Wrapping Melbourne Fashion Week and Kids in Fashion – Bumper Issue

Sashay down the catwalk with us as we share the extraordinary range of activities RMIT staff and students were involved in during Melbourne Fashion Week, including ‘Kids in Fashion’ during the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Then, finally, step into our garden, where the first planting is complete and we introduce the Chair of the Garden Committee.

The Sea Between Us: The Illuminated Sea, Friday 31 August 

Presented by S!X and supported by The National Trust of Australia (Victoria)

The Sea Between Us is a project between the fashion students of LabModAR at Anhembi Morumbi University in Sao Paulo Brazil and fashion students, researchers and designers from RMIT University in Melbourne.

The Illuminated Sea lights up these two worlds, it brings them together en masse across the sparkling ocean. The distance between the two spheres of water and light is where this project sits. The Sea Between Us: The Illuminated Sea takes the sea of plastic that we as consumers have created and discarded and transforms it into materials for making lace-like structures, crochet, knitting and illusive/elusive remnants of luxury. The project culminated in a three-day exhibition at the National Trust of Australia.


Fashion objects on display at the National Trust of Australia

PhD candidate Fernanda Quilici Mola graduated from Anhembi Morumbi University and was instrumental in the development of this cross-continental project. She and first year Bachelor of Textiles student Emillie Reader shared their reflections.

Originally, the project was informed by the “poetic idea of the ocean between us”, with plastic acting as a symbolic representation of current environmental issues surrounding unbridled consumerism and waste. The objective was to share skills and knowledge of craft techniques across the two continents and creative institutions. While the project was founded on a broad commitment to making a difference and increasing understandings of both the potential of plastic as a material and the negative impact of plastic on the environment”, in the process the individual makers also experienced a transformation in their thinking about waste and plastic consumption.

As Fernanda notes: “It was only in reflecting back on the project did I understand how much it had changed my attitude toward sustainability. The process of making by hand brought me into contact with plastic in a way that has fundamentally altered my relationship to the material – in terms of both use and waste.”

“Why are we producing things designed to last five minutes but making them out of materials that last forever?”

For Emillie, an environmental activist and member of ocean conservation organisation Sea Shepherd, the project was an opportunity to bring together her two main interests – craft (crochet and embroidery) and plastic – and translate them into her creative practice. Her piece for the exhibition was a woven scarf, “a meditation on the notion of choking – the choking of both the ocean and ocean animals by plastic.”

“I have been inspired to continue experimenting with material creation and reuse. Each individual has the capacity and the responsibility to make change; small actions can have huge impacts.”


Crochet fashion objects crafted from waste plastic

The project brought together and negotiated tensions; from Fernanda’s ‘dress’, which looked delicate and lace-like yet was coarse and unwearable, to the audio track, which sounded like waves upon a shore yet was in fact the sound of rustling plastic bags – the Illuminated Sea was an experimental project in which the spaces, the oceans, between were more important than the spaces apart.

Photography credit: Vince Caligiuri

Yass Queen Drag Parade, Friday 31 August

As part of Vogue Fashion Night Out, a pop-up runway at Melbourne Central showcased  the work of third year Bachelor of Fashion (Design)(Honours) students who designed unique headpieces for the Broken Heel Drag Festival. Featuring some of our favourite Queens (including Enoki Mushroom aka Sang Thai!) the event was full of fun – and sequins! Student designer Sarah Brereton shared some of her experiences with us.

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Bachelor of Fashion (Design)(Textiles) student Sarah Brereton

“As a designer I usually try to define myself with what I create, so I felt a refreshing sense of liberation when designing for a drag queen with quite a particular style. Rather than stressing about trying to define myself with what we were creating, we were designing with this queen’s specific style in mind, and making a headpiece she would love to perform in and show her unique personality!”

“Because the headpieces were being made for a drag performance we weren’t limited to making it ‘ready-to-wear’. The pieces we designed could incorporate as many colours, beads, sequins and feathers as we wanted.”

“The show at Melbourne Central as part of MFW was a really unique experience where we got to see our headpieces on drag queens in action and witness the audiences’ very positive reaction. Seeing the shoppers stop by to take photos and engage with the queens was like a big pat on the back for all the hard work we’d put in!”

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Dean of the School of Fashion and Textiles, Robyn Healy with some Queens!

Urban Flâneur: Fashion Reimagines the City, Tuesday 4 September

Curated by Dr Tarryn Handcock and Dr Tassia Joannides, the Urban Flâneur exhibition highlighted relationships between fashion and flâneurie in urban memory and imagination. The live fashion event during MFW was the culmination of a collaborative research project between RMIT University and Lendlease, developed by third-year Bachelor of Fashion (Design)(Honours) students. The garments and the show itself responded to the culture and environment of Victoria Harbour, Docklands, with the show staged in the Knowledge Market.

