For all my talk of the young and the new, there's also no denying that experience sometimes shows. I thought I knew the land of the lay when it came to Australian Fashion Week, having attended for the last four years. This time marked my first Toni Maticevski and Easton Pearson shows, with over ten and twenty years under their belts respectively. That was in evidence as they both served up the most polished shows of the week. Their work was familiar to me through second hand sources but it took seeing it in person to really understand what they stand for in the scheme of Australian fashion and perhaps beyond, precisely because they both break away from the formidable cliches about much of the Australian fashion landscape which revolves around the body conscious
Toni Maticevski set up his own label at the tender age of 21 in 1998 having graduated from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and completed stints at Donna Karan and Cerruti. His aesthetic has veered towards the frothy, the overtly feminine and uses emotive design to create what are essentially haute couture gowns. In fact he stopped his ready to wear line for a while to concentrate on private order clients, returning in 2011. One of his particular signatures is the skeletal dress, constructed out of raw-edged silk straps to make the body look like it's been trussed up into a cloud. His love of beautiful construction showed at his latest collection. I could hardly resist the different pace of elegant gowns emerging to sound snippets from the L'Amour Fou documentary (featuring that heart breaking 2002 press conference where Yves Saint Laurent announces his retirement). Maticevski took to using a thin neoprene to sculpt new clouds on the body, accentuated by round clutches covered in flowers (made by artist/florist Doctor Lisa Cooper). There was something well-judged about everything from the cut-away zippers at the backs and the way the neoprene jutted out in their deliberate folds and ruching. You could detect a note or two of Raf Simons' final work for Jil Sander or his recent collection for Dior. Instead of direct derivation though Maticevski's collection, in comparison to his previous body of work, feels like a resolution or a personal conclusion that he wishes to push his own boundaries, to create odes to elegance that are fitting for the 21st century. Women swooned in the audience. There aren't many designers like Maticevski's down under that's for sure and this collection stood out like those well-formed neoprene drapes.
Easton Pearson, established in 1989, is probably one of the first Australian labels I remember reading about in the nineties when they were stocked in prestigious stores such as Browns. Lydia Pearson and Pamela Easton do Brisbane proud with their unwavering to well-travelled prints and whimsicality, which again has no equal in Australia. Their visual referencing is broad, drawing influences from vintage clothes, old films, books and museums as well as the textiles and designs of India, Africa and Europe and that's all reflected in their designed-from-scratch resulting textiles and embroidered and beaded surfaces – a niche, which they have carved for themselves. You could draw another designer parallel here to what for example Marni does in, that both brands creates clothes, which are all-age appropriate and get tagged with "quirky" because of their deft hand in prints. Technically though, Easton Pearson preceded Marni, and it also feels like they fell into their own groove quite naturally, doing what they love and doing it well, existing in their own Brisbane-bubble. This collection didn't waver too far from what they do best which is uplifting eclecticism – painted stripes, Africana-tinged geometrics, scribble florals, lavish feather and sequin embroidery. The last time they showed was five years ago and no doubt, they won't make a regular habit of peacocking their strengths but it sure was a treat to see that the duo are well-loved for a reason and that they could still stake their claim in Australian fashion relevancy.