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Style Agenda


Photo by Mardi Borrack

Designer Mardi Borrack and visual artist and musician Matthew Baird have brought their Style Agenda to Byron Bay. We asked the accomplished duo what it’s like to work on one of ABC TV’s most successful shows, where they draw their inspiration from, and who they’d like to work with.

When and why did you move to Byron? 

We moved up here from Torquay, Victoria in January 2015 to be closer to family, to embark on a new adventure, and to be part of a vibrant, progressive and creative community.

What is your point of difference?

The diversity that our collaboration brings. For Mardi, it’s 15 years of experience working as an art director, designer, set decorator and buyer in the film and television industry, which includes interior design projects and styling for media and advertising. For Matthew, it’s the combination of 20 years working in architecture, the visual arts, music, and academia.

Do you have a signature style you’re renowned for?

No. Our client base and projects are broad, each requiring different needs and expression. However, we do have an “Agenda” as it were. That is striving always for substance, the unexpected and a sense of drama. Quite often there is a dichotomy where disparate themes unexpectedly come together. Where contemporary collides with period, elegance with playfulness, richness with muteness, order with relaxed.

What aesthetic were you going for in the photo below and how did you achieve it?

Well, shooting and styling for a promo shot is complex for the single shot has to tell a detailed story about the performer, their style, their music and musical image. In the case of this particular shoot, the image was also speaking about the specific release that the performer was about to promote. The power is in the story, so key physical elements such as props, texture and lighting are used to help reinforce the narrative. The message in this picture was one of maturity, richness in texture and muteness to the use of colour – i.e. subtle use of light and shade – all the important elements to be found in the songs themselves. The space as a whole has that subdued, plaintive and melancholic sense of being, a place for contemplation and a deeper musical experience.


Photo of M.E.Baird by Melissa Smith Photography

What was it like working with Adam Hills and ABC TV?

Working with the ‘In Gordon Street Tonight’ team was great. Our main brief in collaboration with the ABC art department was to design and dress the performance stage for each weekly episode as well as one off segments. Each week saw a new act, a new stage set up and a new theme, therefore a lot happens on the fly. Designing for television as opposed to a live show or event means that the set has to be dynamic and vibrant to the camera so lighting becomes a very important component, then colour. The camera angles and the performers rather than the roving eye of the audience dictates the approach to composition.

Styling Gurrumul and Blue King Brown posed some difficulties for the band has many members and there was not much stage left to dress. The design approach came from the use of the lighting above the performers and the use of a backdrop so that a mood could be achieved without interfering with the performance. Blue King Brown is a band with a strong message so it was important that it was not overpowered by the set.


Photo of Gurrumul and Blue King Brown by Mardi Borrack

Where do you both draw your inspiration from?

Our inspirations, without being cliché, come from life, our environment, our art and projects. Everything informs everything else. It’s all one big jumbled feed backing loop. For us, it’s not a 9-5, five-day week gig. It’s a holistic, integrated way of life.

Do you have any new design inspirations since moving to the area? 

Yes definitely – especially for us coming from an urbane, cold environment. It would be impossible to not be inspired by the natural world of the region, the lushness, the quality of light, the clear warmth of a blue sky day contrasted with a brooding tropical afternoon. The abrupt back drops, undulating foothills, sculptural features of a majestic fig tree, and the fine textural qualities of palms. There is also fantastic diversity in the community, a great sense of creativity, individual expression and calmness in spirit. Who could not be inspired?!

Are there any venues in and around Byron Bay you’d like to work with?

We don’t have any specific venues or places in mind as yet. What we are looking forward to is potential collaborations, whether that is photographers, artists, artisans, filmmakers, florists, suppliers, manufactures, or simply meeting damn interesting people.


Mardi Borrack and Matthew Baird photographed by Tirian Harvey






Based in the Byron Shire hinterland village of Federal with her family, Veda Dante is a communication specialist with more than 25 years experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, feature writer, and content provider. Former publishing positions include: editor of Lifestyle Pools + outdoor design magazine (the Federal Publishing Company then News Custom Media), contributing editor for Pure Health (News Limited), feature writer for Travelling in Australia Magazine (Morrison Media), and editor of Health & Fitness (International Masters Publishers). Born in Melbourne, educated in Perth and toiled in Sydney, Veda moved to the North Coast in 2007 where she continues to freelance to private clients across the country. She has also become a regular contributor to local media including Byron Shire News, the Northern Star and, now, Common Ground. Veda is a prolific writer whose work spans tourism, art, music, sustainability, culture, community and wellbeing. When she’s not on deadline, you will usually find her kayaking with the kids on the Brunswick River, running to the Cape Byron Lighthouse with friends, attempting to stay upright on her long board, or soaking up the serenity on the family property.


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