IN CONVERSATION WITH JAMIE-MAREE SHIPTON
Interview by Asia Lanzi
If you think you might be unfamiliar with the name but pride yourself on a passion for forward-thinking maximalist fashion, chances are you've already encountered Jamie-Maree Shipton’s work. Also known by her Instagram alias AirToMyEarth, she is a creative director, stylist, photographer, and creative consultant with an unmistakable visual language. From running her own fashion magazine, to curating a solo exhibition and styling runway shows for brands like Marrknull, featured prominently in acclaimed publications, and designing an exclusive clothing collection, Shipton’s career remains nothing short of intriguing. Numéro Netherlands had the opportunity to virtually chat with the multifaceted creative talent. Unveiling her journey from a young dreamer in Australia to an influential figure in the global fashion scene, Jamie-Maree opens up about her struggles, successes, and the lessons learned along the way. As she reflects on the essence of her creative process and the delicate balance between trends and authenticity, this interview gives a glimpse into the heart and mind of a seasoned fashion creative.
I initiate our Zoom call with genuine excitement, sharing my eagerness to explore the industry’s ins and outs from someone who’s not just been a part of it for a decade but has also flourished. Jamie-Maree has achieved what many can only dream of – turning dreams into reality. She, in turn, expresses candid curiosity about the questions I have for her, and so what was meant to be a 30-minute industry-typical chatter turned into an unexpectedly heartfelt conversation that went well beyond an hour.
Diving into the beginnings of her creative journey, I want to know how it all began. Jamie-Maree has always seen herself as a creative soul, nurtured by her mom’s artistic pursuits. From painting to mosaics or ceramics, her early artistic explorations in their home studio paved the way for a growing interest in personal style and garment design. “I thought I wanted to pursue a career in design. I studied textiles and design in high school, creating garments and hand-dyeing silks.” Yet, a nudge from her mom guided her towards a journalism degree at Melbourne University, specializing in fashion writing.
Recalling her early career, Shipton remembers, “I started writing for publications like ID magazine and The Australian, focusing on new graduate students, emerging designers and niche trends in the Australasian region.” Intrigued by European designers like Faustine Steinmetz and Alex Mullins, she transitioned into styling, receiving commissions from brands and European magazines. These experiences laid the foundation for her distinctive aesthetic.
Reflecting on Australia’s creative landscape, JM mentions how “Talent wasn’t nurtured, and those with unique perspectives, like myself, were leaving for better opportunities abroad.” Undeterred, her commitment to authenticity led her to where she is today – expanding into new directions like photography and creative consulting, a testament to her brand reflecting her multifaceted capabilities. In her words, “Why limit myself when I can do them all?” This philosophy, rooted in anticipation rather than conformity, defines Shipton’s brand, free from the constraints of trends or popular opinions.
A: Your sense of style is vibrant, distinctive, maximalist, and forward-thinking. How did you discover your unique style, and how has it evolved over the years?
JM: Fashion has always been connected to my emotions. From a young age, I was diagnosed with OCD, anxiety, and later, depression, which influenced how I perceived my appearance, especially in terms of dressing. I was extremely particular about my clothing choices, I remember I had sneakers that lit up and sequin tops. As puberty hit and I became more aware of my body, I leaned towards black, oversized, baggy clothing, influenced by the idolizing trends of dangerously skinny figures during the double-zero era.
While navigating my personal style, I discovered the joy of expressing myself through fashion, realizing that it doesn’t always have to be serious. As I got into styling, my clothing preferences evolved, and now, I’m unapologetically fearless to wear whatever the hell I want. Given my frequent travels, my style has become less maximalist because I have to get everything into my suitcase, which is always a struggle. I’ve shifted towards maximalist shoes, accessories, and jewelry, with a more restrained approach to clothing. Also layering clothes has always been my thing, both in my creative work and in my style. I love experimenting with combinations like jeans over shorts, dresses over trousers, or mixing and matching skirts.
My confidence grew once I realized that clothing doesn’t hinder my capabilities or professional performance; it’s just fun. My style now focuses on what makes me comfortable and confident.
A: In the fashion industry, where trends and hype often prevail, how do you maintain authenticity and confidence in your individuality? How do you balance incorporating trends with staying true to your own creative vision?
