Geared with the experience to knock the socks off anyone in the fashion industry, (Editor of RUSSH magazine, Fashion Features Editor of NYLON & NYLON Guys magazines, and Editorial Director at Urban Outfitters to name a few), writer and creative consultant Natalie Shukur is currently spending her time in the magical town of Byron Bay. It seems that her focus is waning from the fast-paced fashion industry, and instead, firmly steering towards all of the good things in life: Organic food, holistic practices and a whole lot of adventure. And, like the rest of us, she has developed an obsession with Susan Miller’s Astrology Zone app.
But you can be sure this well-read nature-lover won’t sit still for long. Byron Bay is her way of taking a breath and giving herself time to feel out her next move. While Natalie lets her ideas bubble on the stove and ferment on the bench, activating into their most powerful state, here is what she has to say about right here, right now…
You have travelled overseas for work (and play!) a few times, yet Byron Bay seems to always have its pull on you. Can you tell us about why you always want to come back here?
Byron Bay is one of those places with an undeniably magnetic energy. It was once a sacred Aboriginal ceremony and birthing ground, and it is said that people come here to heal and either stay to heal others, or move on. (It’s also said that the intense feminine energy contributes to an alleged 7:1 female to male ratio!) While I’m all for a bit of woo-woo mysticism, there does appear to be some actual geology behind the alluring nature of this place. Apparently there are massive belts of obsidian crystal beneath the earth here, and ley lines crossing through it. It’s also the most easterly point of Australia, so something about negative ions crashing together gives it some extra powerful juju! Most obviously, Byron is a subtropical paradise with beautiful beaches—I have lush hinterland, amazing surf and abundant flora, fauna and wildlife on my doorstep. I still get a tingle every time I reach the top of lighthouse and take in the coastline view. Or stand up at the Pass lookout and watch the surfers, lost in their ocean meditation. A friend took me out for a surf lesson the other day and we bobbed around a pod of dolphins. I didn’t grow up around much nature, so experiencing all of this has grounded me and made me believe in magic just that little bit more. For me, creatively and spiritually, Byron provides an environment in which I can marinate on things and tune-in. There is such a conscious community of yogis, organic food cultivators, musicians, artists, animal and environmental activists and healers that raise the town’s vibration, making it an inspiring place to be. I feel like it nurtures my feminine side and encourages a sense of freedom and entrepreneurialism—all things I like to enhance in my life.
Where are your favourite spots to explore and hang out in Byron Bay?
The walk up to the lighthouse is a very popular pastime for visitors and locals alike. A friend introduced me to a lesser-known back path underneath the rainforest canopy (you can reach it from Lee Lane, opposite Clarke’s Beach car park). It is so oxygenating, and on quiet days it’s just the palms, bush turkeys, wallabies, lizards and me. This is where I go to hash things out with myself and often come up with creative ideas. Sometimes I’ll hug a tree! Tallow beach is a bit more wild and wooly than Main Beach or Wategos…the world feels so infinite when you’re walking on Tallow. The Arts & Industrial estate, located at the entrance of town is where you’ll find the HQs and workshops of many local fashion designers and artisans. It’s home to Kulcha Jam, a not-for-profit food co-op, teahouse, gallery and events space, where there’s often an organic lunch on Thursdays. If you’re lucky, Russell will be on duty—he makes the most incredible South Indian feast of dosa or uttapam, curry, sambal, chutneys and seasonal produce that makes me drool just thinking about it. Right outside of Byron, Mullumbimby is a great little town to explore, home to fantastic community gardens, the Kiva spa, and local favourite Milk & Honey woodfired pizza restaurant, which is on my ‘to eat at’ list. In the Byron Shire hinterland you’ll find charming country towns, from bourgeoisie Bangalow with its boutiques and gourmet cafés to tiny Federal, which is worth the 40-minute drive from Byron just to visit Doma, a home-style Japanese café run by a wonderful group of young hippie surfers. I’d like to spend more time exploring the local water holes and falls such as Minyon, Killen, Whian Whian and Natural Bridge before summer’s over.
You’re a keen foodie – loving all of the good stuff for your body. Can you tell us about some of the recipes you’re playing with, or trying out, or that are perhaps on your daily menu?
