The fashion flurry

Camilla and Marc at VAMFF. Photo: Peter Haskin

The Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF) took centre stage last week. Rebecca Davis reports on the Jewish players.

MELBOURNE is in the midst of a fashion hangover. From March 1-10, the city played host to Australia’s largest fashion event, the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF) presenting an endless array of runways and events that showcased local and international creative talent.

This year, it was all about oversized suiting, feminine ruffles and pleats, re-imagined animal prints, flaring, relaxed linens, and metallic accents.

“It is the largest consumer fashion event in the world,” VAMFF chairman David Briskin told The AJN.

“We are consumer focused. There are a lot of the other fashion weeks which are directed towards wholesale markets, and for industry and press. Whereas we have 1500 people, consumers, coming for each show, seeing great product, and hopefully going out and buying it,” he added.

It is an important focal point in light of challenging retail times, “and a great injection for the economy”, said Briskin.

“It’s great for tourism here in Melbourne – the restaurants and the hotels.

“And obviously fantastic for retail, the brands, and the designers.”

Speaking of designers, the work of Jewish labels again graced the runway. The usual suspects, Camilla and Marc and Bec and Bridge, both featured in the opening David Jones Gala Runway and in Runway 1 and Runway 5 respectively. Meanwhile, the late celebrated artist Mirka Mora; and jewellery designer Elke Kramer were among the collaborators featured on the Gorman runway at Heide Museum of Modern Art.

“It is wonderful to see the next generation of Jewish-Australian designers follow on from what is a really rich heritage, in terms of what was happening in Australia back in the ’50s and ’60s in the shmatte trade,” said Briskin.

While comparing VAMFF to other international runways, the festival must also be commended for presenting a progressive and inclusive runway. Models are diverse, from a plethora of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Kate Gaskin is a VAMFF stylist and creative director who oversees garment selection, casting, music, lighting and runway concepts for shows. Female empowerment was one of the over-arching themes presented this year, she explained.

“Diversity in age, race, creed, height and shape was celebrated, and women were presented on the runway with confidence and raw beauty in all its forms.”

One of the greatest shows of that diversity was embodied by curvy American super model, designer, author and body activist Ashley Graham who lit up the runway on Thursday evening – her energy igniting the Royal Exhibition Building.

“We were so very excited to have Ashley involved. We’re trying for more and more diversity across all different people on runways and in imagery. It is a real focus for us and we would like to continue that moving forward,” said Briskin.

CAMILLA AND MARC

Camilla and Marc suit at VAMFF. Photo: Peter Haskin.

CAMILLA and Marc pieces are the lust of many. The Sydney-based sister and brother duo, Camilla Freeman-Topper and Marc Freeman have enjoyed major success as Australia – and indeed internationally – and the embrace of their label continues to strengthen.

Oceanic blue, bold monochrome with touches of space-grey softness, a hint of mint and neutral tones colour the Camilla and Marc Autumn/Winter 2019 collection palette. The look is futuristic with the classic tailoring for which the label is adored, juxtaposed against more feminine and flowy elements. Splits and flares also leave an imprint in their suiting.

“Camilla and Marc’s razor sharp tailoring and new line leather pieces are the perfect investment pieces for winter that will withstand the trends and easily be paired back with already existing items in your wardrobe for an instant update,” said style-guru Gaskin.

“I always invest in a great blazer each season as they’re the perfect wardrobe staple – styled back to dress up a tee and jeans for a smart day look, or over a black dress and statement jewels for an evening look,” she added.

BEC + BRIDGE

Bec + Bridge on VAMFF Runway 5. Photo: Peter Haskin.

SYDNEY’S Becky Cooper is one half of Bec and Bridge, the Aussie label that strikes the balance between aspirational and achievable fashion.

But this season, Bec and Bridge are all about a clash of texture. Crushed velvet, linen, chunky knits, smooth silks, and a wet leather-look all made an appearance in their collection. Meanwhile, oriental-esque floral patterns and the on-trend animal print (albeit in green) were strong motifs. Red and pink contrasted against black also proved a popular look.

