Melbourne’s love affair with art and fashion


“I want people to see fashion as a form of self-expression, and that’s art – what do you mean about yourself and how can clothes make you express these messages? “

In Melbourne, according to Walford, “what has been celebrated most is the idea of ​​having fun with fashion and looking beyond getting dressed in the morning. It starts the conversation and uplifts the spirit of the community ”.

Sitting in a chair while models parade on a catwalk, it’s old-fashioned, he thinks. “I personally think he’s dead now; we need to do something more to keep people engaged and make us feel like we are part of a global conversation.

And if fashion is now making its mark on art, the reverse is also true. David Bromley is one of the last Melbourne artists to take his work off the canvas and put it on clothes. A collaboration with the Review label for spring / summer uses some of their best-known imagery for a range of pieces, including dresses, knits and shoes.

David’s wife Yuge, who was part of the creative process, says, “What you wear is a perfect reflection of how you express yourself, and fashion is an art in itself. You have designers who are constantly trying to come up with new ways to express a shape or a look or a pattern or a design, which is immensely creative and artful, and when you adorn that more with the work of an artist, that? is such a natural thing.

She also believes it fosters slow fashion, where items are kept in wardrobes for well over a season or two. “There is that feeling of longevity since the pieces aren’t necessarily trendy. If the shapes are timeless, then the artwork only adds to its appeal.

In fact, Melbourne designers have often drawn inspiration from artists: Lisa Gorman has done this on several occasions with her label Gorman, showcasing works by Mirka Mora and Rhys Lee. But it wasn’t just the most daring designers who sought inspiration in art: Lisa Barron – whose High Street store favors a sleek aesthetic – had an unlikely pairing with street artist and tattoo artist Mayonaize, using his monochrome artwork for some of his designs just like the pandemic strike.

Models wearing Lisa Barron designs with street artist and tattoo artist Mayonaize.Credit:

“I thought his brush strokes were amazing and they would look amazing on fabric,” says Baron. She has collaborated with other artists, including Vincent Fantauzzo. “It’s like cooking: bringing our work together and coming up with something different,” she says.

Even Chadstone, the fashion capital, has taken to it; previously they partnered with the NGV to have part of the KAWS exhibit onsite, and also mixed fashion with art when they hosted the Louis Vuitton Time capsule exhibition after his tours in cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai. The director of the Chadstone center, Michael Whitehead, says that “Melbourne is so fashion conscious it was a natural extension to grow in this artistic space as well.”

Inside the NGV Gala, art by Keith Haring.

Inside the NGV Gala, art by Keith Haring.Credit:

Sarah Rovis, the general manager of Mimco, would agree. The brand has collaborated with the NGV for almost six years, often producing their own bespoke collection on the occasion of an exhibition – they have done so for Escher x nendo as well as with Keith Haring / Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing the lines. As Rovis says: “This is the meeting of two Melbourne icons. “

This year, the company is a patron of the Bark Ladies: eleven artists from Yirrkala exhibition, “which is about the journey of working with artists and indigenous communities, and we are really only at the beginning of this journey”. She says the partnership makes sense because “we’re both accessible: the NGV is an accessible gallery where everyone, from kids to kids, can go, and we like to think of each other as accessible luxury.

Rovis adds that Mimco is “driven by design – we start with a creative brief and then designers can browse the galleries for inspiration from the glassware or sculptures that spark ideas.” We are different that way… otherwise everyone in the market would start to look the same.

But even though fashion often enters galleries, can it really be considered art? Christine Barro’s wares from her eponymous store were part of the Fashion x Art show, and she’s heard that some of her customers will be displaying the Philip Treacy hats they bought from her store on stalls in their home instead of showing artwork in the same space.

She agrees, but only conceptually, rather than practically. “I worry when they do that with a hat because it should be kept in the box, you know!” Yet she approached her Collins Street store as more of a gallery space than a clothing store.

“We have people coming in and saying they’ve never seen a store like this anywhere in the world. They thank me for my editing. That’s what Melbourne customers are asking for, she thinks. “Due to our more European climate, we have been ‘creative inside’. Whether you’re talking about fashion, architecture, food, or music, there’s this amazing cross-pollination of talent, and we focus on creativity and beauty.

But Karen Webster, Principal and Dean of LCI Melbourne College of Design, still believes in the natural distinction between fashion and art, saying that the end user – the wearer – is integral to the goal of fashion. Art, on the other hand, is not up to the buyer.

“Fashion is not art,” says Webster. “Even when it is avant-garde or conceptual, fashion is situated in a field different from art – that of design…[But] art and design share a symbiotic relationship. They both deserve a rightful place in galleries and museums because they make a valuable contribution to our visual culture.

Talking about Chanel and fashion with its NGV curators

NGV Curator Danielle Whitfield.

NGV Curator Danielle Whitfield.Credit:

Danielle Whitfield, Curator, Fashion and Textiles, NGV: “Fashion in the context of a museum is nothing new, and it starts with the desire to showcase the work of someone you think is important for a variety of reasons. I don’t think Melburnians are unique in their appreciation of fashion, but I think the NGV as an organization has supported the fashion exhibition for a long time. People recognize the place of fashion in society and culture; it’s linked to identity, it’s a cultural phenomenon, it cuts across social or political or economic issues, and it’s linked to collective consciousness. It reflects where the company is at.

Katie Somerville, Senior Curator, Fashion & Textiles, NGV: “We exist for the people of Victoria, and a vital part of our premise also reflects what has happened in this part of the world. Therefore, we have actively collected major collections of works by Melbourne designers like Martin Grant, Jenny Kee, Linda Jackson and Jenny Bannister. One of the things that happens easily in this city is a collaborative approach, with people intersecting in different disciplines. “

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