Nikita Banney, Madeline Assi and Nadya Disa Kusumo were involved in both the studio and the final show and they reflected on their experiences for us.

Nikita says: “The most exciting part of this studio was the opportunity to go out into the world and lose yourself in your surroundings. As designers, we generally seek inspiration from artists or cultural concepts or something we may be surrounded by every day. This studio allowed for a different form of openness to inspiration; it was a process of discovery that came from our senses connecting to this new place. While this was challenging at first, as we explored our way through the Docklands we started finding things we hadn’t noticed at first.”


Window showcase in Victoria Harbour, Docklands

“My garments were inspired by a specific site in the Victoria Harbour called Captain’s Walk. During my observations there I was intrigued by its large scale yet restricted, angular architectural space filled with windows that mirror each other. Through investigating the site I discovered that the echoing reflections on the buildings extended their dimensions; this forms a type of escapism, a sense of hope within the constraining elements. I found myself focusing on the ephemeral moments contrasted with the controlled, restricted nature of the buildings. My designs are a twist on avant-garde, inspired by sci-fi and traditional corporate silhouettes and features. The key explorations of my project are capturing moments of iridescence through a spectrum effect formed by the embroidery of CD’s onto layered, translucent silk fabrications and integrating the element of control through architectonic leather moulding in a perspective illusionist pattern.”

Madeline was excited about this studio because of “the freedom we had in terms of what we could be inspired by and the direction we could take our projects. The whole experience was a lot of fun and it was so rewarding to see that our hard work celebrated in the show. It was also great to work on a collaborative project with so many people, including the team at Knowledge Market and Lendlease, as well as sound engineer students, photographers and models.

The inspiration for my collection was derived from the extremely cold, harsh weather conditions down at Captain’s Walk, with a focus on scale and materiality. The multi-use pieces, including tops, jackets, men’s pants, a skirt and accessories such as an oversized plush scarf, leg warmers and cross-body bag, were designed to reflect the idea of wrapping, covering and protecting the body against the cold harsh winds at Docklands. The pieces were also developed to encourage the use of imagination in the styling and wearing, reflecting the aim of the project as exploring ‘Fashion’s Role in Urban Memory and Imagination.’

Being involved in this project taught me so much, from how to carry out extensive research by observing a space, to furthering my technical skills in pattern making, construction and working with various fabrics and materiality, and how to organise and execute a fashion show/event.”

Nadya tells us: “This studio was so different from any others that I had done previously. In the first class, we ventured around Docklands using the ‘flaneur’ technique, which is to wander without instruction. I came across this construction site and that became my inspiration for the semester, mixing workwear/safetywear with activewear. My key design detail for the collection was reflective bias binding and reflective strips. Both of my outerwear garments are reversible because I binded all the internal parts with reflective binding. Many parts of the garment can be attached and detached, like the pockets, hem, hood, and vest. The vest can be turned into a fanny pack and so on….

The MFW salon show was such a great opportunity to put my hard work out there for people to see. A highlight of the night was definitely seeing people hype up my collection when it went past them. After the show, so many people came up to me and asked if the puffer jacket was for sale! I was so happy with people’s positive reaction.

I learned so much from this studio: how to keep on track with my timeline, dressing and dealing with models, making catalogue pages, preparing racks for a fashion show, etc etc. I am so grateful for Tarryn and Tass for such an amazing studio, I really feel like I was able to refine my aesthetic as a designer through this project.”

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Knowledge Market, Victoria Harbour

Thank you Nikita, Madeline and Nadya for your insights, and Tobias Titz for the images of the event.

Town Hall Runway Four – Student Collections, Wednesday 5 September

This year, RMIT Masters and Honours students showcased their work on a shared stage on the Town Hall Runway, alongside the work of students from Box Hill Institute, Holmesglen Institute, Kangan Institute, The Master’s Institute for Creative Education, and Whitehouse Institute of Design. The show was a masterful demonstration of student skill and talent. We might be biased but the work of the RMIT students really shined!

The most anticipated part of the night was the announcement of the MFW 2018 Student Award winner. The five nominees (Helena Dong, Navarone Temple, Hannah Berry (RMIT), Lucy Broomhall (The Master’s Institute for Creative Education) and Nigel Vogler  (The Whitehouse Institute of Design)) were recognised for their excellence in research, innovation, construction and potential to contribute to the future growth of the industry. The Student Award is supported by the City of Melbourne, Australian Fashion Council and búl. We were thrilled that three of our remarkable students were nominated and that our very own Helena Dong took out the coveted top prize. Congratulations Helena!

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Student Award winner Helena Dong

We asked Helena and fellow Bachelor of Fashion (Design)(Honours) student Annabel Robinson for some insight into their practice and experiences of the night.

