4 posts tagged "Romance Was Born"
Style.com’s Katharine K. Zarrella reports from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia.
If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize during my short time in Sydney, it’s that a healthy chunk of Australian life is about having a good time, hitting the beach, and looking great while doing it—and I think that’s gorgeous. This is perhaps the only fashion week in my entire career in which the tanning credits have been included in the show notes. If that doesn’t speak to Sydney’s fun-in-the-sun mentality, I don’t know what does.
Also indicative of Sydney-siders’ enviable lifestyles? We Are Handsome’s Spring ’14 outing. Held at the oh-so-green Paddington Reservoir Gardens, the show boasted swimwear covered with splashy prints (a bikini top that looked like watermelon slices was particularly clever), feather headdresses, dancing models, and oversize baubles in the shapes of wild animals and refreshing fruits. The stars of the show, however—coming in just ahead of a few shirtless male models who strutted with surfboards under their arms—were two shockingly calm young ladies who strolled down the catwalk with live pythons coiled around their torsos. “We have a snake print, so it made sense,” said designer Katinka Somers of the exotic accessory. “We tried to get a tiger, but we couldn’t do it,” added her husband and codesigner Jeremy Somers, gesturing to a swimsuit emblazoned with the cat.
Later on, designer Toni Maticevski presented a more elegant—albeit no less lively—side of Sydney style in his impressive lineup of sculpted, kicky skirts, dresses, and jackets. Crafted almost entirely of a non-crease neoprene-like material, the gray, black, white, and acid orange collection had a thoroughly modern sensibility, yet still nodded back to the classics. One tangerine jacket, for instance, recalled Cristobal Balenciaga’s cocoon coat. Meanwhile, full frocks referenced fifties silhouettes, and mesh overlays brought a sporty modesty to skin-baring looks. Also notable was the designer’s theme: orchids. The glossy runway was covered in a shadowy floral print, as was a range of his high-volume wares. “I thought, What if we fed orchids glycerin and weird-looking chemicals, and then shot them into space?” explained the designer backstage. He later added, “It’s important not to shy away from creativity.” No doubt, Maticevski embraced it here. And it paid off.
Tuesday’s runways wrapped with Aussie favorite Christopher Esber’s nautical collection. Big gold buttons on jackets and skirts really drove home Esber’s “women on the water” vibe, as did playful little tags that were embroidered with models’ initials. Ribbed knits—an Esber signature—were among the best pieces in the show. A skirt of that variety was embellished with beading, and a nineties-esque cream spaghetti strap slipdress, paired with a white tube bra, embodied the laid-back sensuality that seems key to the Down Under aesthetic. “Australian fashion overall has a sense of ease and sexuality to it,” explained Esber postshow. He experimented with the latter for Spring with a series of über-short wool-silk-viscose blend bloomers, which were styled with matching conservative jackets. The overall effect of these pastel ensembles was fifties cadet-cum-pinup. As for his future plans, Esber, who has gained international acclaim after winning the Aussie leg of the 2013 International Woolmark Prize, offered that broadening his global presence is currently his main focus.
Day two ended—as all good days should—with a party. This season, Romance Was Born, the cerebral, vivacious range designed by Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales, skipped the runway in favor of a collaborative exhibition with artist Rebecca Baumann—a fitting move, considering the Sydney Biennale is on view next door to the MBFWA site. Dubbed Reflective Glory, the show, which debuted with a raucous dance party, focused on wearable objects of celebration. Shimmering, painstakingly embellished sequined frocks were intended to stir up nostalgia in the viewer, reminding them of unforgettable fetes or nights out on the town. No look epitomized that concept more than a vintage Madonna T-shirt that the designers covered in clear sequins and transformed into a dress via metallic streamers. The garment was made with the same shirt that Sales wore when he first met Plunkett at a house party years ago.
Displayed hanging from the ceiling, Romance Was Born’s wares looked to be dancing with Baumann’s installation of color and light—the space was a veritable kaleidoscope of energy and pizzazz. “We fly our own flag,” explained Plunkett during a preview. “We’ve always just done what we wanted and have tried not to overthink things. Our clothes are more about a feeling.” As for this particular collection, she offered, “We want the consumer to engage with it on an emotional level. It’s not just about wanting to look hot or sexy.”
As I mentioned before, Day Two’s shows magnified Sydney’s sense of fun. More important, however, they proved that there are some very serious talents here who work very hard—they just happen to have a ripping time while doing it.
Australia fashion week wrapped in Sydney today, and Style.com’s special projects editor, Maya Singer, has been reporting back on the most exciting shows. To view our complete Australia fashion week coverage, click here.
Fashion week in Sydney concluded this afternoon with a show by Zambesi (left), one of the major brands from New Zealand. Even if you hadn’t known that Zambesi was based in Auckland, the clothes on the runway made it altogether clear that a non-Australian sensibility was at work. To put it plainly, Zambesi designers Elisabeth Findlay and Dayne Johnston have an affection for the eccentric and borderline frumpy that the local Sydney designers do not share at all. The men’s looks, designed by Johnston, were relatively straightforward—vaguely thuggish tailoring, plus the odd flourish like a pair of tailored wool shortalls. The womenswear, from Findlay, had a bit more range, with crispy and rather clinical white looks ebbing into more challenging pieces, such as long narrow dresses covered with fringe tassels. For both sexes, the sharpest looks were the ones in a tartan organza; very on-trend, that.
Zambesi aren’t the only carpetbaggers on the Australian fashion scene. Jewelry designer Estelle Dévé hails from the South of France, originally, but her brand is based in Melbourne, and in the five years since she launched, it has emerged as something of a cult phenomenon. Dévé’s signature pieces are plated rings with a rough-hewn look; this season, she’s elevated her aesthetic quite a bit, drawing on her French heritage for a bit of soigné, and sourcing influence from the surrealists. Standout pieces in the new collection include statement necklaces with egg-shaped crystal pendants half-covered in a dissolving layer of silver.
