It has been a while since an international entrant has taken out the hotly contested Myer National Fashions on the Field title. But if anyone could do it, it was going to be Carena West. Hailing from Auckland, New Zealand, this striking beauty has impeccable original style and a gift for some seriously quirky accessorizing.

Carena is no stranger to FOTF, as the event is just as popular in New Zealand as it is in Australia. Our neighbouring ladies can rock some seriously enviable fashion. 

Carena has been entering FOTF for around 8 years and I loved scrolling through her Instagram @carena_west admiring her incredible race day creations. She really is a true beauty and racing fashion icon. Every time I bump into her, she’s standing out from the crowd a mile in an effortless and well put together original outfit. 

In this blog post I talk to Carena about her life on and away from the track, including what it was like to be named the National Winner, her advice to other hopefuls, trend predictions and the life she leads when she’s not strutting her stuff at the races.

Carena West | National Winner 2019

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Fashion Related Questions

How long have you been entering FOTF? Number of events per year? 

I’ve entered a number of FOTF competitions over the years, I believe the first one I ever competed in was in 2012. Although here in NZ we don’t get as many competitions as Australia!

I’ve competed in a couple of competitions previously in Australia, once at Eagle Farm, where the racing was cancelled because of horrific weather but the party still went on, and the second was Melbourne Cup Carnival Derby Day 2018 where I placed second.

nice black dress

Image: www.fotf.com.au

Describe your National winning outfit and where you got the idea/inspiration?

I have been living in Florida a bit this year for my husband’s work, and was working remotely in the evenings, so I ended up binge watching every episode ever of Mad Men, which I think may have subconsciously been the inspiration for the shape and style of my outfit.

I’m always drawn to fabrics with beautiful textures so when I came across the traditional Uzbek Suzani dress which was fully embroidered, I couldn’t go past it. 

The shape resembled a bit of a sack with brown sleeves, so I mocked up what kind of shape I thought would work on photoshop, then I draped it on a mannequin to get the shape in real life. 

My Claire Hahn millinery was inspired by a picture of Audrey Hepburn, and the green was chosen from a tone in the fabric of my dress.

What was it like winning the national final? Recreate the moment for us.

So surreal! I still actually can’t believe it. Every now and then I remember and I’m like… Damn! That actually happened!

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Has your life changed in any way since taking out the winning sash?

Not really, although winning a car and a shopping spree will definitely change my life a bit! I’m actually heading to Melbourne this weekend (Jan 10) to collect the prizes as VRC were a bit concerned about putting them in the post. I’m going to try and save some of the Myer vouchers for after I have this baby though, a bit of a postnatal treat haha.

What do you like most about FOTF? Will you continue to enter FOTF competitions?

I love the idea that you get to create and execute an outfit that is beautifully ladylike, but also gives you the chance to try something new with styling and accessories. And the millinery of course! Where else do you get the opportunity to wear beautiful millinery? (I’m still holding my breath for an invitation to a garden party at Windsor Castle haha)

Who are your favourite milliners?

I have been working with Claire Hahn for my millinery since about 2013. 

Carena pictured with friend and Milliner Claire Hahn, who also happens to be a style icon with amazing race day fashion and one of our top milliners on Millinery Market!

She’s great at interpreting what I’m after and isn’t afraid to experiment with me! I have also worn pieces by NZ Milliner Monika Neuhauser and and Felicity Northeast.

Image: @carena_west @elleaus Claire Hahn Millinery