Julie Bishop’s name is as synonymous with fashion as it is with politics, and even four years after her political exit the 67-year-old knows how to let her style do the talking.
The former lawyer certainly injected a splash of style and colour back into Australia’s government, but would she ever consider a return to politics?
“I had a most challenging and satisfying political career of over 20 years,” she concedes, before adding, “And that is more than enough!”
Rejecting a return to politics doesn’t mean Julie Bishop is ready to be silent, however.
In August 2023, the former foreign affairs minister shared her thoughts on the Voice to Parliament referendum, claiming that a no result would send a “very negative message” to the rest of the world.
“We’ve done a great deal of research and analysis on the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the yes campaign, the referendum, and we believe that this is an opportunity to get things right,” she said at a yes campaign in Perth.
“It’s not a front-of-mind issue for most people, but I know that Australia’s international reputation can be affected by a no vote,” the Australian National University chancellor continued.
“I have no doubt that it would be sending a very negative message about the openness, and the empathy, and the respect and responsibility that the Australian people have for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.”
Though she’s no longer strutting through the House of Representatives in sequinned Rachel Gilbert gowns, fashion is still very much a part of the former Foreign Affairs Minster’s DNA.
“When I became foreign minister, I felt there was more we could do to boost Australia’s exports,” she told Financial Review. “The focus, to me, was very much on energy resources, agriculture and increasingly, financial services. But I felt that an element of economic diplomacy that was missing was our creative industries, and in particular, fashion.”
“I prefer to describe fashion as an under-appreciated form of communication that can send powerful although subtle messages,” she says. “It is also a significant economic driver in many nations.”
“She was the first politician here to take fashion seriously, as a billion-dollar industry,” Bishop’s friend, Vogue editor-in-chief Edwina McCann, told Financial Review. “For so long fashion was relegated to the women’s pages – I mean, it still is – but, in fact, it is this huge industry which has a real impact on our economy.”
The fashion industry is worth $25 billion annually; this includes retailing, textile manufacturing, clothing and footwear. During her time in politics, Julie certainly advocated for its economic advantages for the country.
On Instagram she regularly dons designer labels like Armani and Balmain, proving she still appreciates the power of a good outfit to set trends and spark social and political conversations.
Speaking about her personal style, she tells The Weekly, “I am more relaxed about my style and perhaps dress more informally, as being out of the constant spotlight brings a different perspective.”