Jan Campbell


I’ve known Jan Campbell , pretty well, since moving to Newtown. She and husband Peter are passionate about community and working with people in their community. They get involved.

Jan has a very particular style and is very thoughtful about how that style evolved as she aged. She has always supported artists and jewellers.

Jan is currently beginning her fourth career, as an ‘urban alchemist’ – working with people in communities where residents and businesses enjoy a healthy productive co-dependence; creating places that are appealing to live in, work in and visit and that add value to the life of the City.

These are her Musings on Ageing and links to the things she loves



Hair dresser – Daniel at Scissorhands Newtown

Musings on my design interests

I would say that a distinctive style has developed over the last 15 years or so. For a few reasons:

There was a fabulous conference – Sydney Design ’99 which attracted some amazing international designers. Meeting Vivianna Torun was a highlight. She was friends with Picasso, Braque and Matisse. Her open bangle watch is designed with a mirror face and no numbers to highlight the liberation from time. For about 5 years I had ‘visiting rights’ to the watch – often popping in o the Georg Jensen stores where staff would allow me to try it on. Pete bought the watch for me from a small inheritance when his mother died. This is an amazing and expensive item and exhilarating to wear every day. Not restricting wearing it only when going out was a cheeky decision that bolstered my confidence and maturity – just doing what I want to, not what others think I should do.

Visiting Canberra around the same time I popped in to a small boutique, Momento Dezigns, in Manuka. Ros has a broad range and suggested clothes for me I would not have considered. We were there for hours and I came away with bundle of clothes. This was the first time anyone had in effect ‘styled’ me and it gave me the first ideas about developing a particular style. We’ve been going there for nearly 15 years. This set me in good stead for when I first walked into Alistair Trung’s store in Paddington and he worked his magical drapes around me – I was thrilled and felt very special.

I have developed an appreciation of design working with my husband in a graphic design business for over 25 years. Most pieces or combinations have a very strong graphic influence.

My own professional and community work has been in arts and cultural development. I now understand how important a consumer of culture is to the richness of our lives. Not everyone can be an artist but they need folk like me to join an audience, hang their artwork, wear their jewellery, clothing and footwear.

My first major overseas trip was in 2000 at the age of 43; and a second trip with my daughter in 2003 (when she was 20). Visiting Europe was an amazing experience and has had lasting impact on my sense of self and place in the world.

Books – The Last of the Nuba and Africa Adorned. People in all cultures and ages think about their appearance. From fully nude to fully covered – in clothing, jewellery, paint, makeup, tattoo and branding – messages are created and sent to the viewer.

I’ve always had an interest in history and enjoy exhibitions that teach us something about ourselves through the choice of textures, fabrics, colours, volumes of cloth and degree of coverage of the body; ceremonial pieces, an architectural style reflected through fashion eg art deco, bauhuas are favourites.

We’ve raised a blended family of 5 children and in the last 15 years, less time and money has been required to support the family, allowing me time to think about how I want to dress myself, and the funds to realise it.

I’ve also become more self-conscious about my body shape and size so look for less fitted and a more multi-layered, draped style. It was liberating to stop dyeing my hair for the cost, the awful end-of-colour look and the time it took! My solution is a short, sharp cut every five weeks and a catchup with Daniel who sees every play and movie in Sydney.

I am aware of having created a ‘look’ but it didn’t happen overnight. Piece by piece the right items have clustered in the wardrobe; and those that no longer work have either worn out, no longer fit, or been hand delivered to the Red Cross store up the road.

 A recent development

I greet the world enveloped in hugs represented by wearing at least one thing that is connected to a person I dearly love. This seemed to have started when my daughter Mikaela moved to Tel Aviv in 2009. I miss her terribly. She has sent me clothes and jewellery or I’ve bought pieces there when I visit her. When faced with a challenging day there are particular pieces of jewellery or a scarf that I simply must wear.

There are other pieces I may have bought when in the company of a friend or perhaps someone has commented on something and I remember them when I wear it again. A Brisbane friend and I have the same scarf – I bought them for us when she was very ill – and it is a special day for me when I wear mine.

It calms me, I feel loved and the events of the day are experienced with better perspective.

Style Icons

There are no particular people or looks I favour or aspire to. It is more about admiring an individual and being stimulated by what they say, do or stand for.

How I feel when inspired by others is what informs my own self expression and choice of clothing and accessories.

 Feeling about getting older

First response is – Annoyed. But really, The Janni I am today respectfully acknowledges the girl, teenager, young mum, emerging professional and now older person. I feel more comfortable in my own skin than I did as a younger person. I am resentful about having a fuller figure – there is the old Size 8 lurking in their somewhere. I know I won’t find that again and it’s not appropriate, but I can afford to lose some weight for improved health.

Magazines or Ad campaigns

I recoil at the Ad campaigns of white-haired, white-clothed grandparents strolling hand in hand along the beach smirking about their bountiful investment portfolio and aged care resort.

I’m not interested in age or gender specific popular writing captured by any particular magazine. I prefer to see opinion pieces from a range of writers in the general press. I love opening the Sydney Morning Herald, having a chuckle with Benjamin Law then turning the page to find something by Anne Summers, Ann Deveson or Kate McClymont. I’m looking forward to following Annabel Crabb as she ages.

Fashion compared with mother’s generation

The difference is more pronounced for socio-economic reasons than generational.