JM: I think trends don’t significantly influence individuals like me. They can be a guide for those who may not feel as confident in their fashion choices, giving a digestible overview of what’s in style for a specific season or period. Silhouettes, minimalism, and maximalism all come and go. But for me, following a trend is pointless if it doesn’t genuinely align with my style. So I don’t really care about them.
In fashion, there’s always something you can find that resonates.
For example, I might not be into the overall aesthetic of the current Loewe collection, but specific elements like the shoes are so me. Or during Phoebe Philo’s time at Celine, while the chic minimalistic ready-to-wear didn’t align with my style, I admired the accessories and incorporated some of those jewelry pieces and shoes into my collection. You discover ways to find yourself in trends or collections while staying true to yourself.
When I bring up her Instagram handle “Airtomyearth” and ask about its inspiration, Jamie-Maree explains how the name was influenced by a love metaphor that resonated with her somewhere in her readings. As she reminisces, a man expressed his deep love for a woman, likening her to the air he breathes and the sun to his moon. This passage became a symbolic representation of her profound connection to creativity.
If I didn’t have access to that part of me, I wouldn’t survive. Considering all the challenges I’ve dealt with in my life, being creative is a cathartic experience for me. I truly feel that it’s like the air I’m breathing, the essence of my world. So, that’s how it all began.
Shipton’s Instagram journey began as a visual mood board during the rise of blogging, a creative haven where she refrained from posting personal images, letting her work speak for itself. Over time, it evolved alongside her styling career, capturing the essence of her transition from anonymity to the acknowledgment of her presence within the creative realm. As she puts it, “I gradually integrated my identity into my brand, understanding the impact of personal connections within the industry.” Today, JM’s platform stands not just as a showcase of her work but as a visual diary of her daily experiences, the creative process and the threads connecting one unconventional inspiration to the next:
Thousands of photos on my phone constantly capture my surroundings, textures, colors, and the elements that spark inspiration – often to the amusement of those around me. Whether it’s through the car window or while riding on the back of my partner’s scooter, these are truly the things that inspire me; it’s all about where I am, what I’m doing, and what I’m seeing.
A: What’s the creative process like when approaching a styling project? How do you conceptualize a project, considering elements like colors, layers, and textures when app? What role do intuition and playfulness take in your work?
There’s an innate sense, a form of intuition that often defines whether I connect with a piece or not. This connection is important as clothing is my tool, and without that attachment, I find it challenging to work with them. My process is deeply personal, tactile, and rooted in the ability to touch and visually experience the clothes.
JM: When laying everything out in front of me, I begin to pick and arrange items, leading to color pairings, layering, or intentional clashes, forming the foundation of the project. When it comes to selecting loan pieces, attending fashion shows remains invaluable. There’s this visceral feeling and immediate desire to use certain elements from the runway in my work. Even though platforms like Vogue Runway are convenient, the impersonal feel sometimes lacks the personal touch I value as a stylist.
Every project varies depending on whether I’m responsible for creative direction or if there’s an existing concept. I always like to explore color references, textures, and other elements to understand the overall vision. Whether the shoot takes place in a studio or on location, these aspects help build a narrative. Considering the model’s identity and the details of her hair, makeup, and nails are particularly important to me. From there, I build the persona for each shoot, where the model becomes a distinct character in the visual narrative.
A: What is your perspective on self-promotion on social media as a creative and its role as a digital portfolio? How do you think social media has changed the landscape of the fashion industry, particularly in terms of influencers’ impact on trends and consumer culture?
JM: I find the influencer culture lacking authenticity, contributing primarily to monetary gains for individuals who are already financially stable within the industry. It essentially becomes another way to commodify and visualize products, where the influencer becomes a mere product themselves. I value self-promotion only when accompanied by a profound standpoint.
For example, Susie Lau, also known as Susie Bubble, stands out as an amazing influencer who successfully integrates self-promotion with meaningful content creation. She has such a unique point of view on what she sees, how she digests it, and then how she disseminates it to her audience, showing how influential self-promotion can be when backed by genuine creativity. However, the current trend seems to lean towards content for the sake of (paid) content. This approach can be uninspiring and, to some extent, negatively affected by algorithms.
For independent creatives like me or students showcasing work on social media is crucial though. It’s a platform for potential clients to connect with your work, creating opportunities for collaboration or employment. Growing up during the initial wave of Instagram’s introduction, I see the significance of building a career around social media. So I think, like anything, self-promotion on social media can be both good and bad.
