Massive and exclusive, the annual Fashion Exposed trade show was an overwhelming experience. Inside the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, rows of rows of square stall boxes stretched out into the distance. Rows and rows of racks regaled these boxes, and the full effect was one of confusing brights and darks of colour rainbowing out into the horizon. Surprisingly average people walked along the aisles, more Mum and Dad than Dolce & Gabbana.
The comfortable middle-aged crowd (with a few notable exceptions) comfortably scanned the aisles and chatted to stallholders, many searching for a new label or two to add to their retail outlets. The growing labels and wholesalers manning their cubicles quietly waited for the most part, many sporting bribes of lolly snakes or small chocolates on their makeshift desks. When approached by a potential buyer, they would perk up and turn on the charm, argue pricing and explain why their particular bags/dresses/socks were unique. Gretchen Hillhouse had some beautiful belts and jewellery made out of porcelain (I’m a huge fan of these, go find her website), but no lollies.
This was easiest to argue in the new “Eco-Friendly” section of the show, a space for brands with a green edge, using innovative dyeing processes and fabrics to achieve a final result. While only a small section of the show, many other designers I met were also sick of the wasteful practices of their industry, and would jump on the bandwagon if they thought they could afford it. Standouts were the “Obviously” underwear range, whom I’ve been led to believe have the most comfortable men’s underwear on the planet.
The runway and lookbook shows were the highlight, showcasing up and coming selected labels. Push Play was almost painfully hip, all skinny stonewash and interesting cuts. I’m sure you’ll see them soon in Fat or its ilk. Harvest Powell was also a highlight, with a clever and sophisticated range inspired by Amelia Earhart. Nothing faddish, sleek wear that will make you look more intelligent. Vivian Chan Shaw produced a collection of floaty, beautifully dyed woolen dresses stretched and woven into layered curvy shapes. Google them, and rest assured that although trade shows tend to bring out the worst in fashion (look at me! Put me in Target!) , there are always a few stars out there burning the mediocrity away.
As for the all important after-party…
Sitting in the Fashion Exposed Day Spa with tubes shoved up our noses, a Baroq House staff member and I engaged in a brief, extra-oxygenated conversation. As the subtly peppermint scented O2 from the Oxygen Bar we were sitting at was pumped into my nostrils, I asked him what to expect from the Fashion Exposed After Party Baroq was hosting that night. “What about the DJs? Who’s playing?”
He nasally replied that he couldn’t remember their names right then (Alex Jack from the UK was one of the DJs for the night), but he promised me some great House and good, dancy beats. He was clearly pumped (pun happily unintended) for the upcoming par-tay.
The venue was gorgeously ostentatious. For those who haven’t been to Baroq House, get to the CBD and explore the alleyways until you get to one featuring a great big blue tree/man/woman sculpture growing out of a building. Once inside, buy yourself a pricy beer and enjoy the painting of Still Black Michael Jackson on the mirrored wall (while it’s still there). Feel free to wonder where to get one of their pearlescent white plastic chandeliers drooping from the shiny white ceiling.
Here was where the people of Fashion Exposed finally started to look fashionable. A photographer zipped from waif to waif, snapping constantly, and talk flowed easily after the surprisingly dull vibe of the main event.
The DJ was slick, but not as boogielicious as expected early on, preferring to keep it easy as people met up and got slowly drunk. The cocktails were artistically created (mojitos recommended), but the crowd didn’t start to fill until the first round of partiers were deciding to go home in preparation for the show the next day. Perhaps Sunday was a bad idea, especially as the crème-de-la-crème (apologies for bad spelling) had already let their hair down the preceding Wednesday at Steetlab.
All in all though, the vibe was good and friendly (no holier-than thou celebrities; but I’m sure the crowd would welcome them too), the music was as skilfully whipped as the drinks (very) and there was much sitting-down-and resting-of-feet. A classic chill night and some rest for the wicked.
Words – Brooke Jury
Photography – Patrik Nemes