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.
“He is a real lover/ of making up the past/ and feeling up his girl/ like he’s never felt a figure before”. These lyrics opened the Maticevski show yesterday, Adele’s warm voice singing her song Daydreamer as a vibrant orange glow lit up the entrance to the empty runway. Flame lights contained within the doorway, framed by the cool white wall that conceals backstage from front of house; a soulful contralto singing quietly, feelingfully, about a lover and “his girl”- these notes contained the heart of the show we were about to see.
The sign that a show is about to begin (or end), a blackout, was absent here. Instead, a remix of Miley Cyrus’s Adore You started to play as the first model appeared. The first thing I noticed was her glare: her gaze fixed and fierce on the photographers she strode towards them down the runway.
There were actually three runways that ran parallel to each other, each running down the middle of the room and connected across the top and bottom into a square. The models would walk down the centre, turn to their left and walk up to the back, before striding across the back before turning down the third runway, before walking back up the central runway to exit. This meant that an exiting model would cross paths with another on her initial walk, flashes of floral, full white skirts and nipped waists briefly intersecting, then gone.
The entire runway was covered by a graphic black and white print of orchids, a contrast to the white back wall and white benches the delighted audience sat on. So we watched as the collection walked past us on these models with severe eyes, eyes that belied their dishevelled bed-hair and sexy clothes.
Yes, they were definitely sexy: the collection very much fit within the story of the Maticevski woman - elegant and classically feminine - but spoken in a new language. The collection was styled into three distinct but intersecting stories: the first was feminine and soft, hues of blush pink, pale grey and white cut in lightweight, supple neoprene skirts, tops and high-waisted trousers nipped in with belts. Hems skimmed the knee or mid-shin here, and sleeves left wrists, sometimes full arms, bare, the pale colours of the clothes livened by the contrast with warm skin and juxtaposed by the thick resin collars and bangles created for the show by Dinosaur Designs. These were the looks walked out under crooning lyrics like “when you say you love me/ know I love you more.”
The music shifted when the second looks started coming out- still walked fast, still with the same fierce, cool-girl gaze, but sportier here. Here was the look that launched a thousand Instagram posts: model Nicole Pollard holding her thick, white floorlength skirt up over her black high heels like a sporty Cinderella striding out of the ball (this Maticevski woman was too cool to flee anywhere).
The skirt made me think of trailing blankets, briefly reminding me of the just-rolled-out-of-bed feel of Viktor and Rolf’s Autumn/Winter 2005. Yet here was the warmth of connotation - of blankets against skin - without the literal realisation; a contemporary variation on the intimate theme because of the skirt’s clean lines and the grey motorcycle jacket paired with it.
This story was walked under a soundtrack of scuba breathing over low, thrumming beats, which shifted into opera sung in a minor key. If a look came down the runway that was particularly spectacular, the noise of shutters going off in the pit would immediately amplify. In fact, I was standing at the end of the runway right by the pit, craning to see as the model walked down the middle of this packed-out room. I knew if the shutter-clicking intensified that there was something pretty special coming our way. The sound was like rain falling harder on a tin roof, urgent, unstopping.
The third story, still within the sensuous feel of the entire collection, introduced graphic prints and hot tangerine orange. Here, models wore full skirts in a floral pattern reminiscent of the black and white orchids underfoot, white resin collars popping at their necks. This was the story with subdued low peplums, fine black mesh tops paired with mesh layered over neoprene in a swingy skirt, and an outfit of navel-baring top and fitted trousers in an orange as vivid and bright as blood.
Michael Jackson sang slow as the last look came out. The model was wearing a rosy-orange opera jacket and a shin-skimming embroidered orange and white dress. As she walked back up the right arm of the runway, I noticed that her jacket was cut low at the back, exposing the nape of her neck in the manner of a geisha in traditional kimono. There was a vulnerability to it that belied her heavily decorated dress, her swinging walk. She walked the full runway alone, and then disappeared backstage.
Lights still up, here they all came for the finale… with something in their mouths. It took me a moment to figure out that they were single orchid blooms. The audience was clapping hard, with genuine enthusiasm, unceasing as every single model filed out and around the runway. As they came, the orchids got progressively bigger, the first girl’s small bloom growing in size through each girl before morphing into a sprig that obscured the faces of the last few models, a sort of organic mask. It had a touch of the surreal about it, not to mention the famous, sensationally sensuous floral paintings of American artist Georgia O'Keefe.
Everything about the show spoke of a sensuous intimacy. As it went on, this mood became clearer and clearer still: the romance of the Adele and Miley Cyrus lyrics, their voices, and the floral runway in conversation with the supple neoprene, the collection’s soft colours, the models’ slim limbs, dishevelled hair and flashes of exposed navels, necks, all culminating in the boldness of the orchids in their mouths: all gave rise to a message of feminine sensuality, revealed under the warm, bright lights of The Theatre.
The applause erupted as Toni Maticevski came out, beaming, for his bow. I had guessed from the rapturous atmosphere in the room that there were many loyal fans in attendance, confirmed as the house lights went up, and I saw them stand, their Maticevski dresses falling back in repose, from the famous to the smiling strangers. I looked at Instagram as I walked out of the room and all I saw were orchids.