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Life behind plastic Jive Junkies’ Urban Style Installation showed fashion in a voyeuristic setting: models “lived” behind plastic sheeting, chatting, cooking, smoking …





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HE EVENING’S launch of the Fashion and Arts Maps (really guides to fashion and arts’ retailers in Wellington) at the National Library was sombre. The earlier event still had a tinge of celebration, not that I noticed much. The colours, with hindsight, were brighter. People were drinking champagne. But the National Library was bare as the second official Fashion Festival event started. (I say ‘official’, as there were "teaser" events that began far earlier, as this magazine has covered.)
   Jason Moon, Lucire TV producer, and Sally-Ann Moffat of Totally Wellington were there, but not in a celebratory mood. Sally-Ann and a few other TW staff wore T-shirts promoting the Maps—in fact, the main maps were printed on them. Debbie Healey, sister of creative director and former model Kathryn Neale, was concerned for her New York-based sibling. Susan Bartel, Promotions Manager at the National Library, told of a friend who worked at the World Trade Center who that morning accidentally slept in.

Susan Bartel at the National Library told of a friend who worked at the World Trade Center who that morning accidentally slept in.

   The speaker, investigative lawyer and media personality Judith Fyfe, was excellent. A humorous lawyer. Must go down well in the courtrooms. I had always feared my type of humour (having been law-schooled) would have landed me in contempt of court, but Judith made a tasteful reference to the attacks but didn’t focus on them. She took our minds off the horror, if only for brief moments. Normally I’d remember jokes. They’re good for the repertoire of a man who speaks around the world. Instead, my mind kept switching back to that morning, but still, it hadn’t truly sunk in. I went on auto-pilot, in a daze, showing up to events: it’s what chief executives do. My team mightn’t have been affected personally, but I consider New York my home.
   Carolyn arrived, concerned about whether she should board the plane to Milano for Fashion Week. Fran Hornsby, Laurie-ann Foon of Starfish and other designers were present but I was too preoccupied to remember what we chatted about. As an example of how a human auto-pilot doesn’t work at 100 per cent capacity, Massey final-year student Kath Wilson was there as a representative of Starfish, and I had interviewed her last winter, but it took a while for me to realize we had met.
   The contrast was amazing. Weeks before, this had been the venue to the Dress Down Under exhibition launch. Susan Bartel had busily arranged for people to stand together for photographs. Students excitedly showed their designs alongside photographs of the winners of the Benson & Hedges Fashion Design Awards that decorated the walls of the Library in this special exhibit.
   The clothes were there, as were the photos, but they looked lonely. The world’s attentions were elsewhere. We were not thinking about fashion. We were thinking about the blood and sweat shed by our brothers and sisters in Manhattan.

HAT WAS only the first event of the evening. I arrived at Kathy Servian and Minx Shoes’ show, ‘Fashion Emergency’, at the waterfront, with TW staffers from the previous event.
   There was a lot of buzz in the air and the venue, Shed 11, was packed. Kathy Servian reports a capacity crowd of 340. Cushla Buswell, one of the sisters behind Minx, was wearing an exquisite red dress: you knew she wasn’t a run-of-the-mill fashionista, but someone who was someone.
   But there were those moments of silence as the DJs geared up. The silence was noticeable. The silence transmitted, through the ether, the sadness that was hiding behind the earlier buzz. In those moments, there was introspection, concern and worry. It was as though the frequency of the prayers reached us 9,000 miles away, in another hemisphere, as they made their way to the heavens. I offered mine, just as I had that morning when I wrote ‘Let the healing begin’ in this magazine.
   Two hundred and twenty-five million Americans prayed that day, if the surveys can be properly extrapolated.
Debbie Healey, sister of former model Kathryn Neale, was concerned for her New York-based sibling.

