Meet our Friday Muse, multifaceted creative Amanda Bransgrove

29 February 2024
By Fashion Quarterly

Having spent nearly four decades working in the fashion industry, it’s fair to say that Amanda Bransgrove knows a thing or two about being in front of the camera. And behind it.

Photo by Oliver Crawford for Zambesi.

Model, agent, photographer, artist — these are just a few of the hats that Amanda Bransgrove has worn throughout her lengthy tenure in the creative scene. Originally from a small town in the South Island of Aotearoa, it was a lifelong dream for Bransgrove to get in front of the camera  and that’s exactly what she did. Beginning her career at age 17, she went on to achieve international success as a model before moving on to pursue different creative passions. In 2019, her career finally came full circle when she returned to the industry with local mature modelling agency, Silverfox. Fronting campaigns for the likes of Juliette Hogan, Zoe & Morgan, Shjark and Lonely, it’s fair to say that Bransgrove is keeping booked and busy. 

We chatted with the multi-talented model about her fondest memories from her career to date, the shifting standards in the industry, and what other pursuits she’s got on the go. 

In conversation with Amanda Bransgrove:

Tell us a bit about you, your background and your career to date:

I was a sun-kissed Cromwell girl from a family of seven and all I thought about was how to become a model. I entered Miss Central Otago with my older sister — that was my ticket out of town. I packed two suitcases and six boxes and trucked up to Wellington, [later] joining C.I. One Models.

Soon I was doing make-up for photographers, modelling, and assisting on the shows. My best friend and I flew to Australia and did a teachers’ workshop at June Dally Watkins and returned to Queenstown and opened our own agency in ’88. In 1989, I did a self-tape and sent it to Maysie Bestall-Cohen Models and received a call from her to invite me to Auckland and walk in the Benson & Hedges Fashion Awards in 1989. That was big for my mother as we all used to sit around the TV and watch it live.

Another highlight was in 1995 while filming in Auckland. I received a call from Maysie. I recall her saying “You might want to sit down. Ford Models in New York has offered you a modelling contract!” I was 28, unheard of in those days. I did need to sit down, filming stopped as we all shared a woohoo moment.

New York was amazing. Eileen (the founder of Ford) welcomed me to the agency, looked deeply into my eyes —and I [was] freaking out with a smile on my face — and she leaned in and said “Everyone has a story but we don’t need to hear about it.”

You’ve had a long and successful career in the creative industry. What made you decide to get behind the camera after modelling for so many years?

The same week I found out I was pregnant with my third child, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Design — a four year degree at UNITEC [with the intention of] becoming a jeweller. It became a real challenge, [but luckily] the last elective of the year was photography, and with fifteen years standing in the light, being on set, a fashion shoot was what I naturally tapped into. This was great, I thought, I could be good at this. I gave birth in the final term that year and almost didn’t pass, but I did. I have to admit it was bloody hard, but I was really driven to finish the four years and it was all worth it — gaining Bachelor of Photography Honours, winning a scholarship and the Metro Magazine Cannon awards 2004.

I was incredibly proud of myself and so were my children. I had good intuition and trusted my first impulse to go back to school, which came again while sitting front row at NZFW 2005. The feeling was very powerful and soon after I opened Catwalk Studios, where teenagers came to workshop skills and style they would need for a modelling or fashion career.

Many beautiful and successful girls walked through the doors of Catwalk Studios [between] 2005-2014 that progressed onto international careers. I opened Monarch Models with my original best friend and partner. I [also] had in The Agency in Queenstown’ from 2010-14.

Out of all of your pursuits, which has been your favourite and why?

Being a ’90s Maysie Bestal Cohen model in Auckland, I was extremely lucky to be booked on the yearly tours for Benson & Hedges, the Smokefree Awards, and Corbans & Wellas to name a few. All were  great fun, most often hysterical. There was always pre pre-show champagne while in make-up in those days. It was a laugh!

The business owner in me dealt with long hours and hard work while raising three beautiful beings, mostly on my own. I don’t know how I did it.

20 years later, [I’ve returned] as the ‘new, older me’ under the management of Silverfox. Owner Rebecca Swaney has brought sexy back in the mature market. The bookings have steadily flowed, [I’ve been] doing some amazing shoots. I walked eleven shows last year at NZFW 2023, I’d never been booked for that many previously, ever!  Honestly, such a buzz, I almost forgot to breathe walking in the Zambesi show. It was simple and refined, a class of its own, and it blew my brains as I stepped onto the silver runway into the sun setting rays. The energy was off the planet and that’s exactly why I do this.

