Modern Love: 3 Unique And Powerful Stories

A celebration of love, in all its forms.

The subject of millions of books, song, poems, and films, love is a concept that flows through the centre of our lives.

Our relationships—with significant others, with friends, with family and with ourselves—shape who we are and how we view the world, with our understanding of love constantly evolving and changing over time.

As we all learn eventually, love isn’t just a feeling; it’s an action, and a choice we make again and again.

Here, in partnership with Coach, we share the stories of three unique relationships, and show how the love within each is manifested.

Though different in their expressions—one romantic, one familial and one a journey into a deep personal connection—they are all united by one common theme: overwhelming love.

Romantic Love: Matilda Dods & Alex Wall

modern love stories alex wall matilda dods
Matilda wears Rave Bear Tee, Denim Jeans; Alex wears Oversized Flannel Shirt, all from Coach.

Like many other love stories, Matilda and Alex’s started with a chance encounter—a meeting that only one of them actually remembers.

“Apparently, I met Matilda for the first time after my band played at Splendour In The Grass,” Alex tells marie claire Australia.

“But I can’t remember that at all.”

Matilda, however, describes that first rendezvous as like “meeting a very famous, sexy rockstar”.

“I’m sure to Alex it was an extremely awkward interaction…and nothing worth remembering. But for me…I remember it vividly,” she says.

A few years and a Bondi sushi date later, the two are now a powerful creative force. One a photographer, one a model, and both musicians in band Baptizm, you’d be forgiven for thinking their job titles and creative crossovers make their relationship serious and intense.

But watch the pair together for just a few moments and you’ll find a comfort and ease in the way they move, talk, and occupy each other’s space. The couple almost speaks their own secret language, exchanging sideways smiles, inside jokes and even playful jabs with each other as if no one else is in the room.

There’s an innate security between Alex and Matilda; an understanding that the other person is always there, both physically, in the way they subconsciously reach for each other, or emotionally, by offering each other gentle words of encouragement and direction.

For both, the relationship offers a level of comfort and freedom neither has experienced before.

“This is the most secure I’ve ever felt in a relationship,” Alex shares.

“I trust Matilda 100 per cent, and I know she trusts me. We are super open and talk about everything, and I’ve never had that before. It’s really relaxing and easy.”

modern love stories alex wall matilda dods
Matilda wears Moto Jacket, Signature Buckle Bangles; Alex wears Essential T-Shirt, all from Coach.

For Matilda, knowing she can truly be her most authentic herself with Alex is a core part of what makes their relationship so strong.

“In past relationships, I have kept certain things or aspects of myself hidden in order to not be too much, too silly, too intense…whatever characteristic in myself I have at times felt perceived to be excessive,” she says.

“With Alex, I laid it all out on the table and hoped for the best, and in return received more love than I could have ever anticipated. There is never a moment when I feel judged or like I have to reign myself in with him, which in turn has allowed me to become more authentic in all aspects of my life.

“Alex has helped me to realise that I don’t need to play a role in order to be loved, I simply need to be myself.”

It’s who Matilda is at her core that draws Alex in, with her abundance of energy one of the things he first noticed about her.

“I noticed…how wild she was. And still is. She… can’t sit still and is dancing around the house 24/7. And can’t keep her mouth shut. I love it. I’m forever entertained,” he says.

It’s an inclusive energy that radiates to those around her, with Alex describing the positivity that seems to follow Matilda everywhere she goes perfectly: “Whenever she is around, it’s like closing your eyes and looking into the sun.”

“You just feel so warm and happy with her,” he says.

For Matilda, it’s Alex’s selflessness that she loves the most.

“He is so willing to go out of his way to help and support me, no matter what it is I am asking for, and often without even asking,” she says.

And it’s this kindness that has helped shaped her current understanding of what “love” is.

“Alex, at the end of the day, is so fundamentally kind-hearted, it makes me want to be a better person,” she says.

“Love, and in particular being loved by him, inspires me to become the kindest, most compassionate and generous version of myself—for him, for the world and for myself.”

Self-Love: Crystal Russell

modern love stories crystal russell
Crystal wears Printed Shearling Jacket, from Coach.

Crystal Russell makes everything look easy.

A model, dancer and aspiring poet, there’s a self-assuredness in the way the 20-year-old moves and talks.

But while she holds herself with a confidence and honest vulnerability that’s well beyond her years (but that’s indicative of her trailblazing generation), Crystal understands more than most the power in learning from the most heartbreaking of lessons.

For Crystal, self-love is not a destination, but rather an ever-evolving concept, and a journey she’s constantly on.

“Growing up as a Black kid in a white neighbourhood was extremely crippling. Especially when the only true representation I saw of myself through media was when I was 16,” she says.

“Loving and celebrating my hair specifically has been a huge journey. [And] unlearning the toxic, misogynistic standards of hyper-femininity and understanding my own masculine and feminine energies has been a main theme in loving myself.”

For Crystal, self-love is about setting boundaries, and recognising that her energy is something that is worthy of being protected and nurtured.

