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CELEBRITY / Oct ‘2015

Trading Places

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CELEBRITY / OCT ‘2015

Trading Places

Nat Bass chats fashion, family and working in a ‘fickle’ industry.

Words ARI CHÁVEZ

Natalie Bassingthwaighte has an upcoming photo shoot, for which she must have presentable nails. So she’s doing this phone interview in a Melbourne nail salon, and feeling guilty about her fellow travellers.
“I feel sorry for the people next to me,” she says. “If I get too loud, they can tell me to leave.”
Thanks to unreliable mobile phone coverage, some drop outs and a bit of indiscreet, “can you HEAR me?” back and forth, Nat decides that she, and the other customers, would fare better if she hovered out the front of the salon with a half-completed manicure.
“Hang on,” she giggles, uncomfortably, “I am going to walk out so I can concentrate. It’s always really embarrassing having someone sitting next to you listening to your answers.”
It’s a surprising admission for the actress, television personality and ARIA award winning recording artist, who found nation-wide success with the role of Izzy Hoyland on the TV show Neighbours in 2003, and the electro-pop band Rogue Traders in 2005 with the song, Voodoo Child.

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Chi Khi clothes, which were inspired by Nat’s children, Harper (5) and Hendrix (2), are a study in monochromatic hipster style.

Bassingthwaighte, or Nat Bass, is she is affectionately known, is in the business of being publically scrutinised, most recently on the wildly popular television show, X Factor, where she was a judge for four years before leaving the show earlier this year.
A firm favourite with audiences, Nat acted as a type of Mumma Bear to the entertainment hopefuls who performed on the show. An industry veteran, who has experienced her fair share of knockbacks, she understands the casual brutality of the entertainment industry.
“In this country it is hard,” she says frankly. “There are not a lot of options out there. It’s nice to still be in the industry.”
Nat has not only remained in the industry, she maintains a dizzying schedule of commitments including an appearance on the Neighbours 30th Reunion show earlier this year, a stint as a judge on New Zealand’s X Factor, a recent performance with her old band, Rogue Traders, and a role in the Ten Network’s upcoming telemovie about legendary racing car driver Peter Brock. Nat will play Brock’s girlfriend, Julie Bamford.
Acting and singing are not the only pursuits keeping Nat busy, however. Characteristically, she confirmed her surprise departure from X Factor with the cheerful announcement, “some exciting things in the pipeline that I can’t wait to share with you all. Watch this space.”

Nat is particularly focused on making the garments age-appropriate, citing discomfort with some of the revealing outfits that some brands market to very young girls.

One of those things is the expansion of her clothing brand Chi Khi (pronounced cheeky), her unisex range of children’s clothes for ages zero to seven. The brand, while a passion project for Nat, is also part of a broader strategy she and her husband, Rogue Traders band-mate Cameron McGlinchey, have employed to ensure long-term financial security. The commercially savvy couple now have a burgeoning portfolio of business ventures.
“We decided quite early on, you never know in this industry whether you are going to be flavour of the month anymore, so we started investing in property, pubs and now Chi Khi,” she explains. “We were trying to be smart with the money, I guess.”
Chi Khi clothes, which were inspired by Nat’s children, Harper (5) and Hendrix (2), are a study in monochromatic hipster style.
“I’ve never really been a girly girl, so for me it’s perfect,” she says. “Most of the stuff we have is unisex so it suits my personality. The clothes are so nice to wear. We have blends of bamboo elastin, some bamboo jersey, bamboo cotton, our knits are one hundred per cent cotton. It’s such a nice fabric on the skin, it’s great for babies with sensitive skin. It’s a bit of a luxe fabric, I won’t lie, but it’s great for the babies, great for the environment and it feels nice.”

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“The entertainment industry can be so fickle. You’re always waiting for the phone to ring. This way, I’m the one that’s in charge.”

Chi Khi’s striking palette and hip unisex designs are a point of difference in an overcrowded market, which typically delivers pink and frilly for girls and skulls and monsters for boys. Nat is particularly focused on making the garments age-appropriate, citing discomfort with some of the revealing outfits that some brands market to very young girls.
“I still think kids should be comfortable and not look like they are trying to be thirteen, yet still have a cool edge about it – you know what I mean? I don’t think it needs to be tarty or too fitted…there are a lot brands out there that…it’s just not appropriate for kids to be wearing those kinds of clothes. Our clothes are fashion forward, I would say, as far as trends go, but they’re still playful and comfortable so that the kids can run around in them.”
Nat may be the very public face of Chi Khi, but she has a team behind her that works on the design and execution of the garments. The final say, however, is hers, a fairly novel experience for someone used to slogging it out in the entertainment industry, her future usually determined by casting directors or producers.
“It’s great to call something your own. Also, the entertainment industry can be so fickle. You’re always waiting for the phone to ring. This way, I’m the one that’s in charge.
We have quite a big team now. Everyone often thinks that I’m the designer and the actual fact is that I created the brand, so the name and the identity of what Chi Khi is. I wanted to use bamboo fabrics – that came from me. I wanted to create a brand that was along the lines of a monochromatic palette, definitely, but then branch into some colour down the track but always have that as a core part of our identity, and for it to be unisex. That’s my vision for it.

