Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In Vogue: Emilia Skuza and Melissa Johannsen

nicole bentley for vogue australia via viviens' facebook

Two under-the-radar models, both repped by the same Adelaide mother agent (Finesse Models), but two separate Sydney agencies (Viviens and Chadwick), wind up shooting a 16-page editorial together in Vogue Australia. What are the odds? Voilà a taste of the “Twin Peaks” story from Vogue’s July edition, out tomorrow. Shot by Nicole Bentley in New Zealand, it stars Emilia Skuza (left, above) and Melissa “MJ” Johannsen, who appear to be channelling not so much David Lynch as Alfred Hitchcock, with cateye makeup and windswept '60s flips. Neither model had previously been featured anywhere in the magazine and although Johannsen was one of the stars of the Rosemount Australian Fashion Week runways earlier this month in Sydney, Skuza has never worked at the event – and was in fact booked sight unseen by Vogue according to Chadwick. But regular readers of this blog may recall both names. We first encountered MJ in November at the Adelaide Fashion Festival when the Alice Springs resident had been modelling for a matter of weeks. And Adelaide-bred Skuza popped up on our radar in January, after emerging at the Paris haute couture shows. Both girls went on to walk in a number of top Fall/Winter 2011/2012 shows in New York, London and Paris in February and March. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Abbey Lee Kershaw's bling mania

We know Abbey Lee Kershaw loves her bling. When not being glamoured by some of the biggest names in the fashion business on front covers and in campaigns, editorials and runway shows, the boho mufti uniform of modelling's gypsy-esque world number five usually embraces a nose ring and an eclectic variety of oversized rings on almost every finger. No surprise then that Kershaw has found a kindred spirit in cult Sydney-based jewellery brand ManiaMania, the brainchild of Tamila Purvis and Melanie Kamsler. As frockwriter can reveal, having starred in ManiaMania's Spring/Summer 2011 campaign 'Rêve', Kershaw will also be the muse of ManiaMania's upcoming  Spring/Summer 2012 collection, 'The Third Mind'. Here is an exclusive behind-the-scenes image from the recent campaign shoot with photographer Elle Muliarchyk.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

Coles steals the show

coles 'aisle avant-garde' show via lifestyled

Back in March, in reviewing a fashion show staged
by Kiwi hipster collective Stolen Girlfriends Club at the New World supermarket in Auckland's Victoria Park, Pedestrian noted "We can only hope that next time we're at Coles it's this eventful". They didn't have to wait long. Last week, Coles ripped off the idea for its 'Aisle Avant-Garde' presentation in Sydney in collaboration with Sunsilk, showcasing the work of 12 UTS students who were each asked to create a gown that incorporated Sunsilk's logo and colours. Above and below are a few shots from last week and, bottom, a video of the SGC original at New World, a New Zealand supermarket chain owned by Foodstuffs. Needless to say, Coles doesn't take quite such a laissez-faire attitude when it comes to anyone shoplifting its goods. Although given that Coles apparently rebranded its Australian supermarkets as Coles New World in 1962 - the year before New Zealand's New World chain was founded - perhaps there's 50 years of trans Tasman tit for tat at play here. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Christopher Esber's tuxedo junction

Although inexplicably missing from many RAFW writeups, Christopher Esber's show was one of the best presentations of 2011. Esber graduated in the same TAFE NSW Fashion Design Studio class as Dion Lee and clearly, 2007 was one of the school's strongest years, because he demonstrates as much potential as his already far better-known former classmate. The luxury sportswear collection, which was inspired by the seemingly disparate notions of tuxedo dressing and beach culture, incorporated several innovative fabrics that had been created by Esber. An intricate, two-way pleated synthetic taffeta was used in a charming series of zippered, short-sleeved blouses and pencil skirts in soft powder blue and peach  - and a gossamer-like fabric that had been woven with actual fishing wire, found its way into several delicate, tea-stained slip dresses. Although the third last show on the schedule, it was the final gig for most of the week's top models, including Rachel Rutt and Myf Shepherd, who could barely contain their relief that the week was over and hammed it up backstage for the show's duration.        

