my muse

My MUSE | Meet Jillian Friedlander

Sep 12 2023
My MUSE | Meet Jillian Friedlander

 Hello everyone,

Olivia here, to introduce you to this week’s MyMUSE: the inspiring, elegant and deeply artistic, Jillian Friedlander.

An integral part of New Zealand’s philanthropic landscape, Jillian spends her time contributing to incredible causes, as creative director of the renowned Friedlander Foundation. With a focus on the arts, medical sustainability and youth wellbeing, Jillian strives to contribute to our society through equal opportunities. When she’s not working, she adores spending time with her husband Daniel and gorgeous twin daughters Maia and Arielle.

A long-time friend of MUSE (and of mine – I recall serving her when I worked at Workshop 16 years ago!), Jillian is everything you could want in a muse. A passionate devotee of the arts, she has an innate appreciation for beauty, colour and the romance of style. She’s a lover of an exquisite dress, and a beautifully cut jumpsuit. She is warm and vivacious, deep and complex. An amazing woman, doing life-changing work.

I sat down with Jillian to talk about her pride in the creative sector, her love affair with colour, and the power of understanding your own silhouette. 



Jillian, so lovely to have the chance to chat. Could you tell us about some of the work you do?

At the Friedlander Foundation, our initiatives represent the arts, youth wellbeing and medical sustainability. As creative director, I have the opportunity to anchor the conduit of communication that sees our investments flourish, to achieve sustainable objectives through collaboration, advocacy and grass roots, and to align in both analytics of data and the passion for the ‘change’ which are measurable as a whole.

On a personal level, I deeply value creativity. I believe in enjoying ‘la douceur de vivre’; the effervescence of life threaded through cult films, great classic reads, music and fashion. It’s all interwoven. We all have a choice around how we react, respond or manifest the complexities, challenges and joy put across our path.



Can you tell us about your experiences in the arts and your time abroad?

When I was first introduced to the arts in a philanthropic capacity - over twenty-five years ago – I was fortunate to observe from ‘the wings’. I could measure the context and era and hear the collective consciousness, while resonating with the nuances and the pride of the flourishing creative sector.

Today, I am thrilled to be part of The Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Arts Laureates, through the ‘Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa Award’ which acknowledges and celebrates outstanding Māori and Pasifika creatives.

Right from childhood, I have had a natural love of dance and music. This love was able to be elevated through our role within the Royal New Zealand Ballet, with two Friedlander Foundation Scholars, and our role within the New Zealand Opera, with the Friedlander Foundation Associate Artist. These opportunities are in place to provide a launch pad for the selected creatives, to enable them to perform both nationally and internationally as their careers soar.

In terms of travel, my first impactful time abroad was when I was 15 years old. I was part of the American Field Scholar (AFS) intercultural programme, piloting a New Zealand schoolyear within an American school matrix. I learnt to participate, understand and be active – all essential skills for global exploration. This passion ignited, and still echoes through, my current globe-trotting. Listening, learning and understanding the cultural norms of a country allows an inspired future with humanist values. I am blessed that my husband has aligned views, and that we have created a life, shared with our daughters, that includes enriched travel.


Who are some of your favourite artists and why?

Gosh, there are so many! I can only choose a snippet … it’s like asking me who would be my ultimate dinner guests living and past. Almost impossible. Therefore, I’ll answer based on my passion and love affair with colour.

I would like to acknowledge the American painter, Helen Frankenthaler, 1928-2011 – a major contributor to the history of post-war American painting and post-painterly abstract expressionism. Also, the New Zealand painter and sculptor, Gretchen Albrecht CNZM, whose refined aesthetic practice is characterised by its concise iconography.

Both artists are leaders in the Colour Field movement. If I can be so bold, I believe both artists take inspiration from nature and the environment around them: using transparency and saturation of hues, in both transposition of techniques, to leave uncovered areas of canvas, involving the colours, edges, shapes (organic and/or geometric), as part of the compositional whole.



Can you describe your personal style and what inspires you?

It has taken a lifetime to be comfortable with my silhouette, but I believe it is so important to understand your own distinctive body profile. For me, I identify with the Kibbe ‘classic romantic type’. This affords me the freedom to know how materials, colours and tailoring styles can give me sensuality and reserve for every season and occasion.

I am drawn to this quote by Madeleine Vionnet: “If a woman smiles, her dress must also smile”.

I am now embracing my vintage when I recall our collective consciousness. Think of the green evening gown from the 2007 film, Atonement, worn by Keira Knightley’s character Cecilia. The way the fabric draped and folded weightlessly across her, the glistening vibrance of the green hue, the elegant silhouette. Or the aquamarine satin gown worn by Grace Kelly in 1954, or Audrey Hepburn’s 1954 evening gown with Edith Head and Hubert de Givenchy.

From these timeless gowns to the modernity of today, located within the walls of MUSE. From fashion labels at affordable prices to those at investment levels that will never fade. To garments that will shine bright within your imagination, your vision of how you wish to present yourself when you step out. You have the choice to create your own personal, unconventional style; one that allows individuality, be it in your denims or your floating whimsical dresses of spring.



And finally, which MUSE pieces are on your wish list?

I have fallen in love with the Victoria Beckham Cap Sleeve Draped Dress in red. When it wore it, I absolutely adored how I felt and moved. The smart casual silhouette of the Bordeaux-coloured Ulla Johnson dress – the one that slid over my form – will definitely be in the wardrobe. Throughout the shoot, with the styling from the dream-team, I could see the potential of either dressing casually or elevating that same item for a date night or a business meeting. Most importantly, I wanted to step out (with a little modest skip) in each piece that I wore, to capture the essence of me, fearlessly. I believe we did just that.