This week Rosie Findlay is writing her column from the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia (MBFWA) describing in detail the experience of the live event.
The interior of The Runway is black. Black padded benches in eight tiered banks facing a long, black runway with a black lighting rig suspended above us like a dinosaur skeleton in a museum, all enclosed by black walls.
Each place on the benches is designated by a brochure printed with the name of the show - “Frac/ture”- over a greyscale abstract photograph. The music playing overhead - a female voice singing over a winding piano and slow electronic beat - is interrupted by a polite voiceover: “The show is about to begin. Please turn off your phone and thank you for attending Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia.” I hear a wet shh sound and look to the runway to see two volunteers peeling back the black plastic that has concealed the bright, white runway from view.
The cool house lights go down. Blackout.
Music. A humming chorus, low and vibrant, like a chant, a low call. I can feel the beat through my feet. The blank walls surrounding the rectangular entrance to the runway are suffused with light projections of similar images to that printed on the show brochure. Shades of abstract grey, black, white in close-ups of linear forms, of non-organic shapes. The projections are segmented into eight horizontal panels that shift and slowly morph as gradually as a snake shedding its skin.
And through the doorway they come. The models, male and female, each the mirror image of the one who came before and the one who will follow them out into the light. The hair of each woman is pulled into a sleek, high ponytail, the end blunt against her back, her make-up clean and minimal. The male models, too, are fresh-faced, hair neat and combed to the side.
The clothes are a flow of wintry neutrals: the first tone we see is white, followed by shades of soft biscuit, black and greys. The cuts are long: lean vests layered over straight short skirts over long pants, all white. An oversized, nobbly, biscuitty jumper with a rollneck, thigh-grazing hem and long skinny sleeves. A sharp-shouldered single-breasted black blazer over long black pants, punctuated here by a solid silver “Bone” cuff by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany and Co., or there by a pair of polished dark leather brogues.
The music flows into a female voice singing in a language I guess is Nordic (Bjork?), and the combined effect with the warm shapes of the clothing, the layers, the colour palette is one of bright winter. The crisp air, the glance of light against snow, the shadows that fall early. The overall effect of the collection is surprisingly lightweight: I see fluid fabrics melting over one another, the length of lean model limbs moving easily in slim, soft sleeves. They’re not weighed down, and they walk with straight backs, soft arms, and calm expressions. The effect is mostly smooth and effortless, ruffled only briefly by the male model leading his walk with his forehead, which lends his movement a forward urgency, or the young girl model, ever so slightly unsteady on her black stilettos.
And constantly, from the end of the catwalk, the sound of shutters clicking like cicada wings in the photographer’s pit. Glancing over, I see the photographers themselves, each wrapped motionless around their camera, creating a wall of reflective lenses that, from where I sit, look as big as their faces.
As for us, the audience, we sit still but for the turn of our heads one way, taking in the next look as it walks down the runway, and back, to catch the detail in the back as it glides back.
Blackout. And then here they all come, a single file parade of models in their final looks, uniformly tall, slim, and solemn. We applaud as the first couple of girls walk out, then sit in silence as they do a lap of the runway and then disappear backstage. The two designers, Peter Strateas and Mario-Luca Carlucci, walk across the entrance for their “bow”, smiling and waving shyly as we warmly applaud them. Then they’re gone from sight and it’s all over.