“Moving out of a toxic environment was self-love. Becoming the person I needed growing up was self-love. Taking care of my mental health, doing everything to give myself a safe home, meaningful connections and a fulfilling life are continued practices of self-love that I have been working so hard at since I was 16,” she says.

“Every decision I make is out of self-love, keeping myself safe and protecting my peace.

“Having those boundaries for myself and constantly holding myself accountable to what I desire in my life has been so beneficial.”

modern love stories crystal russell
Crystal wears Rain Cloud Tee, Corduroy Loom Pant and Printed Leather Mary Janes, all from Coach.

A self-confessed perfectionist, the most important part of her self-love journey has been accepting that things aren’t always the way you want them to be.

“The most important part of self-acceptance is accepting where you are, no matter what, whilst knowing you are always going to want more,” she says.

Her advice for others stepping into a space of self-love? “Be brave”, which she admits is “so easy to say, and so hard to do.”

“It’s that constant cycle of realising what you want and being brave and vulnerable enough to step outside of your comfort zone to do it,” she says.

So much of Crystal’s understanding of what love is—and how best to apply it to herself— is shaped by knowing, and experiencing, exactly what love isn’t.

“I know love isn’t what I felt growing up, I know the lack of love is why I moved out of home the second I could,” she says.

“Love is feeling safe enough to be vulnerable. Love is healing your generational trauma, so it doesn’t spread to the people you love.

“For me in my life right now…love is letting go. And it’s been the most painful lesson. Sometimes letting someone else go is the only way to continue loving yourself.”

And it’s that relationship with herself that Crystal treasures, and fosters, above all else.

“The more I love and accept myself, the more I can give that to others,” she says.

Sisterly Love: Basra & Ebyan Ajeh

modern love stories Basra & Ebyan Ajeh
Basra (L) wears Icon Trench Coat and Printed Leather Mary Janes; Ebyan wears Printed Shearling Poncho, Vintage Signature Print Silk Square Scarf and Patent Leather Mary Janes, all from Coach.

They say you always want what you don’t have, and for Basra and Ebyan Ajeh, that was a brother.

The eldest two of five sisters, they longed for a male sibling to be amongst the mix.

Now, at 25 and 28, respectively, Basra and Ebyan say they wouldn’t have it any other way, believing their sisterly bond is one that is closer than any friendship.

“Our bond has definitely evolved and strengthened overtime,” they say.

“We understand each other’s perspectives better now, especially after no longer living together in the same house. Now, we cherish the time we share together a lot more.”

But spending quality time together doesn’t mean there’s a rush to do and say everything at once. Content creator Basra and vintage store co-owner Ebyan both describe themselves as introverts, preferring to keep to themselves, which translates into a relaxed ease in the way they interact with one another.

Neither feel any need to fill the silences when together, but their quiet conversations are occasionally marked by bouts of giggles, as if they’re speaking in a secret language only the sisters know.

“We typically need our own space and ‘alone time’ after being around people,” they admit.

“When it’s just the two of us there’s no pressure to make conversation, we can sit in comfortable silence and do our own thing in the same space.”

modern love stories Basra & Ebyan Ajeh
Ebyan (L) wears Denim Dress, Leather Baseball Cap and Signature Buckle Belt; Basra wears Oversized Flannel Shirt, Printed Leather Skirt, Leather Baseball Cap; all from Coach.

But their introverted nature doesn’t extend into their taste for fashion, with both loving to play and experiment with bold and bright colours when it comes to their looks.

In fact, fashion is something that brings Basra and Ebyan together, counting thrift-store shopping “after brunch” as one of their favourite things to do whenever they find themselves in the same city—which, they both admit, is not nearly as often as they’d like.

While they share the same hobbies, the sisters say it’s the unconditional nature of their love that sets their relationship apart from a regular friendship.

“Even though we don’t always agree, we will always be in each other’s lives,” they say.

“Friendships are usually based around having the same hobbies, but our bond goes beyond just having common interests. We can’t ‘grow apart’ as regular friends would, and as we’ve grown older our relationship only strengths.

“We actually consider ourselves each other’s first and longest lasting friends.”

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have their moments.

“Basra is more of a ‘go with the flow’ type of person, while Ebyan is very much all about having a schedule and a plan for everything,” they say.

“We conflict over this, but we can also manage to balance each other out, as one brings structure and the other brings the fun.”

For the sisters, their understanding of love is shaped by how they’re able to always depend on one another, and the level of comfort this brings to their lives.

“Love is… knowing you can always count on them and vice versa. We make sure we can always relay on each other, no matter what.”

Brought to you by Coach.

Love is at the centre of Coach’s newest arrivals, with Creative Director Stuart Vevers inspired by the emotion for the Fall collection. The power of love to lift us up and allow us to express our most authentic selves as individuals is at the core of Coach’s newest pieces, with each product made with love and made to last.

Photographer: Alex Wall // @alexrwall

Models: Alex Wall // @alexrwall | Matilda Dods // @matildadods | Crystal Russell // @_crystalrussell | Basra Ajeh // @itsbasra | Ebyan Ajeh // @ebyanajeh 

Stylist: Jordan Boorman // @jordanboorman

Hair/Makeup: Nicole Thompson // @pinkiiieee

Related stories