After Hydra and perhaps the Parker in Palm Springs (the latter for aesthetic reasons only), this sensational house in Malibu designed by Harry Gesner for his wife Nan Martin (be still my beating heart) was one of my favourite shoot locations of all time. When you’re producing shoots long-distance, and don’t get to do a real site recce until the morning of, it’s difficult to judge a space from aggressively wide-angled and photoshopped shots on a film location website. Like Airbnbs apartments, you often arrive to subpar light, no access to facilities and counterintuitive rules like don’t touch anything ever please and thank you all crew must be outside the house all day. I’ve truly never understood why people would rent their house as a location if they’re unwilling for people to so much as lean against a doorframe.

But you know what – expect the worst, and be pleasantly surprised.

Of course, we were far beyond pleasantly surprised. The feeling was mutual: compared to the 50-head crew productions that had stormed the place the week prior, our little Tory Burch girl gang (plus Tim) and our kale salads and our Tim’s class act Spotify playlists were basically a vacation for the man of the house and our new favourite person, Zen – who is indeed, the most zen human being you will ever meet. But also, how could you not be if it were your birthright and your home could be described as below.

For us, the property was straight-up visual stimulation. From the rotund pug



bumbling into shot after shot to the spectacular vista of a hazy flat horizon; the guest appearance of a pair of whales; the stoically beautiful paintings of the aforementioned Mrs Gesner hung around the circular living room; the entirely reclaimed building materials; and Harry Gesner’s neighbouring crown jewel 2.0 (seen in the background of opening shot of yours truly reclining) that in some beautiful cross-continental bout of inspiration, formed Jørn Utzon’s sails and curves on the Sydney Opera House.

Sold to the blonde in mum jeans and a blazer.

And Proenzas. Yes, those damn Proenzas.

My lame excuse of “but I wear them everywhere – even on the subway” did not apply in Malibu. For each new arrival on set, it was all “hey Marg, nice to see/meet y-love love the beach lewk girl”.

Cut to: our styling deck. Consisting entirely of wicker bags, ribbon wrap espadrilles, Moroccan slippers, sunglasses, and every name, shape, and cultural iteration of tunic under the sun. By the time we wrapped, I had conjured a scenario in which I – that is, she who only wears pants, aggressive shoes and avoids anything remotely frilly like the plague by virtue of her baby face – was strolling a boardwalk, espadrilles in hand, off-shoulder blouse, resort palazzo pant billowing in a sea breeze, a Hemingway text and a spare hooded tunic readied for après-swim peaking over the edge of a basket bag of primary colours and fluffy ornamentation.

My producer’s laugh in response was justifiably mirthful. The extend of my commitment to beachwear is usually a bikini under the assassin outfit I wore to meetings earlier that day, with a low block heel instead of a lethal boot. After submergence, I will walk well past the radial threshold from the coastline beyond which it is entirely unacceptable to still be wearing just a bikini and a towel – assassin clothes in hand.

I need a holiday. And a lesson in tunics.










Margaret Zhang 章凝 is an Australian-born-Chinese filmmaker, photographer, consultant and writer based between New York and Shanghai. Since establishing her website in 2009, Zhang has gone on to work with global brands including CHANEL, Swarovski, YEEZY, Bulgari, Gucci, MATCHES, Under Armour, and Louis Vuitton in a wide range of capacities both in front of and behind the camera, while completing her Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws at The University of Sydney. Zhang’s directing, photography, and styling has been employed by the likes of VOGUE, L’Officiel, Harper’s BAZAAR, NOWNESS, and ELLE internationally. She has been listed in Forbes Asia’s 30Under30 and TimeOut’s 40Under40, and her work has been recognized as shaping the international fashion industry by the Business of Fashion BoF500 Index for four consecutive years. CNN has identified Zhang as a leading fashion photographer in Asia and ELLE named her the region’s most influential digital voice. She went on to be the first Asian face to cover ELLE Australia. In 2016, she co-founded BACKGROUND, a global consultancy for which she specialises in Western-to-Chinese and Chinese-to-Western cultural bridging for a range of luxury, lifestyle, and brand initiatives. In 2017, she exhibited a series of 39 unseen photographic works as a solo show in Sydney, and premiered her first short film – a 15-minute exploration of her visceral relationship with classical music on both performance and abstract planes – to critical acclaim. In 2018, co-curated the first annual FOREFRONT Summit focused on inter-industry problem-solving at all scales of business. From this king summit, Zhang developed FOREFRONT+ – a round table series of candid conversations covering subject matters of universal concern. In 2019, THE FACE Magazine engaged Zhang as Creative-Director-at-Large for Asia for its relaunch. Zhang is currently working on her first feature film.