Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Erica factor: fashion to the maxi

So the first SS0708 “store wars” shot has been fired and with the dress continuing to be the biggest fashion story in the world right now, it was perhaps no surprise to see myriad dress styles last night on the David Jones runway at Fox Studios.

My personal faves included Willow’s cobalt blue evening gown with intricately draped bodice – which really did look magnificent when it emerged on another one of the fashion world’s hottest stories at the moment, 18-year-old Australian model Catherine McNeil.

Also of note the knit dresses by New Zealand label Sabatini in their first sortie in DJs’ summer showcase (Sabatini has only ever previously appeared in the winter show – some may recall the label’s silk velours peacock ponchos from a couple of seasons ago, as ripped off pronto by Charlie Brown, among others), Easton Pearson’s fresh white shift dress with bead embellishment and a particularly striking tiered, bugle-beaded, pewter cocktail dress by Collette Dinnigan.

But amongst all the dress styles on DJs’ runway, it was interesting to see just how quickly the ‘maxi’ dress has been so heartily embraced here this season.

Yes of course it has been big news in the northern hemisphere this summer past and I did recently muse that what goes up inevitably comes Downunder so I don’t why I was surprised. And it’s not like there weren’t any of these floor-length neo boho frocks on the Australian Fashion week runways in May. Think Kirrily Johnston’s acid lime versions – one example of which had a star turn last night in Johnston’s section of the show.

The maxi, or ‘patio’, dress has also been on the horizon for several seasons. Leona Edmiston has had them in her dress-dedicated repertoire for quite some time. Some may also recall the Australian Fashion Week solo catwalk debut of up-and-coming Sydney label Milich & Morton in May 2005. That show closed with a fab, finely-striped blue and white maxi dress – which the designers later told me was snapped up in multiples as bridesmaids’ dresses for a wedding. A fortnight later Paris Hilton looked fresh and uncharacteristically demure at the Cannes Film Festival in a fruit print Roberto Cavalli maxi dress.

I guess one of the chief distinguishing factors – and for the less confident, key worries – of this look is that it’s a full-length dress that is really designed to be worn in the middle of the day as, in spite of its full-length hemline, it’s really a bit too casual for eveningwear.

To this end I can’t help feeling that our very own Erica Baxter (pictured above by Edmond Terakopian) may play a significant part in what could well emerge as the SS0708 Australian mainstreaming of the maxi dress. Who didn’t see the images of Baxter in her Kelly green/turquoise/white scarf print Roberto Cavalli maxi, striding along the boardwalk outside the Cote d’Azur’s Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, en route to the Paloma Beach party, the day before her wedding to Australian billionaire James Packer? Let’s call them the “Jerica” nuptials.

In one of those fascinating moments of sartorial synchronicity, the Cote d’Azur just happens to be the theme of DJs spring/summer campaign launch and as Megan Gale told Fully Chic last night backstage before the show, the DJs team was in fact holed up on the Cote d’Azur at exactly the same time as the Jerica wedding – a stone’s throw from the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, apparently, because Gale said she could see Packer’s Arctic P boat moored nearby. A shot of Paloma Beach - sans TomKat generously smiling for the world’s paparazzi at the end of the pier, sadly - also appeared on the DJs show invite.

The average Australian would no doubt prefer to spend six figures on an apartment, as opposed to a Christian Dior haute couture wedding frock, as did Baxter, but look, at least they can have the next best thing – a maxi dress from DJs (although by everyone other than Roberto Cavalli, as that’s a brand DJs doesn’t stock). Although hilariously dubbed a “Gunnedah tablecloth” in The Sunday Tele a few days after the wedding, Baxter really did look a billion dollars in hers.

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