Where to start? Right now, I’m bringing things full-circle back to basics. I’ve been a longtime lover / eater / advocate of organic whole foods, but I did get a bit carried away recently with gluten and grain-free baking, raw ‘un-baking’ and experimenting with cacao and adaptogenic herbal concoctions in smoothies, chocolates and desserts. I started to feel like my daily intake of so-called “super food” potions and powders was a bit excessive and I needed to put the JERF (Just Eat Real Food) back into my menu. I’m reading up on the classic Eastern philosophies that use food to fortify and heal, from Ayurveda to Macrobiotics. I’m loving throwing together colourful nourishing bowls—a rainbow mix of raw and cooked veggies, sprouts, seaweed, legumes, quinoa, wild rice, fresh herbs, toasted seeds, sauerkraut, and a good dollop of some kind of tahini-based dip or dressing. It’s a great way to experiment with seasonal ingredients and use up leftover bits from the fridge. I believe in an intuitive, mindful approach to cooking and eating, but most importantly it’s got to be flavourful and enjoyable! When I do eat animal products, I try to source the best organic, humanely treated grass-fed meat, chicken and eggs, and sustainable fish that I pan fry in coconut oil or slow cook in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired dishes. Oh and I’m obsessed with making Ayurvedic mung bean dahl—I have a recipe with pumpkin and greens from my friend Lorien that always hits the spot. I really want to try the Sans recipe for goji, ginseng and chicken broth. Soul food! And I just cracked open the Hemsley & Hemsley cookbook. Breakfast is a highlight of my day. Recently, it’s been an overnight oats/buckwheat concoction or a chia pudding type thing topped with berries. I’m a super-dork and make my own almond milk and coconut yoghurt to use in these recipes and usually prepare breakfast the night before. I want to be the girl who makes her own ferments, kombucha, tonics, and dehydrated stuff, but I’m drawing the line somewhere for now, otherwise I would literally spend all my time either cooking or eating! Oh and I have a love affair with good wine—particularly organic or biodynamic, natural, funky or unfiltered reds.
What are your pantry essentials?
Un-hulled tahini, all day everyday. Quinoa, activated buckwheat, chia seeds, cold-pressed olive and coconut oils, a selection of vinegars including apple cider, coconut, and balsamic; tamari, seaweed, Himalayan rock salt, a variety of nuts and seeds that I activate when possible, desiccated coconut and goji berries. Cayenne, cinnamon, turmeric and cumin are my spices in heaviest rotation. Cacao, maca, reishi, mesquite, a greens powder, and other plant-based nutritional boosters that I rotate with the seasons and my mood. Nut butters, vanilla, coconut flour, mung bean pasta, and dark chocolate. All organic and much of it locally produced. And tea. I use the naturopathic counter at my organic grocery store Santos like a candy shop and make my own blends. I like green tea in the afternoon and my magic mix of chamomile, peppermint, fennel, licorice, skullcap and lemon balm for a digestive sleep aid after dinner. New additions I’m yet to play with are Pau D’Arco, cat’s claw, and horsetail: A powerful trifecta that boosts immunity and reduces inflammation.
And if you were to eat out in Byron, where would you go? What would you order?
Breakfast at Naked Treaties for a sweet treat. I’m addicted to their sprouted ‘grawnola’ and ‘I am Beautiful’ probiotic berry smoothie. Lunch at Santos for locally made fresh vegan bakes, brown rice nori rolls, abundant seasonally-driven mystery salads, and a flat white on coconut milk topped with a generous dusting of cinnamon. Dinner at the Roadhouse (to be honest I could easily choose this place for breakfast and lunch, too!) would consist of their vegan nourishing bowl, the sustainable fish special, or roast chook or lamb on a Sunday. Add a glass of un-fiddled-with Tempranillo by winemaker Jilly, based in nearby Clunes, or, if I’m looking for trouble, a mezcal cocktail spiked with house-made medicinal tinctures. I am so lucky to have the Roadhouse pop up right down the street from my home. It’s run by young, passionate people who wanted their friends to have access to healthy, hearty food that supports local organic farmers and sustainable food practices. Their menu incorporates vegan, gluten-free, paleo and OFC (optimal food combining) without being pedantic about it, and they offer nutritionally forward-thinking stuff like bulletproof coffee, colostrum-spiked smoothies, homemade pickles and cold-press juice. They live and breathe the concept and it’s been inspiring to watch the business grow over the past year. What I love about the Roadhouse is their sense of balance, fun and lack of pretension when it comes to presenting really good (and good for you) food. Yes, there’s green juice, but there’s also a killer selection of whiskey, plus a super chill vibe (you order and pay at the bar; cutlery and water is self-serve, the staff wear cutaway tees and ripped denim, dogs are welcome) and there’s always something loud and bluesy playing on the stereo.