Model citizens

julia nobis backstage at yeojin bae SS1112 in sydney

Although some sniffed that that there weren't enough big name international models, the swag of top local girls walking the runways of Rosemount Australian Fashion Week 2011 did the industry proud in frockwriter's opinion. They included those just returned from carving up the northern hemisphere runway circuit - Julia Nobis (above, backstage at Yeojin Bae), Lauren Brown, Myf Shepherd, Rose Smith, Alice Burdeu, Amanda Ware and Melissa 'MJ' Johannsen - and brand new faces such as Krystal Glynn and Hannah McDougall, who may well soon be heading that way. No, it's not your imagination that more Australian models than ever before are kicking it OS. Various international players have also clocked this antipodian runway trend. The Australian's Wish magazine recently commissioned a feature from me on the subject. It appears in the current May edition. Here's the story:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Josh Goot's Richter scale

It's three years since Josh Goot last showed in Sydney – and just six years since he launched his brand here, with an unforgettable collection of what he dubbed ‘tailored comfort’, realised in a space age track-and-field silhouette that included jersey trench coats and blazers. After showing for multiple seasons at New York and London Fashion Weeks, Goot has firmly established himself at the vanguard of Australia’s new designer generation. And what international polish he brought to Australian Fashion Week last night. The production, co-signed by The Artist Group and Mr and Mrs Fish, dragged arguably the week’s biggest crowd up six flights of stairs to an abandoned inner-city carpark, transformed for the evening to a futuristic sporting venue. Partially inspired by the German expressionist artist Gerhard Richter, the collection, which was delivered in modern techno silks, sporty neoprene and an eye-popping palette of fluoro pink, cobalt blue, Kelly green, black, silver and white, focussed on a voluminous silhouette. More to come. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dion Lee composes himself

This morning at the Sydney Opera House, Dion Lee staged yet another bravura presentation: his 'Composure' Spring/Summer 2011/2012 collection. Here is a gallery of images. Review to come.

Gary Bigeni's shape shifters

Gary Bigeni proved he could do much more than a draped dress last night. A wardrobe of smart separates complemented his draped silk jersey repertoire, much of it in a much harder material: leather. Leather blazers, boleros, T-shirts and even shorts in rich brick and a soft dove grey, were juxtaposed against silky sweaters in block colours with intricate, knotted cutout backs, full-legged woven trousers and candy-striped silk dresses with matching longline cardigans and button-up shirts in oranges and crisp blues. To be sure, there were plenty of his signature draped dresses and tunics, the most beautiful in aquamarine, turquoise and teal. But Bigeni gets the vote for the best synergy between sponsor and creative, via his hookup with shapewear manufacturer Spanx, which supplied a dazzling variety of undergarments that got people talking but which were by nature completely invisible on the runway – and of course totally irrelevant on his size 0 cast.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kate Sylvester's mothwoman prophecies

Inspired by moths and motocross, Kate Sylvester’s Spring/Summer 2011/2012 collection is called ‘Into the light’. Due to the awkward lighting of her show at the Newmarket saleyard in Randwick last night, however, ironically many have complained that didn’t get to see it. In an uncharacteristically abrasive spray, even Vogue Australia’s Damien Woolnough complained today, “If I want to sit in a dark room filled with smoke I'll visit the share house of my university friends”. Frockwriter stayed backstage for the duration and had a much better view. It was a fantastic, if macabre, collection, with two motifs at its centrifuge: moth markings, which included a full death’s head moth motif used on T-shirts; and then a flame graphic, which doubled up on the revhead theme, as seen on coats, dresses and several fantastic sheer jumpsuits, shown with the tops worn both up and down – on the latter occasion, teamed with a lacy brassiere. 

