Things You Should Know

The Winter 2011 collection from Robyn Mathieson, 97 Willis Street, is titled ‘Things you should know’. The title looks back to the 1960s and 1970s where such phrases as ‘Tomorrow is another day’, ‘Cheese gives you nightmares’, ‘Look before you leap’ and ‘It’s now or never’ peppered so much speech and attitude. These phrases were like maxims, like little survival tips, and Mathieson’s collection has used them as names for a remarkable breadth of garments.

In the photo, from the designer’s look book, the dress is called ‘Tomorrow is another day’. It is a polyester-chiffon, and frothily transparent. It requires a background in the form of a slip, and this means the wearer decides how brilliant or subdued they want the patterning to appear. The patterning is delicious. It, like the collection names, easily puts us in mind of 1960s and 1970s patterns one came across in ceramics, big murals for new buildings, and the decor of inter-island ferries.

Around the shoulders, almost like a bodice but actually a separate garment, is a vest made from felted wool, two layers thick to give it sturdiness, and subtly darted to give it form. Attached to the vest is a collar of possum skin. This is a work of statement. Not everyone will be comfortable with the use of skin, and there is a visceral element as the skin hasn’t been totally trimmed of all its anatomical features like whiskers and ragged edges. The jacket is called ‘I’m a pest vest’.
‘Things you should know’ is an excellent collection; a parade of separates and ensembles with the added wry humour of telling-offy names.

Good Wool

The dress is called ‘Brooke loves that fashion’ and is from the Hale Van Traa autumn collection for 2011.
Here we have the season’s colors of peaceful blues and leafy browns – tones which lead us into wistful, hopeful autumn thinking. These are calming, slow-down shades rather than the dense colors of squalls and approaching thunderheads.

The colors are lightly inked onto the fabric. Close up, as we enjoy the patterning, we may well discern in the bands such impressionistic depictions of coast lines, city skylines or geological layers showing where dinosaurs became extinct. The material is wool; a tactile, chunky wool yarn whose unusual weave provides a brilliant texture almost akin to a very fine chain mail. Hale Van Traa is represented by Goodness at 19 College Street, Wellington, and the illustration comes from photographer Russell Kleyn who did the designer’s look book.

A Duet from Michael Beel

Some of the most exciting hairstyling is like performance art. An opportunity to excel comes along in the form of a client or a competition and ideas begin to jostle for attention. Work begins; the stylist drawing on all the techniques gathered through a career. The work is presented to an audience, may collect a prize along the way, then is photographed. The model walks away and that is so often the project’s full stop.

But, we have the photos which are like artifacts to look at, publish, and use to recall the verve of the creation. In these two images, we have photographic recall of two exuberant works from the craftsmanship of Michael Beel, stylist at Buoy hairdressing.

This first work comes from the ‘New Zealand Hairdresser of the Year’ section at the Schwarkzopf Hair Expo held in Sydney. It is pure drama. Beel has used a cone of fine wire as a structure over which has been combed up the fieriness of loops and ringlets and tendrils. It is sheer opera – she is the soprano who has just ordered the execution of a hundred prisoners. Yet, the fury is contained, perhaps tamed, by the simple expedience of using bands of haberdashery ribbon to demarcate the hair from the alabaster-fine model.

This work was a production for ghd and relies on the accomplished use of additions and wefting for its effect. The result is one of a sumptuous mane, a Lady Godiva recollection, something weighty and imperial cleanly thrown back from the face. It is a work of stunning silhouette, captured here by the Australian photographer Andrew O’Toole whose camera is so often sought to record the exuberance and nuances of styling.

From Belgium with love

Here, resting on a black steel chair, is a hat of unnerving spirit. The geography of the skull is molded in thick, dense fabric to hold anatomical precision, and over this is sewn hundreds of small black plastic squares. These glint, provide a fingertip texture, and suggest intricate, hand-placed mosaic work.

The hat is from Belgian designer Christophe Coppens who is so fondly known in his country as the ‘mad hatter’; the designer who thrills audiences with his ‘dark silliness’. Certainly thrilled was a global audience who saw singer Rihanna wearing one of his hats which sported a large, jewel-studded dagger.

Coppens’s work is obviously based on the theatrical, but so well crafted and so full of gathered references that it slips easily into the arena of couture. The hats also have the unapologetic propensity of becoming the main focus of an outfit - a result of both the invention, and the silhouettes they throw. This sequined ‘skull hat’ is at Scotties, 4 Blair Street, Wellington.

A Work by Deryn Schmidt

The dress is called ‘First Instinct’.
Its form is straightforward, and this is absolutely the smart choice as the fabric and its patterning so captures the eye. The fabric is actually nylon: but worked with such finesse that its patterns of floral wreaths hovering above a background of tiny black dots instinctively attracts a closer look.

Nylon is also the material for the lace fringe work, rising in black bands reminiscent of Spanish lace caught by the artist Velasquez. The dress is gossamer delicate, yet it rests on a support of viscose-spandex lining which gives it strength and durability. It is part of Schmidt’s autumn collection titled ‘The Golden Rule’; a collection which hints at an autumn of indoors rather than outdoors. It is a collection that so easily whispers of fireplaces, long dinners and, why not, elegant staircases as in this photo from the designer’s look book.

The collection is the second such from Deryn Schmidt who established her label in 2009, drawing on years of fascination and years of training which included a period within the Karen Millen empire based in Kent, England.

Deryn Schmidt is stocked by Goodness at 19 College Street, Wellington, and 131 Jackson Street, Petone.

Le Voyage

First, we negotiated chunky travel luggage arranged like a maze over the wharf, then were welcomed into the Dockside restaurant by white-uniformed stewards. Already there was a great sense of embarkation. Inside the restaurant, on a specially designated deck, we mingled and chatted while in the background, an accomplished singer gave us her soul-jazz spirit.

We noticed a catwalk running along the glass wall and beyond, the deep green of sea swell came into the harbor. The lights went down – we were now in the cinema of an ocean-going liner. The fashion show began.

We were treated to five ‘showcases’ of design drawn from boutiques Starfish, Harry’s, Miss Wong, Dyrberg Kern, and Coco. Close to 75 ensembles were shown, suggesting a finely-tuned engine room somewhere out of our view.

The fashion show was one component of an event called ‘Le Voyage’. It was a fund raiser for the Child Cancer Foundation, and was organised by Catherine Hunt of the Haight Ashbury salon. It was Haight Ashbury’s stylists who added a delicious detail to the catwalk where each boutique was given its own signature hair style. This was a fun motif, and heightened our interest in the layers and colors and textures sweeping past. It was great orchestration.