Tag Archives: Melbourne Fashion Festival

Last Week

Thinking back over the last week and trying to make a blog entry out of it.

I finally saw No Vacancy’s new location on the other side of the QV centre (I do try to vary the galleries that I visit). No Vacancy has also slightly changed artistic direction, moving away from street art and is now exhibiting more illustrations. This is a move that other galleries associated with street art have also made as illustrations are more saleable. The illustrations on exhibition at No Vacancy when I visited were by Eveline Tarunadjaja, and full of detailed long hair, hence the exhibition’s title: “Dandruff”. Tarunadjaja’s illustrations are influenced by art neuvueau right down to the fonts and the use of gold ink on details.

On Saturday afternoon Federation Square was crowded with young women on Saturday attracted by the free catwalk shows, DJs, hip-hop dancers and other features of this fashion fairground, it was still more of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. (See my other entry on exhibitions in the festival) Catherine and I are still looking at fashion festival associated exhibitions. E.G. Etal had a good exhibition, Figment, curated magnificently by Fleur Watson. The jewelery was displayed on old overhead projectors. You could look at the piece back-lit on the projector or look at its shadow projected on the wall. (See Melbourne Jeweller’s review of this exhibition.)

Until Never also had an exhibition associated with the fashion festival. “The World of Kmossed” is exhibition by Rosie Kavanavoch with photographs from the limited edition book. The exhibition poked fun at the fashion festival, label bags and stupid, celebrity models, ripping the glamour to shreds with satire. In 2005 Kate Moss’s contract with Chanel was not renewed due to her reprobate behavior and Kavanavoch doesn’t hold back poking fun at this – and why shouldn’t she?

I had a look at Hosier Lane and there were plenty of people doing the same on Saturday. And Catherine and I went on the Giant Sky Wheel at Birrarung Marr (not the broken white elephant of a giant wheel in the Docklands). It afforded some unique and pleasant views of the city and the Yarra River and I was happy to be going around in a big circle.

Fashion Festival Exhibitions

The L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival is a very democratic fashion festival; unlike many fashion festivals most events are open to the public, although there are a few industry only events. There are public catwalk shows and if you are in the city you can’t help but notice that the fashion festival is on.

The exhibitions associated with the festival add to the accessibility of the festival. I have been aware of it for about a decade due all the associated exhibitions that I’ve seen in galleries that I regularly view. My wife, Catherine and I have enjoyed seeing exhibitions and a few catwalk shows that are part of the L’Oreal Fashion Festival for several years. This year we saw exhibitions at Craft Victoria, at Bus gallery and in fashion boutiques in Crossley Street. A few weeks ago we saw the exhibition at RMIT Gallery (see my review). We also saw “The Garment-Body” by Sarah Berners in the Main Space of Bus (see Goodbye Bus).

Crossley Street is an interesting little street, well worth a wander with its range of boutique shops, antique dealer, tailors and a bar. Gallery Funaki has jewellery made by a variety of local jewelers with a strong interest in the craft of jewellery. Japanese couture designers are on display in the window and a tight crowd of mannequins at Madame Virtue & Co. The fashion is playful in materials and design. Failed to see the earring festival at Glizten, also on Crossley St. and also in the fashion festival exhibitions, but then neither Catherine nor I wear earrings.

Craft Victoria has an ordinary exhibition; I’ve seen it all before and not just because I’ve seen the exhibition twice. I’ve seen empty exhibitions before, I’ve seen art made by cutting into old books before and I’ve even seen braided horsehair on exhibition before. And these were not exciting examples of this sort of art.

Catherine and I have, in the past, gone to see Circa Nocturna. Circa Nocturna is Melbourne’s alternative fashion show (for “alternative” read “goth” except that word doesn’t market well to a goth audience). It was more fun, interesting and punctual (!) than the professional fashion shows that I have attended. It featured amateur models that come in more shapes and sizes than the anorexic professional models. The models had more drama, personality and choreography than the regular fashion parade. And there was plenty of drama in the fashion show – it was a spectacular performance and I expect nothing less from goths. In 2007 the catwalk featured two giant puppets of a girl and drunken rabbit and models accessorized with living giant stick insects.

“What Goth has that distinguishes it from most youth subcultures is 400 years of history to plunder.” wrote Helen Stuckey (L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival Arts Program, 2004)

Not that the eleven designers featured in the Circa Nocturna 2007 plundered the whole 400 years for this one fashion show. The bustle that featured prominently in last years show has gone – it was only a brief fashion trend when it first came around. Dragonsblood showgirl outfits were inspired by the 1940s including the spectacular peacock showgirl outfit. GeoMythik also feature burlesque and carnival influences including a model with two red ostrich feather fans.

Circa Nocturna 2008 was a debacle and we didn’t go again, although this year friends who attended told me that it went well.

Another exhibition that I saw at the 2006 fashion festival was Noble Rot at Como Historic House and Garden in South Yarra. Noble Rot was a major installation occupying many rooms in Como House, including the normally unseen spaces like the servants stairwells. It was about the ephemeral nature of fashion, the damaged, stained, unfinished garments, fripperies and accessories. Such curatorial driven exhibitions are self-indulgent wank but in this case it was a fascinating and subtle change to the boring historic house routine. The stains on fabric, the garment maker’s labels, the faded folds in a silk ballroom dress and the room of black mourning cloths had a real sense of time past.

