You think with a swarm of world class street stylers descended upon Sydney for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia, I would have stepped aside and just let Candice, Tommy, Phil, Nam and Natalie do their sweet sweet snappy thing.  I'll be kicking off coverage with mammoth piccy posts from the shows but first up, something a little on the unexpected side.

I saw Lisa Twomey backstage at the Romance was Born show (more about that later) and then met her later on outside the tents.  Lisa happened to be wearing a splendidly eye-catching coat, one that I initially thought was upcycled by someone else but turned out to be adorned and decorated by herself.  In a few brief words, I got the gist that she was a painter, happened to be interning at Romance was Born and made a lot of clothing herself, using her own collection of antique and vintage bits and pieces.  A further bit of nosy Googling made me hap onto Lisa's blog.  It sound a little bit creepy to say "I discovered Lisa blah blah blah" but I did love the idea of coming to MBFWA and discovering that beyond the catwalks, something quite vibrant, wholly tangible and defiantly untainted was going on in this girl's style and work.  

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Hailing from Canberra, Lisa has been painting murals and participating in group exhibitions and makes clothes that are vehicles for her hoarding tendency.  "I really like carrying my favourite things around with me all the time and my bag was too full.  So I would sew trinkets and bits of old beautiful fabric and lace and beading, which my nana gave me onto the clothes, make the pockets big enough for books, sew secrets into the pockets and try and construct the whole thing pretty much out of recycled junk."

For want of a better word, Lisa T's clothes, which are available on a site called Out Clothes, could be classified as upcycling or to be even more gauche, it's upjazzling.  However, when Lisa takes garments and encrusts them until they're heavy with studs, gemstones, beading, lace, old fabric and roughens up the texture with haphazard embroidery and quilting, you can barely recognise the foundation garment on which she began to work on.  It goes without saying that trying to throw about theme-based words like gypsy or folk does her work no justice.  Instead, it's an undefinable mish mash that blends a ton of things together.  When Grimes came on as the soundtrack for the Romance was Born show today, I felt like Clare Boucher's voice could have easily been embedded into Lisa T's clothes. 

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Delving into this stranger on the street and her work also gave m an excuse to connect her approach with Hiromi Tango's work, which I saw at the wonderful "Contemporary Australia: Women" exhibition at the QAGOMA in Brisbane on Friday.  Tango, a Japanese-born, Brisbane-based artist created two site specific installations, X chromosome and Pistil, for the gallery, showcasing a whole host of "women's work" associated materials and techniques.  Craft paper, wool, flowers, sweet wrappers, soft toys, notes, letters – anything with a perceived "girliness" intertwine with each other to form a DNA double helix shape as well as a long rectangular glass display of much the same but neon-lit with Hotel Hiromi.  Like Tango, Lisa T is probably well on her way towards becoming someone that isn't afraid to embrace the multi-displinary – "I paint, I draw, I make, I do" – and whilst Tango may knowingly be overwhelming viewers with kitsch, just as Lisa T is throwing out perceived "ethnic" vibes out there with her clothes, it's clear both have something a lot more to say than just mere aesthetic prettiness.    

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I've dug out a few paragraphs I wrote for Elle UK's recent April issue aka the "Girly" issue and I've dressed them up with a folder that I've been building up on my desktop, in anticipation of an image upchuck moment like this one here.  It's a pertinent reminder for me that that we've still yet to enjoy the best of what spring summer 2012 collections have to offer and that despite the anticipation towards autumn winter and beyond, those S/S 12 hyper-fem-fem vibes can still blossom and shine.  I'm lucky enough to be jollying around the world with a suitcase that is stuffed full of these candy-coated treats because the climate demands it but wherever you are, we've only a few months before summer fizzles out like popping candy on the tongue.  Get on that sugar girly high before it's too late… 

I remember boys in the playground would taunt the girls on mufty day for wearing anything remotely girly.  Anything with a bow caused a lot of fuss.  ‚ÄúUrrrrggghh! You‚Äôre such a girl!‚Äù they would say.  There‚Äôd be a moment of shame in us conforming to the notion that girls are all things nice with sugar n‚Äôspice and the next time, we‚Äôd stick to jeans and sweaters.  It did not occur to us aged seven to retort back ‚ÄúYes, I AM a girl!"

