Author Sunni Overend doesn’t leave her house much. Bar an afternoon coffee, face-to-face human interaction during her workday is skint. But while writing at home allows her to indulge in being a bit of a slob, she doesn’t, Overend’s style is all about feeling elegant and put-together – it’s crucial to ensuring she’s productive and inspired throughout the workday.
Overend – who’s the daughter of the late, award-winning children's author Jenni Overend (Hello, Baby) – published her second novel, The Dangers of Truffle Hunting, last year. Before she moved into writing full-time, she worked in art direction at advertising giant Clemenger BBDO, and owned and ran an online fashion store that sold a combination of vintage and pre-loved designer clothing.
The Dangers of Truffle Hunting, set in Melbourne and the Yarra Valley, follows the story of a food stylist and photographer. It’s packed with immaculately dressed characters, grand houses in Australian wine country and French cooking classes described in sensual detail.
We visited Overend at her South Melbourne apartment to talk about work style when you work at home, and what she wears to “feel like a real person”.
Broadsheet: What do you usually wear each day?
Sunni Overend: Comfy clothes that are easy to sit in all day, but that are also inspiring. I like to have a loose pant, so I don’t feel restricted. I have these silk Scanlan Theodore pants that are nice to wear, and Seed do really good loose sort-of track pants. But then I also have some really nice stretch, skinny jeans. A nice cashmere is my ultimate home piece, or linen tee from Jac+ Jack.
BS: Does the way you dress change if you have an appointment with your publisher, or another meeting outside of the apartment?
SO: I’m a bit of a minimalist and don’t like owning too much “stuff” so in my robe I have a select number of neutral pieces that are versatile … I find adding a watch and/or tailored jacket to jeans and tee can turn a home outfit into a going out outfit pretty quick.
BS: You also ran your own fashion store at one point. Where did your love of fashion begin?
SO: I trained as a graphic designer, so I’ve always loved visuals, whatever medium that is. Clothing is the extension of that design expression. I think clothing also influences my mood day-to-day.
BS: How important is what you wear then, to being productive?
SO: When writing, I think it's important to feel inspired but not distracted … I hate being bothered by an uncomfortable seam, cut or line of a garment. Pyjamas are tempting but they don't make you feel like much of a winner. Thank goodness for the rise of normcore, which has heralded the rise of some excellent loungewear – silk lounge pants and a bomber, or boyfriend jeans and a bodysuit.
BS: How do you want your clothing to make you feel?
SO: I don’t like to be distracted by what I wear … not a lot of bright colours or dangly bits. I find I wear more and more neutrals now. As I’ve gotten older my taste has refined and become simpler.
BS: Considering you have a graphic design background, did you get to design your own book cover?
SO: I don’t think publishers like authors designing their own cover. I did have a huge amount of influence on the cover, which was a complex process in trying to decide what style suited the book. There was just a lot of questions about the direction, as to how feminine to make it, and whether there was going to be a woman on the front. The designer at HarperCollins was great. It was a collaborative process. They respected my thoughts even when I think I really put them through hell.
BS: What are some of your favourite places to shop?
SO: I like the understated, minimal Parisian selection at La Garconne. My Theresa has one of the best collections of luxury pieces when I need something flashy. Jac+ Jack are Australian with ethical roots and know how to nail opulent loungewear. Their relaxed cuts and luxury fabrics… are great for wearing all day at the desk. I like Bassike for the same reasons. My favourite item of clothing for a day of writing is a floor-length cashmere cardigan from Scanlan Theodore – it’s a delicious wearable blanket.
BS: What can’t you leave home without?
SO: Noise-cancelling headphones. I love being able to drown out the world.
BS: Favourite piece you bought recently?
SO: A Sandro tan, wool coat that I bought in the States that I’m yet to wear here.
BS: Does South Melbourne have a distinctive style?
SO: I think we’re a cross between the north and South Yarra. So it’s not completely clogs and grungy, but not as conservative as South Yarra – it’s bit of a blend. Melbourne is quite casual in our style and it suits me, but I do love when I go to New York where I have a lot more freedom. In Melbourne, if you’re really dressed up, people think you’re trying too hard. We’re a bit snobby. [Laughs]
BS: What are you working on right now?
SO: My next book, out in June 2018.
BS: Any spoilers?
SO: This one is going to be quite fashion-centric. I have been thinking about sartorial style for a change, rather than food. There’s a bit of Melbourne fashion in there.