Gucci jacket, $4800, top, $2500, pants, $1500, sunglasses, POA, stockings, $360, and shoes, $3545.
Model’s own jewellery worn throughout.
Australian influencer Sarah Ellen hits the streets of Thailand’s capital wearing looks from Gucci’s Pre-Fall 2019 collection. Taking us behind the scenes, she reflects on the city’s dynamic mix of chaos and refinement, and her own meteoric rise.
It’s nearing 3am in Bangkok and the streets, which were bustling and beautifully chaotic only a few hours earlier, have now fallen eerily quiet. Sarah Ellen swings her sequinned limbs into the back of a tuk tuk as it takes off at speed, with our shoot team closely in pursuit. As our photographer sets up the shot from the passenger window of a moving van, Sarah defaults into “model mode”: relaxing back into the seat and contorting her body towards the camera, her Gucci jumpsuit twinkling under the tuk tuk’s green and red disco lights, as we hurtle side by side down Ratchadamnoen Avenue, the city’s tree-lined equivalent of Paris’ Champs-Élysées.
It’s not for the faint of heart, but for the 19-year-old Australian creative director, actress and self-confessed adrenalin junkie, being in front of the camera comes naturally – after all, she’s been doing it since the age of 12, when she first launched her Instagram (@sarahellen) and YouTube accounts. Sarah has amassed more than 2 million followers; not to mention countless fan pages dedicated to her style.
“I started creating content when the world of social media was uncharted,” she explains after the shoot. “I was 12 years old, Instagram had just launched and I had a few videos on YouTube that had gone viral. I gained a few subscribers that were interested in ‘following my life’, which was a bit of a strange concept for me, especially being so young. But at the same time, it felt really normal – I guess probably a result of growing up in the internet age?”
Gucci dress, $4200, beret, $525, and handbag, $2850.
“This was one of the first looks we shot, in the middle of a busy intersection. I’m kind of surprised [photographer] Bart managed to catch me in a moment where there was no hustle and bustle going on behind me!”
Gucci jacket, $5700, dress, $8500, and handbag, $3940.
“It was a warm, balmy night at about 2am on the streets of Bangkok, and the roads were close to empty. I felt like I was on the way to meet my Prince Charming at a disco in this beautifully bedazzled jumpsuit.”
Gucci coat, $5200, and jumpsuit, $9300.
While her makeup tutorials and real-life updates live on, they’re vastly different to the vlogs she created in her early teens. Picked up by luxury brands and partnering with them to create content all over the world, these days Sarah is more often photographed on glamorous European beaches, posing on the red carpet at Cannes or perching on front rows in Paris and New York in new-season designs. It’s occasions like these that see her held up as a source of fascination and style inspiration for her followers and fashion editors alike. “It’s been an incredible journey being able to travel to different cities and explore unimaginable corners of the world,” she says of her work. “The worldly insights travelling gives you are better than what you could find in any book or any YouTube video and for that I am so humbled and grateful.”
But her continued popularity with both brands and followers is no fluke. In a world where “influence” is increasingly becoming an oversaturated commodity, she sees her work ethic, self -discipline, authenticity, research and knowing her worth as all equally important keys to her success. She’s also infinitely likeable. When we meet in Bangkok, she’s one of several key opinion leaders being hosted by Gucci for the Asia launch of their Fall Winter 2019 collection, but she is by far the most popular. Even the other influencers – actors, models and singers, themselves with huge followings – gravitate towards her warm, smiling presence, requesting selfies and exchanging numbers.
“Working with Gucci has definitely been a pretty huge ‘pinch me’ moment,” she says. “To me, it feels like an experience unlike any other fashion house. I love how the brand not only represents fashion but also culture.” Lately, her limitless curiosity for all things culture and creativity has taken her behind the lens too, with a collection of her photography exhibited at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia in May.
As for the future, she’s keeping mum on specifics. However, if the first half of the year is anything to go by, it will likely include far-flung destinations, luxury fashion and beautiful photography – where she’ll be positioned both in front of and behind the camera. It may also include wedding planning (Sarah is engaged to New Zealand-born, Sydney-based music producer Caleb Jackson). But the one thing you can bet on with Sarah, is whatever she does, it will be with the same fearlessness, passion and charm that she approaches everything else in her life.
“I always like to keep an open mind when it comes to what’s next,” she says with a smile.
“Standing among the marigolds at the flower market, this outfit was simple yet so effective. It just goes to show you can wear a fabulous outfit anywhere, anytime.”
Gucci dress, $5200, and handbag, POA.
“I love this photo and feel like it represents me really well: always smiling and with my film camera on hand.”
Gucci jacket, $4400, and beret, $525.
For further never-seen-before images from our exclusive shoot in Bangkok, see our gallery below.
Photography and creative direction: Bartolomeo Celestino
Words: Kelly McAuliffe
This story and shoot originally appeared in Fashion Quarterly Issue 3, 2019.