The last time we hung out with Viva was in Centennial Park in Sydney right after she graduated. We asked her what she was most excited for in the coming year, she said it was to see what life had in store for her after finishing school. “I am so excited to be able to gain independence and travel around the world; visiting new places, learning about different cultures and meeting new people.”
You will be tickled to know that she’s come good on that pledge. The good egg moved to NYC four months ago to study Fashion Business Management at the Fashion Institute of Technology, trading in Centennial Park for the iconic Central Park instead. In that short window of time, she’s ticked more things off the bucket list than most people would dream of doing in a lifetime. (Spoiler: this includes meeting Rihanna.)
When she’s not living out your bad gal RiRi dreams, you’ll most likely find her sampling the finest food and coffee the Lower East Side and Chinatown has to offer, thrifting up a storm, or wandering around the city people watching (who needs reality TV when you have the streets of NYC?). Once you’re done eating up the visual feast that is her photo diary above, get to know all about her awe-inspiring escapades in the Big Apple via our chat with her below…
Where are you from originally, and how long have you been in NYC?
I grew up in Sydney, Australia. I’m half Australian, half Barbadian and I have been living in New York City for four months.
What drew you to NYC?
I have always had a special connection to NYC. I was born in the city, however never got the chance to permanently live here growing up. I always knew that I wanted to experience what it was like to be a true ‘New Yorker’ one day.
Can you list your top three favourite places in NYC to eat, shop and drink, and why are they your favourite?
To eat, I love Jack's Wife Freda which is the cutest little cafe in Chelsea. The food is delicious, the people are so lovely and it’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Another favourite food stop is Freemans which is on the Lower East Side down Freeman’s alley. The vibe down there is so funky and the alley is plastered with posters and art, from head to toe. I also love Vanessa’s Dumplings House in Chinatown—it’s super affordable and they have the best vegetarian dumplings and delicious noodle-soups. I LOVE IT. For a treat, my favourite dessert spot is Van Leeuwen which has the yummiest vegan ice-cream in a range of quirky flavours (it’s highly addictive).
To shop, I spend majority of my time and money thrifting. One of my top favorites thrift stores would be Beacon's Closet because the store is the equivalent to a vintage heaven, filled to the brim with amazing pieces. I also love the good ol’ Salvation Army. It requires a lot of digging, but I have found some of my favourite thrifted pieces from their shops across the city.
To drink, when it comes to coffee I go to the coffee shop Matto, which is just across the street from my school and everything in the store is $2.00, from pastries and chai lattes to coffees. I also love my matcha very much and so I love getting a matcha tea from Cha Cha Matcha—the shop is also super cute and pink.
NYC is such a bustling, busy city. How do you unwind?
My favourite thing to do when I am in need of a quick escape from the city is to head to any of the amazing parks the city has to offer, with my favourite being Central Park (of course). The park is huge and I love exploring and discovering new areas of it—to sit, read or relax with friends. I usually bring a book or my film camera, listen to some nice tunes, soak up the sun, or, most recently, to enjoy the vibrant colour palette of the pretty fall trees. Another way I like to unwind, weirdly enough, is walking through the city with headphones in and people-watching as I go. There is so much crazy stuff that goes on and walking around and taking it all in is the next best thing to watching live reality television.
What’s been the most challenging thing about studying fashion in NYC? And, about life in general?
Definitely one of the most challenging aspects of studying fashion in the city has been time management. They say it is the “city that never sleeps” and ain’t that the truth. There is never a dull moment or a quiet hour. It is very hard to set aside enough time to do homework and study when there are countless activities that I’d rather take part in. It tends to make me feel slightly guilty when I have to spend some days inside the library instead of exploring the city, so that is always a challenge.
And the best thing?
The best thing about living in NYC is the fact that I live in NYC, which is still a crazy thought that I haven’t properly finished processing. My school is located in Chelsea, and since I live on campus, I have absolutely everything at my doorstep. The moment I step off campus I am in the middle of Manhattan which is pretty cool. A few of the best things about the city are: having access to amazing museums, a plentiful selection of yummy restaurants, a diverse spectrum of fun events and being surrounded by awesome, motivating people.
What have been some highlights for you so far in NYC?
NYC has been a whirlwind so far with countless highlights to name. One of my favourites have included meeting Petra Collins and listening to her talk at the ‘Red Hook Studios’ in Brooklyn. I love her work and she’s so sweet! Another highlight was spending the Labour Day long weekend on Fire Island (when it was still HOT!). It was a nice vacay out of the city, and I enjoyed relaxing and swimming at the beach. Attending the Man Repeller x Zappos Cozy Friendsgiving dinner was another highlight. I love the ‘Man Repeller’ fashion blog so attending one of their events was awesome. The evening was filled with wine, a yummy dinner and lots of goodies to help stay warm this winter. Another highlight was buying a last minute ticket to Steve Lacy’s concert off Craigslist and seeing him perform his ‘Apollo XXI’ world tour at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.
What do you miss most about home?
With the New York weather cooling down (and the first snowfall of the winter), I must admit I am missing the Sydney climate and sunny winter days. I also miss the coffee and being able to order a good quality almond flat white. And, of course, I miss my family, my friends and my dogs. (Oh, and a few clothing items that didn’t make the cut).
What’s the craziest thing to happen to you since you’ve been there?
One of the craziest things that have happened since I’ve moved to NYC would definitely be meeting style icon Iris Apfel and shopping from her personal jewelry collection at her Trunk show. Another crazy thing would be attending Rihanna’s Diamond Ball for her charity the Clara Lionel Foundation. It was a very fun night full of glitz and glamour, and I was lucky enough to meet Rihanna at the end of the evening.
How would you describe New York in a sentence?
A city like no-other!
Feature: Madeleine Woon