The Spirit of the Black Dress – Sustainable Fashion Gala
I was a excited and honoured to be selected as one of the 10 winning finalists of this years The Spirit of the Black Dress Awards (TSOBD) – a highlight on the cultural program at L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Week (LMFF). Directed by Jane Hayes, the competition judged finalists based on a sustainability criteria and selected by fashion heavy weights – Fashion Designer Jenny Bannister, stylist Philip Boon, buyer and owner of Fashionista Business Consultancy Group Sarah Gale, Pybus PR owner Kyra Pybus and owner of Garland and Garland Fashion, Phoebes Garland.
In it’s 4th year the event has expanded to a full on fashion gala – held on 6th March at The Trust, with an exhibition following until 20th March. Stunning photographs by Christian Blanchard featuring top Australian models Alice Burdeu and Ollie Henderson were on display with the garments, as well as published in the magazine featuring articles such as Lara McPherson’s (of Sustainable Fashion Australia) on sustainability with a wonderful quote by Philippe Stark “The designer today should not help to produce more – he has to help produce fewer and better things”. This was definitely the case with all finalists.
It was an absolute pleasure to meet the other finalists and discuss the sustainable and ethical components of their entries and design practice. I was overjoyed to hear some of the designers were interested in Slow Fashion and made their garments with the practice in mind.
Here’s a little bit on each designer and their winning dress –
Kate Aikins – South Australia’s only finalist, designer of Misty Belvidere made her extremely figure hugging black dress out of bamboo fibre, a good alternative to the ever present monocultured cotton.
Samantha Hardman – designer of Bento creates on the “principle of style that has longevity – both in terms of design and quality.” The labels commitment to sustainable fashion is seen by producing every item within 20km of it’s studio, meaning a greatly reduced carbon footprint as well as supporting Australian industry by employing union-certified manufacturers, and using 100% renewable energy in the studio.
Jess Priemus and Shimul Minhas – founded ethically charged label Bhalo, Bengali for good, constructed their dress from vintage Saris sourced in Bangladesh. Their label makes limited edition women’s clothing and accessories, focussing on honourable working conditions and community development by working with local women, widows and indigenous communities in rural Bangladesh – “providing work for some of the country’s most marginalised groups”. Their sustainable practice is evident by the use of hand woven and naturally dyed natural fibres and that all pieces can be made without electricity.
Berri Drum – founder of Melbourne based HAND HOOK YARN takes the traditional hand craft practice of crocheting to made accessories but extended this to an entire dress made in one piece. Berri was also part of Up-Cycling in the recent LMFF.
Christina Exie – recent graduate from RMIT turns to intricate detailing and hand construction to create draped and sculptured garments.
Gabriella Ferrante – Melbourne based and recent graduate at RMIT focussed on sustaining a local fashion industry and utilized recycled leather for her winning submission.
Emmarose Kinsman – recently graduated from RMIT with her collection produced within a Slow Fashion framework – which I was very excited to hear! She designs with “minimal wastage in mind, quality in their construction and quality of fabrication to ensure their long life. I have also used up-cycled garments in a number of my designs incorporating 2nd hand woollen jumpers and business shirts”.
Sonya Kraan – based in Melbourne and designer of her label SONYA KRAAN Sonya believes that “if we inject more options into a garment and create something less static, we will increase its use” – so her dress had the option of zipping round the centre to separate in to top and skirt, with intricate origami-like folding textures. The label is proudly Australian made and owned.
Lisa Taranto and Lea Oldjohn – based in Mornington Peninsula their label, Lisa Taranto, made in Australia, they share a vision for ethical, innovative and intelligent design.
Last but not least – myself – the only NSW finalist I created my garment from rectangular Nuno felted textile (Australian processed Merino wool felted on to silk chiffon) pieces with press-studs surrounding the perimeter, allowing the wearer to construct their own style garment, extending beyond a dress to tops, skirts, pants – whatever the wearer desires. More details will be on my page – Slow Palette by Jessica Robertson
Stay tuned for more details on Sonya Kraan and Emmarose Kinsman who were particularly focussed on the issue of speed in their practice and I was interested to hear more about their aims as designers in creating sustainable alternatives.
Great seeing sustainable fashion getting front row attention!