Big Names Of Aussie Fashion at the NGV in Melbourne
Big names of Aussie fashion at the National Gallery Of Victoria in Melbourne.
WHEN Jenny Kee first met Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales, an Australian creative romance was born.
Known for her colourful prints and knits featuring indigenous flora and fauna, Kee came face to face with the pair when they asked her to open their Sydney pop-up store in 2009.
“It was like stepping into paradise, because their creativity just felt the same as when I first started,” says Kee.
The kindred spirits will come together again in a cacophony of colour when their work is featured in 200 Years of Australian Fashion, a retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) that opens on March 5 as part of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival.
Spanning two centuries of fashion Down Under, the new exhibition will showcase works by contemporary designers such as Kym Ellery, Toni Maticevski and Akira Isogawa alongside more historic moments, like Australia’s earliest known surviving dress (circa 1805). A 1950s feathered gown by Melbourne salon La Petite will also be on display, along with pieces from some of Australia’s early department stores, such as Buckley & Nunn and Bright & Hitchcocks.
“It’s the first time this survey has been done, which makes this exhibition utterly unique,” says Paola Di Trocchio, curator of fashion and textiles at the NGV.
“We’ve really tried to determine the key moments that shifted Australian fashion forward, and with 200 years [to draw upon], hopefully there is something that will appeal to everyone.”
To celebrate the depth of talent that Australian fashion has enjoyed over the decades, Sunday Style reached out to icons of the industry with the idea of showcasing some of their archival pieces alongside new designs belonging to our brightest young stars. In contrasting the work of our freshest new talents with those who have led the way since the beginning, it became clearly apparent that there is a uniquely Australian approach when it comes to style.
“Australian fashion is brash, bold, colourful and bright, and when it comes to resort collections we’re leading the world,” says Kee. “We are an optimistic country, because we still have freedom in a world that’s crumbling, and you can see that joy coming through in the work of young people today.”
Doyenne of design Carla Zampatti agrees that our optimism and youth has created a singular fashion culture.
“We are in the fortunate position of being a new country, so there are less restrictions on women in terms of what they’re told they should wear compared to older, more traditional societies,” she says. “We don’t have those codes of what you must wear at certain ages, so women in Australia are quite adventurous, and that is magic.
“Designers here are finding that if they create something that is really beautiful, but very original and different, there is still immediate take-up, even if it wasn’t done in the traditional way.”
While the National Gallery of Victoria exhibition spans 200 years of Australian fashion, Zampatti has clocked up more than 50 all by herself – undeniably a towering achievement in a notoriously fickle industry. “It’s been lots of fun and the clock is still ticking,” laughs Zampatti.
She attributes her longevity to a mix of flattering, female-friendly designs and savvy business sense.
“I didn’t go into fashion to be famous or make money, it was about creating beautiful garments that made women feel glamorous, confident and like they could take on anything in life. And I had a long-term business strategy.”
Plunkett and Sales’ label, Romance Was Born, is another home-grown success story. The pair favour riotous designs and exuberant hues, and reveal it was a shared passion for bold prints and bright colours that led to them wanting to work with Kee.
“Anna and I have always been interested in the idea of excess and the celebration of fashion; that’s what attracted us to Jenny’s awesome stuff,” says Sales.
Although generations apart, the trio are now firm friends and have collaborated on several fashion projects. They even holiday together at Kee’s Blue Mountains home.
“We have a special rapport because we share the same creative psyche,” adds Kee.
Another young woman building a formidable business empire is Kym Ellery, who, in October 2015, became only the third Australian designer to be accepted onto the official schedule of Paris Fashion Week, following in the footsteps of Collette Dinnigan and Martin Grant.
“Showing on the official Paris schedule is an incredible honour,” says Ellery. “It is literally my childhood dream come true.”
Dreams rarely come true without a great deal of toil and talent, and Ellery has a work ethic to rival Zampatti’s.
“I really admire Carla’s gumption and gusto, and how long she has been in the fashion business,” says Ellery.
The Perth-born designer hopes to follow Zampatti’s lead in building a sustainable, successful business.
“I want to inspire and encourage people to look at the more beautiful and intricate things in life and to enjoy quality,” says Ellery. “I have a global outlook, a strong and dedicated team, and I am constantly striving for excellence.”
Thanks to Ellery and other young talented designers, it would appear the next 200 years of Australian fashion is also in good hands.
200 Years of Australian Fashion is on March 5–July 31. To book tickets, visit ngv.vic.gov.au.
Tags: australian fashion, Kym Ellery, national gallery of victoria, Toni Maticevski