Now, yoga. You’re an absolute fan. Tell us about some of the people and classes you’ve been attending here.
I’m a devotee of Ananta Yoga in Byron Bay. It fosters such a wonderful sense of community and I have met some beautiful friends through the studio. I feel it’s important to balance the Yin and Yang elements within one’s yoga practice (and life in general!), so I strive for a mix of powerful vinyasa flow with the inspiring and incomparable Nikki Elwin, a deepening and releasing Yin session with Leigh Ostermeier, and alignment-focused classes with Geoff Brooks, who basically re-trains me how to walk on a weekly basis! I’m very happy to have found a place to practice that really embodies all the limbs of yoga, nurturing with meditation and breath work, and strengthening through challenging asana. I also love to practice Kundalini with the magical Harjiwan whenever I get the chance. Her classes and intensive workshops are like yogic rocket fuel—so powerful and transformative. Kundalini works on a physical, emotional and chemical level. It stimulates your glandular system and moves your shakti. I have achieved both ecstatic highs and deep, blissed-out meditative states practicing with Harjiwan.
I’m wondering if Byron has still held on to any artisan crafts? Are there any people; makers or creators that are still practicing their art here? Do you think this is an essence that has reverberated throughout the community?
Absolutely! Byron has a thriving community of artists and makers that is so supportive of each other. There are regular artisan markets and the aforementioned Arts & Industry estate. My sister Danielle Shukur makes divine healing crystal jewellery, handmade with love. Jai Vasicek is a talented painter and mixed media artist who also has an incredible eye for interiors, which he showcases at his store Ahoy Trader. Paul McNeil, who was one of the original Mambo artists and made band posters for everyone from Sonic Youth to the Beastie Boys in the ’90s, is a patron of the arts here, encouraging the next generation through initiatives like Art Park, while still doodling on posters, tees, and surfboards himself. There’s an old tripper called Jory who makes hand stitched leather moccasins that he fits to your feet—you’ll find him at the markets. I recently discovered ceramicist Sit Still Lauren from Bangalow, whose work is charming and hand-hewn. Artisanal food is a big thing here: Alive Foods and Peace Love & Vegetables both make sauerkraut and other fermented goodies, Kitz make yummy flax crackers and activated nutty things; Gwen Tempeh produce tempeh made from fava beans and chickpeas, The Monday Food Co make awesome paleo granola, and Kombucha Mama brews delicious fermented tea, to name a small handful.
As someone who has an exceptional eye, which designers, writers, magazines, blogs, or artists are you enjoying watching/wearing/listening to at the moment?