A: The fashion world is often associated with ego, status, and transactional connections. How do you navigate this competitive environment and build genuine relationships in the industry?
JM: I firmly believe in reciprocal relationship dynamics. If someone collaborates with me on a personal project, I am committed to putting them on paid projects. This trust and shared belief in a project, even if it’s unpaid like a beauty shoot born out of a shared idea with another creative, form the foundation for future collaborations.
It’s not about the prominence of someone’s name or their standing in the industry; for me, it’s about finding individuals who embody a “ride or die” mentality. Call it old school, but I value the authenticity and loyalty that comes from these relationships.
This approach doesn’t always get the same reciprocity from others, but I believe it’s the most genuine way to cultivate meaningful connections. It’s not about relying on status or the commission of a prestigious magazine; it’s about appreciating each other’s work, a desire to collaborate, and mutual respect. In these collaborations, we find ourselves on the same wavelength, and when it comes to paid work, these are the people I prioritize. From those types of relationships, I’ve made great friendships and also cultivated clients. When collaboration aligns well with clients, the working relationship continues, evolving to a point where you are friends who happen to be working together. It truly forms the core of our work.
A: Imposter syndrome, perfectionism, self-doubt, and taking criticism personally are common experiences among creatives. How do you navigate these feelings and maintain belief in your abilities, especially as a woman in a male-dominated industry?
JM: I had this exact conversation this morning, and if I allowed those thoughts to invade all the time, I’d never have reached where I am now. You have to build a mental wall and acknowledge that comparing yourself to others or questioning why someone else got a particular commission doesn’t serve any purpose. Ultimately, I can only do things in my own way. Fashion is cyclic and throughout my journey, my work and aesthetic have cycled through countless phases, but staying authentic has been constant. I never gave in to chasing trends; I stuck to what felt true to me and my way of creating.
Rather than dwelling on uncertainties or contemplating a change to fit external expectations, I channel that energy into reinforcing my commitment to my vision. It’s about finding confidence and focus in staying true to my approach.
Feeling good about what I do is the only thing that matters. If I enjoy the process and love the outcome, that should be the only validation I seek. I’m not going to let anyone else f*ck with it. I’ve learned to prioritize my passion over external opinions. It’s always going to be difficult, but it’s about knowing, “This is who I am, this is what I do, and this is how I do it.” That’s the only way forward for me.
A: You also recently had your first exhibition in Paris, where you showcased your unique clothing and accessory vignettes, including your signature fashion suitcases. How did this experience feel and what did it mean to you?
JM: For me, it was a big career moment. I had always aspired to have an exhibition because the way I work naturally aligns with installations, shaping the look of my exhibition. This aesthetic wasn’t just about generating Instagram content; it was an integral part of my creative process. For example, during COVID, when I was bored and didn’t have any models, I started a “house guest series” styling chairs in my home. This came from my early career practices of laying out looks for editorials, because we don’t always have access to fitting models. So I experimented with flat lays and capturing photos to visualize how the looks would appear. The same applies to my luggage series. When packing for shoots or fashion month, I can’t help aestheticizing my packing process. I started documenting these moments, and soon others began sending me their interpretations.
This exhibition allowed me to bridge the gap between real-life experiences and digital content, creating a loop of inspiration.
Opening it to the general public further enriched the experience, because people of all ages engaged with the exhibit, asking questions and finding joy in the creative exploration. This is literally why I love fashion. Sometimes, we need a reminder that we’re not saving the world. Fashion is contributing to some negative factors, but at least it should be fun and make us feel good.
The exhibit also gave new life and purpose to the items in my archive. Collaborating with a talented nail artist, we recreated a Balenciaga archive piece into a stunning top made entirely of nails. I wanted to shift the perception of fashion, recognizing that there’s no definitive right or wrong way to do it. Of course, imposter syndrome occasionally crept in, especially because it was during the business of fashion week. But it was a reminder to have some fun amongst the demanding hustle of working in this industry. The support from industry peers, the press, and the public made it a truly special moment for me.
A: For the fashion-obsessed, working as an established creative appears to be the dream life. However, from an outsider’s perspective, everything might seem better than it actually is. Could you share the most difficult challenges you’ve encountered throughout your journey?
