Saturday, April 21, 2007

Video killed the runway star: Azzollini's sex-on-legs swimwear supersizes up to the big screen

You've got to hand it to Michael Azzollini and Kate Nicholes. They create some of the most eye-popping swimwear on the market and from day one in 2003 just happened to align themselves with a sleeper celebrity: their mate, and star model, Michelle Leslie. Last year Azzollini made front page news around Australia when Leslie appeared in the brand's off-schedule show the week before Fashion Week - her first runway appearance since flying back into a Sydney media storm following her release from Bali's Kerobokan Prison. This year Azzollini is back on schedule, this time with a twist: by swapping a traditional runway show for a four-minute clip directed by one of the music video world's hottest new directors.

Azzollini and Nicholes have spent the past three days careering around a dozen locations in Sydney with eighteen models, 14 hair and makeup stylists, two choreographers, a muscle man, a contortionist and a 12-strong film crew from Sydney design and film collective Collider in tow.

The latter has been helmed by Don Cameron, a London-based Australian music video director who hails originally from the Blue Mountains and whose videography boasts work for headliners such as The Pet Shop Boys ('Minimal'), Garbage ('Androgyny'), Moloko ('Indigo') and Simply Red ('Sunrise'). Shot in various beach, harbourside and gym locations on a $29,000 shoestring budget - with undoubtedly tens of thousands of further dollars of favours pulled in from mates - the clip references Olivia Newton John's 1981 hit 'Let's Get Physical'.

We haven't seen the finished clip however given the calibre of Cameron's work - and connections - and Azzollini's knack for courting publicity, this could represent the brand's biggest break. In terms of international retail, they currently cite just Henri Bendel and Elizabeth Charles in the US, Lane Crawford Hong Kong and Figleaves in the UK as stockists. Fashion Season's was the only other video camera allowed on the shoot so stand by for an exclusive preview.

Yesterday Broadway's Pioneer Studios was awash with models kitted out in a sportif red, navy and white striped story from Azzollini's SS0708 collection. We filmed them performing a series of step aerobics routines and floor exercises such as bicycles and pelvic thrusts - a kind of horizontal version of The Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Picture Show's ballroom scene.

The clip is due to be screened at 5pm on May 2nd at the Dendy Cinema, Circular Quay, just around the harbour from Fashion Week's main Overseas Passenger Terminal location. It will feature a small live component with a few models in the collection, which also includes a stretch denim story, a tuxedo shirt-style maillot, some signature graphic prints - including a quirky take on the Redhead match print - and, surprisingly for Azzollini, a bit more cover than usual.

Azzollini is well-known not only for its intricately-cut maillots and bikinis but also for its sexed-up campaign images with models in hyperglamorous poses - such as last summer's campaign lensed by Troyt Coburn and featuring Australia's hottest new modeling export, Catherine McNeil (see above).

Although featured in the video, as is Leslie, 15 year-old Sydney model Tallulah Morton was not part of yesterday's 'gym' shoot and we are informed that she was not involved with any overly-provocative poses (as have been some other Azzollini models in campaigns past, notably Leslie).

On the differences between shooting a regular campaign and a four-minute video clip involving a cast and crew of 50, designer Michael Azzollini told Fashion Season, "I think I've bitten off more than I can chew!"

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