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I’m the Creative Director and the people we have behind the designs are just amazing. They come to me with some amazing drawings or inspiration or pics, and I’m like, ‘love that, love that, love that, not sure about that’ and then they go and work up a number of pieces and come back to me over a number of months, and we eventually cull it down to the picks of the season. So I do get the final say, which is good!”
The Chi Khi range has expanded to include skincare products to calm sensitive skin, again inspired by Nat’s children both of whom have suffered from skin irritation, particularly when they were younger. While Nat is well past those hazy newborn days, she can clearly remember the early chaos that post-birth hormones and sleep deprivation delivered.
“It is the biggest jolt to the system,” she says. “The first one, I think, is harder because you really do not know what is about to hit you! It’s sleep deprivation, it’s constantly figuring out why they are crying. But in the long run, the bigger picture, it’s a pretty mind blowing experience.
The first time I left the house, I forgot that I needed a nappy! I just took the baby. I was at the first Maternal Health appointment and I didn’t have a nappy and I was like, “Ooooohhhh, that’s right, I need a whole bunch of stuff before I leave the house. I was completely sleep deprived obviously!”
Despite the early challenges that all new parents experience, Nat waxes lyrical about the experience of being a mother, the changes it has wrought and how her perspective has shifted and settled.

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“For me it’s about making them great human beings, to see the world in a beautiful way, to really like themselves, to love the world around them, to care about it, to care about others and to have good manners.”

“I think that as soon as I became a parent I came into my own,” Nat says. “Your whole world shifts. First of all, they need you so much, and they become obviously more important than anything else you’re doing. It’s all about the kids. Once you have kids it’s all about them. In a good way!
I think I’ve realised that there are more important things to life, you know? You can get so caught up in your career, and I’ve always been a driven person, but now what drives me is my children and wanting them to have the best life that they could possibly have. That’s not monetary, or any of those things, for me it’s about making them great human beings, to see the world in a beautiful way, to really like themselves, to love the world around them, to care about it, to care about others and to have good manners.
So I think all of my energy is – it feels like that’s the main priority now. So anything I do, or any decision my husband and I make about our careers, it’s always about them first – whether it will be the right thing for us as a family and how it might affect them or won’t affect them.
I look at my daughter now, she’s five and I’m like, ‘You’re us! We made you and you’re a person!’ It’s so surreal to say that. It’s something I really cherish. It’s really hard, don’t get me wrong, it’s really hard being a parent, but it’s something that is more rewarding than anything else.
When they are having a tantrum though, I definitely don’t think that – ‘Wow, I made you!’ – I think ‘Aaaaghhhhhh, Daddy made you! You are exactly like your father right now!’”

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The children’s father, Cameron McGlinchey, the far less public face of the high-profile couple, is clearly one of the reasons for Nat’s ongoing success.
“I feel like we are a really amazing team, and we actually always say that to each other. We work so well together because we respect one another’s aspirations, we get behind one another’s achievements. We just support one another one hundred per cent,” she says.
“It’s not always easy because our careers can take us here there and everywhere but I feel like we always talk through different options, we are very communicative, it’s what makes our family work.”
With Chi Khi expanding and more acting jobs in the offing, is there anything else Nat can jam into her schedule?
“I just want to keep going, and keep exploring and keep challenging myself, and see what I am capable of as a woman, as a mum as a sister as a daughter,” she says, emphatically.
I feel like life is about experiences and if we don’t take risks sometimes, where is the excitement? I’m like, what can I do now, what can I achieve with my life?”
Stay tuned.

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“It’s not always easy because our careers can take us here there and everywhere but I feel like we always talk through different options, we are very communicative, it’s what makes our family work.”

ARI CHÁVEZ

Ari has had work published in Australia, England, Japan and Singapore. She has a delightful toddler, Gabriel, who was born with coffee in his veins. She is currently completing her first novel as part of a PhD project.

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