By Elsie Percival
Fashion house Romance Was Born’s new collection Cooee Couture brings wild Australia to the runway. On the 16th of April 2015, 18 models strode down the halls of the New South Wales Gallery adorned in purple gumnuts, scarlet waratahs, multi-colored gemstones and silks. Rainbow hairstyles reflected smokey sunsets, pearly blue urchin queens spoke of marine kingdoms and Australian native plants literally spilled onto the wooden floors, sending wafts of acacias, eucalyptus and banksias into the nostrils of everyone in the room.
This event was part of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia (MBFWA) and showcased a collaborative work of clothing made by Romance Was Born and Linda Jackson. Linda Jackson is a fashion designer who popularized Australian nature in the 70’s and 80’s at a time when the majority of design in Australia echoed European aesthetics. Romance Was Born is a young duo of Australian designers who find much inspiration from Jackson’s work and often reference Australian culture in their own designs. The show, saturated in artistic and cultural references and housed at the New South Wales Art Gallery in Sydney, made a strong case for fashion as art and as an important vessel for change.
Throughout time, fashion has been deeply linked with identity. Although often criticised as a consumer industry, fashion at its fundamental level gives people the freedom to express themselves. If a body were a moving canvas, clothing is the sculpted paint that moves with it, infiltrating the everyday world and inviting multiple meanings in every ruffle, curve, colour and texture. Fashion’s strong link with identity, its ubiquity and power to elicit dialogue, makes it an incredibly influential art form.
This is why the newest collections from Romance Was Born–‘Bush Magic’ and ‘Cooee Couture’–are so exciting. I see this work as a response to the disconnection of people from nature–one of the biggest drivers of the current environmental crisis. These wearable artworks facilitate a nature-culture dichotomy that acts to reconnect us with our natural environment.
So hopefully, before too long, we will start seeing people adorned in the aesthetics of their favourite local species and landforms: wattle, lyrebirds, the Great Barrier Reef. Perhaps they will be inspired to take ownership of these animals and ecosystems at a time when they need people most.