   I admire Kathy Servian’s work but there was a sense of déjà vu: I had seen part of this Happiness collection earlier in the season when it was shown to press. She did, however, take a departure with what Cushla said was the ‘creative licence’ part of the show that should bear an ‘R18’ warning.
   Black PVC bustiers and a vinyl–fishskin leather corset were bound to get Kathy noticed and my only criticism is that this should have been integrated into the show more. There wasn’t a need to break it up into sections: a tightly edited show with 30–40 garments could have sufficed. We appreciated Murray McDonald, the taiko drummer with 20 years’ expertise, and the hip-hop dancers, Oracle, from Hutt City who were ranked number eight in the world (email hcdcdance@hotmail.co.nz for more information). But we were really here for the fashion.
   The knotted effect on Servian tops and the built-in bra cups remain features of this collection. Some things were worth seeing again; the quality was there but there was some repetition. All could almost be forgiven when Servian finished the show with a remarkable red silk wedding dress with a bouquet by Lime Florist. This was the first time she had employed this traditional finalé.
   I have to say that I recall her earlier joint show with Giao, which I attended with Lucy Corry many seasons ago, with more fondness, as that was a little tighter.
   In Kathy’s defence, this show was not put on strictly for press: it was a retail-directed show for an audience seeing the clothes for the first time; the catwalk models showed what Wellingtonians could buy the next morning. And if anyone read negative reviews of the night—not that I’ve seen any—it was possibly due more to the shock of terrorism than Kathy Servian putting a foot wrong.
   Indeed, Kathy Servian was remarkably right with feet. Minx Australasia (www.minx.co.nz) is a new footwear firm that has met with considerable export success from humble roots in Waikanae, outside Wellington. Styling is inspired by New York designs while the material is a fish-skin leather that has no odour.

Coverage sponsored by
Clear Magazine

HE final event of the evening was Jive Junkies’ Urban Style Installation, one of two signs from the Cuba Mall store (the other being a flip book, covered last week in Lucire) that there is a voyeuristic theme for spring–summer.
   Sarah Harrison and her team came up with an area of the store where six models "lived" behind transparent plastic sheeting. The ‘natural living environment’ (said the Fashion Festival programme), where models chatted, barbecued, and plain ignored those peering in and schmoozing beyond the plastic, was the best way for Jive Junkies to show off new labels Billy Zamoisky, Perić, Stranger and Non. The upbeat and notable music was by Cuffy—but that was no surprise. Jive Junkies cares about in-store sounds as well as about looks. Jive Junkies is less a retailer than an attitude. And a positive one at that.
   The event did attract many from the fashion industry: the award-winning hairstylist Michael Ashton of Stil Productions, Dubai-based jewellery designer Mandi Kingsbury and fashion designer Billy Zamoisky herself. And from outside the fashion industry, it was a pleasure to see Jonathan Ball, a graphic designer whom I can take some credit in training. Coincidentally, he and Debbie Healey (née Neale) were classmates.
   Mandi had spoken of Middle Eastern cultures the day before in a radio interview, her lavish designs targeting the United Arab Emirates’ market. The prospect of jihad and the need to fly to Hong Kong to pick up an award en route to the UAE didn’t endear themselves.
To say that the terrorists represent Islam is like saying that the Ku Klux Klan represents Christianity.

   We had not forgotten New York as the clocks ticked toward 11 p.m. and Carolyn, Mandi and I bumped in to Tania Rupepera and Phil Komene of Unity, the international fashion retail chain, outside the store. In fashion, you can hardly beat Tania and Phil for making you feel loved and welcome.
   And Jive Junkies helped a great deal in making us enjoy Wellington fashion despite the uncertain mood. There would be a few more days to go, but we at Lucire joined our New York team and took Day 2 off. We had to be there with everyone in the United States. A global fashion magazine should feel the global Zeitgeist.
   I spent Day 2 corresponding, phoning, answering staff questions, consoling. We readied ourselves with the Nikon digital camera rented to us at a discount by Wellington Photographic Supplies. I went on an online WTC healing support group to correspond with others affected by the incident as the list’s displaced New Yorker. And through that experience I encountered a wise ex-US Army sergeant who wrote something like: to say that the terrorists represent Islam is like saying that the Ku Klux Klan represents Christianity. In my opinion, it was the cleverest thing anyone has said in analogizing jihad-calling taliban (I use that term in its conventional sense) to the occident.
   We needed all the energy we could muster for Day 3 as Karl Priston and Ange Luke helmed the digital lens with the event’s official photographs (published in numerous places with the credit conspicuously missing) and Edward Hodges covered the latest fashions of Wellington’s 12 finest designers. But come Day 3, would we be happier, or, deep down, would we still feel like crap? Jack Yan

Jack Yan is founding publisher of Lucire.

Day 3 coverage coming later this week

Read Lucire's earlier coverage on WFF's teaser events

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