Dévé adapted several pieces from the new collection for a capsule range of bracelets and necklaces made in collaboration with Camilla and Marc (left). Those pieces were on the Camilla and Marc catwalk at the very start of Australian Fashion Week; so too was the jewelry work of Ryan Storer, whose dangerous-looking ear pieces adorned all the models at the show. Storey’s brand is ultra-new”—his very small debut collection is shipping to stores now, with a selection of the ear pieces due to arrive at Browns in London at any moment.
Fashion’s scope is undeniably global. If you’ve been keeping up with Tommy Ton’s latest street-style dispatches, you already know that right now, the action is in Sydney, where it’s all about showcasing local talent. This season, when Aussie heavyweights Dion Lee and Josh Goot pulled out at the last minute (reportedly to focus on building their respective international presences), it gave up-and-comers a chance to seize the spotlight. The week kicked off with Romance Was Born’s action-packed collection, featuring graphic prints borrowed from Marvel comics. Yes, we’ve already seen cartoon couture stateside from Phillip Lim, but this lineup had plenty of its own ka-pow. Other memorable moments included the directional, draped looks in rich-colored silks from Ellery (pictured) and Jenny Kee’s over-the-top headpieces and one-of-a-kind gowns. Naturally, there was a commercial focus, too. Retailers are sure to scoop up the on-trend denim-on-denim looks seen at Ksubi and Zimmermann’s perfectly pretty, floral frocks. It seems things are looking up down under.
CLICK FOR A SLIDESHOW to check out our Sydney fashion week highlights.
At dusk in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens, huge white cockatoos are still screeching around as the bats begin to stir, and the sky is momentarily filled with two winged species as different as day and night. It’s an amazing sight, perhaps not as charming as the lorikeets, the small parrots that settle to eat out of a visitor’s hand on the terrace of Heidi (Sass & Bide) Middleton’s house in Palm Beach just north of the city, but a reminder nevertheless that nature never stops putting on a show in Sydney. How can fashion compete, especially when it seems to flourish best in urban environments like Milan or Paris, where the spectacle comes courtesy of human beings?
Last week, the Australian fashion industry attempted to mount a persuasive alternative to nature’s charms, but when the most convincing designers seemed to be those who embraced and celebrated their environment, it was clear that you just can’t beat sun, sea, and sand. (All three were in full effect as Australia’s collections for next spring/summer were shown while this spring/summer dragged itself out in extravagant Indian style.) Seventh Wonderland (pictured, above left) and Zimmermann specialize in swimwear and, like designers in similarly blessed Rio, they take the bikini farther than you could imagine. Nicky Zimmermann in particular struck a sophisticated balance between form and function: Her retro references evoked haute Hollywood, but her prints were a contemporary blend of Spirographs and silvery black and white florals (above, right). And the cover-ups that accompanied the swimsuits (i.e., extended the brand) were sleekly glamorous in a way that seemed entirely natural for Sydney flesh honed, toned, and tanned by endless summers.
It’s a body-conscious aesthetic that has been successfully exported by Sass & Bide’s Middleton and Sarah-Jane Clarke, Kit Willow-Podgornik (whose new scuba dress with Lycra ruffles will spring from swimming pool to cocktail party missing nary a beat), and Josh Goot. Such is their international profile that these designers choose to spend their promotional dollars abroad. A shame, because the hometown program could have done with their gloss and focus. Although Goot, coming off his strongest collection yet, did concede, “Instead of trying to capture what’s over there, we should capture what’s over here, because what we have here is unique.”
Granted, the Sydney flora and fauna have a very particular quality, but Australian fashion week proved a point that is anything but unique. The concept of the fashion week has become a prime component in the cultural identity of cities all over the world (not just cities—Transylvania just rolled one out), and they all seem to feature the same cast of characters: the Local Hero, the Showman, the Avant-Gardist, the Next Big Thing, the Arty Duo, the Budding Supermodel, and so on. Sydney’s supe-in-the-making was 19-year-old aboriginal Samantha Harris. Its Showman was Alex Perry (1,000-foot catwalk, dressy glitz, sleb front row). The Avant-Gardist was Ben Pollitt, whose nom de mode is the more appropriately Teutonic Friedrich Gray (though it’s Rick Owens who deserves the royalties). Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales were the Arty Duo, cross-pollinating with Local Hero with their label Romance Was Born (pictured, below left). Hence, a late-night slot (made later by a 90-minute delay), a worshipful audience, and a collection that joyously erred on the side of delirious excess. (Dinosaurs mating with the Medicis under the volcano? The scenario could have been torn from Galliano’s back pages.) Or perhaps the Local Heroes were the Ksubi boys, George Gorrow and Dan Single, whose denim label hit the comeback trail after some business setbacks with a spectacle that was all crowd-pleasing style and precious little substance.
Next Big Thing? Undoubtedly Dion Lee (below right), 24 years old and already showing the kind of promise that slots him in alongside young Turk peers like Marios Schwab and Proenza Schouler. His clothes were precise and polished, his prints were extraordinary (ultraviolet Rorschach blots looking like eerie florals). And Lee’s show was perfectly edited and paced, qualities that were sorely lacking elsewhere in the week. It was also staged in the Sydney Opera House, a building that is still so breathtaking after nearly 40 years that it’s a reminder of what human beings can achieve even when the natural world on their doorstep conspires to distract them at every turn. And there’s surely some inspiration there for young hopefuls like Dion Lee.