With her impeccable taste and impressive portfolio, Sydney-based freelance fashion stylist Marina Didovich has been an unstoppable force for decades. But the fulfilment she’s derived from her latest role is on another level entirely.
Photography by Steven Chee
As one of Australiaâs most in-demand fashion stylists, Marina Didovich is used to calling the shots. So itâs surprising to hear her preface our phone call with the caveat that she will have to call me back if her boss surfaces. âHeâs currently sleeping, so if he wakes up, Iâll have to go and feed him,â she says, as it dawns on me that sheâs referring to her baby boy, Cash.
The longed-for son of Sydney-based Didovich and her fashion photographer husband, Steven Chee, Cash was born at Christmastime following a hellish eight-year fertility journey. âI wasnât sure I was going to talk about this, but I think itâs important,â says Didovich, the trepidation in her voice just discernible beneath the resolve as she hints at the heartbreak the ostensibly picture perfect couple â whose stylish Palm Springs wedding was featured in the pages of Vogue Australia â endured off-camera for the better part of a decade.
Marina wears AJE dress and Bottega Veneta heels. Sarah Ellison chair.
âIâve never talked about it before,â she says. âObviously I have with friends and family, but not at all publicly. It still feels like such a taboo subject. People need to talk about it and be aware of it though, because it happens to so many couples, and it helps to know youâre not alone.â
Thereâs a pause, and then, âItâs nothing to be ashamed about, either. One of the most comforting things, before I got pregnant with Cash and I was really down and out about it all, Steven said to me, âYou know, this is just our story, and one day weâll have a beautiful baby and weâll look back on this tough road and see that it was taking us to where we are now.ââ And itâs so true, I do now look back on all those awful things we went through, and think if it werenât for all of that, we wouldnât have this perfect little boy today.â
Florence & Fortitude dress and Bottega Veneta heels
A well-meaning cliche to be used with caution around anyone struggling through tough circumstances, the notion of having âfaith in the timing of the universeâ was perhaps a comfort to the couple due to the role serendipity had already played in their relationship. They met at a resort in Fiji in 2007. Didovich was there with CLEO magazine, on a job that had come within a stilettoâs spike of being cancelled, and Chee was shooting for Shop Til You Drop.
He was a Melburnian based in Sydney, she an Aucklander from a close-knit Croatian family. They fell in love, did long-distance for two years, then Didovich joined Chee across the ditch where both their careers could flourish.
Marina wears Viktoria & Woods top and pants and Dinosaur Designs bangle; Cash wears Marlow & Mae bloomers, H&M socks and Gucci trainers.
Professionally, the move indeed paid off. But of all the factors that contributed to their fertility struggles, Didovich believes her own stress levels were a key culprit. âMy job is incredibly stressful. And Iâm a yes-person, not a no-person. I find it really hard to turn down work, so Iâd always be adding more to my plate when I shouldâve been taking it away, and that definitely didnât help.â
Having resolved that if she ever did become pregnant she would immediately cut her work right back, Didovich in fact unlocked a new layer of anxiety, fretting about who this would hypothetically let down. Ultimately though, she neednât have worried.
AJE dress and Bottega Veneta heels. Coco Republic side table and rug and Sarah Ellison couch.
In another serendipitous turn of events, two weeks after Didovich discovered she was pregnant with Cash, COVID hit Australia, the country went into lockdown, and the work itself dried up. âIt completely took the decision out of my hands,â she recalls.
If being forced to slow down was a small blessing, a more significant one is that Australiaâs COVID elimination strategy has been by-and-large successful and, as is the case in Aotearoa, itâs back to business (almost) as usual. For Didovich, the timing is, again, perfect; with Cash out of the newborn stage and as more jobs pop up, sheâs relishing dipping her toes back into work.
Camilla & Marc dress and Bottega Veneta heels. Sarah Ellison armchair and side table and Dinosaur Designs vase.
When we speak, sheâs collaborating with Nicole Kidman on a top-secret project, which turns out to be the A-List Aussieâs custom Louis Vuitton Golden Globes look. Ever-mindful of not slipping back into old habits, however, Didovich is proud to report that being a mum has completely redefined her relationship to stress.
No longer what drives her, itâs instead something to watch out for, and to shut down the minute she feels it encroaching, both for her own sake and Cashâs. âI really believe he vibes off my stress, so like, earlier today, I was having a new-mum moment and in floods of tears, and I said to Steven, âCan you please watch him while I go and calm down, because I donât want him to see me like this.â I just feel like babies really take that on board. Like, if he hears me on the phone and Iâm getting worked up about something, he actually starts crying.â
Esse Studio bustier and Viktoria & Woods pants. Dinosaur Designs vases and XRK Celebrations candle.
New-parent tears not withstanding, Didovich is finding thereâs much less to get worked up over these days. âMy priorities are utterly changed now,â she explains. âFor example, youâll love this, you know those amazing Bottega [Veneta] heels Iâm wearing in the shoot? When we were packing them back up, my assistant asked if I was going to order any, and I was like, âYou know what? I donât even know where Iâd wear them. Iâm never not at home in bare feet and trackpants now. In a past life I wouldâve bought them in every colour but Iâve gone full mum-mode!â
âIâve had friends come over to the house and say at last, it actually looks like someone lives here, because thereâs baby stuff and clotheslines all over the place when I used to pride myself on it looking like a show home,â she continues. âCash is just the absolute centre of my universe now, everything else can wait.â
Make no mistake, the Bondi penthouse is still a stunner. Even more so since the couple nabbed the apartment next door and knocked down all the adjoining walls to create the spacious, stylish sanctuary of their dreams.
Maticevski gown and Tiffany & Co cuff.
Didovich accepts that some toddler-proofing will need to take place before Cash is on his feet (âThere is so much glass, I can just see the grubby fingerprints already,â she laughs). But it goes without saying that the pair wouldnât have it any other way â the little messes a sign of everything theyâd previously been missing.
âI just want to tell you about those blocks,â she says before we wrap things up. âWeâve always had toys and stuff for when our friends come over with their children. Those particular blocks weâve had for probably almost 10 years, and out of everything weâve got, every single kid has just gone for them. I donât know why, but theyâve all been obsessed. So when I pulled them out to put in Cashâs nursery, it was so special because I was like, my little baby will finally play with these.â
The doting mum will of course be right there with him. And if sheâs to be believed, in far less glamorous attire than weâre used to seeing her in. âAlthough I have to be honest, I think I will order those shoes,â she laughs. âI definitely woke up this morning with some regret, so I reckon Iâll give them a call. Some things wonât ever change!â
Hair and makeup: Max May. Stylist assistant: Chloe de Torres.