The weekly budget for a family of nine made it difficult to purchase individual expensive items A Myer store card and Lay-By helped but the repayments were met out of that limited weekly budget.

I’ve been able to buy quality items and enjoy them lasting longer. I don’t buy to fashion cycles but have core pieces that I add to over time, reluctantly retiring items sometimes 10 years after purchase.

Growing up we had ‘good clothes’ and ‘play clothes’. It took a long time for me to break down this distinction. I often felt trussed up in the ‘good’ clothes, or they were made of impractical fabrics. I used to come home from work, pulling my bra through the sleeve of my top as I entered the house….. Part of dealing with the distinction is to be comfortably dressed whether for good or play and to enjoy the wicked feeling of hanging about on a Saturday afternoon in something I may wear to the theatre.

The care and maintenance of my clothing is something passed down from my Mum. I wash, rather than dry clean. One of my favourite things to do is hang clothes on the line in the sun, snapping the shirts fronts straight to make them easier to iron.

I’ve always owned a sewing machine and mend something as soon as a thread is pulled or seam comes apart. A button box is essential – nothing fancy, usually an old biscuit tin.

I have a few very good coats that I’ve had for years and years and they will fall apart before I buy new ones. Every few years I go to All Buttons Great and Small and simplt change all the buttons. They look like brand new coats… www.allbuttons.com.au

Most important things getting older

  • There is not a huge change, a change of emphasis more than anything.
  • I’ve always been involved in local community projects and want to spend more time with this.
  • Have always worked long hours and would like to work fewer hours
  • Having more time to take care of myself – exercise, preparation of food
  • Walking more slowly – having always torn about the place doing a million things at once
  • Time to think – I actually need to learn how to do this – am considering learning some basic meditation techniques.
  • Family, travel, LOVE

I value the experience of life I have and hope this is valued by my friends and family. A lot of that experience was gained through difficult circumstances and while I’m not expecting to save others from difficulties (as this is an essential part of living I can help with some of the recovery techniques; and love them through it.

 Designers. Clothing that appeals


Alistair Trung                     www.alistairtrung.com.au

Nicola Waite                       www.nicolawaite.com

Kedem Sasson                  Dizengoff St, Tel Aviv

Sark                                   Design, making sales – Surry Hills www.sarkstudio.com.au


Trippen                              en.trippen.com (Alistair Trung & Sole Devotion Melbourne)

Merrell                               merrell.com (comfy shoes that fit orthotics. Pity the logo is always so huge on them)

ASICS                                Joggers (worn with good clothes and play clothes)


Vivanna Torun                   http://www.georgjensen.com/au/watches/vivianna/vivianna-bangle-336-small-dial

An Morison                        Newtown studio – http://www.newtownprecinct.com.au/creating/member/morison

Cinnamon Lee                    COTA – Courtesy of the Artist

Belinda Esperson               COTA – Courtesy of the Artist

Hella Ganor                        http://www.hellaganor.com

Emma Goodsir                    e.g.etal

Essential support team

Podiatrist , physiotherapist, osteopath, annual skin & breast checks

Makeup – Clinique

 Hair dresser – Daniel at Scissorhands Newtown


Jerusalem The Biography                    Simon Sebag Montefiore

-– trying to understand something about my daughter’s new home. I had read a review and chosen it only to find that on our last visit to Tel Aviv Mikala was reading it and so was her mother in law Ora,

The Claimant                                           Janette Turner Hospital

– I always have a novel on the go. I devour them – don’t ask me anything about the story or characters later….

The News, A User’s Manual                Alain De Botton

– some non-fiction, a little philosophy

Leaving Alexandria                                Richard Holloway

still trying to work out the existential questions and better understand myself as a lapsed believer

The Principles of Uncertainty             Maira Kalman

– more Jewish connection and an absolute delight

Australian Notebooks                          Betty Churcher

– Australia, Art and culture…….

Listening to

My resident troubadour. There are three guitars and a banjo in permanent residence in the dining room. I am a devoted audience of one and hope Pete has new opportunities to perform as he once did.

Otherwise, my golden favourites of Jonie Mitchell, James Taylor, Leonard Cohen Jackson Browne, Crowded House, Pat Metheny….. I didn’t grow up with music in the house so these were the people on high rotation when I first heard music played in my 70s shared houses and I really haven’t moved on much from then… except maybe for Boy and Bear because I know the bass player.


We just lost 2 weeks of our lives watching House of Cards (US). I can hardly speak of it. The malevolence and deception ….!!!! The high production values and casting were a treat. It was terrible and wonderful at the same time. May have been better watching it when screened – one or two episodes a night was a bit much.

Now tuned in to Doctor Who, Masters of Sex, Anzac Girls. No news or current affairs – too bloody depressing.


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Comments 1

  1. Although I’ve known Jan for several years I found it fascinating and insightful to read about the experiences, needs, preferences that influenced and shaped her style – always eclectic, highly individual, unique, timeless and feminine. I wish I could pin down a style as efficiently and thoughtfully as Jan has! I’m particularly impressed by the way in which she has built up a wonderful collection of artwork, books, jewellery, garments and a signature hairstyle that reflects her support for her community, the arts and the countries she’s visited over the years. As I search around for adjectives I realise that they also describe Jan the person.
    Thanks for the glimpse into your life, Jan, and for the amazing photographs, Lorrie. They capture her beautifully.

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