Open Book: Jono Fleming, Waterloo
Text KATE PASCOE SQUIRES
Photography KATE PASCOE SQUIRES
In person, Jono Fleming is every bit as vibrant as you’d hope. His Instagram is packed full of life and colour – and so is the man himself. Jono’s written style is every bit as engaging as his chat. His style equally inspirational and accessible. After leaving the magazine world 12 months ago, Jono’s work umbrella broadened, with freelance jobs now falling under the banner of interiors, design and styling. He also hosts the House of Style Podcast with his mate Kerrie-Ann Jones. The slow doesn’t come easily to Jono Fleming, but he’s getting his head around it, one hike at a time.
Talk to me about your Slowdown. How does that idea resonate with you?
It’s definitely a concept I aspire to live out, but I’m not sure I always embody it if I’m being completely honest. The nature of my work is erratic and fast paced – life can reflect this at times and I definitely get moments where I need to tell myself to stop, take a breath and refocus. At the end of the day, if I don’t tell myself to take that moment, my body eventually does, I should probably listen to it a little bit more often.
In 2019, you made the leap from Style Editor at Inside Out magazine into freelance life. You are now working on your own interior, design, podcast and styling projects. Was this a difficult decision to make? How did you build up the confidence to make this transition – or was this always in your plans?
When I entered the world of mags a few years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. I’ve always been a bit of an outsider in the styling scene, mainly because I wasn’t sure what path I wanted to take in my career. But when I landed the role at Inside Out, it was all my dreams come true. I had the dream job I never knew I wanted, I had the dream editor, the family home (our family home!) I designed had been shot for the mag… it was all coming together in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I walked into mags with a bit of naivety – people would always say things change daily… teams change… but when the magazine was sold off and bought by another company, things really did start to change and I found myself in a role I wasn’t happy with.
In two years, I went from my dream job to being really unhappy at my desk. It’s scary to leave the comfort and security of a full time job, but I knew I needed to pursue other options. I still loved the end product of the magazines, but I needed to explore other facets of the industry on my own. I stopped planning my career a long time ago. I approach my life in the same way I approach my work practice – you have to learn to be adaptive, think on your feet and problem solve whatever it throws at you.
You are quite an open book on social media, in the best possible way. Does it ever scare you to share your personality and life so openly with the general public?
The thing about me is, I don’t shut up. Ever. I can talk a lot, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t think about what I say. I’m a huge over thinker in life. But on the flip side, what you see is what you get. Authenticity is such a cliche now in regards to social media, but people are savvy nowadays. It’s easy to see through facades and perfect online worlds. I ‘talk’ a lot on my social media. I share a lot… if I’m happy, I say it; if I’m down, I’ll share that too. Either way, when you meet me in person, I’m the exact same as I am on my Instagram. Something I get told is that people like reading the captions I write on my photos. I honestly assumed it was just my mum reading them, but I think people relate and connect to me and get to know me better, because this is my voice, it’s exactly who I am.
How do you manage to separate your private life with the demands of social media?
First and foremost, my Instagram is a portfolio of my work. I network on there, I book work, I can build relationships in the industry with suppliers and other designers, as well as my audience. But to balance that out, I share my private life too and it’s a balance I’m still working out. Social media is a weird beast. I was at a work event once and someone walked up to me and said ‘I LOVE the wallpaper in your bedroom’. I was completely taken aback… how did this woman know what my bedroom wallpaper looked like?! Oh wait, yea, that’s right… I had put a photo of it on Instagram a few weeks ago. Sure, she could have worded it a bit differently, but it was a compliment about my style that I had shared, I had put that information up there, I had put that out into the world. My entire home is on social media – on Instagram, Pinterest, shared around the world, but it never seemed like an overshare to post these images. There are certain things I won’t share too much information of on social media. My relationship is something I’m learning how much to share, out of respect to my partner. I’m an open book but that doesn’t mean everyone is.
Have you ever experienced a life event that has triggered your need for slow? Was it a harsh or gentle lesson?
At the ripe old age of 25, I got fired from my first proper adult design job. I was working at a small interiors firm, I was in a bit over my head and couldn’t keep up with the workload, so when my boss got back from a work trip, he wasn’t happy and I was out. I’m a compulsive overachiever, so this stopped me in my tracks. People weren’t hiring designers, as it was the tail end of the financial crisis, so I spent six months unemployed. It was a real forced slowdown. In hindsight, I realise how depressed I was during that period, days on end in bed, not being able to move or get motivated. It shook me to my core and it took a few more years for me to fully realise how hard I needed to work to rebuild my confidence, to learn that things aren’t handed to you. I look back at that time and it was the moment that any millennial privilege was shook out of me and I learnt I needed to take responsibility for my own actions.
Do you have any day to day struggles that require strength and resilience?
And just as I talk about learning to take responsibility and action, my biggest struggle daily is just getting motivated a lot of the time. As I brave the freelance world and learn to juggle work, I still find it a bit hard to get myself motivated. This might surprise people, and I definitely push myself with work – it’s just taking those first few steps to get myself into the job, but once I’m on a roll, there’s no stopping me.
Have you ever surprised yourself with your own personal strength?
I think what surprises me is how I deal with situations the older I get. When obstacles get in my way or things don’t go to plan, I can see myself learning from mistakes. When I look back on how I would have handled it in the past, I like to make sure there has been some growth and lessons learnt. It’s hard to take a step back and assess yourself, but it’s definitely an important task I set myself.
Do you ever get the opportunity to just stop and be in the moment or are you constantly on the go?
I’m definitely on the go. It’s maybe not always the smartest or most productive option, but like I said, once I get going on a job, I can’t stop. I’m not a great sleeper and I don’t drink much coffee, but despite this, I have a lot of energy. I tend to work long periods, burn out, take a day for myself and then keep going. With the nature of my work, I’ve learnt to be extremely decisive – time is money in styling, so that’s sort of ebbed into my daily life too. Decisions are made quickly. I like a plan, but when I do give myself those moments to breathe, I have to say, I really do love them… I just get restless again quickly.
What does your ultimate slow look like?
A long weekend out at my farm. I do a thing with friends I call ‘Wine in the Pines’. We go to my family property, everyone brings some wine, meat and cheese and I’ll cook up some fresh focaccia and nibbles. We take a table into the pine forest on our land and sit in the forest, eating, drinking and laughing for hours. For others, it could look like a lot of work, but for me, I’m never happier than being in the forest, surrounded by friends, letting the hours pass by, eating great cheese. The best part is, whenever I need it, I can make it happen.
For those of us who are walking our own slow down path and searching for the strength to deal with all that life presents, do you have any ideas to share that might assist us in our journey?
As someone who has admittedly maybe not mastered the slow just yet, I have a bit to go, but as I’ve said before, taking time out in nature is just the most cleansing experience for me. A hike for a few hours helps me destress, leave all my worries behind and take those moments when I need them. When I return back home to the office, sure, all of the general life things will wash over me again, but those few hours I can escape are invaluable. Take those moments, go for a walk, you won’t regret it.