Marnie Skillings' Haight campaign

What a romp Marnie Skillings ‘Strangelove’ show was last night. Inspired, Skillings told frockwriter backstage, by “a woman who had travelled the globe and grabbed things, tattoos, albums, prints, feathers..”, the concept was fully enabled by renowned fashion magpies, stylists Michelle Jank and David Bonney, and showcased a fabulous collection of dresses. From innocent, flower-embellished white party dresses to shirtwaisters, button-up lace halter dresses and a myriad of maxidresses, maxidresses, maxidresses, they were rendered in a mad clash of florals, animal prints and candy stripes and tarted up with feather shrugs, '70s-look floppy felt pimp hats by Jonathan Howard Hatmaker and tapestry clutch purses with Punk spikes. Full-length dresses and skirts have been seen on many showgoers this week and they are Jank’s uniform du jour. It’s going to be one long summer.

Backstage at Amber & Thomas

It’s always good to see new brands debut at RAFW. Not all of them make much of an impact however. And look, it’s not that there was anything bad about the Amber & Thomas debut yesterday – it’s just that there was nothing outstanding about it, either in the collection or the execution. Cute enough sportswear which included some snappy graphic T-shirts and dresses, fringed suede skirts, and, increasingly ubiquitous at RAFW this season, a white trouser suit with super wide-legged pants, didn’t really tell much of a cohesive story about the Melbourne brand, which is designed by Amber Hourigan and Thomas Williams – and which, judging by the lingerie-look bikinis and maillots on its website, has rather a knack for swimwear. 

Night Kapp

Carl Kapp took his time showing at RAFW. Born and trained in South Africa and a former hire of the Kenzo and DKNY studios, the Sydney-based designer launched the second incarnation of his label in 2006 (his first, Pieter Kapp, was dismantled in 1998) and now has an established business and following that includes high profile clients such as Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Rose Byrne. Noted for his tailoring and draped eveningwear, Kapp sent out a short but very powerful brand statement last night for his debut at the event: a highly polished collection of draped silk goddess gowns with intricate strapwork in a kaleidoscope of colours, from rich jewel tones down to the softest blush pinks. The models looked exquisite, like the corps of some forgotten ancient Greek ballet. If the Caryatids of the Acropolis were into designer brands, they’d probably be wearing Carl Kapp.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lover comes back

It’s been a long time in between Lover shows at RAFW. Five years to be precise. The Black Rose Army collection, shown in May 2006, was staged in a grungy, inner-city dive. Last night’s presentation of The White Serpent SS1112 collection demonstrates that this Sydney brand with a global cult following, which celebrates its 10 year anniversary this year, has most certainly come of age. A slick, ultra-sophisticated affair staged inside the Sydney Opera House, the collection was dazzling in its simplicity. Rendered in a three note palette of ivory, black and scarlet red, the collection flirted with masculine/feminine stereotypes: ivory tuxedos and jumpsuits with ultra wide-legs and mannish, oversized jackets were layered over sheer white blouses with pie-crust collars and lace inserts, then segued into a suite of killer lace dresses. Although the lace dress is a Lover signature, these sophisticated versions said not so much Woodstock free spirit as red carpet siren and they could give Collette Dinnigan a run for her money. 

Gail Sorronda's flow-on effect

Gail Reid is so noted for the theatricality of her show styling, that when frockwriter went backstage at her Gail Sorronda show yesterday, we thought we had taken a wrong turn and entered another designer’s prep area. Still in Reid’s signature black and white palette, the collection, entitled ‘Stem the flow’, featured a number of very pretty little black and little white dresses, with intricate pleating forming geometric shapes on the bodices and necklines. 

Karla Spetic's print media

Karla Spetic is an ace at prints. Yesterday’s versions included a fantastic mashup of heraldic motifs, supersized snowflakes and blown-out geometrics – the latter echoed in the dramatic cutaway necklines of her innovative shift dresses. The Australian summer is shaping up to be a colour blockbuster and Spetic’s eye-popping offerings include tangerine city shorts, a kingfisher blue shift and a lime green suit with an oversized, wide-shouldered, boyfriend jacket and cigarette pants.

