Josh Heuston is currently learning how to sword fight in Budapest. Not for some kind of celebrity LARP-ing experience, although some might argue there’s no difference. He’s in the middle of filming the new series Dune: The Sisterhood, which will also star fellow Australian actor and Vikings star, Travis Fimmel.
Heuston jokes that it’s a sport that he’s not entirely unfamiliar with, if not necessarily a master at yet. “When I was a little kid, me and my mate were obsessed with Lord of the Rings so we would fight each other with sticks and fake swords for years so I think some of that has come through?”
The world of Frank Herbert’s epic science fiction story is a far cry from the classrooms of Netflix’s Heartbreak High that made Heuston a household name. But they do share a common theme: the need to create a character through the clothes they were. Fashion’s role in theatre is arguably as integral to the story as the script, or the set design. It sends out the small, unspoken signals. Think of the way that the white T-shirt became a sign of the working class rebellion thanks to James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. Or the yellow plaid number worn by Alicia Silverstone’s Cher Horowitz in Clueless.
Fashion can help create a character. But when it’s time to step back into the real world? Heuston’s preference is clothing that’s functional, simple and offering a mutability of purpose. Which does much to explain his place as one of the faces for clothing brand Unison, the new name for recently rebranded French Connection Australia.
In a press release leading up to the launch, Unison promised to “deliver effortless everyday style that captures the essence of Australia’s relaxed modern lifestyle.” It would also be designed in the brand’s head office in Melbourne.
Heuston’s decision to join the new Unison family – which also boasts soccer star Josh Cavallo and singer Amy Shark – comes from his need for kit that’s grounded in the needs of his every day, which on any given day can have him flying from filming in Budapest to a red carpet in London to a week relaxing in his native Sydney.
“I need have as many outfits as possible with as small amount of clothing as possible,” says Heuston. “These core, staples are what Unison really does well. Around 95 percent of the time I’m in jeans, a T-shirt and boots. Other than that, I also like to dress for comfort. But I also like to look cool. They have this leather jacket that, every time I put it on I think ‘this is sick’. It almost has this business shirt collar and it works perfectly with a hoodie or a singlet.
“That jacket, I can wear through multiple seasons. Like – I have to be in New York next month but the weather there is different here in Budapest. And then I can just take the same duffle bag with the same kit back to Australia.”
This paired back simplicity lies at the core of Unison’s philosophy too: create the building blocks to effortless style with the heavy lifting done by the quality of the clothes and their timeless appeal. It also draws its key cuts from the minimalist purity of the 90s. It’s not lost on Heuston either that the brand draws inspiration from the same era that the OG Heartbreak High was set, providing a style blueprint for the reboot. Right down to the double denim. Heuston says the simplicity of Unison is also what makes it so versatile, and perfect for his own needs.
“I always dress for what makes me the most confident and then I build it from there,” he tells ICON. “So I always have a pair of black boots, jeans, a leather jacket and a shirt. Because you can kind of do most things with that unless you have a black tie event. I’d rather know that I have really good pieces than rock up somewhere and they’re just going to look too worn in.”
Does he see much of his own sense of style in his character Dusty? “Yeah, actually a lot of the pieces that Dusty wears are mine. Rita Carmody, the costumer designer, we worked together on picking pieces and a lot of it was stuff I either owned, liked or brought in and we went back and forth from there.”
As far as the most important thing he looks for when picking these pieces out? “Durability is super important,” he says. “How sustainable a brand is also comes down to how often you need to buy the pieces. The fabric it’s made from and where it’s constructed are all important elements for me.”