Is it possible that brains can connect across oceans? Is there a third dimension where our minds are at one? Can we take collective trips and negate time and space? These are the sort of trippy-hippy-dippy questions that I pondered after Romance was Born show, because I couldn't quite believe how on-vibe and in-tune I was after my oh-so-magical trip to Disneyland Paris a fortnight ago, with their latest collection which closed the first day of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia in Sydney last night.
Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales' work will always be selfishly right up my aesthetic alley. That's a given. I'm not going to make any apologies about it. Their steadfast and resolute conviction in their own design ethos results in some of the most personal collections seen at MBFWA and to have witnessed four of their shows is to have seen a fantastical journey where they can be rightly viewed as one of the crowning glories of Australian fashion. There's no bending to reed-thin trends or pandering to what the market is after. They know what they're about. They've garnered a following. To their hardcore fans, the Romance guys will forever be "rad", "mind-blowing" and "coooooool." To everyone else, if you don't quite get it, perhaps you never will.
I just couldn't quite believe though when I went to take a little sneak preview of the collection at their studio and spied a well-worked in collaboration with Disney Princess (that's a proper Disney offshoot apparently) that weaves through the collection in wonderfully mysterious ways. References to Cindrella, the trippy Cheshire Cat of Alice in Wonderland and Sleeping Beauty punctuate the collection without overtaking the collection. You can also throw in the hues of Fantasy Land and It's a Small World into the mix as well. The last show at MBFWA saw Romance utilised Marvel's comic characters in a direct and graphic way but this time round, along with Disney inside this Magic Mushroom cauldron was a whole host of other references. The set on the night is one telling clue. Sales and Plunkett worked with Tanya Schultz, the artist behind Pip and Pop, which create the most wondrous sugar-mountain installations in pastel hues, begging you to escape, forget and revel in childhood fantasies. They sprinkled the space with their very own fairy dust, glowing in UV rays and feeling like, a secret rainbow level of Super Mario Land (I attribute that comparison to Phil Oh of Street Peeper).
Then down to the clothes themselves. Pictures of legendary sixties model and muse Peggy Moffitt (have you read the brilliant interview and feature on her in the latest issue of Love?) and Twiggy grace Romance was Born's moodboards. The experimental elfish spirit of the decade therefore pervaded the collection alongside a 21st treatment of 60s-70s pscyhedelia. Luke excitedly showed me a quilted rainbow printed fabric, which he was particularly happy about. It immediately reminded me of the type of lurid "hostess 1970s skirts" that I used to search for on eBay. In fact, many of the prints in the collection had a child of the sixties wallpaper vibe to them, where clouds, bubbles and swirling florals could so easily envelope you in positive claustrophobia. To describe every element in the collection would be tiresome. It's best to turn to the wise words of Disney. With a "Bippity Boppity Boo" and by the powers of Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, you're transported into yet another Romance was Born realm where you can get a sprinkling of RWB magic and take perhaps a printed denim jacket or a pink-pearl trimmed prim coat or you can fall head first down the rabbit hole and go the whole hog with the rainbow plisse pleats, ruffled mini-dresses and ostrich feather flares. This is a collection to delve into with your own references, something which Luke and Anna are so adept at doing. They've conjured up a world that's for your own personal perusal and interpretation and there's real joy in that. What's even better is that they've got their commercial knack figured out as you spotted numerous bomber jackets, printed shirts and dresses from their current Lord Fauntleroy collection dotted amongst the audience. RWB fans were certainly chiming in with this particular groovy trip we were all on.
P.S. Notes on the new venue – the cavernous and well-convered space known as the Carriageworks (quite literally a converted rail yard) where MBFWA in Sydney is being held. Two words. MUCH better. It's spacious, fluid and feels like a much more sophisticated and functional fashion week venue. There were Australians coming up to me to apologise for the lack of picture postcard view at the new venue (previously MBFWA was held at OPT, Circular Quay overlooking Sydney Opera House). Psssh. STOP with the apologies. We're not here to see views. We're here to see shows. Let's get cracking on with the rest of the week, shall we?