Friday, February 17, 2012

Once upon a time in David Jones

the great restaurant at david jones, 1938
With apologies to Miranda Kerr, the terrific cast and some great Australian designer offerings at David Jones' Autumn/Winter 2012 showcase on Wednesday, in frockwriter's opinion the real star of the evening was DJs' just-restored On Seven space. This was no mere refurb, but essentially the fruit of retail archaeology - not to mention a multimillion dollar budget that must have made the David Jones board hyperventilate when it was first proposed mid 2011, shortly after ceo Paul Zahra issued a shock profit downgrade. Originally launched in 1928 as The Great Restaurant, the space was shuttered in 1965 and eventually cut in half with a floating ceiling in 1981, to make room for an international designer brand floor. The remaining void became home to over 200 different utility cables and a lot of dust. The space has been hidden from public view for the best part of 50 years.

And what a space: seven metre ceilings, floor-to-ceiling arched windows, 1300 sqm of tallowwood parquetry floor, Art Deco lift fascias, to name a few details. Everything was restored in consultation with the NSW Heritage Council, a process that unearthed many surprise features of which DJs' current management was apparently oblivious. Just one case in point, the parquetry floor - originally laid in preparation for a state banquet for Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 and long since covered in layers of carpet. Other events of note to be hosted in the space include runway shows of Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain haute couture in 1947 and 1948 - the latter with Balmain himself present.

With so much of Australia's retail heritage having crumbled under the developer's wrecking ball, it's a wonderful gift to the Australian public. One corner has been converted into a new bridal salon and the plan is apparently to use the rest of the space for in-store fashion parades. Here's hoping they reinstate a David Jones high tea stat.

It was a brilliant backdrop to the winter collection, which showcased, among many other brands, some slick, lightweight wool tailoring from Josh Goot; whimsical floral separates from Romance Was Born; delicate lace confections from Collette Dinnigan and Lover; and some killer draped cocktail dresses from.... Carl Kapp.

After the show we had a very friendly chat with Kapp, who recently starred in several cameos on frockwriter, thanks to his dealings with one Malaysian "First Lady" Rosmah Mansor. Did he take the opportunity to set the record straight? No. Did he seem annoyed that we had gotten any part of the the story wrong? No. On the contrary, he said - repeatedly - how much he enjoyed the stories. Kapp added that his phone hasn't stopped ringing since they were first published here and in The Sydney Morning Herald. On the day Andrew Hornery's updated story ran in the SMH, his Paddington store was apparently filled with customers - most of them buying clothes, he reports. Is Kapp going to Malaysia any time soon? Apparently not - nervous of being doorstopped by the Malaysian media, he told us.

Frockwriter shot the show from backstage. Here is a photo gallery (best viewed on the blog - the app doesn't convert well to a mobile format unfortunately). Archival shots, above and below, courtesy David Jones. 

Great to see Miranda back in action in Sydney, fronting a cast that included Samantha Harris, Alexandra Agoston, Louise van de Vorst, Alice Burdeu, Lauren Brown, Lauren Moody, Eliza Humble, Rachel Rutt, Jack Vanderhart, Tiah Eckhardt, Sarah Pauley and Australia's Next Top Model Cycle 7 winner Montana Cox. Kelvin Harries did the styling, as per usual; with hair and makeup by, respectively, Daren Borthwick for Aveda and Napoleon Perdis.   

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