“The most beautiful fibre in the world harvested from some of the worst environments that nature can throw at it,” observes Michael Field. The fourth generation grazier and guardian of large-scale Australian wool producer T.A. Field Estates is surveying his flock of Merino sheep in a paddock high above his family’s country homestead.
Beauty, it seems, can flourish in the roughest of places. His daughter, international model Stephanie Field, is the perfect case in point. The 20-year-old is on a rare visit home to Benangaroo, where she grew up on outside of the small town of Jugiong, four hours south west of Sydney, Australia.
Over the past 18 months, Stephanie has captured the fashion world’s imagination with her gorgeous face and graceful figure. Right now, the lanky girl chasing lambs in blue jeans and her dad’s old wool sweater is a far cry from the one who stalks the runways of Paris. But her natural beauty and pure joy at returning to the land she loves shines through the light rain that’s decided to settle in on the mid-winter day.
“I didn’t really realise it was a big deal,” she laughs, when quizzed on walking her first international show (Celine). “I was like, ‘yeah, that’s really cool, whatever’. Not realising until recently that is and was a really good show.” One of the best, in fact. Since then Stephanie has travelled almost non-stop, modelling in places like Ibiza, Beijing and, most recently, for Dolce & Gabbana’s prestigious alta moda collection at Domenico Dolce’s private villa in Portofino.
“Experiencing places that I never thought that I’d go to, working with amazing people and clients, I just really appreciate that not everyone gets the opportunities that I get. It’s everyone’s dream to be able to work and travel the world at the same time and I guess I’m kind of living that dream at the moment,” she marvels.
Despite her globetrotting, Stephanie is wholeheartedly committed to promoting Australian Merino wool and Australian design on the world stage. Last year she attended a L’Uomo Vogue event and worked with Sydney-based fashion designer Christopher Esber on her outfit. “He created this strapless, pale pink wool dress. It felt like home being able to wear it.”
The daydream Stephanie allows herself when she’s away: “We’re at the house, my sister is studying, my brother and Dad are out on the farm, Mum is cooking and I’m just sitting there doing nothing. I miss that.” Family comes first and the home they share when they’re not in Sydney, a house built in 1912, is filled with a mix of treasured heirlooms and signs of teenage inhabitation.
A childhood filled with kayaking on the Murrumbidgee River, picnics under the Cootamundra wattle, racing through the Canola crops and sliding down chutes in the shearing shed was an idyllic one. A primary school with just nine students set Stephanie up for an education that now includes studies in interior design and plans for a degree in psychology. She wants to find ways through her psychology degree that will allow her to give back to the demanding industry her parents are so passionate about.
There’s little-to-no chance Stephanie will lose touch with her roots. “My dad keeps me very grounded. He’ll come visit me at a runway show and he will not recognise me. Growing up on the farm, you’ve just got to keep level headed.”
After five months away from Jugiong and all the trappings an international modelling career can throw her way, Benangaroo Station is more than ever the place Stephanie can escape and get back to nature. “I just love it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” she insists. Her family, two labradors, dappled pony and those sprightly lambs she’s so intent on cuddling wouldn’t have it any other way.
Nick Wooster visits the source of Merino wool
The 175-year old Anlaby Merino stud in South Australia opened up its historic gardens and buildings in October.