I have a love-hate relationship with the Internet and digital culture in general. So anything that retains a heartfelt feel and an original voice and aesthetic is more my thing in terms of blogs. I’ve been enjoying OK REAL and Freunde von Freunden. I like the anarchic spirit behind StyleLikeU and their poignant What’s Underneath video series. And Anyone Girl, of course. Aside from that, it’s tons of foodie blogs like Petite Kitchen and My New Roots. I just discovered Shannon’s Kitchen, which is a hysterical take on the healthy recipe blog format. I’m going through a bit of a minimalist phase at the moment, as I’m travelling a lot and in-between workspaces. I’ve kind of become addicted to the lightness and spontaneity this affords. So I’ve had to curb my magazine buying, but I can’t go past a new issue of Self Service; I love British Vogue for the features and Paris Vogue for the pictures. Gather Journal is dreamy. Four & Sons is clever. I recently contributed to my friend Giuseppe’s new quarterly men’s style digest, MITT, which launches soon. I adore print, and hope to continue working in it and watching it flourish in new ways. We’re seeing such a renaissance of niche independent publications at the moment, which is lovely. As with magazines, I’m not buying many clothes these days, but Acne Studios, Dries van Noten, Simone Rocha, Marni and The Row continue to excite me. I would love to own a pair of Maryam Nassir Zadeh shoes—beautifully odd, and comfy looking! And some delicate stud earrings by WWake are also on my wish list. Isla Collective is a local Byron Bay label that makes perfectly cut basics that I always stock up on, and I adore Lonely Lingerie—I can’t wait to try their new swimwear. My friends at nagnAta make divine yoga mat bags fashioned from reclaimed Indian textiles, and they work with Women Weave in India to make hand-loomed scarves with natural dyes. The future of fashion really HAS to be sustainable, and I’m excited to see what these girls do next. Arts-wise, I’m loving the explosion of young ceramic and textile artists getting attention such as New Friends, Tammy Kanat and Cassie Griffin to name just a few. I’ve always been a photography fan and my small collection includes works by Bec Parsons, Derek Henderson and Corinne Day, but recently I’ve been drawn to painters including New Yorker’s Alice Lancaster and Fanny Gentle, and Leah Fraser, a painter and sculptor from Sydney whom I have watched blossom into an accomplished artist—I would love to own one of her pieces when I’m ready to nest.
Any good books or films you’ve read or seen recently that you’d like to recommend?
Oof. I am determined to read a lot more this year…and to watch more films! At the end of last year I was on a bit of a pop-culture cleanse, getting back to nature and blissing out in Bali for a few weeks, chanting and astral travelling and hanging myself upside down in yoga swings! Books were my first love, and I think that it’s so nourishing to transport oneself into other worlds through beautifully crafted words. I’m currently reading Russell Brand’s Revolution, which is very entertaining, informative, and dare I say, inspiring. Yes he’s a celeb, but we need more activist voices like Brand who can crack through to the mainstream. Through him, I got onto the work of analyst and localism pioneer Helena Norberg-Hodge (she co-directed The Economics of Happiness) and plan to seek out her books next. The last film I watched was the Krishna Das documentary One Track Heart, which I loved because I’m secret Kirtan dork, and I have been revisiting Bertolucci’s films for their lush, sensual visuals.
Do you get into podcasts or apps? If so, which ones?
Not so much, but I would like to get into more podcasts. There’s a few random meditation and sleep ones that I like to have on hand to wind-down at the end of the day. An old boyfriend turned me onto comedian Julie Klausner’s How Was Your Week, which is hilarious and always picks me up if I’m feeling a little bummed out. I like the New Yorker fiction podcast. Susan Miller’s Astrology Zone is a daily addiction. Duolingo is great for learning foreign languages. Not a podcast or an app, but I love BBC Radio 6 online. I was devastated when Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service came to an end, but I am equally enamored by Iggy Pop’s Radio Show (Iggy doing talk radio for two and a bit hours every Sunday! Gold!) and there’s lots of other great shows on there too—it’s where I discover new artists. And I love myself a TED Talk.
What tracks have been on your summer playlist this year?
Forever Dolphin Love – Connan Mockasin
Sun in the Morning – Future Islands
Drunk in Love – Beyoncé
Stay – Sam Smith
Expensive Shit – Fela Kuti
Coconut – Harry Nillson
Stoned & Starving – Parquet Courts
White Fire – Angel Olsen
Pyramids – Frank Ocean
Jungle Lullaby – C.W. Stoneking
What kinds of things are you hoping to invite into your year this year?
Travel, adventure, entrepreneurial endeavors, collaborations with inspiring individuals, finding a mentor or two, and learning new skills. I want to get more confident and consistent with surfing. And, most of all, LOVING!
Images | “Sorry, No One’s Home” Svetlana Lazareva photographed by Derek Henderson for RUSSH magazine issue #29, and Lonely Hearts ‘Love All’ S/S10 campaign, both styled by Natalie Shukur.