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.
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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.