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Wayne Cooper could be the “Gordon Ramsay of the fashion business” if Kostas Metaxas has anything to do with it. The Melbourne-based filmmaker has a "fashion comedy miniseries" called The WC starring Cooper in development and is currently talking to Australian and international television networks. Curiously, there has been zip local publicity on this, beyond a press release about a National Association of Television Program Executives award the teaser webisode, below, won in LA in July. The webisode was made specifically for the latter competition according to Metaxas, who tells frockwriter he has shot three quarters of the material for a full-length feature, but that The WC could be, pending interest, “a feature, a tv series or 20 webisodes....This is like a starting point. Wayne is an interesting character, and he’s an exceptional actor. And at the same time he has a sense of humour. He understands that what we’re doing is not meant to be rocket science”.
The concept, a mélange of scripted sitcom and reality television, Sacha Baron Cohen-style, revolves around Cooper’s real-life job as a fashion designer. Written and produced by Metaxas, it is, coincidentally, being shopped around at the same time that New York fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone is said to be in talks with MTV regarding a new script-based fashion show.
The webisode - which also stars professional actors Tim Constantine as Cooper’s assistant “Sydney London” and Elisabeth Shingleton as the advertising manager for Vague magazine, in addition to cameos from Melbourne hair stylists Stavros Tavrou and James Razos from Collins Street salon Rakis - sees Cooper preparing to show at London Fashion Week. The fictional scenario has Baz Lurhmann tapped as Cooper's show producer, a planned mandolin-and-didgeridoo musical score and a stream of VIP phone calls into Cooper's studio from (former Australian PM) Kevin Rudd, (Oz celebrity) Lara Bingle and Boy George - all fobbed off by Cooper.
Metaxas might just as easily have based the story on Cooper’s real life story, which at times has verged on a soap opera.
A London law school graduate, the loudmouth Cockney emigrated to Australia in 1985, settling in Sydney and later founding the Brave and Wayne Cooper fashion labels.
Cooper was the first designer to show at Mercedes Australian Fashion Week in May 2006 and in 2000 he was the first Australian (not counting US-based expat Richard Tyler) to show at New York Fashion Week. Known for his extravagant spending, in 2005 Cooper went into voluntary administration, owing $3million. Later that year, he and his family narrowly escaped a terrorist bomb blast in a restaurant in Bali.
In 2008 he endured a messy, public split from his partner Sarah Marsh who accused him of domestic abuse on national television. Cooper later pleaded guilty to common assault. The pair eventually reunited and were married in Bali last month.
“They’re going to do a pilot with someone in New York, I think it’s going to be an American thing” was all Cooper could tell us this afternoon, when we tracked him down in his car.
Metaxas is no stranger to television, having sold numerous documentary series to networks in Australia and other markets, including the Masters of Luxury (2008) and the Masters of Fashion (2005). He met Cooper while shooting the latter.
Although obviously a parody, The WC webisode nevertheless features several vox pops and footage of real people and fashion figures, shot in Melbourne and London.
One of them features in the closing scene, which comes across as particularly snarky.
In it, Constantine and Shingleton salivate over an off-camera black dress.
“It’s magnificent - it’s like a cold glass of water after being out in the desert for years” effuses Shingleton.
The camera pans over to show an apparently unsuspecting Hayley Hughes (above), a Melbourne blogger, photographer and stylist (who regular readers may recall recently starred in this Today Tonight story about plus size discrimination in the Australian fashion industry).
In another part of the film, Cooper describes one of his dresses as “very slimming”. Cooper famously once described Australian models as “porky” compared to their European counterparts.
“I think it’s tongue in cheek” says Metaxas of the Hughes scene. “It’s the notion that fashion and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not meant to be a putdown. If you met me, I’m also large. It’s like the Jews making jokes about the Jews. We’re not trying to be too serious”.
all images: screencaps 'the wc'/exero films