(This blog entry includes edited versions of two entries published in my old blog, Culture Critic @ Melbourne. My old blog has since been taken down for reasons beyond my control but I thought that this entry was worth republishing.)

Grab Bag

2009 Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program part 2

By Mark Holsworth with Catherine Voutier

The design and editing of the Fashion Festival Cultural Program was obnoxiously bad without any organization alphabetical, geographical or thematic, just a random list. And it is on two sides of a four-fold sheet with the bright pink printing making it almost impossible to use. The exhibitors who paid to be included in this program did not get value for their money (according to a recent comment it did not cost anything, that explains a lot). Fleur Watson, the Cultural Program Manager, appears to have done nothing more than copy and paste information from the events that paid to be included. That this grab bag of events had a theme, ‘Cause and Effect’, is curatorial balderdash.

The Fashion Festival’s Cultural Program is a random selection of fashion related events. In Bloom, at RMIT’s First Site Gallery was a good fashion exhibition exploring floral themes with work from RMIT students and graduates. Unfortunately it closed before the opening of the Fashion Festival. Why Bus Gallery paid to have Skin and Bones 09 in the program and then ran different exhibitions I don’t know.

Everyone need fashion accessories and there were, of course, a many of Melbourne’s jewellery designers were included in the program. There was Leah Heiss’s hi-tech jewellery at 45 Downstairs. It was nothing special to look at, new materials like heat sensitive wires are interesting but it failed to be made into anything attractive. In the other direction at Glitzern in Crossley Lane there was plenty of jewellery from recycled and found material with a nautical theme. There were bracelets of brass buttons, a hat like a ship, a black sequinned lobsters and fun eye patches with sequins and netting.

The Stiches and Craft Show at the Melbourne Show Grounds was also part of the 2009 Fashion Festival Cultural Program. Taking fashion back to its basics. This featured an exhibition of women’s dresses the 1890s to the 1960s, one from each period. The dresses were not couture but handmade or made by local dress makers. Also bringing fashion back to the grassroots, craft bloggers had their own spot at the show.

Also taking fashion back to its roots Craft Victoria had Chicks On Speed, and it looked like it. It is a fun packed exhibition, a mash-up of workshop, performance space and installation. Visitors had to carefully pick their way between all the stuff. It had rock’n’roll levels of energy – not surprisingly Chicks On Speed are a punk rock band with several CDs of music and they take the little old lady out of embroidery. Poking critical fun at the fashion industry Chicks On Speed have a funky, punk do-it-yourself style. Rock’n’roll has always been an adjunct of modern fashion as Chicks On Speed are effectively demonstrating.

On the other hand Prostitution Institution by Trimapee at No Vacancy Gallery looked impressive with black figures like ninja’s hanging from the ceiling, large extreme contrast paintings of women, decorated Doctor Martens Boots and photographs in light-boxes. However, it didn’t have any depth and wasn’t doing anything new.

“Black is the new red, again.” Read the acetate lettering in the light-boxes in Brad Haylock’s installation, Everything you never wanted to know about fashion  (but were too afraid to ask) at Vitrine in the Degraves Street Underpass. This should have been included in the Cultural Program but obviously they didn’t pay to play (or didn’t get his application in on time, see comment below).

Couture Exhibitions

2009 Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program part 1

By Mark Holsworth and Catherine Voutier

The blockbuster exhibition of the Melbourne Fashion Festival was out of Melbourne at the Bendigo Art Gallery. There has been an average of 2 thousand visitors daily and a long wait in the queue to gain entry. The gallery’s staff and facilities couldn’t cope with the avalanche of people and Bendigo is experiencing a boom in tourists.

This was all for The Golden Age of Couture – Paris & London 1947-57 that featured dresses from Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga. Other items included tiny travelling mannequins about 40cm tall that the French couturiers would bring over to England to display to clients. There were some fascinating British & French films from the period including one showing a model being dressed in the extensive underdress that the New Look form required (corseting, girdles, padded bras, extra padding attached to hips and shoulders). The films also revealed more men attending shows than would be the case today – the men at this time were the ones buying the clothes for their wives. There were also photographs by Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon and Erwin Bloomfield. Bloomfield’s free Dadaist experiments in photography were not always successful but always adventurous and ambitious. Previously, fashion photographs were taken in studios. With the New Look, models were photographed in the real world showing the clothes as they would be worn in everyday situations.

The National Gallery of Victoria’s exhibition Remaking Fashion deconstructs the process of making fashion. And even in a modest way the way of exhibiting fashion had been deconstructed with the raw wood back frame. A series of Christian Dior toile versions of dress designs showed the structural basics and introduced the rest of the exhibition. This included Westwood’s experiments with traditions updating them to contemporary life, dresses and a slashed jacket by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, and an impressive women’s dress remade from men’s garments by local fashion label SiX.

Fashion boutique Marais, located on the 1st floor of Royal Arcade, had a small exhibition of the work of designer Annie Valerie Hash. There were lots of beading and others quirky details. Some of Annie Valerie Hash’s dresses showed the distinct influence of Coco Channel. And on the 2nd floor of Royal Arcade, Don’t Come has cool street clothes and a one room gallery with Drella New York, photographs by Maripolarama. These are mosaics of enlarged snapshot-style photographs of the cool glamorous of NYC. Look there is Andy Warhol eating with Keith Haring, And there’s Madonna, Grace Jones, and hey, there’s Jeff Koons! But this isn’t couture anymore this is street d.i.y. fashion; the subject of our next entry on the 2009 Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program.

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