Friend of Mine's blonde ambition

Friend of Mine is a two year old Sydney label founded by Teale Talbot and Letitia McLean. It made its runway debut yesterday with a high energy show of cool girl clothes worn by a bunch of super cool girls, styled by one of the coolest in the business – Sydney model/blogger Alexandra Spencer, whose sexy, self-styled autoportraits have no shortage of net fans. Kitted out in the Flintstone fly leather shift dresses and lace bodycon dresses with destroyed hemlines, leather playsuits and an endless array of shorts, were a couple of model standouts, most notably Bardot-esque 16 year-old Krystal Glynn (above), who opened the show. Scouted by The Agency's Lincoln Ferguson on Bondi Beach in late March, Glynn seems destined for the first available international runway season. Another bottle blonde also stood out: 164cm Melburnite Anja Konstantinova who, although dwarfed by the rest of the lineup, has more charisma than more than many other girls who are the traditional runway requisite height of 5'10". That's Konstantinova pictured second and third, below. 


Kirrily Johnston's Roman holiday

Kirrily Johnston says her ‘Habitat’ collection was inspired by “the spaces around us - the fusion of the wild and controlled; the structures , shapes, colours and comforts of our everyday living”. But with all its draped jersey eveningwear, leather apronry and knockout gladiator sandal boots going on, it seemed the habitat in question might belong to one Maximus Decimus Meridius. It was a smart collection of easy resortwear in a desert-kissed palette of dust, cinnamon and slate, with metallic accents. Dresses are a Kirrily Johnston signature and this season’s offerings included sporty colourblocked T-shirt dresses and a simple tamarillo sheath that could double up for a corporate wardrobe. The on-trend animal print deployed in, among other garments, a cute capsule swimwear collection, was inspired by Johnston’s new Bengal cat - a new, genetically-engineered breed whose markings resemble those of a leopard. With the RAFW schedule running one and half hours late by that stage, pity anyone who turned up on time. With breaking news of the Osama Bin Laden ambush, however, there was plenty to talk about. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

RAFW Spring/Summer 2011/2012 live blog - Day One

Hello and welcome to frockwriter’s coverage of the Spring/Summer 2011/2012 Australian collections at Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal. Just a quick headsup about how things are going to work this week... if all goes to plan. Coverage of fashion weeks is always fraught with frustrations, tech hassles and, more often than not, far more material than you wind up with time to produce. Notably when you are a one man/woman band, as is the case with most bloggers – and you don’t have the luxury of a multimedia backup team at head office, as do mainstream journalists. To try and keep things ticking over throughout the day and create a central repository of all my real-time coverage – which I thoroughly appreciate tends to be missed by those who still don’t use Twitter or Facebook - this year I am approaching things a little differently. In addition to photo galleries and selective reviews, I am going to attempt a daily live blog. Please see below for today’s widget. I am hoping it’s easy to follow, pending whether you are viewing on a computer or cellphone (I have tested it on a couple of brands, it looks better on some than others). You can comment via the blog’s regular comments section, below. 

Romance Was Born this way

Romance Was Born unofficially kicked off Australian Fashion Week yesterday with yet another trademark theatrical extravaganza. This time around though, duo Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales skipped the costly staging – in fact, they almost did not show at all this season - and used the magnificent three storey, glass-domed reading room of Sydney’s Mitchell Library as a backdrop, leaving the fabulous styling and clothes of their Spring/Summer 2011/2012 collection, entitled The Oracle, to do all the talking. Styling was courtesy Mark Vassallo, with MAC and GHD doing a superb job interpreting the duo’s theme - Wolfgang Petersen’s 1984 fantasy film, The NeverEnding Story and its much-loved characters and creatures who inhabit the land of Fantasia, fighting The Nothing – in elaborate hair and makeup. Rachel Rutt channelled the Childlike Empress in a sumptuous, tiered shaggy coat that was a little reminiscent of a Maori Korowai feather cloak, while another model sported a massive Rock Biter breastplate (see photo gallery, below). Scattered in amongst the Swarovski crystal- and pearl-encrusted unitards, feathered ballgowns and gargantuan puffa jackets, there were plenty of more commercial pieces: dazzling printed Lycra leggings and unitards; graceful, ankle-grazing georgette skirts and blouses in scarf-like digital prints; embellished jeans and some very pretty evening dresses with ribbon skirts. 