Photo by Holly Sarah Burgess for Juliette Hogan.

In the last few years you’ve been building a property portfolio around New Zealand. Could you tell us a little more about this and what got you interested in it?

My husband and I were seed investors in my CWS business partner’s start up; CIN7. Four years later, we were bought out and with that bought a bunch of properties that give us a good yield. Not including, but for the love of it, an unplumbed 170 year old double gable merchant store on the main street of Lawrence, a small farming town famous for the 1860s Gabrielle’s Gully gold rush and a-must-do Gold Trail for bikers along the Clutha River. Plus, [it’s] home to our National Anthem! 

During the lockdowns I worked with Wanaka based Condon Scott architect, Sarah Scott, and builder Mike Papali’i, who travelled from Lake Hawea each week to renovate the old store into a vintage modern luxury two bedroom Airbnb, ’Arthur’s Apartment’. I thoroughly enjoyed that, a fantastic project.

What do you love most about working in the industry?

Since joining Silverfox Management in 2019, I’ve enjoyed coming back into this familiar place. Time has passed, but the process is the same. I’m far more confident, I’ve grown my hair and colour out so I really love my look. I’ve also noticed the creative teams are celebrating and booking the older models, more lifting the inspirational bar which is awesome.

Keeping it real though, the comments on social media [make] me laugh — like the last Bluebella Valentine’s shoot I was in went viral. With: ‘Didn’t think older women wore lingerie’, ‘Give the woman a pie!’, ‘Nice lingerie but she could have shaved’ — [it] opened up a huge debate so hilarious [that] it made a story in the London Sunday Star last month! What the heck, what’s normal anymore!

Do you have a favourite shoot memory from all your years of experience? 

New York Fashion Week 2007 in the tent, amongst 300+ photographers at Betsey Johnstone. I had a ‘moment’; tears flowed down my face, I couldn’t see the models through the lens, I just felt pure joy that I had achieved such a  dream. I experienced a very bad one too, right at the very beginning at 17 and I understand now how that defined the path I took.

What inspires you creatively?

Being barefoot in nature and appreciating it.

What advice or wisdom would you give to those looking to follow a similar creative path to you?

Some of my best decisions [were] made instantly and without hesitation because I could see it. That comes from my gut, so I know to trust it, it will work. I never thought of myself as educated, but I’m creative and good at seeing stuff.

What’s next for you? Personally and professionally?

I need to find a lifestyle block with a permaculture orchard, garden with native forest and spring water for my baby cow, miniature horses, some black-faced sheep, big dogs and chooks. Close enough to Auckland so I can finish art school and become an established artist — it will have a big studio space where I [can] paint. That’s my 2024/5 goal. Still talking my boss into it.

Image: supplied.

Quickfire questions:

Current season homeware purchase… Vintage Turkish Kilim for Arthur’s Apartment Airbnb — it’s just beautiful with floral grapes and leaves. 

Where you will find me holidaying this season… I have no plans for international travel right now, [but] when the time is right I’d like to visit France and Italy and spend a season there. So it’s Lawrence for the winter staying at Arthur’s, with its open fire and big stone bath.

The best book I’ve read recently… The Upanishads. I’ve enjoy listening to it while I walk through the forest tracks with my dog Bronson, it takes me to a very peaceful and humble place. I’m big on ancient knowledge and alchemy and currently reading The Creative Act: A Way Of Being by Rick Rubin.

The best beauty advice I’ve ever received… My mother always advised my sisters and I to always wash your make-up off at night to have beautiful skin. But I’ll add through observation to become mindful, think kind thoughts, and say positive things. ‘Internal beauty is overlooked in the young but evident in the old’. Gives you good fortune also.

My favourite place to dine… Cocktail hour at Te Ngaere Bay with the sunsets dining on oysters and champagne. But when in Auckland, it’s an outside table at SPQR with my besties.

The item at the top of my wish list… Finding that lifestyle block for my babies! And back to art school, a new chapter has begun.

My guilty pleasure is… Connecting to nature, walking the beaches up north and forest walks with my Staffy boy Bronson. We get lost for hours and many photos later.

A mantra I like to live by is…  Love thyself and treat everyone as if they are you.


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