Went into the Strand Arcade in the city the other day. For those not from Sydney, the Strand is Sydney’s oldest shopping arcade featuring original Victorian adornments and lined with the boutiques of many of Australia’s most contemporary and cutting-edge designers.
It was very apt then, that I should come across an exhibition of the works of some of Australia’s best undiscovered young designers: final year fashion students from Ultimo TAFE.
Stupidly, I didn’t write down the names of the student designers so I can’t credit them accordingly but I’m posting the pictures anyway as their intricately-detailed and stunning designs should definitely be celebrated!
The exhibition was divided up according to the various briefs that the students were designing to.
On the top floor was a section whose focus must have been on a monochromatic colour scheme and the use of traditional tailoring techniques in innovative ways. techniques while using avant-garde design to play with structure shape and form. I think this section was the most successful with all the students work achieving the most wearable style while at the same time playing with structure, shape and form to give an ambience that’s fresh, contemporary and funky.
The lower floor featured a very glitzy evening-wear section with a selection of gowns that obviously took an enormous amount of work to create. They were striking pieces of couture.
Unfortunately while the designs are striking, the over-embellishment of these garments just screams ‘desperate fashion student’ so loudly as to make them slightly distasteful and completely unwearable. I know that sounds cruel but I’m allowed to say it! I’m an ex-fashion student myself and I too used to spend a ridiculous number of hours beading, embroidering, layering and over-working the fuck out of my designs to create the most over-the-top garments I possibly could. So I can say, while they may be works of art though, they are NOT works of style!
The one section that could get away with the over-embellishment was the Mexican/cowboy section. I believe these works were to be inspired by a mixture of the Wild West and Frida Kahlo. I think the colourful embroidery and extravagant detailing was a necessity in this case to live up to the brief. Yes, some pieces were still a bit much, but I had some favourites in amongst them.
The piece below for example used lush embroidery, beading and lace-work to conjure up brilliant visions of Kahlo’s vivid imagery and the rich, colourful joy of traditional Mexican art.
I particularly like the nod to traditional Mexican symbolism and traditions such as the Day of the Dead in the form of the giant skull beads.... I want giant skull beads!
I liked this pink cowgirl dress too. The rose-tapestry detailing was stunning and puts me to mind of the half-finished tapestries one often finds lingering in some basket or other at the local charity shop. Will linger over them a little longer next time to see if there are any worth refashioning into a garment embellishment. I don’t know if I’d have the stamina to do that much tapestry myself, but if I came across a neglected one in an opshop, it’d be nice to put it to good use!
Probably the most wearable out of this collection was this warrior-woman style piece. With tribal-meets-artillery beadwork and fierce blade-like tiers at the side, one would certainly make an entrance wearing this deadly little number!
And here are some of the remaining pieces:
One of the more distinctive pieces was this earthy and simple yet stunningly draped knitted dress and its accompanying striking studded skull necklace:
I believe this piece must be by Charlotte O’Carrigan, as I came across an article about her here and the skull was featured there too along with very similar designs.
All such fresh and fierce designs – will have to take this inspiration and get sewing!