Sabatini's It girls

On Friday morning, Sabatini hosted a breakfast at Café Sydney to celebrate 20 years in business in Australia and preview the Spring/Summer 2011/2012 collection. Of course, the third generation New Zealand knitwear company is much older than that – 58 years to be precise (in September, frockwriter visited its headquarters in Auckland). A tightly-edited presentation of just 12 strong looks, with styling by Franco Schifilliti, this was Sabatini’s best ever show. Brother and sister Margi and Tony Milich now run the business, but great to see Margi’s daughter Danielle Evans-Milich, who had her own Milich & Morton label at one point, with more of a hands-on role these days. The showpieces in Friday's capsule collection included a knockout fringed silver cocktail dress with fishtail train which, although perhaps never intended for production, will wind up, we’ll wager, photographed by magazines and on special order. In what is a signal of the calibre of models we can expect this week in Sydney, the cast included Lauren Brown and Alice Burdeu, who recently returned from the northern hemisphere show circuit. Both Brown and Burdeu are among a group of models who were launched out of Sydney’s Priscillas agency and onto the world stage by former Priscillas booker Doll Wright. Wright moved to New York three years ago to work at Priscillas’ US affiliate Elite, but has just resigned from Elite. Although she’s not saying much right now, according to industry whispers Wright is heading to cashed-up competitor Ford – which recently poached Catherine McNeil from the Next agency. And word has it that McNeil might not be the only Australian model to be nabbed by Ford once Wright touches down there. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cassi van den Dungen won't be doing Alex Perry's show because it's not OK!

Less than 24 hours after we reported that Cassi van den Dungen would not be appearing at next week’s Rosemount Australian Fashion Week because she is four months pregnant, there have been a couple of developments. Upon learning the real reason why van den Dungen was mysteriously unavailable for runway bookings this season, frockwriter can reveal that earlier today, Alex Perry attempted to fly her up to walk in his show tomorrow morning. Perry, who cast van den Dungen in his Cuban Princess show at last month’s Melbourne Fashion Festival (above) and spoke to her agent this morning, has been told that van den Dungen is in fact five months along. “She won’t open it, but we’ve used her in shows before and I think she’s a really beautiful girl” said Perry this morning. “She’s five months pregnant. She’s probably not showing much. But even if she is, she’s still beautiful. Miranda walked for Balenciaga and she was fully pregnant”. We won't be seeing van den Dungen tomorrow, however, because Perry's plans have been nixed by OK! magazine, which bought the exclusive rights to the pregnancy story and won't release her from a contract which precludes any public engagements until May 14th. 

Carla Zampatti's fair ladies

Frockwriter hears that Carla Zampatti had to have her arm twisted to use the basement of her Kent Street headquarters as a show venue on Thursday. Originally used in the late 1800s as a carriageway for horse-drawn vehicles, but now serving as Zampatti's garage, presumably the Australian fashion industry veteran figured the crumbling industrial interior was not sufficiently chi-chi for her classic, uptown designs. Celebrating her 46th year of business this year, good to see Zampatti take advice from a younger creative generation. The space was not unlike many edgy show venues that you would see at London Fashion Week. And stylist Michelle Jank made full use of the 19th century brickwork, using it as the backdrop for a model tableau that was choreographed at the end of the show. Wearing the strikingly elegant eveningwear from Zampatti’s 'Strength of Simplicity' Spring/Summer 2011/2012 collection, which included columns with sporty necklines in tangerine, cobalt, black and ivory and a pretty short shell pink taffeta puffball dress - all teamed with beautiful, Beaton-esque picture hat-like silk georgette headpieces from Jonathan Howard ‘Hatmaker’ - the models draped themselves over chairs and ladders at the end of the runway. The image evoked the iconic Cecil Beaton photograph of models in Christian Dior’s 1957 collection, which has been copied a number of times by fashion magazines - one example of which we spotted backstage as reference. 

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