or nutrition. It’s funny thinking about how different things would be if I had gone down that path instead.
Get alerts on Style when a new story is published