The Australian L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival’s graduate showcase has always been a sell out, creating a kind of window into the future minds that will shape the Australian fashion industry to come. Unhindered by the pressures of marketability these are the forward thinkers as fashion not only becomes about popularity but functionality, technology and conscientious design. The student designers presented in the showcase hail from renowned Australian design institutions and universities across the country.
We are immediately reminded of the appeal of the graduate show. Futuristic, somewhat spiritual, with hints toward the complex elegance of the natural world, Nixi Killick presented a collection not for the faint hearted.Opening with a structured bodice in metallic sheen fabric, featuring an ornate chest piece in textures of pink and green snakeskin. She then followed with an almost androgynous tunic in pale pink, accentuated with metallic sheen shoulder pads and an iridescent helmet like headpiece. Comical fangs embellished the hood on royal purple jackets and the Mandala made a regular appearance on round neck shirts, ornate zip through one pieces and thigh high stockings braced in heat moulded plastics. Many of her pieces were cuffed either at the wrist, elbows, or collared around the neck, in an almost sport-ish nature. One such piece radiated, comprising of an iridescent heat molded bodice like cocoon, large icicle like crystals protruding from the cuffs at the wrist and choker around the neck.
Hayley Elaesser proposed a mature twist on an eerie theme with contrasting colors and bold sticker-ish prints reminiscent of the early 90‘s. The comical appearance of bones, eyeballs and creepy crawlies give her collection a fun, playful feel. Oversized boxy shirts were softened with what at first glance looks to be lace, but on closer inspection is made up of bat, snake and insect motifs. This, coupled with the powdered yellow and candy pink gave a soft, feminine edge to straight cut dresses, wide legged pants and cropped shorts. The metallic sheen scoop necked jackets and flat peak caps in matching prints accentuated the fun, playful feel of the collection.
Courtney Holm delivered a collection of menswear that explored the augmentation of the human body. Her range featured a geometric style hand generated digital prints in tones of amethyst, burgundy and an almost matte grey. The sporty feel of the very active range was softened by hints of knitwear, teamed with leggings, windbreakers and a very cosy looking quilted hood. The construction of her garments seemingly gave her pieces a movement of their own, independent of the wearer.
Karen Yang drew her inspiration for the “Sapeurs” a high fashion subculture originating from the congo, where people subject to abject poverty follow high end fashion almost like a religion, begging borrowing and where necessary, stealing in order to strut down war torn streets in flamingo pink Versace. Check prints are used as a base for bright neon motifs, in a collection consisting largely of very masculine pieces such as cardigans, buttoned shirts and traditional trench coats. Loose cut capri style pants featured paradoxical landscapes, trimmed in check, paired with white patterned shirts, bright green collars, all of this jostling for the attention of the eye. Adding to the jaunty air of the collection were bow ties, left untied, around the collar.
Koren Wheatly created almost a Jeux-De-Position, drawing her inspiration from the idea of an “ecologically utopianic society”. Her utilitarian designs were softened with soft, natural textures, her collection positioning herself away from the bold, bright tones that have dominated the past few seasons. Hues of forest green, tan, soft grey and navy blue were punctuated with imperial red. Unashamedly masculine the collection featured drop crotched pants, button through shirts, hooded jumpers and “boy-scout” scarves affixed with engraved skulls. Backpacks accentuated this cool air of casual sophistication.
Bold, powerful, and feminine, Monique White’s collection focussed more on continuity in the silhouettes and fabric selection than in one particular commonality. Only natural fibers were used, giving her classic collection almost an organic edge. Wide shoulders and square lapels featured throughout, and box bodices gave the collection structure and substance. Loose capri pants finished this traditional, yet contemporary collection. The yellow polkadot pantsuit a standout in elegant simplicity.
Bernedette Francis aimed to capture a “fleeting moment of joy” in her collection. Long, lean cuts were separated with textured asymmetrical tiers. You see clever use of tiering incorporating quilting, tassels and sequins in a midi length skirt, one shouldered crops and a beautiful flowing dip-hemmed dress. Bright hues of peach, turquoise and orange were splashed throughout a subtle grey backdrop. The piece-du-resistance however a breathtakingly sheer, nude bodycon dress encrusted in resin jewels of black, turquoise and peach, all laid out in a geometric arrangement.
Kara Liu’s collection remained largely minimalistic, offering wintery caped coats, teamed with high turtlenecks, in bright white and navy blue. A hint of depth added by contrasting trim on the pockets and around the lapels. Kara took her own inspiration on the seasons popular leather trend, with a high shine patent 2 piece deep purple ensemble.
Deconstructed pockets, edwardian collars and japanese inspired apron pants gave Jack Hancock’s menswear collection an “east meets west” feel. Pauldron-esque shoulders give almost an armor like appearance to the collection, whilst layered fabrics added dimension, paying particular attention to fabric weight, giving his pieces a unique movement. Cool tones of grey and soft eggshell blue are highlighted with accents of crisp white and a deep slate. Peter pan collars were teamed with scoop neck sweaters, vests and jackets. You see appearances of the formal tuxedo bib, paired with soft knit sweaters, giving his collection an air of deconstructed formality.
Kathleen Choo’s collection was a visual treat. Almost architectural in construction, her work featured folded and interlocking fabrics to create structured, intricate designs. Button through shirts featured folded laser-cut panels along the ridge of the sleeves, and 3 dimensional skirts remained soft and feminine by keeping the silhouette’s rounded. Kathleen cleverly refrained from creating clutter by maintaining a neutral color palette of white and powder blue. This served to further highlight the unique construction of the almost origami like pieces.
The inspiration for Caesar Chehade’s collection was undoubtedly apparent. Presenting a very “underwater” theme, his collection featured cleverly layered laser-cut silicon that gave an almost scale like appearance. You see silhouettes of various sea creatures such as stingray, squid and jellyfish. His collection then diverted from the very literal interpretation of this theme to a more softened translation in the form of flowing dresses in shades of blue and and deep orchid. Draped around the hips to accentuate the curvature down from the waist, his collection was beautifully feminine. The stand out piece being an ornately ruffled royal blue gown featuring an elegantly high neck and belted waist that seemingly rippled around the wearer.
Natasha Faggs collection drew inspiration from the insect world, without taking too much of a literal interpretation. Structured white gowns adorned with intricate beading, hand tied tasselling and high necked bolero style capes showcased the depth of the designers attention to detail. This understanding of well executed intricacy was further highlighted in a white mesh bodice with full length fringe skirt, that when viewed from the rear displayed a magnificent 3-D print produced using medical imaging software. All of this added up to a beautiful, whimsical, delicately balanced collection.
By Heidi Beachen / corleve
Images: Mark Peterson / corleve