The moment our favourite femme - globe-trotting expert and longtime Blue Illusion muse Catriona Rowntree appears on our television screens, a wave of effervescent energy comes along - to shake us up and awaken our senses. For few are as well-versed in the globe-trotting lifestyle than our ‘Getaway’ adventuress, Catriona. Excitedly for us, Catriona’s rich nomadic experience and steep knowledge of Australian wool have come together in a ‘travel capsule’ collection richly re-imagined, marrying elegance with expedition. A coming-together of exquisite details and flattering silhouettes in a pink-coloured palette, immersing you fully, in La Vie En Rose.
For Catriona Rowntree’s ‘travel capsule’ is a nod to the woman who dreams of being a modern-day voyageuse. Who seeks to pack her bags, say au revoir, and go on a French tour de force. The kind of woman who seeks a comfortable, compact, and exclusive ‘travel collection’ – that not only encapsulates the joie de vivre of traveling; but celebrates Catriona's joy for all-things-French.
In between her unique job of travelling the world, coupled with her quiet country life with her husband and two sons, (to complement the harried, jet-setting life she has worked so hard to cultivate, no less), we sat down with Catriona to deep-dive into the process of creating this new collection, her love for a pink palette, and how it richly reflects her personnalité …
If anyone knows how to pack à la mode for a French-inspired getaway, it's you, Catriona. Your effervescent essence of ‘joie de vivre’ and passion for championing Australian wool has now culminated in co-designing a travel-inspired ‘capsule collection’ with Blue Illusion that is richly re-imagined and so well-aligned. Tell us how the idea for this new ‘travel capsule’ came about, and what you enjoyed most about this experience?
I have long had a friendship with Blue Illusion, firstly as a genuine customer (I went to Queensland with a suitcase of summer dresses, and it was freezing! There was a BI shop near my hotel, and it totally saved me, I still have the jackets!), then being asked many years back to chat to the staff about my Getaway travels, which led to a great friendship with Donna. Guess what? We are both Francophiles! When Donna asked if I’d like to ‘do a collab’, my only request was if I could please incorporate wool. You see, I’m married to a woolgrower and heaven knows I cannot help his business via my cooking or fencing skills. But I can talk the leg off a chair about the wonders of wool. Who knew how timely that simple request would be, that BI are focused on sustainability, using Aussie fibres, and supporting our farmers. It’s a marriage made in heaven, borne from true friendship.
Tell us more about your love of the Francophile lifestyle. How did you incorporate your love of Paris into the overall curation of this collection? In particular, your choice of the gorgeous pink-rose palette?
‘French Girl Style’ is admired the world over, for its focus on quality, simplicity, irreverence, practicality and just a plain ‘Ooh, la la’ factor. Like many, a journey to France, if only mentally; conjures up all the good things in life and combines two great loves of mine … pretty AND practical. Which led me to the inspiration behind the joyful ‘rose tones’ of our collection. The colour is taken from a favourite bag, a Birkin to be exacte, that I found at an auction. My bag is absolutely huge, hence perfect for travel and is the prettiest shade of Magenta. So, I then put together a big box of my favourite things and delivered them to Donna to play with. Completely unplanned, what is Pantone's colour of the year for 2023? Magenta!!!
Talk to us about the special details of the collection, in particular the show-stopping Peony print. Can you tell us where you drew its inspiration from and how it reflects your personnalité?
The peony print is inspired by the handprinted silk flowers on my wedding dress, specifically the gown I wore for our reception. However, I have a small obsession with Feng Shui, lucky charms, and positive symbols. You can’t travel as much as I have throughout Asia and not be both inspired and aligned. Just like Coco Chanel adored her wheat symbol to bring prosperity into her life, Peonies symbolise wealth, honour, compassion, and happiness. I actually wore my scarf to a peony garden in Japan recently and my heart soared as so many locals admired it. Why not be shrouded in good luck? I’m all for that!
A little birdie told me that your Boiled Wool Jacket is a key piece of your Catriona Rowntree capsule collection, not only for its bold choice of colour, but in its creation: with some very special symbolic features and embroidery in mind. Can you expand on the colour of this beautiful coat, and the meaningful design details our customers can expect with this collection?
