“Savvy Chic was not meant to be the title of my fourth book. It was actually born as MY LIFE ON A SHOESTRING. But the American publisher thought that was not suitably aspirational. It’s a shame really because the book I wrote is much more STREET than CHIC. And it is much more about individual taste than conventional good taste.
In many regards this book serves as a motley memoir. I grew up in unusual circumstances. My father is a painter, my mother ran an amazing vintage store in Chelsea. We lived in New York in the seventies on the smell (literally) of basmati rice and the strains of Bob Dylan. New York was a mecca for struggling artists and life was actually quite affordable there, so everything I learnt about survival started in my childhood. My mother was a genius at finding free events in the city, using the museums as amusement parks and listening to great concerts in central park…all for nothing. We never ate in restaurants. We didn’t shop as recreation. We cooked for what seemed like days. Always using grains and spices. My parents shudder at certain aspects of my book. They are annoyed by the way I wax lyrical about the seventies. But, compared to the flash, trash and greed of the present, it still seems like a creative utopia to me.
A lot of the chapter ideas in my book about cooking with whole foods, or wearing vintage or shopping in flea markets or decorating your house with found objects come from my childhood and then many more ideas come from my experience of living in New York in my twenties, thirties and forties. At 39 I had a child. This forced a new level of economy (and in turn invention) into my life. At 43 I left my marriage. This happened right when i was finishing the book. Basically I packed everything I owned into the back of a truck and left Brooklyn for Australia. Oddly, almost my entire life up until that point is contained within the turquoise pages of Savvy Chic. It’s more of a suitcase than a book! But by no means was I offloading baggage.
The catch cry of this book is that you can have lovely things, beautiful travel experiences, amazing dinners and unusual style without being a consumer victim. Environmentally it is much cooler to consume less and in terms of personal freedom it pays not to be a slave to credit. By a huge stroke of irony I am the first to admit that I am NOT good with money or frugal and that is why I have to be clever with the money I have in search of the things I cannot live without. I call this logic “Libertine Thrift” and it does involve a little more time and thought but the results are very personal. I would go mad living in a house where everything is new (little chance of that!) or matching!! I would also feel somewhat defeated if I didn’t haggle, scrounge and search the sale racks in my style hungry life. People often feel a nostalgia for the days when they had less and enjoyed more. But what few seem to realise is that you can keep that improvising spirit alive ON PURPOSE.
Often I find myself looking at magazines written for much younger women. I get more of a buzz from FRANKIE and RUSH than the more sophisticated glossies simply because I relate to craft and thrift shopping and listening to old vinyl, more than dreaming of a pair of designer shoes. New things get old. Fast. But of you hone your tastes then you can always find what you love. One of my good friends who is 78 years old came from Queensland with two hand made forks with bone handles. We looked at them with awe. And upon close inspection found that on the handle was written the word “30 cents”. I said “Oh for God sake, please keep that on there!” and “do make sure to serve cake to your snobbiest friends!” And it wasn’t really the bargain we marvelled at but the beauty. And that, for me, is the point of it all.”
Anna Johnson is a freelance writer and artist. She has written four books: “Three Black Skirts”, “Handbags”, “The Yummy Mummy Manifesto” and “Savvy Chic: The art of more for less”. Currently she is running a bespoke paper company called Little Branch (www.littlebranch.com.au) with her design and business partner Maree Oaten and occasionally blogging about contemporary art for Paper Runway.
This November see’s the release of a book illustrated entirely by Anna entitled Holiday Goddess (Harper Collins) and next June she will publish her first art monograph on the work of Sydney painter: Ann Thomson. Anna has written for Vanity Fair, Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, ELLE, Marie Claire and The Guardian. She lives in Sydney and has one son and 34 teacups.
Thanks for visiting us Anna.
x Nikki and Maree
We have 2 x signed copies of Anna’s book, Savvy Chic.
To enter go HERE.
The winner will be drawn on the 30th September 2011.