Vogue Australia’s Digital Director is now calling Canberra home – are we cool enough?!

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She has interviewed Kendall Jenner, attended numerous Fashion Week events and is director of digital strategy and e-commerce at Vogue Australia, Vogue Living and GQ Australia.

But recently Francesca Wallace moved from the bright lights of Sydney to our big country city, finally proving something we’ve always known: Canberra is actually extremely cool (and we’re not just talking about the weather).

Erin Cross sat down with Francesca to talk about all things Vogue, including her chance career-igniting meeting with Edwina McCannthe Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Australia– here in Canberra, how she came to call the capital her home, and (of course) the best places to eat.

Tell me about your career path – how did you end up at Vogue Australia?

I studied journalism at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst which was a lot of funI actually had a minor in politics, but I didn’t think I wanted to be a political reporter. I was always told that magazines were too hard… It was something I always wanted to do as a kid and as a teenager, but was told ‘you don’t know anyone in the industry, so it’s not going to happen’, so in college I decided ‘if I can’t do lifestyle and fashion, I’ll do politics’. Personally I enjoyed it very much and to this day I am very interested in it.

After college, I got a winter cadetship at the Sydney Morning Herald with Fairfax papers, which was sort of a print and digital focus, and from there I was offered the role of an informal reporter. I worked a few days a week, mostly night shifts for the Herald, where I got my base because I was a good reporter and writer. They taught me a lot about fact checking and resources, how to interview someone and how to write a concise newspaper article, skills that I still use today. I had great teachers there and I owe them a lot; but while I was working there I also did an internship at Vogue Australia one or two days a week. That’s how I got my first job at Vogue.

I really met Edwina [the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Australia] totally by chance in Canberra. My grandfather was here as a war veteran at an event and I was his companion. I was sitting next to Edwina and it was a completely random coincidence – I’d say it was a sliding door moment because I wouldn’t have gotten that internship if I hadn’t been sitting next to her at that event.

What do you do as Digital Director of Vogue Australia?

My job is to centrally manage our team of writers, manage the growth of our audience and work with our commercial clients to produce the best content and optimize everything in the best possible way.

I also work with GQ and Vogue Living [the Conde Nast brands in Australia] and essentially its role is to make sure everything gets done, shape the direction of the content, make sure we increase our audience and also best serve the people who read us like, how can we give them more of what they want while informing, inspiring and educating them about what is happening in the world?

Now for the ultimate questionwhy did you move to canberra?

My partner got a job in Canberra, and he’s a political academic, so it was basically the dream location for him! We have stayed in Sydney for a long time because of my job and I think because of COVID and the way things have changed so much with the way we work it was an easy transition.

I was fortunate to have Edwina very supportive of the move and to be able to be supported by the company to work outside of Sydney. It’s actually been pretty seamless thanks to my great team and my partner loves his job so we really enjoy our lives. I’m all over it!

What was it like going from high fashion shows to a big country city?

I love it, personally. I think COVID has done that, it’s given us the opportunity to have both of those things. I lived in New York for two years; I like being in big cities, I like the energy they bring. Cities are hubs of creativity on a large scale. It’s nice to be physically around there as it’s really inspiring but then again Canberra just feels like a big country town – which is exactly how I described it to people – but with all the things you want of a city.

The older I get, I don’t go out every weekend or do things you can only do in Sydney; realistically I’m pretty boring and just want to have a nice meal and then maybe just go home! That said, I’ve been to some nice clubs in Canberra, but there’s something really nice about a slower pace of life.

You’ve been here for a few months now, what surprises you about life in Canberra?

I actually knew this already, but I think other people are always amazed at how much is going on in Canberra. It was a pleasure to explore the city. I’ve lived in another city before, namely New York, and I’ve also done a few months in Berlin, so I’ve had the experience of exploring a new city abroad, but finding a place in Australia to explore where you are going to settle, that was really worth it.

In particular, I think discovering the hospitality scene has been a lot of fun for me, as I spent two years at Vogue Living and I have a pretty good connection to the Sydney restaurant scene. I think it’s been a lot of fun coming to Canberra, to see how much is going on, all the great new things opening, but also the established people in that area and what they’re doing. It’s a lot of fun just going to restaurants just because you want to try something, that’s a real privilege. That was probably the most surprising – how good and how great the food and cultural scene is.

What are your top three experiences in Canberra and why?

I would say eat at bar rochford, it was a joy! That’s the perfect combination for me, especially if you want to go somewhere that feels casual, is really tasty, but you can also just go there for a drink. I love that. We had the tasting menu Bar Rocheford and it was filling?, really tasty and the service was great. I would recommend it to anyone – you just need to get a booking which can be difficult.

For my second I would say just walk around the lake. I really like walking – I try to go for a walk every day if my meetings allow and I think Lake Burley Griffin has a really nice track. I explored little bits of it, so that was definitely a highlight!

For the third experience, when we looked at the decor of the house, I went through all those antique shops and vintage furniture. I found some incredible stores and some places that run a really nice mix of antique furniture from the region and from Europe, a lot of great mid-century places and a lot of really cool design stores. I think there is a great design scene in Canberra!

We know you reported to the Vogue team about your experience here, are they a little shocked that Canberra is such a cultural hub?

I think everyone was pleasantly surprised at how I talk about my experiences and present the city. It was really worth seeing everyone’s amazement at how much is happening here. I hope that encourages people to visit and that I can spread the word a little bit across the country.

Interested in knowing Francesca’s best restaurant recommendations in Canberra? You can check out her ever-growing list in Vogue Living

Feature image: Liz Sunshine/Street Smith