JM: It has always been very difficult for me because I’m so far from my family in Australia. During Covid, I got stuck in Europe, and I lost my dad. But I have to remind myself that doing what I love is a big consolation for the things we miss out on or that the industry might require of us. Without passion or love for what you do, these challenges can hit you much harder. People experience various small cuts working in this industry, from not being paid or paid on time, dealing with mistreatment on set, lack of validation or appreciation, to facing inappropriate racial and size-related comments.
Because of the tough price I pay, I’m very aware of how I treat the people around me. In this industry, where expectations run high, we often forget to be nice human beings. I’ve encountered instances where people treated me poorly, like an editor of a big magazine insulting me for just doing my job, which was really a lack of professionalism on her team’s part. It’s so crucial to navigate between personal sacrifices for the job and not taking things personally.
There’s a constant line between personal sacrifices and personal insults, but you have to remind yourself it’s not personal. Everyone in this industry is dealing with something, and so I had to develop a thick skin. I’ve already experienced losses in the real world, so whether you insult me or criticize my work, it’s just whatever.
It’s not easy; I was once 15K in debt, and it’s a constant struggle. But somehow, you find it in yourself to persevere if this is genuinely what you want to do, and let that passion carry you through.
A: What do you find most rewarding about working in fashion? Can you share some of the aspects or moments that you love and cherish the most?
JM: I find runway shows to be consistently amazing; it’s just such a vibe. When I began my career in this industry, styling runway shows wasn’t something I had envisioned, especially since not all editorial stylists get the chance to style shows frequently. It became a big moment for me to take that step and have a reminder that I’m here, and this is what my life allows me. Another moment was having my own magazine Pull Letter. I remember being inspired by movies like “13 Going on 30” and “Sex and the City,” where characters pursued careers in magazines, and I aspired to be a writer with my own magazine, not being limited by others. My magazine’s first issue was another substantial achievement, because I worked so hard to provide a platform for people I care about and those who often don’t get space in mainstream media. I see it as a way of turning the challenges and perhaps the times I had to endure boring commercial jobs into something positive. Whether it’s using the money for personal projects or the magazine, it brings a sense of accomplishment.
I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to travel, explore different places, meet people, and have unique experiences. I would never complain about what I’m doing.
A: There’s a saying that ‘it’s always fashion week somewhere’. With a busy schedule, how do you prioritize your well-being, both mentally and physically? How do you maintain a balance between work and personal life?
JM: It’s quite challenging because fashion week exists in this bubble where you’re aware that, for the next month, you’ll have little control over your schedule. You end up dealing with irregular eating times, grabbing whatever food is accessible, often from random catering. I won’t be able to go to the gym or walk my dog every morning.
Fashion week is like entering a state of limbo, existing in this bubble where your body adapts to no sleep, excessive socializing, attending shows, running around from one event to another, dinners and parties.
I’ve trained my body to cope, understanding that once fashion week or fashion month ends, I return to my normal routine. It’s challenging when I’m traveling so much, but I focus on small things. I always unpack my suitcase, as it helps me feel grounded. Also, traveling with my dog is such a comfort, reminding me to take walks and create a routine. Sometimes, I make phone calls to friends or my mom to reset my thoughts and feelings. It’s different for everyone. Sometimes it’s playing video games or watching a movie at the end of the day.
With years of experience, I’ve learned which parties are important and which I can skip. My priorities have shifted, caring less about being seen during fashion week and more about just completing my job. I want to enjoy my work, whether attending shows, shooting backstage, or styling shows. I need to be in the right mindset, trying to find a sense of routine or normalcy in any possible way during these periods.
A: How long have you been in the fashion industry?
JM: It’s been around 10 years now. It’s funny, I’ve had conversations with a few of the biggest stylists and it’s around 27 that you start to establish the foundation of your career. The income becomes more stable, and you begin to build your reputation. But it’s not until after 30, I’m turning 32 this year, that you often achieve something massive or gain widespread recognition.
Age doesn’t matter much now, but it does take long to get to where you want to be. For some, it’s easier; they become the new hot thing quickly. But for longevity, it took me quite a while.
I don’t just do styling; I also consult for brands, work on runways, contribute to magazines, have my own magazine and now I also do photography. Cultivating where I am now took a long time, but in a way, it also happened quite quickly.
