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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.)

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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