MBFW Day Two: Romance was Born

There were clothes but no models at Romance Was Born’s show, Reflected Glory, which launched at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia at Carriageworks, Sydney this evening.

Dispensing with the traditional runway show, Romance Was Born duo Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett instead unveiled a large-scale installation in collaboration with Perth-based visual artist Rebecca Baumann, known for her kaleidoscopic works.

Even though it was an exhibition, the show was certainly not static. Glittering garments suspended from the high ceiling twirled slowly allowing prisms of light reflect and bounce off sequins and coloured plexiglass. Aside from the engine noise behind the mechanical workings of the exhibition there was no sound.

“I like the idea of not playing any music to give people time to reflect about parties they have been too and special moments in their lives. What it means to celebrate,” Sales said.

The exhibition explores the idea of our basic desire for happiness pursued through customs, rituals and social occasions. In Reflected Glory, each garment signifies a special moment in time – a house party, Mardi Gras, a wake, New Year’s Eve – all woven with iridescent thread and adorned with sequins and jewels.

An old Madonna T-shirt of Sales forms the top of a gold dress with an extended skirt that would require a model to wear stilts if ever worn.

“Some of the garments the silhouettes are a little bit longer than normal because we knew they didn’t have to be walked in,” said Sales.

The T-shirt has nostalgia for both Sales and Plunkett. Sales was wearing it when he first met Plunkett and hung out at his house party. In the exhibition the T-shirt is embellished in clear sequins and now “embodies the creative spirit between both of us” Plunkett said.

When creating the pieces for the exhibition Sales said the pair felt like they’d gone back to their roots. “Working together, hand sewing the garments together and just draping on the dummy and stitching that together and not so much trying to design and look like a collection or worrying about the way it is pattern made. It’s a bit more organic. A lot how we used to work,” Sales said.

Romance Was Born has spent the past six months collaborating with Baumann on the exhibition which is in a sense a “creative preview” of the label’s spring/summer 14/15 collection, also titled Reflected Glory.

“All the prints in the exhibition are from our ready to wear collection. This is the first time we have worked with an artist where we haven’t just printed the artist’s logo and fabric. We actually shot the sequins, everything in direct sunlight so there was maximum reflection,” said Sales. “We generated the prints from the photographs. The surfaces that we shot and fabrics that we used are a representation of what Rebecca uses in her work. Like the reflective holographic paper, sequins and plexiglass, and sequin dresses.

‘Romance Was Born’s exhibition Reflected Glory’ is on at Carriageworks, 245 Wilson St, Redfern, Sydney from April 9 to May 11, 2014 and entry is free.

iD Dunedin Fashion Week Highlights

Venice’s colourful buildings and their reflections on the canals inspired the winning designer collection at this year’s iD Dunedin International Emerging Designer Awards.

Mahshid Mahdian of Brera Academy, Italy took away $10,000 in prize money for her collection ‘Shadow’ which played on a theme of layers.

Mahdian, who travelled from Italy for the awards, doesn’t speak English but had her concepts for her designs translated into English, which she read off a piece of paper when she presented her collection to the judges.

The language barrier, however, was not an issue said Paris-based Australian designer Martin Grant, one of the judges of the event.

“It’s not so much about what they say, it’s about the work and the work speaks for itself,” Grant said. “It was just a perfect rounded piece of work. Her finishing and everything was extraordinary. Personally as soon as I saw it I thought ‘that’s it’ and afterwards when [the judges] deliberated it was the same for everyone else.”

Another designer to catch Grant’s special interest was Vaibhav Singh a graduate of the National Institute of Fashion Technology, India for whom a Special Recognition Award was especially created, instigated by Grant. Singh’s ‘Ornaments of a Warrior’ collection drew inspiration from warrior weapons from different eras. Grant was so moved by the quality of the work that he offered up the prize of a paid internship with him in Paris.

Second place, with a cash prize of $4000, went to Australian designer Alanna Barca, graduate of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). Each garment of her ‘Ornamental Forms’ collection was highly detailed as well as aesthetically beautiful. A passionate illustrator, Barca screen-printed her hand drawings onto the fabric which she then had embroidered by artisans in Pakistan.

“It’s about justifying the importance of ornament and using decoration to enhance design, not plonking it on, but trying to make the design as opposed to putting it on as an after thought,” Barca said. “It’s about having the ornament as creating the actual shape and silhouette.”

Australian designers took out four of the seven awards at this year’s event.

Chin Hau Tay of the RMIT, the crowd favourite, brought humour as well as innovation to the stage with his fun and playful ‘Beawear Bear’ collection that saw the male models swathed in giant-sized bright red faux furs and checked coats which he modelled on the teddy bear shape using classical tailoring techniques. Hau Tay said one of the aims of his teddy bear tailored collection was to encourage men not to take themselves too seriously. “A tailored jacket need not only be about fit and tradition, it can put a big smile on your face,” he said.

Mook Attakanwong of the University of Sydney juxtaposed colourful jewel tones and shiny fabrics in a way that was interesting but also wearable. Her collection ‘Libertine’ was inspired by the Byzantine period and combined casual, sportswear elements with luxury in a liberated fashion, winning her the award for the Most Commercial collection.

The Fabric Store Award for Excellence in Design was awarded to Anna-Marie Gruber of the University of Technology Sydney for her film noir knit collection ‘Disconnect’ featuring abstract shapes and obscure silhouettes that “expressed the inner madness explored in Alfred Hitchcock’s characters”.

The New Zealand Light Leathers Prize was presented to Lucilla Gray of Massey University, New Zealand whose sculptural and bright blue collection ‘Hyper-Florals’ was described by Francis Hooper of fashion label WORLD, also one of the judges, as “beautiful and so detailed … and capturing attention in a heart beat”. Hooper was referring to Gray’s technique of hand printing and then hand embossing the fabric to give it added texture and relief.

WORLD was also a guest designer, along with Paris-based Australian designer Martin Grant, for the iD Fashion Show which was held over two nights on the platform of Dunedin’s historic railway station.

WORLD’s collection livened the audience with it’s tongue and cheek collection ‘Penny Wise Pound Foolish’ which embraced the frivolity of fashion along with the seriousness with which WORLD approaches its experimentation of design. The opening garment comprised of bright orange trousers with a swirling matching headpiece paired with a floor length cape and polo neck sweater in neon lime.

In contrast Martin Grant’s elegant Spring/Summer 14 collection was all black and white balanced by Christian Louboutin high heels.

Tamsin Cooper, best known for her colourful embroidered bags, launched her debut men’s range of jackets with the help of Royal New Zealand Ballet dancers Loughlan Prior, Maclean Hopper and William Fitzgerald who twirled, leapt and danced their way along the runway. Later Cooper performed a balancing act of her own standing in high heels on a clothing rack which the dancers wheeled at speed along the length of the catwalk for the show finale. All in the name of fashion, of course.

Take a look at some of the highlights from iD Fashion week: