On Iconic photographer Daniela Federici, her legacy, and her lust for life.
Melbourne native Daniela Federici has directed and photographed campaigns for A-list celebrities, luxury hotels, and world-class brands (including Blue Illusion) all while travelling the world, winning awards, and raising a son. How did she do it? According to Daniela, by doing what she loves.
The Zoom camera opens up to Daniela in her new home in Bali, a stunning, architectural A-frame home with exposed wood beams that she is renovating as part of her upcoming TV show, Casa Federici. The show will touch on design, wellness, cuisine, and building a high-quality, low-budget lifestyle. More on that later.
She gracefully moves through her Bali home in a fabulous deep-green one-piece and her signature wide-frame glasses. Even after decades of glitz and glamour, Daniela exudes enthusiasm and warmth as she invites us into her remarkable world, talking a mile a minute.
Entrer dans le Monde de la Mode
Federici entered the world of fashion at a young age with a love of Federico Fellini and old Hollywood glamour. She would go to the library at 8 or 9 years old and immerse herself in Italian and French Vogue. “I loved this beautiful, fabulous world and Helmut Newton with models in fur coats on tractors.” For Daniela, it was the romance of escape and the glamour of this radical, far-away world.
When she was 13, she did hair and makeup on her friends and staged her first sets. At 16, her years of ballet landed her work as a runway model at the Fashion Design Council in Melbourne, a membership organisation established to support avant-garde fashion and emerging designers.
Around that time, she also met a young Donna Guest aspiring to grow her brand, Blue Illusion.
Through the catwalk, Daniela became a part of the late 80s-early 90s fashion scene in Melbourne and was able to use designers’ clothes in her personal shoots. With friends and boyfriends as models, she curated elaborate sets, including a Fellini homage that she made with now-top interior designer Antony Todd in his home. Through her unabashed zest for her craft, Daniela fostered a vast network of connections. By age 18, Daniela had a sizable portfolio and was shooting portraits for Vogue Australia.
At university, she worked at Inflation Nightclub and Checkpoint Charlie, where her network expanded into the music industry. Terry Blamey asked her to photograph Kylie and Danii Minogue’s first shoots. She was only in her second year at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology while shooting for musicians like INXS and Kate Ceberano. After graduation, she moved to Sydney and worked with fashion magazines like Elle and Mode and embarked on her first international campaign to Rome for a Roman Holiday-inspired shoot.
Deeply influenced by film, Daniela garnered a reputation for still-life storytelling. Her distinctive style created the illusion that you were witnessing a brief moment in a fully-fledged world of allure and drama. “I love what I do, so it wasn’t like I was working. This was just like playing dress-up for me. And it was dress-up with friends where we could create any fantasy.” Her enthusiasm manifested into a highly defined vision that editors and clients were just as eager to see brought to life. “I think they just let us go with it because we were so enthusiastic and so keen. And the work was great.”
Soon, her evocative talent for story-telling caught the attention of Paul Marciano, co-founder and art director for Guess. Suddenly, not yet 25, Daniela was flown out to LA to shoot Guess’s now iconic Anna Nicole Smith campaigns, for which Daniela drew inspiration from Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull and the original Scarface. The critical success of that campaign led her to shoot 14 more campaigns with Guess (featuring Anna Nicole, Laetitia Casta, and many others), gain worldwide recognition, and sign onto the same agency in New York as Herb Ritts, the top agency in the world, Visage.
“My assistant, Beau, and I were coming in through Brooklyn Bridge at dawn, and the sun’s coming up over Manhattan, and Frank Sinatra’s song “New York New York” comes on, and we just burst through the skylight of our stretch limo, looking at the city going, ‘Yes! We made it!’ Little did we know there was so much more to do.”
Now, she was shooting celebrities for Vanity Fair. Working with agents in Italy, France, London, New York, and Australia, Daniela’s career travelling the world and shooting high-end campaigns was in full swing. “I’ve kind of lived a nomadic life for the last 30 years, just jumping around, and I kind of like that lifestyle.” She shrugs with an inviting nonchalance that shows this is just a way of life for Daniela that’s so ingrained in who she is. Perhaps it’s this unflinching authenticity and joyfulness that’s allowed Daniela to blossom in her field at such a young age and remain at the top of her field ever since.
“It was just a fantastic time to be young and footloose and fancy-free and just so excited about being somewhere and doing what you love to do. That’s the best part. I still do what I love doing and I think that’s the secret in life. If you can find something you love to do, that feels like it’s not work.”
Behind the Scenes of our Favori Collaborations
“I love the way Blue Illusion has shifted into not just selling clothes but also giving customers a lifestyle and a dream. And that dream that Blue Illusion has created, is something really special.”
In addition to shooting global, high-profile campaigns, Daniela has also shot some of our favourite campaigns, including ‘A Life in Colour’ with Iris Apfel, The Riviera Road Trip, and our most recent Corsica campaign. “I love shooting [with Blue Illusion] because I love how you go on a journey. You’re so into the whole French style, and every shot has a story, and we’re in beautiful locations. Even the models love being there because you guys look after us all.”
One of Daniela’s favourite shoots was in Corsica. “We shot at this beautiful town on top of a mountain called Pino. What’s interesting is [the people in the town] are all musicians and the mayor of the town actually handcrafts violins, that’s her job. Every cafe we went into had a live band playing. It was like out of a book.”
Another location that sounds too dreamy to be real is Arles in the Camargue. “It’s where the gypsy kings come from,” Daniela informs us, “where white horses run wild on the beach. We shot [that campaign] with the wild horses running with the models on the beach, which was kind of amazing.” She laughs. “Geographically, it’s spectacular. There are sand lakes with pink salt that just go for miles.” If you visit the area, be sure to look up the restaurant, Chez Bob, where Daniela and the team had dinner. “For us, it was the best food ever.”
As our conversation comes to a close, Daniela shares with us what she fancies most about French culture. “When we did the shoot a few years ago at Susie Jackson’s, my son came along, and we drove through the Loire Valley and looked at the châteaus. Some of the museums were open and the families were all walking through these museums, and the children were all asking questions. I love that family element, and I love the way the French are intellectually curious and culturally curious. They do things beautifully— from the food to the gardens to the interior design. It’s just a really elegant culture.”
For those who would like to continue following along on Daniela’s creative adventures, stay tuned for her upcoming TV show, Casa Federici, which will finish filming in December. Her show will give viewers an intimate look at how Daniela harnesses her enthusiasm and creativity to shape her dream life. She will also share tips on how to take control of your life, choose your next chapter, and create your own personal paradise…all on a budget. Check out her Instagram for more details and some behind-the-scenes to come.
Daniela leaves us with her final thoughts on Blue Illusion:
“I think Blue Illusion captures the magic of the French lifestyle, the beauty, the elegance and the ‘Joie de Vivre.’”
Merci beaucoup, Daniela for sharing your ‘Joie de Vivre’ with us today and for so many years. We look forward to many more years of making fabulous French escapes with you! Until then, Au revoir, à bientôt!
Note: Throughout the blog, Daniela wears our ‘Corsica’ collection. Learn more about Daniela at https://danielafederici.com or follow her creative journey @danielafederici on Instagram.