>> Clothes with issues attached. Discuss. How else to approach Ingrid Verner’s latest collection under her solo Verner moniker, called “White Wash”, addressing and exploring the history of the “white Australia policy” whereby until 1950, European/Caucasian immigrations into Australia was intentionally favoured. It’s loaded for sure, but not without purpose or poignance. Ingrid initially researched the works of American fashion designer Patrick Kelly, the first person of colour to be admitted as a designer member of the Chambre Syndicale in Paris in 1988. That sent me on a Google spiral to find out about Kelly’s work, which was on the surface a body-conscious, button-embroidered ball of fun, but its light tone was often counterbalanced by commentary on racial stereotypes, such as his use of the golliwog doll face on his logo. This is something that Ingrid has picked up on when charting her own interpretation of the phrase “White Wash”. Sadly, not much has changed since Kelly’s death in 1990. We’re still lauding the fact that people like Shayne Oliver of Hood by Air or Olivier Rousteing are exceptions, rather than the norm, in our industry. Whilst it probably wasn’t Ingrid’s intention to pass comment on the racial make-up of the fashion industry of today, it’s difficult to ignore the pertinence of the phrase “White Wash” when you look at models and to a lesser extent designers and people in the industry behind the scenes.
Ingrid also looked to Aboriginal artist Destiny Deacon, who uses humour and satire and again recognisably “black” memorabilia such as black dolls in her mixed media work to confront issues about Aboriginal civic issues. Ingrid seems to carry on that mantle by using her clothes to look back on Australia’s past, as well as subtly pointing out current day discordances. ““It is my job as an Australian designer to look inward into this country’s history including areas of political correctness,” she says. All of this and the implications of wearing a collection, literally stamped with the words “White Wash” doesn’t get away from the fact that Ingrid has created a collection that’s desirable, beyond any socio-political commentary. She continues to use street wear archetypes, with the added “softness” found in childrens wear. Sweatshirts, skirts that tie around the waist, quilted jackets, trackie bottoms and dressing gowns all have a slouchy, spongey and deliberately sterile feel. The “White Wash” which Ingrid physically refers to through the faux-bleach packaging print and the golly doll print are mirrored in the white-out surfaces which Ingrid creates through brush stroke digital prints, puffed-up dots and lime and chalk-derived textures. Patent trash bags and metallic totes complete this intriguing and introspective look at something that so often gets brushed under the carpet. Ingrid confronts without being facetious and it gives her work a shade of interest that makes me all the more glad that she’s back on the Australian fashion scene, having taken a break from her previous guise as one half of label T.V.