Though originally most likely the result of a batch of toffee gone awry, fudge has…
She’s interviewed Kendall Jenner, attended countless Fashion Week events, and is the 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 into our big country town, finally proving something we’ve known all along—Canberra is actually extremely cool (and we’re not just talking about the weather).
Erin Cross sat down with Francesca to chat about all things Vogue, including her chance career-igniting encounter with Edwina McCann—the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Australia—right here in Canberra, how she came to call the capital home, and (of course) the best places to eat.
Tell me about your career journey—how did you end up at Vogue Australia?
I studied journalism at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst which was a lot of fun. I actually minored in politics but I didn’t think that I wanted to be a political reporter. I was always told that magazines were too hard…It was something I’d always wanted to do as a child and as a teenager, but I was told ‘you don’t know anyone in the industry so it’s not going to happen’, so at university I decided ‘if I can’t do lifestyle and fashion, I’ll do politics’. I really enjoyed it on a personal level and to this day I still do, I’m very interested in it.
After uni I got a winter cadetship at the Sydney Morning Herald with Fairfax papers, which was sort of a print and digital focus, and from that I was offered the role of a casual reporter. I was working a couple of days a week, mostly doing night shifts for the Herald, which was where I got my grounding for being a good reporter and writer. They taught me a lot about having to fact check and sources, how to interview someone and how to write a concise newspaper piece, which are skills that I still use today. I had some great teachers there and I owe them a lot; but while I was working there, I was also interning one or two days a week at Vogue Australia. That was how I got my first job at Vogue.
I actually met Edwina [the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Australia] completely by chance in Canberra. My grandfather was down here as a war veteran at an event and I was his companion. I was sitting next to Edwina and it was a totally random coincidence—I would say it was a sliding doors moment because I wouldn’t have gotten that internship if I hadn’t sat next to her at that event.
What do you do as the Digital director of Vogue Australia?
My job is to centrally manage our team of writers, manage our audience growth and work with our commercial clients to produce the best content and optimise everything in the best possible way.
I do also work across GQ and Vogue Living [the Conde Nast brands in Australia] and it’s essentially a role to make sure everything gets done, help shape the content direction, make sure that we’re growing our audience and that we’re also best serving the people that read us—like, how can we give them more of what they want while also informing, inspiring and educating them on what’s going on in the world?
Now for the ultimate question—why 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’ve stayed in Sydney for a long time because of my work and I think because of COVID and the way that things have shifted so much with the way that we work, it was an easy transition.
I was very lucky that Edwina was very supportive of the move and that I’m able to be supported by the company to work outside of Sydney. It’s actually been quite seamless thanks to my amazing team and my partner’s loving his job so we’re really enjoying our life. I’s all worked out!
What’s it been like going from high fashion shows to a big country town?
I love it, personally. I think that’s what COVID has done, it’s given us the opportunity to have both of those things. I lived in New York for two years; I love being in big cities, I love the energy that they bring. Cities are hubs of creativity on a mass scale. It’s nice to be physically around that because it’s really inspiring, but on the other side, Canberra just feels like a big country town—which is exactly how I’ve been describing it to people—but with all of the things that you want from a city.
The older I get, I’m not going out every weekend or doing things you can only do in Sydney; realistically I’m pretty boring and just want to go and get a good meal and then maybe just go home! That being said, I’ve been to some fun 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’s surprised you about living in Canberra?
I kind of knew this already, but I think other people are always surprised at how much there is going on in Canberra. It’s been a pleasure to explore the city. I’ve lived in one other city before, which was New York, and I’ve also done a couple of months in Berlin so I’ve had that experience of exploring a new city overseas, but to explore a place that’s in Australia where you’re going to settle, that’s been really rewarding.
I especially think discovering the hospitality scene has been really nice for me because I spent two years at Vogue Living and I do have quite a good connection with the Sydney restaurant world. I think that was really nice about coming to Canberra, seeing how much there is going on, all the amazing new stuff that’s opening, but also the established people in that field and what they’re doing. It’s a lot of fun just going to restaurants just for the sake of it because you want to try something, that’s a real privilege. That’s probably been the most surprising thing— how good and how amazing the food and the cultural scene is.
What have been your top three Canberra experiences and why?
I would say eating at Bar Rochford, it was a joy! That to me is the perfect combination, especially when you want to go somewhere that feels casual, has really good food, but you could also just go there for a drink. I love that. We had the tasting menu at Bar Rochford and it was filling, really tasty and the service was amazing. I would recommend it to anyone – you just have to get a booking which can be hard.
For my second one, I would say just walking around the lake. I really love walking—I’m trying to go for a walk every day if my meetings permit it and I think Lake Burley Griffin has a really beautiful circuit. I’ve been exploring little bits of it, so that’s definitely been a highlight!
For the third experience, when we were looking at furnishing the house I was going around to all these antique stores and vintage places for furniture. I found some incredible shops and some places that are really curating a lovely mix of antique furniture from the region and from Europe, a lot of great mid-century places, and a lot of really cool design shops. I think there’s a great design scene in Canberra!
We know that you’ve been reporting back to the Vogue team about your experiences here, are they a little bit shocked that Canberra is such a cultural hub?
I think everyone has been pleasantly surprised at how I’ve been talking about my experiences and presenting the city. It’s been really rewarding to see everyone’s surprise at how much is going on here. I hope that encourages people to visit and that I’m able to spread the word a little bit around the country.
Feature image: Liz Sunshine/Street Smith