If Paula Goldstein Di Principe had her way, she wouldn’t bother wearing clothes. At all. She’s happy running around California for her travel site Voyage d’Études in the buff. But we’re not in Los Angeles, we’re in her kitchen in north London and Paula, sensibly, has on a crisp cotton Suno dress and Marques’Almeida jacket. And clothes, whether she feels like wearing them or not, have formed the backdrop to her life.

Paula is a model, writer and the contributing fashion editor of fashion and lifestyle website Refinery29. Her career in the industry got off to an unusual start – she’s an Essex girl. “Everyone expects you to have a certain kind of style if you come from Essex,” she says. “I’ve never had any fear of sexiness or of being a bold woman because that’s what Essex was all about. Though I was never orange!” Part-time modelling for teenage Paula was more appealing than geography class and she was expelled from school before her final exams. So she moved to London aged 17, taking up an assistant position at Dazed & Confused a week after her 20th birthday. The magazine was like a rag-tag family – the associate publisher recently told her she used to dress like a sixth former in the office.

Later, aged 23, building a website for Purple magazine, she learned how to reclaim that Essex sex appeal with some French subtlety, though she still didn’t conform. “I’ve never wanted to be the archetypal type of girl,” she says. “I am quite eclectic – I buy my Isabel Marant, Equipment, Dior or Prada, really classic. Isa Arfen, J.W. Anderson or Shrimps – whichever weird, kooky British brand has caught my eye – those are the things I buy out of love.” Her style is dictated by emotion. “If I’m insecure, I’ll dress so I disappear a bit,” she says. “Other times I want to shock, and I’ll have bright pink hair and do it in Björk topknots, and wear something mad and glow-in-the-dark.”

Last August, she all but quit the industry after launching her travel site. “I went on a weird Italian jaunt with my husband,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘I’ve left fashion, I don’t want to do this any more!’ I had just started the travel site and we were going to have a bed and breakfast. Then Refinery29 got in touch.” Her hippie dreams were shelved. Instead, Paula and her husband are moving to New York for work. Will the city tame her, with salon blow-dries and manicured toes? “I had an argument with Olivier [Zahm, Purple’s founder] because I was freaking out about moving and he was like, ‘Baby, you should just throw away everything you own and start your life again.’” She thought he was crazy, but a part of her wonders if he was right. “Maybe that’s what we should do as adults,” she says, laughing. “If I was to buy everything I own again now, would I be a very different person? I’m still debating. Maybe this is part of the adventure; obviously I won’t throw out all my clothes. I am not going to turn up naked in New York!”

Hair by Sven Bayerbach at FACTORY using Schwarzkopf Professional
Make-up by Daisy Harris-d'Andel using MAC Cosmetics
Portrait by Martin Senyszak
Videography by Kimberley Rabbit and Martin Senyszak
Text by Naomi Bikis