Jan 2024

Back to her roots

Mel Jarnson has lived all over the world, but as Noni Reginato discovers, her latest role – face of the new Aje summer campaign – hits close to home

“I had a really late one at the Australian Open so if I look like a zombie, I’m so sorry,” laughs Mel Jarnson, disarmingly self-effacing. She doesn’t, for the record, look even remotely like a zombie — her glowy skin disguises any hint of last night’s sleep deprivation. But anyway, the 26-year-old is no stranger to late nights and a lack of sleep. An actor for the last decade, Jarnson has become well accustomed to the industry’s often gruelling schedules. Her passport has too.

“I'm back in Sydney for a month [then] in Bangkok for a little bit, and then going to London later in the year, and then just basically coming back to Australia for work.” The constant back-and-forth is nothing new to the actor, though. “I was born in Bangkok and, when I was four, we moved to Brussels and I started learning French,” she explains. “Then we moved to India and I went to a tiny school there for three and a half years. When I was 15, I moved back to Thailand.” As a result, Jarnson is fluent in English, French and Thai, though a propensity for learning new languages is hardly the only thing she picked up during her well-travelled childhood.

“There was always theatre either during school or after school,” she recalls. “It was a very nice consistency to have from country to country.” What might have been a way to kill an hour after school for her peers proved to be a lot more for Jarnson. “It gave me the experience of performing on stage and doing productions, and that feeling and that rush of performing in front of an audience I really, really adored. It kind of made me feel like it might be something that I could be good at.” Her feeling was right. Jarnson’s break came in 2020, in the form of Australian drama Between Two Worlds. Mortal Kombat and last year’s C*A*U*G*H*T, a local streaming series also starring Sean Penn, followed.

Now, she turns her star power to the world of fashion, as the face of Aje’s just-dropped summer campaign, Love Letters From Australia. When I ask what about the campaign resonated with her, she smiles. “So much.” Jarnson moved to Australia at age 17. “For some reason, I [always] thought Australia was ‘normalcy’, because I would visit my mum's side of the family every now and then for Christmas. I had a really solid idea of Australia in my mind from visiting, but [actually] it was the biggest culture shock. It took me the longest time to adjust, because it's so far away from the rest of the world.” Eventually, it was acting that helped her find her way. “When I found something that I loved, which was acting here, I didn't wanna leave.”

It makes sense then that Jarnson was chosen to front Aje’s new campaign — one that pays homage to the country she loves. “It was a very collaborative experience,” Jarnson recalls. “I was able to actually see what the brief was and have input, which I haven't had in a shoot before. I've never had anyone go, ‘what do you think about that?’” The collection possesses Aje’s trademark romance, shot through with an undercurrent of sensuality. Shot at Sydney’s Balmoral beach, it encapsulates an unfussy elegance — something characteristic of Australian fashion. A frothy pink dress delivering the perfect blend of sexy and saccharine is her favourite piece. “It's not something that I‘d pick out or pick off the rail, but it just looked and felt so beautiful,” she says. “You can kind of see that I'm just running around acting like a ‘50s starlet because it felt like I was a ‘50s starlet.”

Frothy, feminine dresses taken care of, you’ll probably be more likely to see Jarnson in something plucked from her mum’s “hippie-ish outfits from the ‘80s” or a piece from the men’s department. “I love dressing like a boy,” she laughs. “I love a shirt, bra, long shorts and a pair of Mary Janes.” Louche tailoring and androgynous silhouettes might characterise much of Jarson’s wardrobe these days, but there is an additional — and non-negotiable — factor that informs her style, too. “I love clothes that you can eat a lot of food in, you know?” Some things really are universal.

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Editor-in-Chief
JUSTINE CULLEN
Managing Editor
Elle Glass
Executive Editor
Laura Agnew
Creative Director
HANNAH MARTIN
Fashion Director
RACHEL WAYMAN
Associate Editor
Kathryn Madden
Digital Editor
COURTNEY THOMPSON
Designer
Zahra Stockman
Market Editor
ANNIE DOIG
Content Writer
Maeve Galea
Content Writer
Noni Reginato
Commercial Director
Nicole Corfe
National Sales Manager
Annaliese Gattelaro
Client Services Manager
Grace Hannah
Editorial & Advertising Coordinator
Delaney Ashton
Publisher and
CEO
SIMON BOOKALLIL
COO
DAVID ASTWOOD
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