Though dusty tutus and frayed spandex may testify to the contrary, ballet is no stranger to high fashion. Chanel, Versace, Karl Lagerfeld, Akira Isogawa and Christian Lacroix have all turned their hand to costumes for the stage over the past century. Richard Nylon and Toni Maticevski designed headpieces and costumes for Balletlab’s ‘Aviary’ just last year.
The latest name to take on this hallowed ballet-meets-fashion tradition is Melbourne designer Alexi Freeman. He created costumes for Gideon Obarzanek’s ‘There’s Definitely a Prince Involved’ production as part of the Australian Ballet’s 50th anniversary celebrations earlier this year. The ballet itself dissected the classic Swan Lake, while its duelling themes of dark vs. light and new vs. old are evident in the black and white palette and a clash of archival costumes worn alongside Alexi’s original designs. Since mesh, flexible materials and the sports-luxe look are hallmarks of Alexi’s mainline work, the transition to creating for dance was natural. He also has experience as a costumier during a distant-sounding “last century” (ie. the 1990’s). Avoiding a literal interpretation of the avian theme, digitally manipulated palm leaves and fluid fringing take the place of feathers on anatomically-revealing bodysuits.
Alexi continues this motif within his upcoming Spring Summer 2012/13 collection. The palm leaf hero print (derived from a photograph one of his interns snapped while visiting Hawaii) can be likened to tribal tattoos or a more fractured form of Rorschach-style inkblots. Black and white are now joined by a vibrant neon orange and a range of metallics. idea of or your pins dipped in gold. A successful collaboration with Tessa Blazey continues in the form of lazer-cut jewellery in organic shapes, alongside a new partnership as Alexi teams up with Preston Zly to present shoes for the first time.
We’ll have to be patient for just a couple more months until the Spring/Summer collection arrive. For now, the typically Carlton-based boutique Milly Sleeping has temporarily set up a shop and gallery in the city. Upstairs at Von Haus on Crossley Street, you’ll find them presenting an exhibition of Alexi Freeman’s pieces for the Australian Ballet alongside his buyable current season collection (plus pieces by S!X and Jenny Kee). The exhibition is on now until July 7th.
Ballet photography – Jeff Busby; S/S 12-13 collection photography – Marnie Haddad; behind the scenes images – Daniel Burns; Milly Sleeping exhibition images – mine. Acrylic pieces & jewellery by Alexi Freeman in collaboration with Tessa Blazey. Shoes by Alexi Freeman in collaboration with Preston Zly.