A bridal gown from a tablecloth, a party dress from a curtain, a coat from a blanket. And how? Raid the op shops, then recycle, deconstruct, reconstruct, embellish. Sewing skills are a must; tacking is advised. Above all, have an eye for design, for the possibilities.
They call it “sustainable couture” and last night was its fourth showing in Alice Springs. Well-known names were joined by first-timer Jane Lloyd, who has recently found time to resurrect the sewing skills taught by her mother when they lived in Darwin in the days before TV.
There’s a camaraderie between the designers, all of them women. So much so that Nicky Schonkala, known for the clean lines of her designs, feels that her style is “morphing” into Carmel Ryan’s – more complex and decorative.
Something different she’s done this year is design for a man (model David Nixon appeared much to the delight of the audience), dressing up an ordinary suit with, among other things, tails made from another pair of men’s trousers.
Julie Millerick has gone against cutting up old garments as she used to – “that’s not sustainable” – plumping for embellishment instead.
Kathy Frank used the technique known as ‘nuno felting’ applied to fabric from an old kimono and an old sari, to create richly textured effects.
Philomena Hali worked wonders with an old blanket (and a few other things) – fashioning a rose for a choker, cutting wonderful shapes for garments that you wrap and pin and layer, embellishing with roundels cut from the blanket topped off with old buttons, adding frills, stitching patterns, including a new favourite – leaves.
Franca Frederiksen, who first demonstrated the ‘couture’ possibilities of blankets at the 2008 Wearable Arts Awards, turned her attention this year to curtains. You could still see the curtain rings in the belt of her Amelia Earhart-inspired design, very fitting for the venue chosen for this year’s showing – a hangar in the aviation museum.
Carmel Ryan was true to form with her delightfully feminine concoctions fitting out a bridal party. She admits she can look at almost anything and
get ideas of what to make from it. This year the gift of a pair of pink satin
bridesmaid’s dresses got her going. The donor was in the audience: “I want them back now!” she called.
There would have been around 400 people in the hangar – standing room only as a veritable festival of textile arts and crafts got underway in Alice. Last night’s show was followed today by a student exhibition and fashion show at Batchelor Institute, and tonight the Centralian
classic, the Beanie Festival opens. – Story and photos by KIERAN FINNANE
Pictured, from top, designs by: Nicky Schonkala x 2 • Julie Millerick • Jane Lloyd • Carmel Ryan • Franca Frederiksen • Philomena Hali • Kathy Frank.
At bottom: The aviation setting inspired the curtain raiser performance.