Friday, May 4, 2007

Shake your Boodie: The Australian swimwear show (mercifully) reaches new heights

I'm sitting on a private ferry en route to the Hallican Boodie show.

We are apparently en route to a private, harbourside residence in Woolwich and this ferry has been deemed the most efficient means of transporting us there. I'm having a bit of a deja vu moment because the last time I was on a fashion week boat, the Azimut yacht this time last year, Sydney restaurateur Dave Evans was doing the catering and was rudely bailed up by my good self on the Elle Macpherson subject in one of the cabins. Well Evans just strode past me en route to the rear deck. There is no catering on this boat I hasten to add, which is a damned shame as most of us have not eaten in hours. As the vessel approaches its destination, a voice over the PA system announces that return ferries will leave at 10.45pm and 11.45pm. Given that it is now 10.16pm, I'd say the chances of us getting out of this before midnight are remote.

We get out of the boat and are ushered along a narrow jetty towards some stairs which lead to the venue. Just to clarify, rather a lot of stairs, which wind up the escarpment to what appears in the distance to be a multi-level luxury mansion. We proceed to climb up the stairs, and up, and up, and our little obstacle course then takes us past a kidney-shaped pool, over some stepping stones and through quite a lot of greenery, including one area in which sprinklers are working for some absurd reason. I thank my lucky stars that I have on a pair of wedge heel Mary Janes and not the patent purple pumps with nail-thin green stiletto heels that I was wearing yesterday although that said, as I climbed the last set of stairs before the pool, I did hear a seam rip in my pencil skirt.

"How unglamorous" sniffs one woman as she scrambles past the sprinklers.

We are now on some open lawn area behind the house, possibly a tennis court. It's quite a large runway setup, complete with scaffolding towers for the lights, a raised runway and surrounding murals painted with images of Tikis and lush, tropical greenery. Some giant wooden Tikis are also scattered around the area and there is a Chinese lantern-decorated bar. It's a kind of Survivor-meets-Gilligan's Island look and it is in fact quite impressive. Some serious money has been spent on this launch (I later hear in the vicinity of 100K).

"It's like a Tiki party" volunteers Kiwi journo Carolyn Enting, before some 70s disco music starts up and she feels the need to qualify her previous statement.

"Actually it's like a Tiki party crossed with Miami Vice" she says.

I cross my fingers that this means there is a possibility Colin Farrell could emerge from behind one of the giant Tikis at any moment. For now, we have to make do with Miro - Simon Lock's glamorous Eastern block replacement for (the much-missed) seat Nazi John Flower who doubles as a personal trainer. Many at Fashion Week have grown accustomed to Miro's very hands-on approach to seating as he guides you to your allocated pew.

Miro gets up onto the stage in front of a band setup and takes the microphone.

"Could we please have the international buyers and media in the front two rows, thanks" he says, as some soft music starts up behind him.

Miro moves off the stage and after a short time, some new music starts - a cover of Que Sera Sera. A model emerges in a dramatically-cut black maillot and wearing some showgirl feathers on her head. She walks around deliberately - we assume - dazed and confused, as if she's not sure exactly what she's supposed to be doing up there - or has a case of early onset Alzheimers. Then other similarly-garbed models emerge doing precisely the same thing. It's always interesting when designers, from Sydney to Milan, ask their models to not just walk in fashion shows, but act. It's usually not a good look.

But enough of the runway 'theatre', as for the swimwear it's pure Hallican Boodie sass. Signature cutout maillots and intricately-cut bikinis, some of the best in a zig-zag or animal print, with one knockout metallic snakeskin motif. There is also some great resortwear to go with - floor-length patio dresses and coverups. All up, and given the minor inconvenience of having to be ferried across the other side of the harbour, it's a pretty spectacular swimwear presentation. The show wraps, a Chinese kitchen opens up in one corner and everyone dives into it, desperate for sustenance. After milling around for a short while a number of us decide it's probably a good idea to head back down the obstacle course to head to the pier. As luck - or sense - had it, a luxury cruiser is standing by to ferry the ten of us who make it down first back to the CBD, ahead of the scheduled ferries. I walked in the door of my apartment at midnight.

It's been a day, nay a week, of spectacular swimwear productions. After last year's abomination of a group swimwear show at this event, it's an exciting development. Swimwear is a big focus of these spring/summer shows in Sydney and three brands really stepped up to the plate this season with their productions: Hallican Boodie, Anna & Boy and of course Azzollini, with its impressive Don Cameron video clip. Zimmermann is always a great show of course - but Zimmermann is most definitely fashion + swimwear, as opposed to standalone swimwear, which is a challenge to put up there by itself for an entire, dedicated runway show.

Earlier in the evening Anna & Boy dazzled with a Milan-worthy production: LED panel at the runway entrance, mirrored runway, a giant "A&B" logo and flashing neon tube lights installed around the parameters of the tent. Great to see this fledgling brand looking so confident in the space of just one year. Also good to see resortwear added to the range - the pintucked shirt-dresses and logo singlet dress looked good and provided a great counterpoint to the charming retro florals and tartans of Anna & Boy's bikinis and one-pieces, which are gradually finding their feet not just on the editorial front (it helps to have connections at Vogue), but at the international retail level as well.

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