TPFF: Fashion!...What is Fashion??
Let’s begin by being perfectly clear about what this article is and what it is not. It is importantly not a proper critique of the designs displayed at the Perth fashion festival. Such a critique is beyond my understanding of fashion as an art form and for me to say that I am qualified to do so would be inappropriate, pretentious and would also devalue the importance of real fashion critics. However, what I am able to offer is a novice perspective into the world of fashion as experienced at the 2014 Perth Fashion Festival and as a student of critique, offer some more broad criticisms on the evening…Also, probably fittingly, my pictures were very unprofessionally taken on my iphone.
Despite my lack of knowledge of the industry and really no understanding of fashion rules as it has been pointed out to me on many occasions, I do enjoy fashion. I enjoy lovely clothes, brand names, exciting new ideas, shapes and images and indeed all the different cultural myths and ideologies that fashion activates and interacts with. So when a friend of mine told me that she had tickets to this year’s Perth Fashion Festival I was more than happy to tag along, despite being feeling fashionably unfashionable…I wonder how many times the word fashion can be used until it become ridiculopus
The night began with a tribute show to Ruth Tarvydas who like many with no real interest in the Perth fashion industry; I only became aware of following her death earlier this year. The show was a celebration of her work, opened with a poem read by a close friend of hers; a terribly bitter sweet mood was created when the models hit the runway and the music began to pump. It truly felt like a celebration, not a mourning and yet it never managed to feel disrespectfully exciting or overzealous with energy, really it felt just right, this is not an easy line to tread with any art installation, project or piece.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Festival Director Mariella Harvey-Hanrahan and I asked how and why the Tarvydas show came about so quickly to which she responded,
“she was one of our finest designers, who showed internationally. She paved the way for so many other W.A designers, young ones and all up and coming. Her legacy demanded that it be honoured.”
Following the Tarvydas show there was a rather lengthy interval where I was fortunate enough to be granted entry to the VIP party area down stairs complete with free champagne, wine, beer and oysters. As I walked down beneath the runway area I found a large blue space busy with people, cameras, music and voices. It was slightly surreal experience to be honest; it was like stepping into the most pretentious dream ever dreamt. A pretentious dream, in which, the pretence of it is deliberate and desired, it is almost the whole point of it. As I watched the drum player, dj and vocalist dance around as they created music a woman with a long tasseled shawl began to dance wildly next to them and she continued to for the entire time I was there between shows. It occurred to me that this was the physical embodiment of what fashion as a thing, as an art often connects with, it activates ideas about decadence and class elitism, the purposefully shallow and meaningless, and yet in that, rests all the meaning itself.
Arriving upstairs the second show started surprisingly late and this was disappointing as both myself and a were enjoying our free drinks and would have stayed for more had we known we had to wait drinkless and showless for so long. However when the show began it was well worth the wait. Entitled Galvanised – Ultimate show-stoppers, it managed, surprisingly, to live up to such a name with ease. The show consisted of five separate collections from five separate designers and at no point did it ever feel poorly organized or structured, never jarring nor was a single collection out of place, the flow was fabulous.
Despite the excitement there were some things within the show that are probably worth criticism, though this is more to do with the show as hole and less on what the fashion may do. Firstly the opening collection by 33 poets seemed to be inspired by traditional Indian clothing and had notably eastern style music to match and quite frankly I am sick of seeing Asian aesthetics being fetishized and incorporated and it is a little racist if we are honest with ourselves. But this problematic display was quickly done over by the Zhuvago collection which, bar some poor lighting music and lighting chooses had some rather interesting shapes on its women’s bodies, with elongated shoulders, the female body seemed to be a thing here broken up into parts and pieced back together. The show also featured the likes of Manning Cartell who used a tattooed model, if anyone who knows more about fashion than me, is this an okay thing to do? Because it appeared to add nothing to the show and really distract from the collection, she was not even tattooed enough for it to be a thing, it was one stupid black thing on her neck.
Alex Perry who everyone knows because they should have gone to specsavers also had a collection featured in the show and despite how annoying he is in ad campaigns I have been informed by those more in the know than I that he is an important local designer. His show did not do much for me until the very end, where the sleek and simple elegance of his evening gowns made for a perfect end to an interesting show. But sad to say the face of specsavers was not the stand out of the evening. Empire Rose opened their collection right in the middle of the show with a model holding a bird and a line that seemed to draw from the shapes and textures of birds. It was truly quite magical and I understood during that show why people speak in such a dreamy fashion about fashion and yet I do not have the language skills to be able to explain to you exactly why. However I do know enough to tell you gentle reader that the late Alexander McQueen famously incorporated similar themes and aesthetics related to birds into one of his shows and all good artworks are aware of other good artworks.
It was a strange and at times uncomfortable experience, I often found myself far too aware of how I was standing and what I was wearing. However, beyond everything else it was a thought provoking experience which I think really speaks to the nature of fashion and its enigmatic, sometime ethereal qualities and pleasures. The Perth Fashion Festival official ends Monday the 22nd however post-festival events are being run until Sunday the 9th of November and tickets can be purchased through tickettek or by visiting the Telstra Perth Fashion Festival website listed below.