January 2019
Photo: Yu Tsai

When Harper’s BAZAAR first met Nicole Warne three years ago on a sunny December afternoon, we asked what “picture-perfect” meant to her. Warne, then a rising star in the fashion circuit who had made the enviable transition from online store owner to front-row fixture, pondered for a few moments before saying: “It’s knowing the importance of living in the present instead of always seeking the next.”

Now, three years older and standing even taller on the apex of the digital revolution’s impact on fashion, Warne is back to grace the cover and pages of the magazine—a feat that mirrors her status as a power player. Plus, she’s giving her definition an update: There’s no need for “perfect”. Instead, she is striving to present the different facets of her life in ways that are “as real and authentic as possible”. However, that’s not to say that the chapters of Warne’s ongoing story have unfolded without their magic.

Journey of Self-discovery
In fact, the 29-year-old is living a charmed life—one best described as a whirlwind of serendipitous encounters that has had a profound effect on the Australian beauty of Japanese-Korean descent. To her 1.8 million followers on Instagram, Warne’s adventures are what dreams are made of. For example, she has traipsed half-way across the world to Mexico, where she welcomed nature’s grandeur each morning from a perch high above the treetops. She has scheduled a pit stop in Silicon Valley to witness Apple CEO Tim Cook deliver his annual keynote address. She has also been whisked away to Venice’s historic Sala Grande, where she walked the red carpet of the prestigious Venice Film Festival and rubbed shoulders with the bigwigs of the film industry. “No matter how prepared you are, there’s never enough time before the red carpet, and the minutes leading up to it are always a blur,”Warne recalls of her latest trip to the historic city, which happened at the invitation of BAZAAR Singapore with Jaeger-LeCoultre. “The next thing you know, you’re in a water taxi and floating through the canals. As soon as you arrive, it’s a flurry of dazzling lights, celebrities and fashion. It’s the most bizarre and beautiful experience unique to Venice.”

In between all the high-octane jolts of glitz and glamour are instances of heartfelt tenderness, too: Warne visited South Korea for the first time last year, and it was an introspective passage of self-discovery that brought her closer to her very being. “I was adopted when I was five months old by my family in Australia, and I hadn’t returned since then. I always knew I’d go back, but I never felt quite ready. I assumed it’d be too emotional and I’d be confronted with myself. Surprisingly, it was the opposite,” she says of the precious days spent reconnecting with her roots while discovering the bustling metropolitan city of Seoul. “I felt so at ease as soon as I landed, perhaps because I didn’t realise that I had been in denial for the last 29 years and had been avoiding returning back to my motherland. In many ways, it felt like I’d overcome a fear.”

Marital Bliss
Perhaps the most significant milestone so far is her marriage to photographer Luke Shadbolt—the couple finally tied the knot after dating for 11 years. Their wedding, held in a picturesque hall by New Zealand’s Lake Wanaka, was filled with moments both poignant and breathtaking—all captured for the world to see. Warne admits that she has always struggled with how much of her personal life to share online, but she knew immediately that she wanted to let her community in on her wedding. “They’ve been with me on this journey from the very beginning, so in a way they were also getting married,” she says. Prior to the big day, however, Warne ensured parameters were in place so that everyone at the wedding was completely present: “We asked everyone to put their phones away during our ceremony and also placed a social media ban on the wedding for two weeks. Our guests were allowed to take photos, but it just meant they didn’t spend one moment during the wedding uploading anything to social media and instead, they spent it with us.” In retrospect, the couple couldn’t have chosen a better venue to exchange their vows. With New Zealand’s snowcapped mountains providing the most spectacular backdrop, it was as though they were receiving a powerful sign from the heavens. “I went to see an astrologer and was told that my wedding date was the exact day of my Saturn return, which symbolises a period of change and difficult growth. It was a weird coincidence, but my life has been non-stop since our wedding, so there has been some truth to my reading,” she professes.

For someone who believes in the value of hard work and that we’re the masters of our own destinies, Warne’s interest in the stars may seem uncharacteristic. It all stemmed from a childhood ambition of wanting to be an astronomer. “Every night when I looked at the stars, my mind would race with thoughts about life beyond our own and what was waiting for me,” she says. “We are made from elements created by stars over the course of billions of years. It’s an amazing concept to think about.”

A New Home
If anything, the stars are pointing Warne to New York, a city that has captured her imagination from the second she first stepped foot on its soil. “There really is nowhere in the world like New York. The city itself is dynamic and continually changing, with so much art and culture constantly pulsating through its veins. The more time I spent in New York, the more I knew it was where I needed to be,” she observes. “You have to have a very strong sense of self to survive in this city.”

It comes as no surprise then, that Warne will be continuing the Garypeppergirl story from the streets of the Big Apple. “On a professional level, my biggest audience group is from the U.S. I’ve always had such incredible opportunities when I’m here, so it felt like a natural progression to move my base to New York. We want to be here for the long run, so we’ve been settling into our new apartment and looking at office spaces. I can’t wait to see what this new chapter holds, because the unknown is both exciting and terrifying,” Warne says. Motherhood is also on the cards for her: “Luke and I have always wanted three children. We’re both one of three and had very similar upbringings that we cherish, so it’s important for us to try and raise our family in the same way with the same values.”

Art of Balance
For now though, Warne is revelling in the wonder of where life has taken her while cherishing the lessons that have made her a better version of herself. “I’ve learnt that being successful doesn’t mean you have to work yourself into the ground. I’ve learnt to take care of myself both physically and mentally, and that it’s ok to prioritise exercise and your health and not feel guilty about it. I’ve learnt to say ‘no’, and that I don’t need to please everyone. I’ve learnt that people can be cruel and malicious, but it’s their problem and not mine,” Warne adds matter-of-factly. “I’m going to borrow this one word from Michelle Obama to describe everything that has happened so far: ‘Becoming’. I feel like I’ve become the woman I always wanted to be.” Whatever happens next for Warne, the world—and the universe—will be watching.

Photographer: Yu Tsai
Stylist: Windy Aulia
Makeup: Cedric Jolivet using Armani Beauty
Hair: Davide Andena
Production: 88 Phases
Producer: Massimo Campana
On-site producer: Tommaso Dabalà
Photography assistant: Stefano Berra
Styling assistant: Mariangela Rossini