A: I’m just looking forward to being older and more experienced. I’m so impatient.
JM: I think you should enjoy it now. When I started my career, half of that rush of doing the work came from not knowing who I was creating for or where it was going. I was just creating because I wanted to. There’s this energy, and now it’s the same but in a more mature way. I really want to create, but I need to create with purpose, not just for the sake of it or for everyone. It needs to be for the right projects, for the right reasons. You get to that point, but it’s so fun in the beginning to go everywhere and do everything, all the parties. You have to make the most of it. When you’re 10 years in you look back and think, “Yeah, I did that party already for the last five years. I know exactly what it’s going to be like. I don’t need to be there anymore.” But if you didn’t have those experiences early on, you’d be having FOMO all the time now.
A: How do you envision your creative path evolving in the future? Are there new creative endeavors you’d like to explore in the coming years?
JM: Obviously, I have my magazine Pull Letter. We’re about to wrap up the second issue, laying it out, and it will be published in November 2023. It’s my second issue since taking over as the editor and owner. Magazines are difficult, they take so much money, especially because I’m covering everyone’s expenses. I didn’t want to be one of those magazines with no budget. Being ethical is hard, but it taught me when I’ve had conversations with photographers, I’ve had to say, “Keep the same energy when you’re dealing with Vogue”. I don’t have advertisers at this point; I’m keeping the integrity of what I want to create. So, when you expect a $5,000 budget, keep the same energy when you go to Vogue and they say they have no money. Investing in someone like me or a project like this, that’s trying to give space not dictated by advertisers, money, or access, is really about uplifting new creatives and ideas. You’re either into it or you’re not. When you’re into it, it means sometimes bringing your own money. That’s what it is when you believe in the idea and a project, but core expenses like the studio or catering, that’s my job as the magazine owner. I credit everyone; the credits show every person involved in a shoot because they all make it happen. Seeing where that goes will be interesting. Working in-house at a magazine as a fashion director or editor would be nice. Then there’s a part of me that would love to open a tapas bar, literally call it Cute. It could be a safe place where people in or out of fashion can come and go as they please. That’s something I’ve been thinking about, but I often don’t think too far in advance because I didn’t think I was going to do photography, and now I am.
I don’t limit myself; I’m capable of whatever I choose to do, and what I choose to do can change, and that’s okay. Not everything is linear; my path is not linear, so I don’t think it’s going to be linear in the future.
A: Okay let’s finish with some quick-fire questions!
Describe your style in three words. Moody & occasionally chaotic. Favorite fashion decade? 2008 to 2018 was the vibe. I don't lean toward the 2000s or the 90s because more change happens when you transition from the end of one decade to the start of another. Favourite print pattern? Anything that's like trompe l'oeil, which is the French term for a visual illusion. So, Loewe, Jean Paul Gaultier, or anything that creates that trompe l'oeil effect – I'm all for it. F*ck, yes. If you could only wear one brand for the rest of your life, which brand would it be? Balenciaga. One fashion trend you first hated, then loved? I feel like ballet flats were a crime, and now I can't live without them. I don't know what happened to me. I think because when I was young, my mum really wanted to put me in little dance shoes, and I used to do ballet, and I hated it. And now I'm all about it. Fashion week survival essentials? Air tags for your luggage, a good group of friends, comfortable shoes, and a Lime Bike membership. One fashion rule you love to break? There are no rules. Who decides what the rules are? There are really no rules in the creative world. Your absolute fashion icon, living or deceased? Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are just icons. Honestly, the way they made their brand is insane. They just don't even exist anymore, like we never see them. But as icons in terms of how they exist in the industry, what they do, and their personal style, I think they're just really cool. Best piece of advice you've ever received? To be honest, I think it's my own: I'm forever reminding myself that I'm not trying to save the world. I think we're so harsh on ourselves, but I can't save the world. I just need to enjoy what I'm doing. One thing you wish you knew when you started in the industry? It doesn't matter how talented you are unless someone else believes it. I could believe it all I wanted, but until someone else gives you the recognition, you don't exist. For a long time, I didn't want to believe that because I was really ride or die for myself. I thought I don't need anyone's recognition. But I had to accept that, in the end, I still have to exist with people's acceptance. That was a hard lesson to learn.
writer ASIA LANZI