IN MODE: Susan Pender is a former fashion editor of Vogue magazine.
IN MODE: Susan Pender is a former fashion editor of Vogue magazine. John Gass Twevogue

I was fashion editor of Vogue

KINGSCLIFF jeweller Susan Pender laughs as she flicks the pages of a Vogue Australia magazine.

The issue is June/July 1964, when Ms Pender was fashion editor of the magazine that has truly become an institution.

"Chanel was making the biggest splash in this issue," Ms Pender gushes.

"Oh I haven't flicked through these for years.

"It's a time-warp."

Ms Pender settled in quiet Kingscliff with her jewellery store a few years ago, a world away from the streets of Melbourne in the '60s.

But the memories flood back easily.

During Ms Pender's years at Vogue, editor-in-chief was the formidable Sheila Scotter who died earlier this year.

Ms Scotter was often honoured for her work in journalism and the arts, and injected a combination of fear and inspiration into those who worked under her.

"My mother knew Sheila Scotter," Ms Pender recalls.

"I had been studying law but I wanted to do something different.

"Sheila rang my mother and asked if I could work for her.

"I think I must have just been the right age.

"I worked my way up to fashion editor."

And although Ms Scotter may have been just as fear-provoking as fictional Vogue editor Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada, that's about where the similarities end.

"It wasn't the cult of the celebrity, we didn't go to many parties," Ms Pender said.

"They were tiny departments then, there was just four of us in the Melbourne office.

"A senior in advertising, a junior and two people in fashion.

"But the fun we had in that office, it was crazy."

Flicking through a copy of the Vogue Australia edition December 1964/ January 1965, the pages give a snapshot of antiquity.

The magazine cost just three shillings and sixpence (35 cents), and a section called People Are Talking About... featured a new and extremely popular music group called The Beatles.

There were advertisements for Balenciaga, Hermes, David Jones and a new elastic fibre called Lycra.

Not to mention the underlying misogyny.

An advertisement reminded readers that "progressive young businesswomen choose ANZ" while others recommend cleaning products that will keep the house clean and the husband happy.

Ms Pender remembers being enchanted by jeweller Hester Bateman from the 1800s.

"I was so enchanted by this woman who had her own workshop, back then it was unheard of," Ms Pender said.

"I was really interested in jewellery and one day a silversmith rang wanting to know if we would advertise his exhibition.

"We got talking and he told me there might be a position in the production line securing the stones.

"The nerve, I thought, I'm a young woman with quite an interesting job.

"Needless to say his exhibition didn't get featured."

She recalls law professors who would address everyone, even the women, as Mister, and friends who went to art school for something to do while waiting to find a husband.

"We have lived through a revolution, it is the most extraordinary thing," Ms Pender said.

"I never really noticed it until now when I look back slowly."

After a few years at Vogue, Ms Pender married and left the magazine to run a vineyard with her husband.

It was a slower pace, and allowed her time to indulge in her true passion.

"When my children were young I wanted to be able to work from home, so I started in jewellery, making all kinds of crazy things," Ms Pender said.

"It was the '70s and '80s, it wasn't about value anymore like it had been, it was about colour and fun.

"I used to do little pink pig earrings and Noah's Ark necklaces."

Her children have now grown up and gone their own way and her husband died. Ms Pender has found a relaxing and peaceful lifestyle in Kingscliff, making stunning jewellery with pearls.

"I'm fancy free," she smiles.

"Vogue feels like a long time ago.

"But I guess even then we knew it was going to become an institution."



- The first issue of Vogue Australia was published in August 1959.

- In 2009, Vogue Australia celebrated its 50th birthday with a hefty historical compilation put together by current editor-in-chief Kirstie Clements and author Lee Tulloch.

- In 2011, Australian model Robyn Lawley made history as the first plus-size model to grace the pages of Vogue Australia. She is a size 14. Editor-in-chief Kirstie Clements said Lawley forced her to rethink her preconceived notions of beauty and ask herself why they hadn't done it earlier.

- Also in 2011, Victoria's Secret model Miranda Kerr was the first model to feature on the cover of the magazine while pregnant.

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