Fashion as a concept is kind of gross and morbid to me, because it’s so rooted in capitalism.
If you met Sharmonie Cockayne (pronounced like the word “cocaine”), you would think she’s the busiest woman alive. And you wouldn’t be wrong. The Adelaide native has juggled numerous jobs while solidifying her career. Sharmonie is a fashion photographer, stylist, editor, and the founder of her own fashion magazine. Drunk Magazine sat down with her to learn about her influences, thoughts on the fashion industry and how she got her start.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up by the beach in Adelaide, South Australia with three brothers and a dog. I was an athlete growing up—my younger brother and myself did competitive trampolining—so I spent most of my free time inside a gym. We were lucky to be at a level where we could travel around Australia for sport. It was a fantastic experience.
What got you into photography and fashion? Did you go to school for them?
My grandma, Omi, introduced me to fashion and art when I was very young. She used to take me to art galleries and thrift shops, and watch FashionTV on Foxtel with me. I spent time at her house sewing and drawing and painting and doing crafts. I think that’s where is started.
In 2015, I studied fashion communication in Florence, Italy over a summer. It was a course on how to conceive and produce a fashion photo shoot for print publication. And, I’m not sure how I convinced my uni, but I got course credits for my media and marketing degree.
Besides that, everything I know I learned through experience—just putting my hand up for any opportunity.
What inspires your photography?
I think I learned photography through osmosis (laughs), through working with heaps of photographers as a stylist and producer. Every photographer I’ve ever worked with has influenced me, especially Jonathan VDK, Tash McCammon, Nectario, Tyrone Ormsby (who is an incredible graphic designer) and Emmaline Zanelli (who is also an extremely talented artist). And there’s more, too. I’m lucky that I get to work with these people; they inspire and teach me.
I also spend a lot of time on the internet, mostly Instagram, and reading magazines like Apartamento, The Gentlewoman, Purple, Human Bodies. I’m really into a bunch of other photographers, some more accomplished than others, like Jurgen Teller, Georges Antoni, Josh Olins and Chloe Le Drezen.
As a stylist, what does fashion mean to you?
This is going to get dark. (laughs) Fashion as a concept is kind of gross and morbid to me, because it’s so rooted in capitalism. And the way the industry functions does so much damage to the people in it and, more importantly, women in general. I know that’s a kind of lame answer, and it deserves a longer explanation.
But I’m in awe of the skill and genius of certain fashion designers—the actual clothes. That’s probably the most important part of “fashion” to me. I’m fascinated by balance, shape, and proportion. Layering clothes and fabrics is like a puzzle, and I like that a lot. When I’m putting clothes together, I’m trying to create what I think is the perfect proportion. Or the perfect imperfect proportions. I’m not sure actually. It just feels really good to put together something that just feels right. It’s kind of hard to explain in words, but I find whatever that feeling is addictive.
That is very interesting! Now, we’re going to pivot a little. So, you're also a writer. Could you tell us more about your written work?
I’ve written for myself always, but started writing for publications when I edited the student magazine at uni, On Dit. Actually, before that, I did an internship at CityMag to help prepare me to be an editor, and I started writing for publications then.
My editor at CityMag, Farrin Foster, is an incredibly talented, highly underrated writer. She’s a genius. I love her work. She’s been a huge influence. It’s going to sound lame probably, but when I first discovered Man Repeller, Leandra Medine was a huge influence on me, too. And I think the books and magazines I read also influence my writing.
I like to write about people who are doing really fucking incredible things in their own little bubble, but aren’t screaming about it. They’re just minding their business. I like learning about those humans who are quietly talented and showing them off to the world I think. (laughs)
You're also the founder of feud magazine. Can you tell us more about it?
I started it in 2015 while I was in my last year of uni. I’d just finished editing On Dit, and had just come back from a solo Europe trip. I wished that there was a platform for emerging creatives coming out of uni to work on and build their portfolio. Jobs are hard to come by for young creatives in Adelaide, so the lack of said platform was a massive gap at the time. I made feud to serve that purpose. My high school friend, Louie Quilao, who was finishing his graphic design degree at the time, came on board and we’ve worked on it together ever since.
It was an awesome period of time doing the first five issues of feud. Our contributors were just as excited about it as we were, and we made a lot of great friends. It was cool to see the creatives who contributed to feud get paying jobs out of it.
It was also super important to me to represent different minority groups and cultures through feud, because no one in Adelaide was doing that. It was really gross. I felt a responsibility for feud to be a platform for people of colour and LGBTIQ+ identifying groups.
Then, Louie and I got full time jobs. We ran out of spare time, and [feud] kind of died. It served its purpose. But we have an unreleased, fully complete issue, which is very very special to us. We’ll do a small print run and release it one day.
What is your proudest moment or favorite aspect about feud?
The first year we covered Adelaide Fashion Festival (AFF) no one really knew who we were, so we didn’t get alot backstage media access. Our AFF BTS photographer, Jack Fenby, snuck into the main event, A Night of Fashion at the Art Gallery, which was run by a bigger magazine at the time called Attitude Magazine. And he took the absolute best backstage photos. He got the winning shot from the show that went viral (as much as it can in Adelaide), which kind of cemented our presence. It was a great moment, especially because we weren’t quiet about the fact that we had to sneak in. (laughs)
After a couple of issues, I had a meeting with Josh Fanning, the publisher of CityMag, and Farrin. They asked to sponsor feud —to kind of come on board as our publisher. That was a massive moment. It was validation that we’d made something good.
Where can our readers learn more about feud?
We don’t have our website anymore – those things are beasts. You can follow our rarely-updated Instagram account for sporadic updates. It’s not dead, it’s in hibernation.
Tell us about your experiences as the fashion director at CityMag.
I’ve been working for CityMag since about 2016, I think. Maybe the second half of 2015? My very favourite thing about working for them is that the team is so small, and [everyone] has so much respect for one another. It’s a family. Also the position presents the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most talented, humble and kind humans in Adelaide. I don’t work for CityMag full time anymore. I just come on board as a contractor for the print editorials now.
My favourite fashion editorial I have created for them was shot by Nectario at the Adelaide Airport with model Karsha Creaser. We got in trouble for shooting in front of a National Security car, and were told to delete all photos it appeared in. We didn’t, and we ended up using one in print.
Do you have any advice for aspiring stylists and photographers?
I still have a long way to go. I’d call myself an aspiring stylist too. (laughs)
As an aspiring stylist, my advice is to find a professional stylist you deeply respect and do everything you can to be their assistant—even if it means working for free. I saved up to go to New York just to assist stylists and intern at fashion houses. I believe investing your time and money in your own growth as a creative is more important than going to school. My advice for photography is the same, really. Don’t stop creating. Do as many test shoots as you can. Take every opportunity handed to you. Even if the photos aren’t worthy of an Instagram post, you’ll probably meet someone new. And that’s just as important as honing your technical skills and creativity.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
All photographs are by Sharmonie Cockayne.
Marina Ali is a student, writer, poet, and blue lipstick enthusiast. She is a staff writer for Brown Girl Magazine, the features editor for Drunk Magazine, and the social media manager for TMO Media. When she’s not writing or studying for classes, you can find her picnicking in pastoral East Texas, crafting for her sorority sisters, or making food.