Fast forward through to grown up times and in amongst my friends there is still that element of shame that is associated with dressing up in a girly manner.  Lace, ruffles and pastel babydoll dresses suggest dumb-mannered submission, say my leftie, quasi-feminist friends.   Dress like a doll and bewarned, you‚Äôll be treated like one.

What to make of Meadham Kirchhoff‚Äôs S/S 12 riot of Courtney Loves, doll‚Äôs clothes made into adult sizes and fairy tale endings that showed us the pure empowering joy of dressing like a girl.  Or Prada‚Äôs irony-laced take on sweetness.  We instantly knew that Miuccia‚Äôs girls in brocade bathing suits, resin rose jewellery and pleated dresses weren‚Äôt actually the sort that would hang around waiting hand on foot on guys with fast cars and greasy hands.  These collections celebrate ultra femininity and the freedom to go to that extreme level of pastel hued frou frou frivolity without inviting outside judgement.  Denying the urge to dress myself in all this glorious sugar-coated girliness would be the real crime of submission here. 

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Photograph of blossoms outside our flat by Steve.

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Above three images from Patternity.

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Ostwald Helgason S/S 12 dried hydrangea sweater from Browns.

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Chanel S/S 12.

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Christopher Kane S/S 12 brocade top from Matches

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Christopher Kane S/S 12 brocade sandals from Far-Fetch on top of Dazed & Confused May 2012 issue.

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Louis Vuitton S/S 12

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Sally Singer's nail art design for NOWNESS.

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Above four images from Present & Correct blog

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Close-up of Cacharel skirt.

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Sorcha O'Raghallaigh collars on top of Dazed & Confused May 2012 issue.

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Photography by Bella Howard for Vogue Girl Japan.

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Prada S/S 12 show and showroom.

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Close-up of Antipodium S/S 12 "Domesticity" skirt.

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Miu Miu floral knitted t-shirt.

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Miu Miu quilted sheer t-shirt.

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Miu Miu brocade collar and Beau Coops shoes on top of Dazed & Confused April 2012 issue.

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Miu Miu "Noir" pink glitter sunglasses on top of Louise Gray shirt.

Uncredited images from Divine Living Tumblr and Strathcona Tumblr.

>> I'm supposed to be ahead of the game with nine hours extra according to my pocket watch but light like this, even if it isn't strictly speaking summer in Sydney, is still very distracting.  Especially when it's blasting in to a lovely corner hotel room (I get very excited over building corner rooms) that has been freshly cleaned.  It's the sort of light I've not had flooding into my apartment back in rain-dogged London in a while.  Suffice to say, I'm mighty happy to once again be down in Australia and I'm officially checking in here to say that I'll be in Sydney for the next few days and then in Melbourne from Friday for four days to do my talks for Portable and to also see bits of MBFWA.  I got my Brisbane talk done and dusted on Friday and wanted to thank everyone who made it out there.  Unfortunately you were a little bit like my guinea pig audience, in the run-up to the Sydney and Melbourne talks, but thankfully it wasn't as horrific as I thought it was going to be.

Back in Sydney, I popped into the nearby newly annointed Lover store in the Strand Arcade and paid homage to my rain drenched hometown with this Zhora rain cape (available online on Alice Euphemia I think) in a smoke-grey plastic from their Southern hemisphere A/W 12 collection.  Anything see-through of course is a plus for me and I'm no stranger to plastic garments but I have to commend Lover for picking out a particular plastic that feels… how do I say this without sounding insane… silkyThe most luxurious PVC known to human touchSexy plastic jelly?  Whatever it is, this simple cape is enhanced by details such as two leather snap straps at the collar and is cut in a way so it doesn't simply look like I've gone and cut a hole out of a binliner and popped it over my head, although I'm in favour of any effective raincover, well-cut or not.  It's a pretty sunlight filter right now in my hotel room but it will be hauled out should any future downpours occur.  