Helena tells us: “I am interested in amplifying engagement between the designer, performer, viewer and garment through methods adopted from performance practices. This project takes the form of a garment-based collection as well as an online text- and image-based game. Through an abstract narrative with multiple decisions made by the reader, the key outfit of this collection undergoes structural transformations to reflect the various story lines, ultimately resulting in 62 endings/final appearances.

It was incredible to see my work presented in that context, especially since the collection wasn’t originally designed with the intention to be shown on a runway.”

About winning the top prize, Helena notes:

“I see this award as a recognition of my work – more specifically of my efforts in the past four years. It is a huge honour, and it encourages me to continue honing my practice in an interdisciplinary field. The entire evening felt surreal!”  

For Annabel: “It was really amazing seeing my work on the catwalk. It finally felt like I had actually made a collection (or half of one!). I had never been involved in fittings or logistics backstage, so it was really good to get an understanding of how that all worked.

The whole experience also got me excited about my clothes again. I was getting pretty sick of them, but seeing them on the catwalk made me see them in a different light. It was also helpful having to think about the looks as a whole, and think about the accessories – the bags, shoes and jewellery – because it really made the collection come together, and gave me ideas for styling my shoots for the publication.

The real highlight was seeing people react to my collection! A lot of people laughed at the Harry Potter t-shirts and the McDonalds handbag. That was great because I wanted it to be funny, and not taken too seriously.”

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Design by Anna Petry

Thank you Helena and Annabel for sharing your beautiful work and your experiences with us and Lucas Dawson for the photographs.

Kids in Fashion: London, Paris, Rome. The City of Stonnington. Saturday 15 September

Fashion challenges who we are and who we want to be. Our clothes are generally designed and made by couturiers, ateliers or factories – but for the second year Bachelor of Fashion (Design)(Honours) studio Kids in Fashion (lead by Dr Adele Varcoe), the pencils were handed over to a very different set of designers: kids.

Using the intellect, creativity and ingenuity of children’s imaginations, Kids in Fashion saw children become fashion designers. Local makers, including design students in this studio, turned their ideas into reality. The Kids in Fashion show was a celebratory live artwork/social intervention, where artistic empowerment was put in the hands of young people, helping them realise their own vision for the future of fashion.

Supported by the City of Stonnington, the Australia Council for the Arts and the School of Fashion and Textiles, RMIT University, the live show was featured in the Melbourne Fringe Festival and received enthusiastic responses from all involved.

Speaking to the students from the Kids in Fashion studio following the show, they told me about the joys and challenges involved in producing garments from kids’ drawings. While this is a more difficult process, it also resulted in exciting outcomes. Having to consider the drawing as the only point of reference meant having to step away from the safe familiarity of working with fabric. The unusual drawings encouraged the makers to consider alternative materials to realise the imaginings of the children. The results reflected both the imaginations of the young designers and the great skill of the student and alumni makers.

Weird and wonderful designs – a giant pair of hands, a dress “covered in live babies,” a cat dress and a series of tiny jeans and tees – came to life in often unexpected ways. Coming to terms with the ways things moved and changed in the process of making was a central component of the experiment.

While working with the kids was sometimes tricky, it was all worth it to see their happiness when they saw their drawings in real life, parading down the catwalk. Their faces lit up. The whole audience was in a good mood as the show was really fun. The kids were so excited and involved that you couldn’t help but be as happy as them.

The kids proved themselves to not only be inventive fashion designers and adept show hosts but also inspiring theorists. As young Chelsea put is: “Fashion is your own passion and no one can tell you what to wear.” If that’s not an appealing vision for the future of fashion, I don’t know what is.

Thank you to Agnieszka Chabros for the brilliant photographs of these pieces.

‘Brunswick Plant’ News

We are still in Poorneet/Tadpole Season. Pied Currawongs call loudly and often. Days and nights are of equal length. The rains are easing and the temperatures continue to rise.

Plants are in at the Brunswick Plant! The beds have been filled. In our VegePods, we have beetroot and angelica, red sorrel and peppermint. In the wooden planters are blueberries, dahlias and anthemis. We have a hedge of eucalypt, another of pomegranate trees and climbing raspberries. Under the established trees there is chamomile, lavender, roses and hollyhock. These plants have been chosen for their use as dyes – as natural colourants for use in textile studios and experimental labs.

We are very pleased to announce that Dr Pia Interlandi has been appointed Chair of the Garden Committee. Pia is developing a number of garden events for the coming months and we are very much looking forward to sharing them with you.

Our next issue focuses on sustainability and projects across the School making great advances in this area.

– Compiled by Harriette Richards, Research Assistant for the School of Fashion and Textiles