The truth about the wool coat is that I’d like something you can shove into the overhead locker of a plane, and it won’t crush. Not very romantic, but hey, I’m all about the practical! I also want a colour that makes your cheeks glow if you’re jet lagged, where a mark can easily be wiped off (go wool!) or can be worn in a variation of ways and ultimately has a lining that makes you smile. I want you to feel amazing when you wear something I’ve designed: wrapped up in good luck, pretty, polished and in the case of this coat … snuggly warm!
If you had to choose your favourite outfit from your capsule collection, what would it be, and why?
What did I wear constantly on my most recent trip? The scarf and crossbody bag. I use the scarf for warmth on the plane, to cover my pillow in my hotel room, to cover shoulders in a church, to give my cheeks colour when tired and just give an outfit some pop. I was a little obsessed with the Crossbody bag, I just kept seeing them everywhere, I knew it had to be big enough for a passport and phone. Glam enough to take you from the airport to a chic dinner, the bee symbol is Napoleon’s lucky charm (bees are industrious) and I absolutely love the section for room keys and cards. Brilliant!
For a parfait French adventure, what would you pack accessory-wise?
You’d have to start with the above two items, then apply the KISS Theory (keep it simple stupid). Do not take anything that can’t have creases steamed out when hung in the hotel toot. Dark pants. Any kind of shoe that won’t slip on cobblestones (sorry, just being honest) and you really want to amp up your accessories. But remember, the French turn their nose up at obvious labels, so subtle chic is key.
Living the life of a jetsetter must come with some experience, especially when it comes to looking fresh and oh-so-fabulous off a long-haul flight. Can you share some new health and beauty travel hacks to conquer jet lag?
Start taking your vitamins a solid two weeks before you depart, incorporating collagen where possible. Book a flight that aligns to the time zone you’re heading into so you can have a walk soon upon landing (nothing too strenuous). Get a good dollop of Vitamin D and head to sleep around 9pm. Promise me you won’t have an afternoon nap upon arrival or keep your phone by your bed. It’s game over if you do that. Avoid wearing black near your face on your first day. White, cream, or my scarf is ideal to give the illusion of good health. On the plane, use a hydrating mist liberally. Get that makeup off with wipes quick-sticks, and trust in CLARINS Beauty Flash … bon voyage!
What’s the best way to pack a suitcase full of travel clothing? Is there such a thing as over-packing for fashion’s sake?
Truth is, I pack for the nation. To do as I say, not as I do, grab your phone, and look up the weather of where you are going. Trust that, then hashtag# your location on Instagram and see what is appropriate. What do the locals wear? You’ll feel better if you know you’re being respectful as well as practical. I don’t take away anything that needs to be ironed, or that I’d be upset to lose.
Speaking of your love of all-things-French, I heard a secret that you’ll be hosting some French Travel experiences for Blue Illusion later this year. Can you tell us where you’ll be going and any other details about what these experiences have to offer?
If all goes according to plan, we’d love to have a little fun in France with like-minded souls. Pourquoi pas? Let's gather in a gorgeous chateau, learn to cook delicious foods together, shop like maniacs and just generally have a darn good time. Heaven knows you deserve it, mes chéries.
Tell us why is a solo ‘tour de force’ for a woman is so good for the soul?
I believe life has shown us the importance of enjoying this moment. So, tick off that 'Bucket Wish List' sooner rather than later, and don’t put things off. For me, I’ve learned this served with a good dollop of heartache, and I know many women can relate to that. I want to laugh, I want to smile, I want to thrive and if you must step out of your comfort zone to achieve that, then so be it. Life is short, but adventure is worthwhile!
Besides a glass of French bubbly, what key item would you insist having onboard the airplane to Paris, to heighten your sense of ‘joie de vivre’?
On a plane you want to keep things simple, there’s just not enough space for any other option. Trust me, I know from experience. Keep your dignity doll - and don’t put on that full face mask. Maybe … a little Beauty Flash. Don’t drink too much as plane loos are scary and best avoided. Above all, dress as though you belong in First Class, as you’re worth it!
Speaking of fashion, how would you describe your personal style? Do you believe in trends, or do you believe in comfort-over-style, especially after Covid?
