The toast of New Zealand fashion, Paula Ryan has won over women with her eponymous clothing label and no-nonsense lifestyle advice. Here’s why the founder of Simply You will always be in style.
Paula Ryan is a presence. A coupe of Champagne in one hand, strings of red balloons in the other, she perches atop a grand piano. There’s electricity in the air – and it’s not just the quick-fire camera flashes in the studio. “We’ve got it,” says the photographer as soon as he starts to capture our cover image. “We haven’t even started,” shoots back Paula.
The media mogul (70) has spent plenty of time on photographers’ sets – both in front of and behind the camera. Her infectious enthusiasm has seen her build many successful and stylish businesses, including Fashion Quarterly and Simply You magazines and her fashion brand Paula Ryan, and she’s still brimming with ideas. “I won’t retire. I’d rather fall over on the job,” she quips.
While Paula looks at home on set today, complete with stage lights and gold streamers, it was her upbringing on her Catholic family’s mixed-crop farm in South Canterbury that armed her with the necessary self-possession to get to the top of the New Zealand fashion industry – as well as our Steinway piano. “I remember being out with our father in the frosty mornings, lambing ewes at 5am,” she says. “Now, nothing fazes me terribly much.”
An Armani suit with sneakers was once her go-to but now Paula’s new signature style is based around sleek black basics, although she’s also introduced the odd shot of colour recently. Now dressing mostly by mood, the only place black is off-limits is the beach, where she uses a white and beige wardrobe.
The creative counts fellow New Zealanders Trelise Cooper and Vicki Taylor as some of her favourite designers. “I love wearing other people’s clothes. I’d get bored if I just wore my own label because I see it so much,” she says. “Half of the joy of life is new experiences.”
So what are her secrets to staying fabulous at 70? Pick up a copy of the new issue of Simply You to read the full story, plus Paula Ryan’s all-time top styling tips.