Quick Six: Juliana La Pegna

MM6 Maison Margiela ruffled t-shirt. Lace-trim skirt by Simone Rocha. Chequered mules by MM6 Maison Margiela.

We steal a few minutes to catch up with
Dilettante fixture, doctor-to-be, and dear friend Juliana La Pegna.

Photos Tülay Dinçel

Juliana, the last time you caught up with Dilettante (here) you were completing your Honours degree. Now you've just submitted your PhD thesis! How have your academic interests shifted over the last few years?

Wow, that seems like forever ago! It’s funny you mention my Honours project because I’ve been thinking about that period a lot lately. At that time I was really trying to understand what makes Perth unique and where culture fits in a place like Perth. A place that has been much maligned as being a Dullsville. That research raised many questions for me, particularly, around why some forms of art are given funding support, and others are not. For my PhD research, I tried to connect these dots, and try to tell the stories of culture in Perth, by critically engaging with the voices of not only those from within the sector but also those who developed the policies related to culture and the arts in Perth. What I found was that in Perth, there is a lot of tension between different government priorities for culture, and there has been a kind of convergence between culture and economic development policymaking whereby cultural planning and infrastructure have taken centre stage. I focused on exploring the dynamics that these kinds of systems of power created within the sector in my PhD. While it seems like a far cry from looking at heavy metal subcultures in a Perth context, as I did with my honours, I am still very much passionate about this place and the culture within it.

Song for the Mute textural pleated bias-cut top. Issey Miyake diagonal truss skirt and silver Bao Bao clutch. MM6 Maison Margiela chartreuse pumps.

In our last conversation, you noted that Perth was undergoing a kind of cultural renaissance. Five years on, how is this tracking?

It’s actually been nearly 6 years now! But, in my view, the city has changed exponentially, really. The amount of venues and choices we have as consumers now is just unlike anything we knew back in 2017. I also think people have more of an appetite to get out there and experience what’s on offer now.

What I think needs to be acknowledged is that it's not an easy space to occupy. The arts, events, hospitality and entertainment sectors were hit really hard by COVID and while the demand is there, delivery isn’t always that easy, with limited support or financial security, snap lockdowns and a lack of staff. I believe that we can move forward as a city if we continue to support these industries by putting our bums on seats, but it also has to come from up top.

You've just entered your first job in culture and arts policy, congratulations! What are your career ambitions?

Leaving academia wasn’t that hard of a choice for me. While I loved teaching, I always knew I wanted to make a difference in the community in a way that you can’t really do in front of a classroom. Starting work for a local government has been a huge shift but I think it's the right fit. The foundation of knowledge I have built around Perth, and culture and arts policy through my research, has shown me that there are a lot of politics in public spaces which need to be managed.

Many cities – just like Perth – have tried to implement strategies to become more cultural, to attract people to live and work there. Their resulting transformations, however, are not always for the better, particularly as they have a tendency to deepen socio-economic divisions and displace the communities which once occupied the spaces. Culture, as a concept, runs the risk of being co-opted to address urban problems, or justify redevelopment and private investment. However, the goal of anyone working on the coal face of policy should be to strike a balance between a city’s origins and its new beginnings, to start at the grassroots, to link cultural heritage and artistic practice to urban development, and put the communities on the ground first, always. As someone who is just starting out, I hope that I will be an advocate for change within my community.

Comme des Garçons ruffled satin dress. Simone Rocha pearlescent egg bag. MM6 Maison Margiela black patent ballet pumps.

Work aside, you're a woman of distinguished tastes. What's your idea of a perfect outfit these days?

That’s a hard one because there really are no rules for me. I am open to pushing the boat out and love mixing vintage with new. Textures are probably my most important consideration when picking out an outfit. I am not big on patterns or prints, and tend to gravitate to black, so textured fabrics help me add interest and architecture to my outfits. My wardrobe is also still full of items stolen from Mum, some things never change!

If you could escape and spend a month anywhere on Earth, where would it be and why?

For me, the answer to this has to be Japan. I’ve had the opportunity to go twice now and have just loved it. It seems like a real cliche answer but it really inspires me more than any other place. Tokyo is the perfect mix of old and new, which speaks to my nostalgic sensibilities and love for retro design and aesthetics. I am just really fascinated with Japanese design, culture, and most importantly, food.

Pas de Calais blue button-down shirt dress. Bao Bao Issey Miyake bamboo bucket bag. MM6 Maison Margiela grey strap sandals.

And most importantly, Juliana, what's your perfect summer cocktail?

I’m a gin girl through and through but on a hot afternoon there is nothing better than an extra spicy Bloody Mary, or a Bloody Snapper (made with gin instead of vodka).

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