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La Bombe found its inspiration from the French government-sanctioned bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland

When Dreams Turn to Gold

FASHION A new exhibition in Dunedin celebrates New Zealand fashion, looking back through the years when design was prime-time at the Benson & Hedges Fashion Design Awards. Chris Park checks it out
Photographed by the author



  Chris Park/the Park Brothers

Konstantina Moutos’s 1986 design helped propel her career internationally

Chris Park of the Park Brothers is a special guest contributor for Lucire.


One of the things that impressed about the ID Dunedin Fashion Week was how much the entire city got behind the events. While the Dunedin Railway Station was busy being transformed into a runway, the local galleries were showcasing artworks.

The When Dreams Turn to Gold exhibition at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery is a retrospective look at New Zealand fashion featuring some of the winning entries from the former Benson & Hedges Fashion Design Awards, and later, for a brief period after cigarette promotion was made illegal, the Smokefree Fashion Design Awards.

While the emerging designer finalists for ID 2017 were busy preparing to showcase their latest capsule collections, I headed to the first floor of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery to pay homage to the pieces that the generations before had created.

The awards ran from 1964 to 1998, a constant during some tumultuous times during New Zealand history, including the UK turning away from its colonial allies to join the European Economic Community, public protests over the testing of nuclear explosives in the Pacific and the massive economic liberalization policies of the mid-’80s.

There’s a threadbare saying that art is an imitation of life. To me, the exhibition was not so much about the individual pieces; rather, it was interesting seeing how historical events New Zealand were reflected in the winning pieces. I’ve identified a few favourites.

Konstantina Moutos
Supreme Award winner for 1986

Head girl at St Mark’s Church School in 1977, and a graduate from Wellington Polytechnic, Moutos’s career in fashion was launched by her entries into the Benson & Hedges Fashion Design Awards. This velvet evening gown features an asymmetric cut, accentuated by what looks like a side cut-out but is in fact a backless dress which reaches around the front across the shoulder, leaving the midriff exposed.

Unfortunately, this gown was displayed against a wall so I wasn’t able to take a photo of the back, but the plunging back is held together with thin diamante-encrusted straps connecting the back of the dress to the arm.

Sharon Ng
Black Window Dress, Avant Garde Award nominee, 1994
Chris Park/the Park Brothers


This garment was constructed from screen-printed silk, with a sand-wash finish. Created in collaboration with Dunedin artist Ralph Hotere, the textile design, in particular the use of abstract “window-frame” crosses, was an extension of an artwork series called Black Window.

In terms of its construction, the top part of the garment in particular appears to draw from the Japanese yutaka with the square panels, while the neckline is reminiscent of the Chinese cheongsam.

Lisa McEwan
La Bombe, After-Five High Fashion Award 1988

It doesn’t take much to work out what this garment is about. This sculptural design was created after the 1985 bombing of the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, and a series of laws passed opposing nuclear testing in the South Pacific.

The gown was made of crushed velvet while the circular shoulder piece was made of rouched silk. The “smoke plumes” hanging off the shoulders were made of draped tulle studded with diamantes.


If you get the chance to visit, the exhibition is on the first floor of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, and the exhibition will be on till June 25, 2017. Make sure you pick up a copy of the programme as the pieces aren’t labelled. •

Chris Park/the Park Brothers





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