Up Close with Charlee Fraser

Charlee Fraser
Charlee Fraser wears Camilla and Marc coat, $999. Ambra bra, $21.95

Photography by SYLVE COLLESS

It’s a cold day in New York and in a studio in the upmarket neighbourhood of Chelsea, Charlee Fraser is tired; she was at a concert until late last night. But she’s not too tired to dance like nobody’s watching while Ariana Grande flexes her four-octave vocal range through the speakers. Fraser is in a good mood because today’s shoot is filled with nostalgia – the photographer is Sylve Colless, who was one of the first people to shoot Fraser after she was discovered at age 18. Since then, the Australian model has skyrocketed to success and now fronts campaigns for Tom Ford, Giorgio Armani and David Jones.

Though she currently lives in the Big Apple full time, the 23-year-old hails from a quiet suburb in Lake Macquarie on the New South Wales coast. It’s a place that’s still very much home. “My favourite thing to do is walk along the boardwalk from Speers Point to Warners Bay, daydream about owning a home on the Esplanade and grab brunch at Hippo Espresso, one of the best local cafes.”

Of course, when you’re as in demand as Fraser, finding time to curl up on the couch can be tough. Though she has a small, light-filled Lower East Side flat (which she shares with fellow model and Adelaide expat Madison Stubbington), she’s often on the road. “I love being sent to London just so I can stay in my favourite hotel, The Rosewood in Holborn. [And] I’ve been working in Miami a lot lately. Warm weather and stylish beaches, I can’t ask for more!”

Her hectic schedule means chalking up more than a few air miles – “Thankfully, I sleep like a baby when I fly” – and planning ahead to strike a balance between work and play. Between trips to the Dead Sea, Barcelona and Milan for jobs, there have been just-for-fun adventures too; getaways to upstate New York, a week at the fabled experimental art festival Burning Man. Next up? “Coachella, baby!”

Charlee Fraser
Scanlan Theodore trench coat, $550. Right ear: Reliquia medium hoop earrings, $219. Left ear: Chloé interlocking rings earring, $425 for pair. Sarah & Sebastian small hoop earring, $395 for pair.

Fraser cites her passion for exploration and discovery as the things that keep her sane. She’s innately determined, too, and an advocate of fair working conditions within the fashion industry. Using her platform for good, she’s spoken up on Instagram about the prevalence of inappropriate photographer behaviour backstage at shows to raise awareness of the issue. “I’d like to believe I’ve always been the kind of person who speaks up when something isn’t right,” she says, adding, “[But] I don’t like to focus on negativity. We should always strive to think, feel and act in a more positive manner.”

I’d like to believe I’ve always been the kind of person who speaks up when something isn’t right

That optimism is a constant factor shining through, whether she’s bringing the energy on-set or being quizzed about her pride in her Indigenous heritage, which comes from her mother’s side. “My Aboriginality has always been part of my life,” she says. “But I’m keen to learn more about that part of my history.” That family connection is what is keeping her grounded during her rise to the top. 

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