MIRKA MORA X GORMAN

Mirka Mora x Gorman at the VAMFF Gorman Runway held at Heide Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Peter Haskin

WHILE Melbourne mourned Mirka Mora in August 2018, her legacy lives on at Gorman. The partnership follows two previously successful collaborations; the first in spring 2016 which resulted in a 23-piece collection with fabric designs created from four original Mora artworks. It encapsulated her recognisable motifs of innocent, wide-eyed children, angels, dogs, cats, snakes and birds, and while the collection presented on the VAMFF runway was much more curated, it continued to celebrate the unique aesthetic of the late Melbourne icon.

The pieces featured dresses, vivid in lilac and turquoise, and a cropped bomber jacker. Scalloped edging, and delicate lacework were the canvas to Mirka’s embroidered characters.

“Garments designed by Gorman showcasing the artwork of Mirka were glorious in their colour and ethereal detailing, and the perfect legacy to her folio of work and their ongoing partnership,” reflected Gaskin.

STUDIO ELKE X GORMAN

Elke Kramer is the force behind Studio Elke, which collaborated with Gorman to create a bespoke jewellery collection for their VAMFF runway. She shares her creative story with The AJN.

Elke Kramer. Photo: Peter Haskin.

Q: What was your journey to Studio Elke? How did it all begin?

After graduating high school, I studied fine arts and design at the University of New South Wales. I majored in jewellery, but also graphic design and textiles. I worked for a few years doing a lot of textile and design freelance work, and I worked in the fashion industry at Sass and Bide.

I eventually launched Studio Elke about 14 years ago, in 2005. It was more like a project, rather than a business. It was purely a creative outlet so it could balance the staleness of commercial work. I was finding that I needed that. But it slowly and organically grew just by nature of meeting people who wanted to buy it, and stores who wanted to order it.

Q: How did the collaboration with Gorman come about?

About six years ago, I had actually written a list which I found recently when I moved. It was a list of my dream opportunities for my business and I had written that I wanted to collaborate with Gorman.

It was one of those things where you list what you want, and you wait for your dreams. Like the book, The Secret, where you manifest. It was a true and real example of manifestation.

I tried to make it happen, and I had a really good girlfriend who was at Gorman merchandising, and I asked
if she could get me in, but she didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, and so I let it be. I was doing some other collaborations and really enjoying them, and then I met Lisa [Gorman] at a design market in Melbourne. I just said to her, if you ever want to work together, let me know. Within a week, it was on. She is amazing! She is so exuberant and has the energy of 10 people. She gets stuff done.

Our first collaboration was incredibly successful, and because it did sell so well and both of us enjoyed it, we did another one, and that rolled into a third collaboration. We have just done our eighth collaboration, and we are about to design our ninth.

Q: Tell me about the jewellery you created for VAMFF Gorman runway.

It was a bespoke runway collection. This was designed purely for the runway. The brief was, make really big, loud, bold, crazy, wild jewellery. Gorman is “more is more”. They are maximalists, and we are too, so it was great to find a platform which allows you to do what you love. It is quirky, playful, unconventional and colourful. That’s the essence of Gorman and what we tried to capture in the collection.

Studio Elke x Gorman earrings at VAMFF. Photo: Peter Haskin

Q: What keeps you feeling passionate and inspired in your craft?

At the moment, it is to find the time, to create work that maybe no one will ever see, that I create just for the joy of making. That is what keeps me really passionate.

Q: Do you see your Jewishness expressed in your creativity?

Not so much my Jewishness, but I do cite my mother as my greatest influence. I grew up in a home that was really traditionally Jewish, where family was considered the most important part of your identity.

She was a working mother – a designer and an artist, and I got to really absorb her relationship with her art and it was very infectious. Her joy in being creative really extended to creating Shabbat dinner. She cooks all of her food from scratch and it is very much an extension of her creative practice. There is a lot of colour at Shabbat dinner at my parents’ house.

The plates she uses, and the dishes she cooks are all an expression of her passion for living. And that passion carries across to her love of painting. She did a massive mural of Jerusalem when I was in primary school and it was like everything she touched conveyed that love. She approached her Judaism with creativity, and that was her relationship with it, so I guess that is something that I really took from her.

My father is Ashkenazi, he was born in Slovakia. His family are Lubavitch. My mother’s father is Israeli and her mother was Dutch.

My father always told us, and still does today, that being Jewish, and having a Jewish identity is the most important thing that we have and it is something that we need to celebrate and hold on to and cherish.