If Sophia Loren took Gidget under her wing, the end result would sum up my style. I love to be feminine: a little quirky and fun.
Any other travel tips to mention?
Yes, before I forget … always check said back of ‘hotel toot’ door before you check out. Someone may have accidentally left all their favourite BI pink clothes hanging in a hotel in Japan recently … would hate that to happen to you. Au revoir!
Introducing Blue Illusion’s exclusive collaboration with Australian presenter and longtime Blue Illusion muse, Catriona Rowntree. A comfortable, compact, and exclusive ‘travel capsule’ – that not only encapsulates the joie de vivre of traveling; but celebrates Catriona's joy for all-things-French.
Pieces from The Collection
The French-inspired collection includes 5 beautifully designed garments including an elegant Silk Shirt, Jacquard Wool Jumper, Boiled Wool Jacket, a stunning Shirred Midi Dress and Wool Lace Insert Pant plus 2 timeless accessories: including a Peonies Wool Scarf and Phone Crossbody Bag.
Boasting the darling Boysenberry colour of our Catriona Rowntree collaboration, this Silk Shirt is an elegant and opulent piece, crafted from 100% silk, offering a luxurious feel for day-to-night glamour. With optional tie fastening and a long sleeve that can be rolled back, this shirt is versatile either for your Parisian jaunts après-heures, or for cooler climate cocktails at a French Chalet!
The Catriona Rowntree Phone Crossbody Bag in black leather is a practical, everyday accessory that will easily team with any outfit. Simply throw it on for a bit of French cool for fuss-free roaming!
Taking inspiration from French vintage frocks, the flirty Shirred Midi Dress is a showstopping piece of our new Catriona Rowntree collaboration. In darling Boysenberry, this dress is crafted from 100% viscose offering a luxurious soft hand-feel and comes complete with a matching, adjustable slip. It boasts jewelled buttons for a hint of glint, perfect to take you from day-to-night, from les musées straight to the champagne bar!
Need to stay warm? Our statement Boiled Wool Jacket is available in a vibrant rose-pink tone and is a cosy and warm option for winter and a key piece of our new Catriona Rowntree collaboration. Crafted from premium Australian wool and viscose, this jacket has a narrow double-breasted design and self-fabricated waist tie for elegant ‘French-Trench’ wrap fastening. Delight in the raw cut detailing and Blue Illusion monogrammed lining, featuring Catriona’s signature wheat motif, said to bring the wearer good luck! Fancy browsing Paris’ boutiques and alleyways with a bit of French mystère? Simply try on this rose-pink wool jacket with a matching Peonies Wool Scarf and cat-eye sunglasses. Ooh, la la!
A feminine and warm piece in Ice Pink, our Jacquard Wool Jumper is crafted from Merino wool, organic cotton, and recycled nylon as part of our exclusive Catriona Rowntree collaboration. As stylish as the icon herself, and inspired by Catriona’s love of all things pink, this jumper features a sweet jacquard popcorn diamond design, perfect for daytime strolls around the Champs-Elysées in Paris!
For a pant that won’t crease in your suitcase, choose our Wool Lace Insert Pant. Crafted from 100% Merino wool and featuring a lovely lace insert, this pant is warm, comfortable and won’t stain easily. Created in collaboration with Catriona Rowntree, this piece is as easy to wear as it is stylish. Très bon for day-to-night jaunts in the City of lights!
Pair any of the garments from the collection with our Catriona Rowntree Peonies Wool Scarf for sweet winter style. Crafted from 100% wool, this scarf is the perfect mix of French-inspired style and Catriona’s love of flowers!
Vivre Le Rêve: Blue Illusion presents ‘French Experiences’
Catriona Rowntree will also be hosting an immersive chateau trip in France through Blue Illusion’s ‘French Experiences’ this September. Curated by Blue Illusion, our latest offering includes the choice of a week-long stay at either Château de la Carrière or Chalet Savoie Faire, two unforgettable experiences abroad that are sure to delight, inspire and enrich your inner Francophile!
Catriona Rowntree and Donna Guest will be attending the week-long stay at Château de la Carrière for the dates of 7th - 14th September, 2023. Places are limited. Visit https://magazine.blueillusion.com/french-experiences to book your trip or learn more.