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Petulant and angry teenager that I was, I used to get really riled up about the oft-touted wardrobe staples that apparently would transform your style and miraculously solve the conundrum of what to wear day, in day out.  The perfect white shirt.  The little black dress.  The cashmere sweater.  There's often a subtle name-dropping that comes packaged up with these wardrobe basics.  "I love my James Perse t-shirts."  "Equipment shirts are essential!"  "I can't live without my Jo Malone candle" (does anyone really NEED a fruity slash floral noted candle burning in the background?)  I suppose it's that idea of pre-ordained, dictated ideas of good taste, something that I vividly remember from an Elle interview with the Meadham Kirchhoff guys.

The Chanel jacket is the undisputed king/queen of this wardrobe staple hierarchy, the big daddy-o that deserves all the name dropping.  I've lost count of how many style talking heads have raved and vouched for their Chanel jacket – how it pulls an outfit together, how it transcends generation and defies age, how it's a classic that never goes out of fashion.  I'm certainly not disputing those statements and I'm definitely no longer that angry girl with a vendetta against the tried-and-tested fashion agenda (well, most of the time anyway‚Ķ.) but I'm definitely curious as to how this history-laden piece of clothing does feel like on the real, live, flesh.

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I've never had the fortune of owning one, coming close a few times whenever I've seen them in vintage shops because every so often I would be tempted by the idea and the ideals of the jacket.  I've shirked away everytime though when I thought that the jacket might fall short of the tall order of expectation.  I've never even tried one on until a few days ago.  Swanky vintage stores hide their Chanel jackets high up on unreachable rails and tut at you .   

Fortunately the unveiling of the touring Little Black Jacket exhibition in Tokyo, where Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld come together to create a set of photos to pay homage to this very item of clothing, gave me the opportunity to reassess the LBJ situation.  The exhibition will be followed up by a book that comes out later in September featuring Roitfeld herself on the cover disguised as Coco Chanel.

Exhibition pictures 01 - The Little Black Jacket CHANEL's classic revisited by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld

Exhibition pictures 05 - The Little Black Jacket CHANEL's classic revisited by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld

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Chanel have also cleverly created a now-viral video, which condenses the making of the jacket into a few minutes, capturing all the essential traits that make the jacket wholly recognisable – the distinctive metal chain sewn onto the inside edge of the jacket to ensure it hangs properly on the body, the nubbly tweed that Coco Chanel favoured as early as 1936, using cheap tweed from her then-beau Duke of Westminster's factory, the shrugged-on collarless shape, the 3/4 sleeves that were designed to allow bracelets to be shown off and the specific striped panelling that lines the jacket, allowing it to be sized up or down if you take it to tailor.  The blending of the story and tales that come with the creation of the jacket along with a weirdly practical care for functionality makes it a piece that can only really be appreciated when you try it on for size, which is exactly what I did with this sample Chanel Little Black Jacket, the same one featured in the vid.  Kaiser Karl and Madame Roitfeld will probably be displeased with the distraction of colour that I've injected through pastel prints and washed out neons, judging by the suitably stylish black and white photos in the exhibition.  I'm nothing if not predictable though. 

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The verdict?  I hate to confirm the cliche but the Chanel LBJ does shrug on like a dream, with the chain mechanism engineered to make you feel like you don't want to take it off.  The 3/4 sleeves surprised me with their length.  My nagging mother would complain that the jacket was too small but of course, the shrunken look of the sleeves is how Coco Chanel intended them to be.  Sadly of course, the LBJ had to go back to its cream carpeted London Chanel HQ (bar none, the softest carpet I've ever padded around on‚Ķ.) but at the very least, I've now found out for myself what all the fuss is all about.  Stamped.  Done.  Sprogs of ageing rockers or well to do older socialites can carry on bleating on about how great a Chanel jacket is and how they've inherited a whole rail of them from their mothers.  Now to set about the task of actually getting one and then desecrating it with neon plastic trim or something equally out of place and wrong.

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Worn with Louise Gray shirt, Tory Burch trousers, Underground creepers.

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Worn with COS dip-dyed top and fluoro skirt, DKNY sheer black top and Nike trainers.

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Worn with Liberty x bStore shirt dress and belt, General Idea shorts, J.W. Anderson shoes.